December 10, 2022
Cookie and Crafts Sale for Dar Al Kalima University Scholarships

9:00 AM – 12:00 Noon
Memorial United Church of Christ
5705 Lacy Rd, Fitchburg

This will be the 18th year of selling crafts and cookies to support a full-year scholarship to a student at Dar Al Kalima University of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. We sell hand-made crafts made by the congregation, and Christmas cookies by the pound, too!

For more info contact Nancy Baumgardner at 608-320-0977.

Gaza’s olive harvest from farm to table

Widely regarded as the most blessed time of the year, Palestinian families in Gaza wait all year for the olive harvest season.


A Boy in the Shahin Family Helps His Family Pick Olives During the Olive Harvest Season in Gaza, October 2022. (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

Tareq S. Hajjaj, Mondoweiss, October 28, 2022

The Shahin family sits happily in a circle in their home, located in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood east of Gaza City. The house is warm and lively, and the smell of the meal inside the oven fills the whole room. Everyone can barely contain their excitement at tasting the season’s new olive oil. On the menu is musakhan, a traditional Palestinian dish utilizing the freshly harvested olive oil to make a layered dish of taboon bread, onions cooked in copious olive oil and sumac, and often topped with chicken.

Widely regarded as the most blessed time of the year, Palestinian families in Gaza wait all year for the olive harvest season. Starting in October, families prepare harvest tools, mats, plastic rolls, high ladders, and pails, venturing out in the early morning to visit their lands, finally able to pick the olives after an entire year tending to the trees. 

The Shahin family picking olives (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

Everyone in the Shahin family participates in the harvest, considered the most important season of the year. They spend weeks on end together, enjoying the olives, and the resulting fresh and thick green oil, as an accompaniment to their meals. “When I dip the first piece of bread into the oil we made, I feel all the effort we put into harvesting melting away,” Amr Shahin, 13, says from his family farm.

He is part of a group of teenagers participating in the harvest. As they continue to pick up olives from the ground, Hassan, 12, points his finger to his cousin Mahmoud, a year older.

“Take Mahmoud for instance,” says Hassan. “If he doesn’t have olive oil for a week, he will die!” They all snicker, coming down from their ladders to participate in the interview.

The Shahin family harvest their olive trees in Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

The olives go through a short process to be ready for consumption, either as pickled olives or as fresh-pressed oil. The family all joins together under the tree to carry out a designated task within the division of labor necessary for olive picking. 

Picking as a family tradition

The Shahin family owns eleven acres of land, home to three hundred olive trees. They work daily, from afternoon to sunset, taking advantage of the presence of the young boys after they get off from school to climb up the tall ladders and pick the olives from the top of the trees.

Their mothers wait for them to get back from school. They have their lunch at home quickly, then get to work. Mothers sit under the tree while the boys are up on the ladders, picking the olives and letting them fall down amid their mothers and sisters, who pick it up and separate the olives, dividing the green and black olives into separate bags. After harvesting, the olives are taken home in plastic bags. The family sells a few bags to their neighbors when they get back home.

The Shahin family harvest their olive trees in Gaza, October 2022 (Photo: Mohammed Salem)

The fastest way to prepare the olives for eating is to smash them with the flat side of a rock, without breaking the pits. Then the olives are mixed with salt and red pepper, and stored in containers for a week. After the curing period, the olives are ready.

And when the family judges the quantity it harvests to be enough, they send it over for pressing. 

Olives into oil

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“You Can Be the Last Leaf” by Maya Abu Al-Hayyat

Maya Abu Al-Hayyat directs the Palestine Writing Workshop on the West Bank. She’ll read poems & be in conversation with poet Deema Shehabi.

    A Virtual Book Celebration!
    October 29, 2022, 1 PM CT
    Benefit for the Palestine Writing Workshop, Tickets $10
    RSVP and share!

Maya Abu Al-Hayyat is a Palestinian writer, storyteller, and mother based in occupied East Jerusalem. Each day she passes through Israeli checkpoints, like the infamous Qalandia checkpoint, to direct the Palestine Writing Workshop, one of MECA’s partner organizations. Maya and her team at the Palestine Writing Workshop have published award-winning Arabic children’s books and led hundreds of interactive workshops from Nablus to Silwan to Gaza for children, youth, librarians and parents on reading aloud, creative writing, and storytelling. Her work is grounded in the belief that art and literature can change lives and aims to improve Palestinian children’s literacy and also encourage their imaginations. She is a gifted storyteller who captures the attention of children of all ages (and adults too!). Maya also runs writing courses for former prisoners, helping them transform trauma into art.

She has published four collections of poems, four novels, and numerous children’s stories, including The Blue Pool of Questions. She contributed to and wrote a foreword for A Bird Is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry, and she is an editor of The Book of Ramallah. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Cordite Poetry Review, The Guardian, and Literary Hub. Please join us to learn more about Maya’s work and life in Palestine!

Deema K. Shehabi is the author of Thirteen Departures From the Moon and co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, for which she received the Northern California Book Award’s NCBR Recognition Award. She co-authored Diaspo/Renga with Marilyn Hacker and won the 2018 Nazim Hikmet poetry competition. Her work has also appeared in Literary Imagination, the Kenyon Review, Literary Hub, Poetry London, and Crab Orchard, and has been translated into French, Farsi, and Arabic; she has been nominated for the Pushcart prize several times.

Cosponsored by Middle East Children’s Alliance and Sacramento Bethlehem Sister City. Info: meca@mecaforpeace.org, 510-548-0542.

PRAISE FOR “You Can Be The Last Leaf”

“The Palestinian poet’s U.S. debut gathers two decades of her intimate testimony about private life in a public war zone, where ‘those who win by killing fewer children / are losers.’”—New York Times

“Al-Hayyat’s latest devastating and courageous collection captures the precarious everyday lives of Palestinians with enormous empathy and glistening clarity . . . The vivid translations by Fady Joudah will jostle readers into discomfort and pin Al-Hayyat’s stunning voice into their ears.”—Booklist

“Abu Al-Hayyat explores the broader political and geographic aspects of Palestinian life under colonial rule while at the same time interweaving the quotidian aspects of life and loss in such settings. Within these frictions of exterior trauma and private contemplations, large constraints and small freedoms, these poems soar.”—Chicago Review of Books

Gaza is Not a Breaking News Cycle



The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy

August 11, 2022

 

Good Morning,

As you might have seen or heard, Israel launched yet another assault on the besieged Gaza strip, with bombardments and airstrikes killing 45 Palestinians and injuring more than 360, so far.

With the announcement of yet another precarious ceasefire, the international community’s attention is likely to move away from Gaza, yet again, leaving its people to mourn and rebuild in isolation under Israel’s 15 years of ongoing military siege. With this being Israel’s fifth assault since 2009 it is crucial to educate and inform ourselves and each other on Gaza, and to fight against its invisibilization and its dehumanization as mere periodical news cycle. Gaza has an ancestral history that is an integral and enmeshed part of Palestinian history. We must fight to keep it as part of the whole, and look ahead with a long-term vision, united against Israel’s intention to fragment and isolate Palestinians everywhere. 

This is why we are sharing with you again our latest Palestinian Takes email from June on Gaza, marking the passage of 15 years of Israel’s military siege. The email includes various Palestinian perspectives and resources on Gaza’s present and past, intertwined to bring us to the current moment.

The Nakba in 1948 and “the Gaza strip”:

  • Gaza has been inhabited since around 1500 BC, a thriving port for multiple cultures. Right before the Nakba of 1948, Gaza was one of many of Palestine’s districts, including the areas of Bir Al Sabi’ (Beersheba). As Israel’s ethnic cleansing operations began, 49 villages of the Gaza district were destroyed and more than 200,000 Palestinians were expelled from the southern and coastal areas of Palestine to smaller parts of Gaza district, which came to be known as the Gaza strip, as we learn in the Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question.
  • Since 1948, Gaza has become the epitome of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return movement, embodied more recently by the Great March of Return, that was co-initiated by Ahmad Abu Artema: “I wondered what would happen if 200,000 protesters gathered near the Israel fence with Gaza Strip, and entered the lands that are ours”.

The centrality of Gaza to iconic Palestinian food and land cultivation:

  • At home, on the sidewalks or dangling from the roofs of the shops at the markets or crossroads, this is how the branches of the unripe dates, called the “red gold”, announce they’re in season, a fruit after which the city of Deir Al-Balah (Land of Unripe Dates) is named.
  • Famous recipes have been curated by Palestinian chef Laila Haddad in The Gaza Kitchen cookbook, documenting people’s history and daily life through traditional dishes like the Rumaniyya (eggplant lentil pomegranate bowl) and Dagga (hot tomato and dill salad).
  • With its long Mediterranean coastline, fishery became a major source of food culture and sovereignty for many families. Yet, following the Israeli blockade in 2007, fishermen were systematically prevented from accessing the sea beyond 20 nautical miles, which gradually decreased to 3 nautical miles, while regularly being targeted and shot at by the Israeli naval army.
  • “In a few years there will be no more fishing at all, we will have to forget our profession and become traders”, said Gaza fishermen in a documentary on the topic.

    Fishermen on a Gaza Beach, 1987
    (Palestinian Museum Digital Archive)

A testing ground for apartheid, weapons and colonial repression:

  • In 1948, Palestinian refugees “were not expecting that their exodus would be prolonged for seven decades, and that they would be subjected to condescending efforts to void their right to return.” writes Jehad Abu-Salim.
  • In the span of two decades, the Israeli regime has led four aerial bombardment campaigns, killing and injuring thousands of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza, intentionally treating it as a testing ground for its military capabilities before it is exported all over the world.
  • “All the injustices Palestinians in Gaza face are a direct consequence of the continued denial of freedom, dignity and return. Overshadowing it with a humanitarian crisis is depriving the people in Gaza of their political will and reducing them to poor, powerless and passive subjects.” – writes Abir Kopty.
  • This thematic chronology by the Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question is an important resource covering how main events unfolded in the Israeli assaults on Gaza in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014-2015.
    This visual by Visualizing Palestine explains how the Israeli closure on Gaza started long before the blockade and in the height of the 1990s peace process.

We will never forget and never forgive: Palestinian testimonies from under the rubble:

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July 23, 2022
Madison-Rafah Palestinian Crafts Yard Sale

318 W. Lakeside Street
Madison [map]
10 am – 3 pm

Mark your calendars…

MRSCP has new ceramics from Hebron and new embroideries from Atfaluna Crafts.

We also have olive oil and spices from Playgrounds for Palestine, kufiyas, jewelry from Women in Hebron, and an excellent supply of olive oil soap.

You can browse samples at the Madison-Rafah Marketplace.

Palestine Partners at the National Women’s Music Festival


The 46th National Women’s Music Festival
June 30th – July 3rd, 2022
Marriot Madison West, 1313 John Q Hammons Dr, Middleton
Thu 5 pm-9 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-9 pm, Sun 10 am-3 pm

The Festival Marketplace is open to the public and no tickets are required to shop!

Palestine Partners, a Madison-based organization that supports Women in Hebron and Youth of Samud, will be selling Palestinian crafts in the Music Festival Marketplace.

This four-day musical and cultural extravaganza covers all facets of women’s lives. Choices include workshops, concerts, comedy, theatre, a marketplace, films and videos, silent and live auctions, spirituality and writer’s series, and much more!

They think we Arabs are uncivilized?

Amer Zahr, YouTube, 8 March 2022

Amer Zahr is a Palestinian Arab American comedian, speaker, writer, academic, and adjunct professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He draws on his experiences growing up as a child of Palestinian refugees, performing and lecturing on topics like politics, society, culture, identity, Palestine, Islam, and more.

March 19, 2022
International Festival at Overture Center

10 am – 5 pm FREE

Come celebrate the rich cultural heritage and diversity of our community as International Festival returns live to Overture Center! Enjoy free performances, savor cuisine from around the world, browse the arts and crafts, and check out the many local organizations & businesses with global connections.

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Playgrounds for Palestine – Madison, and Palestine Partners will be there, so stop by to help us fully fund the Al Samud Playground in the Old City of Hebron by purchasing olive oil and making donations.

We’ll also be selling olive oil soap, embroidery, ceramics, earrings, Hirbawi keffiyehs and other crafts from Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine. Although our online Marketplace is currently closed, you can browse there before the sale. We look forward to seeing you!

Note: Some programs will also be livestreamed online. For more information including COVID-19 protocols, visit Overture’s website.