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There are situations in our lives where old beliefs are confronted and challenged by experiences which impact how we view things, order nexium online and how we look at the world overall.  Gaza moves a New York City mom from apathy to activism Debbie Mardon (left) and her Palestinian-American husband Mahmoud Bitar (center) attend a demonstration on 31 May demonstration in Times Square against Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Order nexium online (Ellen Davidson) Alex Kane writing from New York City Last New Year's Eve, order nexium online Debbie Mardon did not celebrate with noise makers or confetti -- instead, order nexium online she headed to Cairo's main square to participate in the Gaza Freedom March with her daughter Jenna Bitar, order nexium online 18, order nexium online and son Joel, order nexium online 23. Amid police violence aimed at protesters and Egyptian security forces blockading them inside their hotel, order nexium online Debbie, order nexium online 55, order nexium online a native New Yorker, order nexium online said that protesting in Cairo "was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life." It was an unlikely place to be for a previously apolitical mother who voted for George W. Order nexium online Bush and as recently as three years ago relied on right-wing radio hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to help her make sense of the world. More than 1, order nexium online300 activists from 43 countries traveled to Cairo to take part in the Gaza Freedom March, order nexium online a demonstration aimed at bringing attention to the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. Since 2006, order nexium online after the Islamist movement Hamas won democratic elections, order nexium online Israel and Egypt have completely blockaded this besieged coastal strip on the Mediterranean, order nexium online only allowing in basic humanitarian aid. Order nexium online The situation worsened in December 2008, order nexium online when Israel invaded Gaza, order nexium online eventually killing about 1, order nexium online400 Palestinians, order nexium online the majority of them civilians. Debbie and her children, order nexium online like the rest of the activists who participated in the Gaza Freedom March, order nexium online were outraged at what many have labeled the "Gaza massacre." The three-year journey for Debbie, order nexium online her husband Mahmoud and their two children from political indifference to passionate involvement in the Palestine solidarity community has brought them closer together as a family, order nexium online and they now regularly attend demonstrations together. For Debbie, order nexium online things came to a head during the attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008-09. Order nexium online It was a personally harrowing time -- both she and Mahmoud had lost their mothers and a good friend had been placed in a nursing home, order nexium online and Debbie decided it was time to find out more about what was happening in Palestine. She started attending talks and lectures about Palestine, order nexium online and one in particular, order nexium online featuring Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert at Columbia University, order nexium online left an indelible impression. "It was jaw-dropping. Order nexium online He showed us photos of dying and maimed children, order nexium online children burned from the white phosphorous, order nexium online and the photos had me in tears. Order nexium online Then he said, order nexium online this suffering is not caused by a natural disaster, order nexium online it is political, order nexium online it is foreign policy and you can no longer be silent while your government supports this. Order nexium online After that I made an effort to find out how I could get involved, order nexium online" Debbie said. Native New Yorker Debbie, order nexium online tall, order nexium online outgoing and buoyant, order nexium online can be found in her fifth floor walk-up apartment on the Upper East Side. Order nexium online She is welcoming and quick to offer dinner and drinks. Order nexium online The apartment she shares with her Palestinian-American husband and two kids is snug, order nexium online with enough room to feel comfortable but not enough to avoid each other if everyone's home. There are pictures of Jenna in a Halloween costume in the kitchen, order nexium online plants around the living room, order nexium online a comfortable couch and a black cat named Blossom. Order nexium online Their bookshelf is filled with the works of Noam Chomsky, order nexium online Chris Hedges and Norman Finkelstein and flyers advertising leftist events in the city are posted near the refrigerator. Three years ago, order nexium online Debbie would have been on the couch watching Bill O'Reilly and reading conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. Debbie took comfort in Fox News' slant on the world. Order nexium online "I wanted to know that someone out there was watching so our country wasn't torn apart by unpatriotic voices, order nexium online" she said. But for most of Debbie's life, order nexium online politics were not important. Order nexium online One of five siblings, order nexium online she grew up in the Bedford Park neighborhood in the Bronx and attended Walton High School. Order nexium online Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked as an electrician. Debbie went to the City College School of Architecture, order nexium online where she first met her future husband, order nexium online Mahmoud Bitar, order nexium online a Palestinian-American, order nexium online at the end of their sophomore year. Order nexium online Mahmoud was taken with Debbie starting with the first time they met. "We talked under a tree in the rain on campus. Order nexium online I saw her heart and fell in love, order nexium online" Mahmoud said. When Debbie first met Mahmoud, order nexium online she did not understand what it meant to be someone from Palestine. Order nexium online Mahmoud was uncomfortable with his heritage, order nexium online and he let people, order nexium online including Debbie when they started dating, order nexium online think he was Jewish or Italian. Order nexium online Debbie recalls how "people said things to him like, order nexium online 'You're not a Palestinian, order nexium online you're too nice.'" Born in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1958, order nexium online Mahmoud was brought up immersed in the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Order nexium online He lived in Jericho, order nexium online a city in the West Bank, order nexium online for the first ten years of his life after his family moved there because his father had set up a station in Jericho selling fruits and vegetables. Order nexium online In 1967, order nexium online when the war broke out, order nexium online Mahmoud and his family returned to Jerusalem after Israeli bombs killed three of his relatives. As soon as Mahmoud and his two brothers were college-aged, order nexium online their parents sent them to the United States. Order nexium online Mahmoud, order nexium online now a US citizen, order nexium online arrived in the country in 1977 on a student visa. After getting married in 1980 and graduating from college three years later, order nexium online Debbie and Mahmoud had their first child, order nexium online Joel, order nexium online in 1986, order nexium online and their second, order nexium online Jenna, order nexium online in 1992. Order nexium online Debbie worked part-time at an architectural firm while raising their children. Mahmoud, order nexium online who has curly hair and seems to always have a twinkle in his eye, order nexium online speaks in calm and at times airy tones, order nexium online a contrast to Debbie's more forward and pointed way of talking. Order nexium online He currently works as an architect for New York City's Administration for Children's Services. For most of their marriage and while raising Jenna and Joel, order nexium online Mahmoud rarely talked about his childhood in Palestine. "I never got a greater picture, order nexium online it was just bad things were happening to the Palestinians, order nexium online or at least my family that was Palestinian, order nexium online" Jenna said. Order nexium online "I visited there before I knew what was going on, order nexium online for three weeks, order nexium online with my grandparents when they were alive. Order nexium online I lived the life they lived for a bit, order nexium online saw the checkpoints, order nexium online but I didn't understand." 11 September 2001 The 11 September 2001 attacks jolted Debbie's political perspective, order nexium online and made Mahmoud more nervous about his background as a Palestinian, order nexium online especially as thousands of Middle Eastern men were profiled and arrested throughout New York City. Debbie had just dropped Jenna off at school when she returned home and watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center on television. Debbie turned to Fox News for clarity. "That was the first time I started learning about foreign policy, order nexium online and why someone would attack us, order nexium online" Debbie said. But Debbie and Mahmoud rarely discussed post-11 September politics. "We didn't discuss it, order nexium online I just listened. Order nexium online Debbie's a leader by nature, order nexium online so she always led with the remote control, order nexium online" Mahmoud recalled. Order nexium online "She had the remote control with her so she would pick the information, order nexium online and I would retreat when I had really had enough of it." Joel was apathetic about politics at the time, order nexium online and Jenna stayed by her mother's side as she watched Fox. Debbie's close attention to post-11 September politics did not last for too long after the Iraq War started in 2003, order nexium online though, order nexium online as her trust in the government slipped when the US did not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. However, order nexium online a series of events in 2008 would bring politics back into the family's life in a prominent way, order nexium online and they have not turned back since. Injustice and transformation Debbie's family started attending the Redeemer Presbyterian Church almost twenty years ago. Order nexium online While they were initially drawn to the church, order nexium online which met at Hunter College, order nexium online by a smart and interesting pastor, order nexium online over the years the congregation became a second family for all of them. However, order nexium online they were forced to leave this community in March 2008 after Mahmoud, order nexium online who worked at the church on Sundays, order nexium online was accused of stealing a CD of a church sermon. Order nexium online He was arrested by a City University of New York security guard and charged with assaulting an officer, order nexium online resisting arrest and misdemeanor theft -- charges that Debbie and her family say were ridiculous and were later dropped. "It was a small thing in the larger world, order nexium online but it happened to us, order nexium online" Debbie recalled. Order nexium online "I thought that we would be immune to all this, order nexium online and that the community we were a part of would care about truth and care about justice being served, order nexium online but they didn't care about either of those things. Order nexium online It opened my eyes to greater injustices. Order nexium online I used to think that people who went to jail were probably guilty. Order nexium online But now, order nexium online I thought, order nexium online 'Oh my goodness! There are all these people in jail that are probably innocent.' Michael could've gone to jail, order nexium online but he had a private lawyer. Order nexium online What happens if you're poor?" she said, order nexium online using the nickname that Mahmoud had used when he first came to the US. Nine months later, order nexium online on 27 December 2008, order nexium online Israel invaded the Gaza Strip, order nexium online beginning what would be a devastating assault. "It was during Gaza that we started to awaken, order nexium online" said Joel, order nexium online who at the time was first foraying into politics by joining an antiwar organization at Hunter College and reading books about US foreign policy and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Order nexium online "Killing civilians indiscriminately with US weapons, order nexium online paid for with our tax money, order nexium online seemed to be so hideously wrong." During what Amnesty International called "22 days of death and destruction, order nexium online" Debbie could not avoid the Gaza conflict, order nexium online especially because Mahmoud's brother Farid, order nexium online who was glued to Al-Jazeera's coverage of the assault, order nexium online was emotionally devastated. Joel, order nexium online who was reading books like Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle: The United States, order nexium online Israel and the Palestinians, order nexium online also started to talk with Debbie about the detrimental impact of US foreign policy on Palestine. After those 22 days were over, order nexium online Debbie started going to lectures and protests about the conflict and soon found herself enmeshed in the world of Palestine solidarity activism. Order nexium online Although described as the "leader" of the household, order nexium online she was the last person to finally call herself an activist. The assault on Gaza also made Mahmoud become more engaged with the Palestine solidarity movement. "It's a natural conclusion to what happened in Gaza, order nexium online" Mahmoud said. Order nexium online "Our breath is being taken out of us. Order nexium online I felt an urgency to start having a voice." In the last two years, order nexium online the household has been transformed. Order nexium online Jenna described how sometimes, order nexium online before she goes to sleep, order nexium online Debbie will run into her room and "just read me books out loud, order nexium online" including passages from the work of Chris Hedges and Michael Parenti. Order nexium online "She'll come and say, order nexium online 'I have to read you this passage, order nexium online it's so good' and it'll be something sad and depressing, order nexium online" Jenna said, order nexium online laughing. These days, order nexium online it is nearly impossible to miss Debbie and members of her family at activist events related to Palestine. Order nexium online The actions they frequent include protesting with Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, order nexium online in the group's campaign against Lev Leviev. Order nexium online An Israeli billionaire who owns a jewelry store in Manhattan, order nexium online Leviev is involved with companies that invest in and construct illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. "She's really knowledgeable. Order nexium online She has really educated herself on Palestine, order nexium online" says Helen Schiff, order nexium online a New York-based activist who has become close friends with Debbie over the past two years. Order nexium online "She has a voracious mind, order nexium online and she's very, order nexium online very smart." However, order nexium online her transition into political activism has not come without a cost for Debbie and her family. Order nexium online Her passion for politics has "caused a lot of stress on our relationship, order nexium online" said Mahmoud. Order nexium online "There's always a cost to anything, order nexium online and it's drawing from our reservoir." Some of her friends worry she is on the "wrong political track." One friend, order nexium online Debbie said, order nexium online told her, order nexium online "I'm worried for your children." Debbie believes that this kind of reaction stems from the fact that the life she and her family have chosen to live is unconventional. "We're looking at the world from a whole different perspective, order nexium online and it's a harder way to live. Order nexium online Most people that I know would not want that -- they would want a pretty status quo type of life, order nexium online" Debbie said. While some of Debbie's friends avoid discussing Mideast politics with her, order nexium online Debbie is eager to talk with friends who are interested in learning more about Israel's occupation of Palestine. In 2009 Debbie took her brother to a talk by scholar Norman Finkelstein at the Brecht Forum, order nexium online a political and social educational center on Manhattan's west side. Order nexium online Her brother, order nexium online a Democrat and strong supporter of Barack Obama, order nexium online said he was "shocked" by the realities of the situation in Gaza. But for Debbie, order nexium online knowledge is just the first step of many -- she helped raise money for students participating in the Gaza Freedom March in 2009, order nexium online and helped organize a protest outside a Friends of the IDF fundraiser at the Waldorf-Astoria earlier this spring. With Jenna attending college in the fall and Joel working as a doorman in the Upper East Side, order nexium online Debbie plans to continue her part-time job, order nexium online as well as her involvement in the Palestine solidarity movement. "It is essential that the movement continue to grow. Order nexium online Hopefully, order nexium online in this economic climate, order nexium online Americans will decide that there are better uses for their money besides supporting unending wars that will fuel terrorism, order nexium online not end it, order nexium online" Debbie said. She used to think individuals could not change anything in the world. Order nexium online And she still thinks that. "Over a long time you can change [the world], order nexium online but personally, order nexium online me? Coming along and changing anything, order nexium online it's unlikely, order nexium online" Debbie said. "But I can have a part ... Order nexium online I want to change things badly, order nexium online but that's not even the thing that motivates me any longer, order nexium online" she said. Order nexium online "It's just that I can no longer sit by and watch things happen and not speak out and at least be a voice shouting out there." Alex Kane is a 21-year-old college student, order nexium online journalist and blogger based in New York City. Order nexium online He is a reporter for the Indypendent, order nexium online and a frequent contributor to Mondoweiss. Order nexium online His articles have also appeared in Common Dreams, order nexium online Red Pepper (UK), order nexium online and Palestine Chronicle. Order nexium online Original article can be found at: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11349.shtml