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Palestine Refugee Relief Bulletins

Photo: Archives / AFSC

Five newsletters for supporters of AFSC offer engagingly-written stories and photographs of the relief work. Each issue focuses in on specific individual’s stories, while also giving the bigger picture. 

Bulletin No. 1, dated March 1949, describes the background of the situation (including a hand-drawn map), with a total relief budget set at $32 million, $16 million of which was under consideration by the U.S. Congress. Another story introduces the refugees, many of whom are orphans whose parents have died in the days just before or during their escape from war. It lists the AFSC staff, broken down by camp.

Bulletin No. 2, from April 1949, features the dilemma of longstanding Arab residents of the region, suddenly besieged by 200,000 refugees yet not eligible for relief services. Articles also focus on solutions for long-term repatriation or relocation of refugees; some to Israel, some elsewhere. This issue includes a quote from Clarence Pickett: “If any effort is to be made in seriousness, we must insist on some prerequisites for discussion. First, the refugees must never be considered as possibilities for political bargaining.”

One story on Page 4, “AFSC in Israel,” describes Service Committee workers living in Acre, Israel, and the rampant unemployment among recent Jewish immigrants. “The ordinary people have suffered much. And the ‘ordinary people’ include Arabs, Jews of Israel, and the recent Jewish immigrants from Europe.” A Quaker team has been distributing clothing, textiles and UN food rations to Arabs and Jews in five Israeli communities near Acre.

In Bulletin No. 3 of May 1949, Cordella Trimble, UNICEF milk program administrator, wrote the lead story. The team’s goal was to bring one liter of milk per day to more than 75,000 children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, however reaching them reliably presented a quandary. In addition, “The matter of getting equipment for distribution became a contest with fate, a matter of making something out of nothing at all.” Simply the need for tin containers became “a saga of inventiveness.”

The medical report comes from Jerome S. Peterson, M.D., on loan from the World Health Organization for his expertise in preventing epidemics in refugee camps.

The now-regular “Report From Israel” calls attention to the difficulty that many refugees are having who spent years in concentration camps “and now find it difficult to make necessary adjustments.” Ongoing work in Israel strives to help everyone adjust and face an unusually cold winter.

The June-July Bulletin No. 4  has many photos and contains updates on schooling, health (especially epidemic prevention,) and food distribution.

The August Bulletin No. 5 shows what a difference washing stations have made for the women and children. Carpentry and furniture-making shops have been started in some of the camps. A short article on “The Overall Program in Southern Palestine” reviews the AFSC agreement and what has been accomplished, including the revival of previously idle cotton mills in Gaza, where weaving cloth for garments also provides some employment for refugees. This bulletin closes with a photo montage from the work inside Israel, where Jews and Arabs continue receiving assistance.

Created Date 
Feb 10, 2016

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