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.

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February 24, 2018:
International Festival at Overture Center

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Free performances, food, and crafts from all over the world. MRSCP was selling our Palestinian products, including extra-virgin Holy Land Olive Oil, olive oil soap, Palestinian-made Hirbawi kuffiyahs, earrings from the Hebron Women’s Co-op, ceramics, embroidery and other crafts from Gaza and the West Bank.


Local Goes Global
Overture Hall Main Lobby
201 State Street, Madison
10:30 am – 4:30 pm

More information from Overture Center.

April 8, 2018
Annual Rachel Corrie Commemoration

Mark Your Calendars for Sunday Afternoon

Annual Rachel Corrie Commemoration
Featuring Dessert and a Program
Time and place TBD

2018 marks 15 years since Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer, as she tried to prevent the demolition of a family home in Rafah. 2018 also marks the 15th anniversary of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Join us for this special tribute to Rachel. Refreshments including baklawa and other desserts will be served. As always, admission is free but we will gratefully accept donations to support the Samira Project for disadvantaged children in Rafah. Palestinian olive oil, olive oil soap, ceramics, Hirbawi kufiyahs, embroidery and other crafts will be available for purchase.

Follow us on Facebook and our website madisonrafah.org for up-to-date information. Or contact us at rafahsistercity at yahoo.com.

The Samira Project Needs Your Help Again in 2018

For the third time, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) is partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice to fund The Samira Project in Rafah.
 

Clip and return your contribution by mail:

YES! I WANT TO SUPPORT THE SAMIRA PROJECT FOR TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN!

Name:_____________________________ Address_______________________________

City:______________________________________ State___________ Zip ____________

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Demolishing Palestinian schools ‘a quiet population transfer’

Orly Noy, +972, January 24, 2018

By destroying schools in Palestinian villages in Area C and elsewhere, Israel is forcing Palestinians to make a cruel choice — between their land and their children’s futures.

Students sit in a classroom at school in the Jahalin Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar, West Bank, February 22, 2017. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)Students sit in a classroom at school in the Jahalin Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar, West Bank, February 22, 2017. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

When the children of Beit Ta’mar, a village south-east of Bethlehem, left their improvised schoolhouse for winter vacation about two weeks ago, they did not know if the building would still be standing when they came back.

To call the building a school is to exaggerate. It is comprised of five concrete rooms on the top of a hill, constructed by the village’s residents, who also built the road to the school.

“Last August, we asked the army for permission to build a school for the children in the village,” Hassan Brigiah says on our way to the site. “We didn’t receive an answer, and after we talked with a lawyer, we decided to set up six caravans to serve as classrooms. The army came and dismantled the caravans. While they were doing this I said to them, ‘but you didn’t give us an answer at all!’ It didn’t help. We decided to build a few classrooms out of concrete, and in the meantime, a lawyer managed to get an order to prevent them from being demolished until the government gives us an answer.”

The army has since provided an answer—negative, as expected. The reasons, as always, are technical and bureaucratic. Ever since, the threat of demolition has hung over the improvised first through third-grade classrooms. The Palestinian Authority provided tables and chairs, which is noted on a plaque. “We’ll build the homeland with the power of knowledge,” is spray painted on one of the walls.

The school is located in Area C, but close to Area B, in the West Bank, under Palestinian civil control, and entirely on privately owned land, Birgiah says, adding that the construction was financed by the villagers themselves.

“We are very close to Tekoa and Noqdim, where [Defense Minister] Liberman lives,” Birgiah adds. “They have a lot of influence on the government. Nearly every day, the settlers stand on the hill overlooking the school and survey our children with binoculars. The army is also here all the time, walking around, taking pictures, and leaving. They want to show us that they’re here, so that we’ll continue to live in fear.”

In general, the sense is that schools and educational institutions have become a hot target for the army across the West Bank.

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The Last Palestinian Kaffiyeh Maker

Al Hirbawi, supplier to the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

The kaffiyeh is a traditional Arab headdress and a symbol of the Palestinian struggle. Today, it continues to represent an important part of Palestinian heritage. Unfortunately, the Al Hirbawi factory is the last remaining institution in the Palestinian territories producing the original kaffiyeh. Brothers Jouda, Abdelazim and Ezzat have been working in the factory since they were kids, inheriting the family business and continuing the proud legacy.

Solidarity with the Palestinian People

Shared Injustice, Shared Struggle
on International Day of Solidarity

Claire Gilbert, Grassroots International, November 28, 2017

November 29th is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. These days, the global Palestinian solidarity movement has deepened and grown with powerful expressions of joint struggle with other movements around the world.

A few weeks ago in over 30 countries worldwide people participated in a series of global actions for a #WorldwithoutWalls. Analysis from Grassroots International’s partner Stop the Wall Campaign reveals shocking statistics about the grim proliferation of walls globally:

“Who would have thought in 2002 when Israel started building its apartheid Wall that today we would have nearly 70 walls around the world built to militarise borders or to annex occupied lands? Who would have thought it possible that exactly one year ago Donald Trump won the presidential elections by promising a Wall?

Walls are key elements in today’s racist policies aimed against migrants, including refugees, to criminalise and keep them out or kill them. Walls are ever more pervasive in cities and societies to segregate, control and repress. Ideologies of hatred and supremacy are growing together with these walls and the profits of an entire industry of walls, fear and exclusion are rising exponentially. By 2022, the border security market is expected to rise to $52.95 billion globally.”

Stop the Wall Campaign is a Grassroots International partner in Palestine focused on stopping and dismantling the Wall in the West Bank, resisting Israeli occupation, and defending Palestinian communities’ rights to land and water.

The #WorldwithoutWalls actions included new chances for shared struggle as a delegation from the US, Mexico and Palestine traveled from Oaxaca to Nogales at the US/Mexico border as part of an International Caravan, while a delegation of activists from Mexico and the US traveled to the West Bank.

Our allies at the Border Agricultural Project and our partner La Via Campesina shared this statement:

“Sunday, November 5th, 2017 – From the border of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico and El Paso, Texas, United States, La Vía Campesina, its members participating in the V International Meeting on Migration and Wage Labour, its guests and allies, the academic and public institutions that accompanied the encounter as well as the border community, we send you a fraternal message of solidarity to all migrants and people suffering walls of apartheid; and we tell you that you are not alone, that from November 2 to 5 we have met on this border to make a commitment to fight with all our conviction for the full human rights of all migrants and border people and against the current anti-migrant attacks by bad governments, against the walls of exclusion, violence and criminalization for the mere fact of being migrants or border people.”

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Gaza Lights: Electrical Power for People Under Siege


The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA)

Many mothers told us the same story. Their children are so scared of the dark they won’t even get up at night to use the bathroom. One mother brings home rubbing alcohol from the clinic where she works to make a small fire so her children can have light to do their schoolwork.” –Amal Abu Moailqe, MECA Gaza Staff, Mechatronics Engineer

“Gaza Lights” provides households in the Gaza Strip with electrical power by providing a rechargeable system that generates electricity for approximately 12 hours and includes three lights, a fan, and a mobile phone charger.

The Electricity Crisis in Gaza, Palestine

The Gaza Strip has been deprived of adequate electrical power for most of the last ten years. In the beginning of 2017, most residents were getting five to eight hours of electricity per day. As summer approached, that declined to just one to three hours. This effected almost every aspect of daily life: storing perishable food and medicines, performing basic household and care-taking tasks; studying and work; phone and internet communication. Household fires have occurred from the use of candles and cooking with wood fires.

December 2, 2017
Fair Trade Holiday Festival

Monona Terrace Convention Center
1 John Nolen Drive, Madison
9 am to 4 pm

Come do your holiday shopping with Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison and 54 other vendors selling fair trade products from around the world!

MRSCP and PfP will be selling Palestinian olive oil in several sizes, olive oil soap, zaatar, “Playgrounds” brand Fair Trade Coffee, a great NEW selection of ceramics from Hebron, Hirbawi kuffiyehs, earrings, our beautiful Palestinian embroidered scarves, shawls, purses, bookmarks, and more.

We will also be accepting donations to benefit a deaf children’s classroom at the Atfaluna Society for the Deaf in Gaza City, which produces many of our embroidery and wood crafts items.

The Festival will feature items from the SlaveFree Madison’s Fashion Show “Saving the World, One Accessory at a Time”.

FREE! Bring your friends & family to this one-of-a-kind event!
More info? Visit fairtrademadison.org/ or facebook.com/fairtradeholidayfestival/

Stop Violence against Women and Girls,

PCHR’s Women Unit Starts 16 Days of Activism Campaign to End Violence

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), November 26, 2017

 

On Sunday, 26 November 2017, the Women Unit at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) has started the first activities of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to end Violence against women and girls. The Unit held a legal awareness lecture on violence against women and girls in al-Jaleel High School for Girls, targeting the 11th Grade students.

Mona al-Shawa, Head of PCHR’s Women’s Unit, welcomed the students and reviewed PCHR’s work and the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to end Violence against women. The campaign starts on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on 10 December, which marks the International Day for Human Rights. Al-Shawa explained the close link between women’s rights and human rights in general, and that this campaign is an international campaign that activates this time of year in most countries of the world to raise awareness of violence by moving it from private to public sphere and to call for providing protection women and girls. Al-Shawa also stressed the importance of raising girls and high school students’ awareness of violence, its forms and causes and how to eliminate violence.

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Majedah Shehahdah, Researcher at the Women’s Unit, explained the concept of violence against women and girls as defined in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993. Shehahdah discussed the most significant forms of violence practiced in the Palestinian society against women and girls and the reasons behind it. She also highlighted the mechanisms to reduce violence against women and girls in the Palestinian society and the importance to provide protection for them.

The female Students interacted with the topic and recounted the most prominent forms of violence prevailing in the Palestinian society, including verbal and physical violence in addition to the early marriage phenomenon and depriving women of inheritance rights and etc.

By the end of the lecture, the students praised the importance of raising students’ awareness of violence against women and girls and called for holding further awareness lectures that would target young girls and students in secondary schools.

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November 21, 2017
In Service of State Violence

“Palestine and the Restrictions on Academic Freedom”

Listen live online here
Tuesday, November 21
11:30 am – 1:00 pm CENTRAL TIME

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi
The Palestine Center, Washington, DC
The presentation will also be posted on line after the talk.

Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies/Race and Resistance Studies & the Senior Scholar of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative, San Francisco State University.

Dr. Abdulhadi will speak about her own experiences of being the target of long standing and systemic attempts to silence Palestine activism in the United States. Her talk will underscore the consequences of limiting academic freedom on issues of state violence, namely, allowing it to go unchallenged. Finally, Dr. Abdulhadi will address the role of preserving academic freedom as paramount to sustaining vibrant institutions of learning and discuss her own experiences challenging the many attempts to silence dissent that she has encountered, including a harassing court case that was just dismissed.

For more info see: http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/events/upcoming/service-state-violence-palestine-restrictions-academic-freedom