The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Ahmad Abu Salama Surgery

Gaza boy needs specialized medical treatment abroad

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) is bringing Ahmad and his mother to Madison for treatment at American Family Children’s Hospital. See the PCRF web site for information about their health care programs and to donate.

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is looking for volunteers to help in Madison with driving and other support. Those interested can contact Kathy at madderhorn2 (at)

Defence for Children International-Palestine Section, April 1, 2008

Ahmad, nicknamed “Misho”, is 16 years old and lives in Block 2 of Jabalia Camp in the North of the Gaza Strip. On 1st March, during the recent Israeli military operation codenamed “Warm Winter”, he was seriously injured by shrapnel from a missile launched by Israeli tanks invading northern Gaza. For two weeks Misho was thought dead, as his identity was tragically mistaken for that of his friend Mohammad, killed in the same missile attack. He was lying in Al Shifa’ hospital, his body so wounded that everyone failed to identify him and his parents assumed he had been killed. Misho is alive, and has been reunited with his parents, but he is in need of specialized medical assistance. He has been referred to receive professional medical support abroad, as the damage to his brain and spine has hampered his ability to speak and he is paralyzed on the right side. Gaza’s hospitals, affected by the Israeli imposed blockade, are not sufficiently equipped to support his rehabilitation and the Palestinian Ministry of Health cannot fully fund the treatment needed for his recovery.

For this reason, DCI/PS appeals to its partners and to all concerned to help Misho receive appropriate medical assistance. Through this article, we urge organizations willing and able to facilitate Misho’s treatment to get in touch with us.

Early morning on Saturday 1st March, Misho, Mohammad, Abed, Abdullah and Mohammad Emad, aged 15 to 16, were walking towards Al-Seka street, north of Jabalia camp, to watch Israeli military operations. DCI/PS met with Mohammad Emad, who survived the attack. According to his recollection of the events, the Israeli army had invaded the Izbet Abed Rabbo area and stationed their troops on Al-Khashef mountain. Filled with curiosity, the children approached the area where Israeli forces were engaged in violent combat with resistance fighters, but shocked by the gruesome sights they moved from the mountain back towards the camp on Salah Eddin Street. There, they asked a shopkeeper for some water then walked towards Jabalia Martyrs school. As the fighting intensified the children ran away, and hid behind a wall near the school. Suddenly, Mohammad Emad reports, there was a huge explosion:


“I felt pain in my foot, fire on my face, and I felt that I was burning all over my body, my right eye was bleeding. It was around 10:15 am. I saw Abdullah… to my left 1 metre away and he was lying on the ground on his abdomen…, he was trying to stand but he couldn’t. After 5 minutes, several ambulances arrived, because of the severe burn I was unable to turn my face to see what had happened to my friends.”

As the ambulance reached them, the area was evacuated and Mohammad Emad fainted, only to wake up three days later in Kamal Adwan hospital. He was told that two of his friends had died, Abed Al Raouf and Abdallah, and that Mohammad was seriously injured. However there was no information about Misho.

Misho’s father, Na’im, also spoke with DCI/PS, and recalled the events of that day. After he heard about the attack, he realized that Misho had been missing from home since the morning and started to panic. He started to search for his son under heavy bombardments. He visited all the hospitals in the area, the Red Cross headquarters, and Al Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City, where many dead and injured had been transferred. On the second day of his search, Na’im returned to Kamal Adwan hospital, where he was told about the unidentified body of a child in the morgue; he asked if he could see it. It was a horrible sight. The body was so dismembered, that he was not able to identify it. He tried to recognize the features of the dead child, and identify his belongings, but he could not be certain. Filled with uncertainty and despair, Na’im returned home.

On 3rd March, as the Israeli military eventually withdrew from Izbet Abed Rabbo and Al-Kashef mountain, the search for Misho started again. In the evening of that day, a boy came to visit Na’im. He informed him that a friend of Misho’s, Mohammad Emad, had been injured in the same attack, and had been taken to Kamal Adwan hospital, where he still was. Na’im ran to meet him, and the child’s account prompted Misho’s father to look for the body of his son in the area where the attack took place. Through pictures, a shopkeeper identified Misho as the child who had asked him for water, and someone had found Misho’s torn shoes near the school. Na’im deduced from this that the child in the morgue was his son. The following day, Na’im buried the child.

Mohammad Emad recounts to DCI/PS how, on that morning, he attended the burial ceremony of his three friends, Misho, Abed Al Raouf and Abdallah. On the same day, he learned that Mohammad had been hospitalized in the Intensive Care unit of Al Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City. About a week later, on 13th March, Mohammad Emad visited him in Al Shifa’ hospital. However, instead of Mohammad, he recognized Misho.

As I entered to visit my friend, I saw something that I couldn’t imagine. I saw Ahmad… sleeping in the bed, not Mohammad…. His features were slightly changed due to the shrapnel in his face, and the bandage on his head and the pipes in his mouth. His body was totally bandaged but his features were that of Ahmad!… I looked towards Mohammad’s… father, who was standing near Ahmad… and told him “this is not your son”. He looked astonished and told me “this is Mohammad, but the shrapnel changed his look slightly”. I told him that that was not Mohammad, but Misho. And Abdo…, and those who knew Ahmad and Mohammad, said the same thing. Also the other children with me said the same thing. But Mohammad’s father was insisting.

On the same day, a phone call changed the life of Misho’s family. As he left the hospital, Mohammad Emad immediately called Na’im, who could not believe what he was told. He ran to Gaza City, his nerves tense with hope. As he entered the room, Na’im recognized his son.

When I entered the room, 5 metres away from Misho bed, it was like a miracle, the boy on the bed is Misho my son, I recognized him, and I ran toward him saying: Misho… my son…. I am your father! It was unbelievable to see my son again! I looked at Misho in the eye, but he did not say anything, his mouth was full of pipes and his face was full of shrapnel. But he was my son; I could recognize him. Misho looked at me and a tear drop fell from his eye, it was one tear only.

The scene, however, turned tragic when Mohammad’s family continued to claim Misho as their son. Contacted by Na’im, Misho’s mother made her way to the hospital. She lifted her niqab, in order to identify herself to her son, and Misho started trembling, as if suffering from an electric shock; tears pouring down on his face. After establishing their son’s identity through his body marks, Misho’s parents were finally reunited with their son. Misho was alive, severely and irremediably injured, but alive.

Misho needs immediate assistance. He is hemipelegic and both his legs are severely burnt. He lost a finger on his left hand which is also burnt. There are still pieces of shrapnel embedded in his right hand and jaw. He has now been transferred to the Al Wafa’ rehabilitation centre in Gaza City but the hospital cannot continue his treatment, as it is too costly. Misho is slowly re-gaining the ability to speak and on 6th April he will be transferred to Hashomer hospital in Israel. The Palestinian Ministry of Health will partially cover his treatment which, according to the Israeli doctors, should last at least one and a half months. Misho needs to receive urgent specialized treatment. DCI/PS holds Misho’s medical reports; they can be consulted by those with the capacity to help Misho.

For further information, contact us at:
Defence for Children International-Palestine Section (DCI/PS)
ria (at)
Tel: +972 (0)2 242 7530 Ext. 104

Copyright © 2008 DCI/PS

Ahmad Abu Salama Update, 6/23/09

Ahmad Abu Salama is a teenage boy from Gaza who was severely injured in an Israeli attack over one year ago.

Thanks to the efforts of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) Ahmad and his mother Karima arrived in Madison on Sunday May 24th, safely and on time for medical treatment donated by American Family Children’s Hospital. Their journey from Gaza to Madison took two weeks, with the biggest challenge of getting from Gaza to Egypt going relatively smoothly.

An enthusiastic group of a dozen people greeted Ahmad and Karima at the airport. For the first week, Ahmad and Karima stayed with a volunteer host family. Since then, Karima has stayed at the Ronald McDonald House while Ahmad has been at Children’s Hospital. If all goes well Ahmad will move into Ronald McDonald House with his mother later this week while receiving outpatient care at the hospital.

Ahmad was scheduled to have cranial reconstruction surgery on June 10th, but due to complications from other injuries it was postponed until June 16. The surgery went well, although Ahmad is still in the hospital and is being treated for an earlier foot infection. It is hoped that he will soon be discharged to return for outpatient treatment and therapy. At this time, we do not know the exact length of Ahmad’s stay, but it is estimated to be 3 to 7 more weeks.

There have been many community volunteers who have helped Ahmad and Karima feel at home in Madison. Ahmad and Karima have also benefitted from the generosity of the doctors and staff at Children’s Hospital and at the Ronald McDonald House. In the next few weeks, everyone will be working together to make Ahmad and Karima’s experience here a very good one and to see that Ahmad’s treatment is a success.

MRSCP has agreed to cover the cost of Ahmad and Karima’s stay at Ronald McDonald House. This cost is only $10 per day, payable at the end of their stay. We estimate a maximum cost of $850. Can you pay for a day or two, or a week? If you can help us with these expenses, please send a donation to “Abu Salama”.

Any funds raised beyond the cost of their Ronald McDonald House stay will go towards medical expenses not covered by the hospital, or to PCRF and Ronald McDonald House. All contributions through MRSCP are tax deductible.

If you would like to know more about or donate to the PCRF, the wonderful organization which has facilitated Ahmad’s treatment here, please visit

Finally, if you would like to volunteer help during Ahmad’s stay, please contact Kathy Walsh at madderhorn2[at] This can include visiting in the hospital or at Ronald McDonald House, providing meals or transportation, and taking Ahmad and Karima on short excursions in Madison.

As always, thank you for your support.

Injured Gaza Boy Arrives in the USA for Surgery

Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), May 2009

On May 24, 15-year-old Ahmad Abu Salam and his mother Karima arrived in Madison, Wisconsin for surgery to repair a skull defect, which he suffered from an Israeli bomb near Ahmad Abu Salamas’ home in the Jebalya refugee camp in northern Gaza in 2008. He will be treated by Dr. Delora Mount, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Wisconsin Medical Center. The PCRF is cooperating with the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) to care for Ahmed and his mother during this treatment in the States. Several other injured kids in Gaza are in need of surgery that the PCRF has arranged for them in the States, but we cannot get them out currently due to Egyptian authorities closing the Rafah crossing.

Madison hosts Gaza victim
UW Hospital is treating young man injured in Israeli attack
Esty Dinur, Isthmus, July 30, 2009

Ahmad Abu Salama is in a wheelchair, in the basement of Madison’s Ronald McDonald House. He and his mother have been here since late May, receiving care from UW Hospital. Their ordeal began a year and a half ago and is continuing.

“There’s pain in my heart,” says Ahmad, 17. “I can’t walk. I have limited movement.”

Asked to describe what happened to him, he declines: “I can’t talk about the injury. It’s too painful.”

Ahmad is wearing shorts and a tank top. His mother, Karima Abu Salama, is wearing a long black dress with red, purple and yellow embroidery, the kind women make in Jebalya refugee camp, their home in the Gaza Strip. Her hair is covered with a beautiful purple headscarf, also embroidered.

It is she who tells the story.

On March 1, 2008, just after Ahmad turned 16, the Israeli army invaded Jebalya. That morning, Ahmad had gone to school as usual. When he didn’t return home by dark, his parents, who’d heard that 170 people died that day in Israeli attacks, became alarmed. They checked area hospitals and morgues, and asked radio stations to air messages. They called the Red Cross and the Israeli authorities to see if he was arrested. No luck.

The next day, a body was found of a boy Ahmad’s age; the body could not be identified because it had no face, hands or stomach. Hoping it wasn’t Ahmad, his parents waited for two more weeks to see if the body would be claimed by anyone else. When it wasn’t, they accepted it was him and gave him a funeral.

“I have a death certificate for him,” says Karima.

Weeks later, two of Ahmad’s friends came to the family’s house to tell his father that they’d seen Ahmad in the hospital. They’d gone there to visit Muhammad, a mutual friend, but recognized him as Ahmad. They related this to Muhammad’s family, who were sitting by him, and were told to leave.

Ahmad’s parents, hearing this story, decided to go to the hospital and check. There, says Karima, a fight erupted between the two families over the boy’s identity. The police were called; they tried to resolve the matter by checking physical characteristics. Karima offered several that proved correct. Ahmad, with a breathing tube and in a coma most of the time, saw her and started crying and shaking.

At that point the other family accepted Ahmad’s identity. He had been seriously injured by shrapnel from a missile launched by invading Israeli tanks.

After two months in the trauma center, Ahmad was sent to the Waffa rehabilitation and nursing center in eastern Gaza, which mostly houses elderly and severely disabled patients. Not able to move or talk, he shared a room with two disabled men.

One day, his mother relates, the center came under Israeli attack. The two disabled men dragged Ahmad to safety with their teeth. The next day, Ahmad’s parents came by to visit and found the room empty, full of bullet holes.

Again they feared he was dead.

Ahmad stayed in Waffa for six months. He had a large head wound, injuries to his elbow and foot and many infections. The Israeli children’s hospital in Tel Hashomer agreed to take him, but Karima says Israeli military authorities in Gaza refused to let them cross the border. The family was also blocked from taking him to a hospital in Egypt. Ahmad’s condition worsened.

The Iowa-based Palestine Children’s Relief Fund heard of his case and pledged to help. Working with the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, the group brought Ahmad to Egypt on May 25, 2009, and from there to Madison.

The Madison group’s initial goal was to create a sister city relationship with Gaza’s Rafah refugee camp. When that effort failed in 2004, its members decided to focus on humanitarian aid projects. They raised $10,000 to install a playground in a Rafah neighborhood; sent medical books to the Gaza Community Mental Health Program; and established two long-term economic projects, bringing crafts (mainly embroidery) from Rafah and olive oil and olive oil soap from the West Bank.

Ahmad is the second Rafah child helped by the group. The first was a young boy with leukemia who was treated in Israel with funds partially collected in Madison. Ahmad is the first Gazan to come to Madison for treatment.

Thair Kutkut, a Palestinian raised in Jordan, now works as a medical interpreter in Madison; he interprets for Ahmad and Karima. He and his family also spend a lot of uncompensated time with the Abu Salamas, showing them around town and inviting them over to their home.

“The least I can do is help a mother and her injured child,” he says. The experience has made him bolder: “You ask people to help in whatever way they can. Not just to help Ahmad but anyone in need, of any religion, anywhere.”

Ahmad is improving but still needs much care. More work is needed on his elbow, which was broken and healed wrong. Kutkut is trying to find elbow specialists to help clarify the likely expense, and a benefactor is being sought.

“Ahmad was originally scheduled to leave Madison on Aug. 24, but considering how hard it was to get him out of Gaza, it would be a shame not do it while he’s in the U.S.,” says Barbara Olson, coordinator of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Back in the Ronald McDonald House, Karima talks about the hardship Ahmad’s situation has caused her family. Her unemployed husband is caring for their other five children by himself. The children have nightmares and have started wetting their beds after “first seeing the pieces of meat that they thought was their brother, then seeing him so badly wounded.”

Ahmad himself has problems with speech and memory. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he needs counseling.

Karima looks forward to a day when peace will prevail.

“My husband asked me to make sure that we tell you we want peace. Shalom, shalom, shalom.”

– See more at:

Channel 3: Teen Injured In Gaza Recovers In Madison

Family Hopes For Peace As Son Recovers From Bombing, October 4, 2009

MADISON, Wis. — A group of Madison citizens is trying to extend a peace offering to a Palestinian family hit by violence in the Gaza Strip more than a year ago.

The reason behind the fighting in Gaza is complicated, but so is the journey to peace. Except for a family who nearly lost their 17-year-old son, who is now recovering at St. Mary’s Hospital.

To them, peace must come quickly and simply so that no other family has to experience what they are going through.

“He said, ‘lots of pain,’” said Thair Kutkut, translating for Ahmad Abu Salama.

Ahmad has spent the past five months in Madison hospitals enduring several surgeries, including having a plate placed in his skull.

The operations are to help him recover from injuries sustained last year in Gaza.

“She said there is no comparison. They don’t have the medical equipment, facilities, professionals, to do even ten percent of what they’ve done here,” Kutkut translated for Ahmad’s mother Karima Abu Salama. [continued]

Copyright 2009 by Channel 3000.

Farewell Party for Ahmad and Karima Abu Salama

Wednesday, November 18
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Program at 7:30 pm
Fellowship Hall, First United Methodist Church
203 Wisconsin Avenue, Madison [Map]

Ahmad Abu Salama and his mother have been in Madison for six months while Ahmad received medical care. That treatment is now completed and they will be returning to Gaza the weekend of November 20.

Stop by any time for light snacks, cake and refreshments. There will be a short program at 7:30 pm. There will also be a book for well-wishes, pictures and signatures, but we ask that you NOT bring gifts since they have luggage limitations.

Donations will be gladly accepted for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), which brought them to Madison, and for the Ronald McDonald House, which was so generous with their space and staff.

If you have any questions, please contact Donna at 235-7870 or dwallbaum(at)