About this time last year, 3-day-old Shayma’a al-Sheikh Ali  was admitted to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in the northern Gaza Strip. She was a premature baby girl whose parents  died in an air strike. A doctor at the hospital where the infant is being treated said: “The mother and father were killed. The pregnant mother was brought here and when we checked the foetus it was alive, so the doctors did fast surgery and brought the baby out breathing. She is alive, so the doctors did fast surgery and brought the baby out breathing. She is in a serious condition. She is alive using the machines and we hope she will be better so she can be moved to her grandmother.”  Little Shayma apparently had a grandmother who was willing to take her if she survived. Here’s the link to a newspaper article on Shayma’s al-Sheikh.

Irish humanitarian and Musician John Cutliffe, told me about another Shayma’a from Gaza. He explained that little Shayma’a’s house was hit by a shell last year and most of her family including her mother and brothers and sisters were killed.  When John Cutliffe met her in a St. Joseph’s hospital in East Jerusalem. Shayma wasn’t expected to survive as she had really bad abdominal injuries. Poor Shayma was in bad shape- no parents to comfort her, in a lot of pain. John explained “One day when I was playing with her she smiled. That broke my heart as much as anything. So he wrote a song for her.”

Here are two videos- one is the making of Shayma’s Smiled and one is the finished song and video. Irish music is good for your soul.  Everyone knows that. It’s a lovely piece of music and the video features picture of little Shayma’a as she battles to recover from her injuries. There’s also a children’s choir from Donegal in my native Ireland. All in all, well worth a watch (and a donation!). This little Shayma’a was ultimately reunited with her father.

So now for the big question- is it possible to adopt a child from Gaza? A lot of you have contacted me regarding adoption from Gaza. Is it possible?  What a tricky question!  Yes, I think it can be done but it would be very difficult.  Adoption of children from the West Bank and Gaza must proceed through the Palestinian Authority District Court if the child to be adopted is Muslim or through from the ecclesiastical court, if the child is Christian.  The Palestinian Authority has been reticent to grant custody of children to parents who do not reside in Palestine but there is no statutory bar.  All adoptions must occur along religious lines- meaning that only Muslims may adopt a Muslim child. Only Christians may adopt a Christian child.   Here’s a step-by-step, basic outline of the process:

  1. Get a home study.
  2. Ask USCIS (the American immigration authority) to approve you as an adoptive parent.
  3. Locate a child available for adoption.
  4. Obtain legal custody of that child through the Palestinian authority.
  5. File an orphan visa petition for the child in question. Note that both of the little girls named Shayma that I’ve written about above would very likely have qualified for orphan visas. Obviously, the orphaned infant Shayma’a would qualify because both of her biological parents are deceased. However; the second little girl, the Shayma’s who smiled, would also have qualified for a visa if her father agreed to release the child permanently for the purpose of emigration and adoption.