Profile of Um Hassan from Al-Masara Village

Josie Shields-Stromsness, Middle East Children’s Alliance, Apr 12, 2018

Fatima Brejia (more commonly known as Um Hassan) is an organic farmer, community activist, founder of a local women’s organization, and most recently the head of the Al-Masara Village Council! She is the first Palestinian woman to be elected head of a village council.

Watch this video to learn more about Um Hassan and the amazing work she does for children and the rest of her community!

One woman tackles two of Gaza’s toughest challenges

We Are Not Numbers, February 23, 2018

A Gaza man with a SunBox

Two of the Gaza Strip’s most pressing challenges are a blockade-induced shortage of both electricity and building materials. And, in this conservative, patriarchal society, it’s a young, female engineer who is tackling both.

Twenty-four-year-old Majd al-Mashharawi, a 2016 graduate in civil engineering, first figured out how to turn ash and rubble—of which Gaza has a lot—into a material she calls “Green Cake” that can replace cement. Now, she is turning her attention to renewable energy technologies, starting with a solar kit named SunBox. Now in the piloting phase, SunBox is, she says, the first off-the-grid solar kit in Gaza.

“Gaza has an extreme shortage of electricity—receiving just three to six hours a day. But the entire Middle East suffers from a lack of sufficient electricity,” Mashharawi says. “This severely affects both quality of life and opportunity for economic growth. But the region has a resource that can be harnessed—an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making solar energy an ideal source of electricity production.”

Mashharawi researched solar options in use in Africa and India, where electricity outages also are common. However, she ended up turning to China for the most applicable solution. Her SunBox product is a small solar energy collection kit she imports, modifies to accommodate local electrical outlets and voltage and sells for US$355—a price her market research shows is affordable to most households. (She hopes to partner with microfinance businesses for those families who need to pay in installments.) The kit generates 1,000 watts of electricity—enough to power four lamps, two laptops, two phones, an internet router and a TV/fan/small refrigerator for a full day, before needing a “refresh” (using either the sun or the electrical grid, when available).

Mashharawi (far right) using a SunBox to power a light and laptop

If the Gaza launch goes well, Mashharawi is already dreaming of expanding into other markets—West Bank refugee camps, Syrians in Jordan and off-grid Bedouin communities throughout the Middle East (perhaps the largest of the populations, at an estimated 3.2 million).

Early inspiration

Mashharawi attributes her entrepreneurial spirit to her 11th grade math teacher.

"He forced us to find a way to solve math assignments on our own—rather than simply memorizing the formulas. It was the first and most difficult challenge of my life," she recalls.

This led Mashharawi to spend her entire, three-month summer holiday figuring out the "why" behind the answers so she could compile a booklet to distribute to other students. Mashharawi considers this her first startup.

“I didn't know how to change it into a business, however,” she laughs. “I was young and unaware of how businesses work.”

Mashharawi’s independence and a yearning to travel have driven her to work hard to build a future—no minor task in a society that is both conservative, restricting women’s freedom, and oppressed by a blockade.

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Invitation – JAI-ATG Olive Picking Program 2018


A program for Civil International Solidarity with Palestinians
October 13th (arrival) – 22nd (departure), 2018
West Bank, Palestine
Register online now

The JAI together with the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG) are organizing the 15th annual Olive Picking Program of 2018. This agricultural event is of special significance to the Palestinian economy when all energies and efforts are mobilized.

Besides olive picking, the program features introductory presentations about the current situation in Palestine and the effects of the Apartheid Wall, tours in the old city of Jerusalem, Hebron, and Bethlehem, in addition to evening sessions, cultural event and social gatherings.

Read about

The JAI Olive Tree Campaign
The Olive Picking Program and last years’ programs’ reports.
Reported attacks on farmers and land in Palestine.
Attacks on Olive Tree Campaign’ planted fields.

More Information:

  • An optional evening program will also be organized during the Picking Program, which includes film screenings or professional presentations on certain topics related to Palestinian life under occupation related international campaigns.
  • The cost of the program including accommodation in a double room, meals, guides, local transportation and other relevant expenses is $750. Requesting a single room at the hotel would cost the participant $200 Extra. Any extra night(s) accommodation (before the night of the 13th/14th of October, or after the night of the 21st/22nd of October 2018) is beyond the scope of the program and the participant has to pay extra for.
  • Accommodation can be arranged at a hotel or with a local family.
  • A tour guide will be present with the group at all times for facilitation purposes.
  • Travel from and to the airport is NOT included in the cost but can be arranged for (100 USD per person for each drive, unless sharing with a group of other participants).
  • Please do NOT fill and submit the registration form before booking your ticket, in order to fill your arrival and departure information in the same record.
  • Upon registration, you are automatically admitted to participate in the program (without having to wait for confirmation from our side), and you will receive further information / replies accordingly.

Proposed daily schedule (subjected to minor changes)

  • Saturday, Oct 13, Day 1: Arrival. Meeting representatives from the organizing institutions for an overview and discussion of the program.
  • Sunday, Oct 14, Day 2: Half day picking olives at a selected field. After lunch, political tour and sightseeing in Bethlehem, including the visit of a refugee camp. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.
  • Monday, Oct 15, Day 3: A tour in the old city of Hebron. Visiting the Ibrahimi Mosque. Guided tour in Hebron old city, market, H1/H2 areas, Shuhada street. Visiting a glass factory. Free time. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.
  • Tuesday, Oct 16, Day 4: Half day picking olives at a selected field in, followed by Presentation on the onging displcamenet, the refugee questions with BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugees’ Rights. Dinner and Overnight in Bethlehem.
  • Wednesday, Oct 17, Day 5: free day.
  • Thursday, Oct 18, Day 6: Half day picking olives at a selected field, followed by lunch. Geopolitical presentation with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the oPt., for a presentation on the Apartheid Wall and land confiscation. Visiting an olive press. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.
  • Friday, Oct 19, Day 7: Full day of picking olives at a selected field, lunch included. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.
  • Saturday, Oct 20, Day 8: Tour in the Old City of Jerusalem. Lunch, followed by a a tour with Israeli activist around Jerusalem. Dinner and overnight in Bethlehem.
  • Sunday, Oct 21, Day 9: Half day picking olives at a field. Lunch. Advocacy session and future planning. Evaluation meeting with institutions’ representatives, followed by a musical evening. Overnight in Bethlehem.
  • Monday, Oct 22, Day 10: Departure.

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Six Miles Out: A Day in the Life of Gaza Fishers

On the windy evening of January 4, 2017, 33-year-old Muhammad al-Hissi of Gaza set out with 13 of his brothers, cousins and uncles to make a living the only way they know how: fishing. But he never came home.

The family was spread out in three different boats, with the waves choppy and stiff, when the Israeli Navy appeared on the scene. The 60-ton ship rammed into Muhammad’s wooden boat and crushed it like a rock on an egg. Palestinian fishermen and the Israeli navy searched for Muhammad for three days, but his body was never found. The boat’s electric generator may have dismembered his body.

Muhammad was one of two Palestinian fishermen killed by the Israeli navy in 2017. Four others were injured, 14 were detained and five boats were seized. However, shootings at Gaza fishermen by the Israeli navy are daily occurrences, terrorizing and forcing many to abandon the sea. This pattern is set to continue into the new year, with the recent decision by Israeli officials to restrict Gaza fishermen to 6 nautical miles instead of the recently allowed 9 (only in the southern coast).

Help us shine a light on this violation of the right to earn a living. A new, short documentary “Six Miles Out” – produced by the We Are Not Numbers team in Gaza, with funds from the Solidarity with Gaza Fishers project of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition — features al-Hissi’s brother and cousin, who take us with them for a night of fishing. You will see for yourself just what it’s like when Israeli “hornets” suddenly appear on the scene.

Please share this 11-minute film on social media with a personalized observation. Send a link to your followers via email (this is actually the most effective). The film is subtitled in French, Spanish and Greek (use the the Youtube “gear” icon near the bottom left to turn on different languages). What can viewers do to help? They can donate to We Are Not Numbers, a Gaza-based youth storytelling project, to keep its work going. They also can visit the Freedom Flotilla website to find out how to support the 2018 sailing to challenge the blockade of Gaza’s seaport.

In solidarity,
David Heap, on behalf of Canadian Boat to Gaza
Pam Bailey, Founder and Director, We Are Not Numbers

Read more: Freedom Flotilla to Sail Again, for Freedom of Movement and a Decent Future for all Palestinians