www.montereycountyweekly.com march 21-27, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 15 Her grandmother always insisted that education was the key to opportunity, and Rolla Alaydi took the message quite literally. The eldest of six, she was raised in Al Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, and left home to attend a prestigious university in the West Bank. Then she landed a scholarship at the University of Texas at San Antonio to pursue a master’s degree in education. She came to the U.S. in 2001, and learned English while earning her master’s then a PhD, and teaching Arabic to support herself. She got married and had a son, now 13. She moved to Pacific Grove eight years ago for a job teaching Arabic. She built a life here, a world away from her family home, a three-story house in northern Gaza with a lemon tree, a fig tree and her book collection. “I was the luckiest one,” she says. “It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time, because I am the only one here. It is hard.” On Nov. 10, the Israel Defense Forces bombed Alaydi’s hometown, part of Israel’s ongoing response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. Her family’s home (and the fruit trees and books) were demolished. Since then, her four brothers and their wives and children—21 people, all told— have been on the move, fighting for their lives. They send updates periodically, when they can get a charge and a signal. The families have split up, a painful but strategic choice. “This is a decision so if anything happens to them, at least our family will not be erased,” Alaydi says. She is 44; the youngest of their siblings, a sister, died from cancer before the war. The other four brothers are 41-year-old Mamdouh, whose wife and their six children (ages 3-17) are living under a tarp in Rafa. Her 40-year-old brother, Medhat, and his wife and their five children, are in Khan Yunis. Mehat has diabetes and has not had any insulin treatments since October; Alaydi says when she sees his face in a video, the bones are visible. Their youngest brother, 26-year-old Muhamad, has Stage 1 cancer but cannot get treatment. Musbah, 36, was taken into custody by the IDF during their evacuation when they began heading south, and has not been heard from since. His wife, Shireen, and their twin 13-year-olds are in central Gaza; Shireen has had no time to grieve for her own father and brother and his family who were killed in a bombing. As an American citizen, Alaydi is a beacon of hope for the family. “My whole family now sees me as their savior,” Alaydi says. “I am doing what I can.” Doing what she can means working with the Arab American Civil Rights League for pro bono immigration services, submitting I-130 petitions (at a cost of $575 per person, for 21 people) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, hoping to evacuate at least some of her family from Gaza to Egypt to the U.S. Her siblings never intended to follow her to the U.S.—they all have college degrees and established careers in Gaza, with no interest in leaving, but they now find themselves walking hours to get water, and sharing two small eggplants and a piece of bread among an entire family in a daily fight for survival. “It is like going 1,000 years back,” Alaydi says. The immigration applications (“petitions for alien relative”) are something of a test case for Gaza, and there is no guarantee any will be granted. But Alaydi is latching onto what she can, while still sleeping with her smartphone under her pillow, waiting for updates any time. “I am hopeful—and I am scared too,” Alaydi says. “I don’t want to be scared. But the whole world is failing them.” I asked Alaydi what we can do here, while news of the worsening humanitarian crisis continues daily. She is indeed raising money (for the immigration applications, and hopeful future resettlement expenses for her family members, at gofund.me/345a85a3), but she hopes for something different, perhaps harder to achieve but ultimately more world-changing. “I hope people see me and my family as human beings,” she says. She wants people simply to know who her siblings and nieces and nephews are—people with achievements, careers, dreams. Alaydi invokes a Jewish saying from the Talmud, that to save one life is to save the entire world. “If we can do this, at least we are doing something,” she says. “The rain drops will fill the bottle.” Sara Rubin is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at sara@mcweekly.com. Lives on the Line A P.G. woman from Gaza fights to save her family, against the odds. By Sara Rubin Adults Only…Government meetings are typically reserved for adults, and not because it’s a requirement, but who under the age of 18 is eager to spend their night listening to the excitement of city ordinances and budget appropriations? Squid attends countless meetings across Monterey County, and they are generally welcoming to all ages. But recent Seaside Planning Commission meetings have been R-rated affairs. In December, the commission revoked the licenses of two massage parlors on Broadway, Sunny Spa and Perfect Spa, after they reportedly violated terms of their agreements, mainly by offering sexual services. Squid’s beak fell open when Squid dug deeper into the Dec. 13 planning commission documents, which included an extremely detailed report by a Seaside Police officer who went undercover seeking special, but prohibited, services as part of an investigation. The report reads like poorly written erotic fiction, such as this line: “She looked at him and gestured with her hands as if she was holding a cylindrical object and moved her hand up and down.” On March 13, the commission agreed to let two new massage businesses move into the empty spots. While Squid is glad to see two fewer vacant storefronts, Squid couldn’t help but squirm as one of the new owners spoke during the meeting, as translated from Mandarin: “I have the confidence to satisfy all the customers.” Squid hopes for a happy ending to this story, and not the kind the previous businesses were offering. Low Bar…Squid oozes around the local bar scene and has seen a belligerent customer or three. So too has Robin Boyd, food and beverage manager at the Monterey Elks Lodge #1285, per court papers filed seeking a restraining order against one very belligerent and even threatening regular. According to Boyd’s account, the man showed up at the Lodge on Feb. 14, a dinner night, meaning no alcohol—news that the customer did not want to hear, escalating an argument with Boyd and suggesting they take it outside. “Having been in this industry for a while, I am accustomed to dealing with belligerent patrons and calling their bluff for wanting to ‘take it outside’ is generally an effective way to deescalate the situation,” Boyd wrote. “However, respondent did not back down.” Monterey PD was called. The customer—who used to come to the bar once or twice a week—started coming daily, ordering water only, and staring Boyd down. That prompted the Elks Lodge to file for a restraining order on March 4, with a hearing in Monterey County Superior Court on March 26. Squid will be curious to see whether the Elks Lodge—full name the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks—gets an official protective order or not. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. “I am hopeful— and I am scared too.” Send Squid a tip: squid@mcweekly.com