Gaza City in the spotlight: hesitant hope in a city where everyone still wants out

As the UN’s day of solidarity with Palestinians nears, Gazans have restored a hesitant bustle

Miriam Berger, The Guardian, Saturday 25 November 2017

Fishermen off the coast of Gaza City, which is home to a 5,000-year-old port. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Fishermen off the coast of Gaza City, which is home to a 5,000-year-old port. (David Levene, The Guardian)

Today Medinat Ghazzah, or Gaza City, is running on empty – and yet still going. Gaza City, the Gaza Strip’s principal urban centre, carries various scars of war. Since 2006, Gaza has endured one civil war between Palestinians, three wars between the ruling Hamas militant group and Israel, a decade of Hamas’ repressive rule, and a crushing blockade by neighbouring Israel and Egypt – all of which have crippled the economy and turned the tiny territory into a site of humanitarian crisis.

Gaza City’s dusty buildings and bumpy roads, many still damaged or half-rebuilt from the last war, are at times reminiscent of facades found in Egypt and the Palestinian West Bank. But it is the crushing monotony and suffocating limits of life that define the city for residents who have walked the same streets for a decade without a chance of getting out. Still, the city carries on, with coffee shops, traffic, clothes stores, restaurants and even a new upscale mall offering diversions for those who can afford them.

Palestinians attend Friday noon prayer beneath the fallen minaret during the 2014 war.Palestinians attend Friday noon prayer beneath the fallen minaret during the 2014 war.

The city’s framework, like the rest of Gaza, is innately tied up with politics. Gaza was once part of Britain’s Mandate Palestine. Then came Egyptian occupation in 1948, followed by Israeli in 1967. Now, for the last decade, Hamas, which the European Union has designated as terrorist group, has ruled the tiny territory while Israel controls most borders.

Limited visitors

This month – on 29 November – brings the United Nations international day of solidarity with Palestinians. Gazans, however, don’t see much of the international community these days. That’s in part because Israel strictly limits entry to the Gaza Strip, with mainly journalists (Israelis and Palestinians excluded) and aid and development workers allowed through. Even then, UN bodies and NGOs working in Gaza constrain much of the movement of their foreign staff due to security protocols. Along Gaza City’s highly polluted coast are two expensive hotels that are considered the “safe zone” where aid workers and many journalists stay.

The five-star Arcmed al-Mashta Hotel, built in 2011The five-star Arcmed al-Mashta Hotel, built in 2011

Facing an ineffective and corrupt government, the UN and NGOs have stepped in. Gazans are grateful – but know they can do better and mistrust the politics that dictates where funds are directed. Around much of Gaza are signs thanking Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates for funding reconstruction projects. But the Arab countries have pledged far more for reconstruction than they’ve actually delivered, while many Gazans feel acutely abandoned by the Arab states and international community, and know new buildings still go first to those with Hamas connections.

Gaza City in numbers

40 – rank of Gaza city in 2014 list of most densely populated cities worldwide. At the time, the population of Gaza City and surrounding area was estimated at 750,000.

360 – square kilometers covered by the Gaza Strip, about the size of Detroit.

80 – percentage of families in Gaza who receive some sort of aid.

44 – percentage official unemployment rate in Gaza; for those aged 15-29, the rate rises to 60%.

3 – number of hours of electricity generated by Gaza’s only working electricity plant at a severe low point this summer. For the last few years Gaza has averaged around at most eight hours a day of electricity.

Continue reading

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.

DSC_0034

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.

It should be noted that the Women Right’s Unit will hold more awareness lectures on violence in a number of secondary schools for girls in Gaza city over the next two weeks.

Halfway There: Help us Send “Gaza Lights” to Rafah!

HELP US RESPOND TO GAZA’S ELECTRICITY CRISIS

A big thanks to those who have helped us get past the halfway point in our campaign to supply rechargeable household “Gaza Lights” to poor families in Rafah.

If you haven’t contributed, we can really use your help to meet our goal.

The electricity crisis in Gaza has reached unprecedented and unbearable heights, with power now reduced to 2-4 hours per day.

While only an end to the Israeli occupation and blockade can provide a lasting solution, in the meantime the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to provide families in Rafah with a “Gaza Lights” unit — a rechargeable household system created by a team of volunteer Gaza engineers that takes advantage of the short hours of electrical service to charge a battery, which can then power lights, fans, and phones for twelve hours.

These “Gaza Lights” are produced quickly in Gaza and distributed to needy families by MECA and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.


Amal and the Sketch Engineering Team assemble Gaza Lights systems

MRSCP has committed to raise funds supply 50 of these systems; we are just over half way to our goal of $4700. We need to raise the rest by mid-November. Please help us reach this goal! Your contribution of just $11 will give one family in Rafah 3 lights for their home. $20 buys them a fan, $31 a rechargeable battery, $91 a complete system.

To contribute to this campaign, send a check made out to “MRSCP” and marked “Gaza Lights” to

    MRSCP
    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison WI 53705

You can also contribute online at MECA’s site Gaza Lights for Rafah.

Your contribution to this campaign is tax-deductible; if you contribute on line, you will receive a receipt from MECA. If you send a check to MRSCP, we will provide you a receipt at the end of the year.

As always, thanks for your support.

More
Gaza Lights Campaign
As temperatures soar, desperate Gazans try any means to beat heat, Reuters, July 27, 2017
How Israel’s 10-Year Blockade Brought Gaza to the Brink of Collapse, The Nation, July 7, 2017

Gaza Unlocked Stories: Ismael Ramlawi

Electricity

Ismael Ramlawi, 31 — American Friends Service Committee

"They have power cuts four or five times every day, which means we lose at least 1 hour of production."

At our factory, we produce plastic pipes for use in agricultural irrigation and construction using recycled plastic. Production depends on a regular supply of electricity. It takes two hours for the machines we use to heat up to the temperature needed to start production. Once they are heated, we can use them for at least 24 hours nonstop if we have power. But in the current situation, we only have eight hours of electricity at most each day, meaning we can’t produce our product for more than six hours per day.

And the power supply is also uneven. Although we are supposed to have eight hours of power each day, the power often goes off for 30 minutes, one hour, or two hours during that period. When the power goes off, we lose some of the product we are producing, and it takes 15 minutes to switch to a generator and reheat the equipment so we can restart production.

They have power cuts four or five times every day, which means we lose at least one hour of production due to power cuts. We can therefore only produce goods for three or four hours every day because there is no regular electrical supply.

Businesses can’t function without reliable electricity, increasing unemployment & destabilizing the economy.

 
Donate to the MRSCP’s Gaza Lights for Rafah Campaign

Help unlock Gaza: Contact Congress today, and urge them to take action to end the blockade.


The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the Quaker belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

American Friends Service Committee

1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
gazaunlocked@afsc.org

Continue reading

Gaza Unlocked Stories: Firas Ramlawi

  Education Electricity

Firas Ramlawi, 38 — American Friends Service Committee

"Classrooms are crowded, class times are shortened, and schools don’t have resources."

Take action today: Restore power to Gaza

On education
Before 2000, 90 percent of schools in Gaza ran on single shifts. Now nearly all schools run on double shifts, and a few schools have run on triple shifts during emergency situations. The morning shift runs from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and the afternoon shift runs from 12 p.m. to 4:30 pm. The shifts are shorter during the winter when there is less daylight. This is because of the lack of electricity. You can’t go to school in the dark.

Two shifts is not good. I have four children in school, and dealing with their days takes up all of my wife’s time from 5 a.m. until 6 p.m. The first two kids must be at school for the first shift, and the second two for the second shift. We are constantly moving children. This impacts how your homework is planned, how meals are planned, how sleep schedules are planned. There is no social life or time outside for my wife. She is going from morning until night.

The 2014 attack on Gaza damaged 252 schools. Educational facilities are protected spaces under international law.

Education is also negatively impacted as classrooms are crowded, class times are shortened, and schools don’t have resources.

We need more schools in Gaza, but they can’t be built because of the blockade.

On electricity
We have a good relationship with batteries in Gaza. At home we have batteries for our lights. We have a battery for our fridge. We have batteries for hand lights to use in the stairs when the power is out. I bought an extra battery for my computer, and we have spare batteries and chargers for our phones. We spend around $1,000 per year just on batteries. We can’’ afford this, but how else do you live with only six or eight hours of electricity?

Continue reading