Notes from the front pt 1

The following is a portion of a letter from Lisa, the RINJ Israeli American volunteer in Mosul who so many have come to rely on because of her confidence, her quick thinking and her total calm in the face of highly stressful situations. You will recall she was written about in “The Heroes of Mosul”  couple weeks ago. (click here to see “The Heroes”   RINJ is in the thick of this fight. You can read all about them by going here. Ordinary women, doing extraordinary things.  Lisa’s letter provides an excellent insight into life in Mosul and what they have to do to survive. If you want to know what it’s like living behind the lines with the worst enemy since the Nazis then you need to read this. All names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

In Mosul we have five physical places. There are orphan kids; mothers who have come to trust us and even want to help.  Because there are no institutions that are safe for these people we now do  all kinds of family health procedures, not just sexual assault patients, but every kind of ailment like broken bones; sprained wrists; colds; female problems; burns; cuts; aches and pains, whatever.

We created a makeshift  school at our big building and have a small clinic there too.  Because most travel  is difficult and unsafe it’s better to keep all the facilities in one building if possible.  If we didn’t do the classes, there would be no school for the youngsters– none.

We are not the only NGO caring for children and their families.  We are inadequate but we try to reach out through the people we know to those in need of help.

If the children go outside on a school day the Daesh will catch them and ask a million questions and put them in a strict Islamic youth program.  Then they would hunt down the parents. If the child would be female and older than eight she would be raped and turned into a temporary wife or a permanent wife, if she got caught on the street or playing in a park or wherever.

You don’t know the bad luck stories we have seen and I won’t tell you. It’s horrible what the Daesh do to just about anyone, randomly.

We have this large building that is bombed out and destroyed at the top floor but perfect on the bottom floor. It looks worthless from the outside but everything works. It even has a good water tank. At the top of the walls there are small windows facing west that let in light so even when the power is off we can see.

The Daesh think they have burned all the books in the city.

But, we saved many. When I say we, I mean the security guys; the medical people we have hooked up with from the university; a couple of doctors; many, many moms who are just awesome; many more grandmothers. The dads  we don’t see much of because most try to go to work or at least score some provisions for their families.

We are good for books.

The mothers read them to the kids and we take turns doing lessons. Some lessons are life skills; art; domestic skills; math (the kids are extremely good at math), science and the favorite lesson is talking about outer space (they never did that before).

When she is here and has time, Pat is teaching them to bake cookies and other things. Denise teaches them athletics and she does aerobics and yoga as well as some fundamental martial arts self defense. They adore her, but she is seldom available.

This building has a stainless steel kitchen but little or no supplies. Somehow the parents find stuff and bring it with big smiles. Many speak a dialect we don’t understand but we get along. The Arabic here is the weirdest I have ever heard. Everyone is a little different. I can’t read Arabic but the local nurses are at ease no matter the dialect.

We have a couple of Jewish families, many Yazidis and many Catholics.

Jeff has a guitar at the big building. He patiently got it working at our other main clinic last Fall and played the kids some songs. The guitar found its way to the big building as our schooling system expanded.

Recently there has been bombings and artillery. A lady I speak Hebrew with was telling me about where the bombs were landing. We worry about that. Nobody cares about children and their families. They shoot and bomb everything. Sometimes they just shoot at the sky for nothing or blast away at the side of buildings for no apparent reason.

On the day that Jeff returned an explosion sounded either closer or louder and it hurt. Everyone, including about 30 kids,  had been locked in for a couple of days because some Daesh had taken over a house nearby and could see our door easily. We had waited to see if they would go away.

At the end of January there had been trouble near Kantari, Syria about half way to Raqqah. Pat and Rachel were with security guys and needed to switch some boxes of supplies with UN refugee medics. They got lost at first or got a bogus steer. In any case a bunch of Daesh were looking for them in a tank. They had to lay low for days in the middle of nowhere. Their truck had a lot of our stuff. That’s why Jeff  and friends had to arrive fast. We thought the emergency was worse than it turned out to be.

There wasn’t a lot of food but Jeff brought some boxes of soup and beans till we could get our other stuff. It was welcome.

The kids ate like Pat does. Pat the bear. She growls and chases the kids around. She is a big kid herself.

Once fed the children became a little moody. They were tired.

There were five of the orphans in this group that day. They are the quietest. Jeff  was talking to the group with the help of a mom when another bomb came near. The mood was dropping again.

And, so goes another day in Mosul. I’ll stop here. But you will hear from me again soon


a fourteen minute video going over all the problems in Mosul. Some of them discussed in this piece. But, an overall thorough look into what is being released to us today. What I am reporting is from the actual people working there.
Photo at top courtesy of

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