May 26, 2009
Patch Adams laughs it up in Gaza visit
Patch Adams: Clown, Doctor, Visitor to Gaza
The Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) held a fund-raising picnic June 21 at the Railway Museum at Fairfax Station, VA. Along with food furnished by the Lebanese Taverna, free clown noses for all, and raffles for prizes ranging from Palestinian embroidered dresses to a subscription to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, the event featured famed humanitarian physician Patch Adams. Adams, who was immortalized in a movie starring Robin Williams, is known for establishing the Gesundheit Institute, which approaches medicine from a humane perspective, offering treatment to patients whom Adams considers members of his extended family, without asking for payment or accepting medical insurance—though it is funded entirely by donations.
It is indicative of the great need for Palestinian relief that Adams took time from raising funds for his own institute to appear at the PCRF fund-raiser. After a brief introduction sent from Palestine by PCRF founder Steve Sosebee, Adams talked about his philosophy of medicine, the need in Palestine, and his journey there.
Three video selections of Adams and his traveling clown companions highlighted his work in Gaza. The first showed Adams being a "quiet clown." As the baby's mother watched, Adams held and cooed to a tiny premature Palestinian baby, who watched with wonder the gentle clown's bright colors. The second clip depicted what can happen at a Gaza checkpoint when a bunch of clowns show up. Palestinian children beamed and giggled at the antics of Adams' team, and—even more of an anomaly—young Israeli soldiers, caught up in the chaotic fun, allowed Palestinians to walk through the checkpoint as Adams and his troupe pulled the soldiers out to dance. The third video, Adams explained, was an unscheduled stop. While delayed, they spotted "giggling girls" at a school. Unable ever to resist giggling girls, Adams admitted, he sent in the clowns. Amid much hilarity, these young Gazan girls got a break from the daily realities of living under a brutal occupation.
Endorsing a two-state solution and the dismantling of all settlements, and condemning the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, Adams also revealed that it was an Israeli hospital that funded his trip to Gaza. Having traveled in Afghanistan and Israel, as well as other parts of the world, Adams promised to return to Gaza. Anyone wishing to travel on a clowning mission with him is free to do so, Adams added, although he did reserve the right to introduce new clowns to the experience on less dangerous trips to Russia, China or Tibet.
Adams poignantlydemurred that he did no more than an average mother does every day, and said he made clowning trips in an attempt to do his part to stop violence. "I would like love's 'specialness' to be commonplace," he explained.