Al Samud Playground at Al Shuhada Kindergarten, Hebron

Ramadan Mubarak from our family at Playgrounds for Palestine to you and yours! 

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On behalf of all of us at Playgrounds for Palestine, we would like to wish you a blessed Ramadan!  

We would like to extend a sincere thank you for your support of PfP and share some photos of our work.

This week, a new playground will be installed in Hebron at Al Shuhada Kindergarten. This is one of nine upcoming playgrounds for the year 2022! 

Our work would not be possible without your generous contributions and support. Thank you for working with us to affirm every child’s right to play! 

 

Playgrounds for Palestine
P.O. Box 559
Yardley, PA 19067
© 2021

Due to wars and siege, Gaza infrastructure unprepared for climate disaster

Palestinian residents stranded in an inundated house following torrential rains that hit Gaza City on January 16, 2022. (Photo: Mohammed Dahman/APA Images)

TAREQ S. HAJJAJ, MONDOWEISS, MARCH 16, 2022

No one should go to bed with the fear that their children might drown or float away in the middle of the night. But that was the reality for many families in the besieged Gaza Strip this winter, which saw heavy rain and snowstorms across Palestine. 

It was the middle of January, and a heavy rainstorm was gripping Gaza. Khadijah Abukarsh, 30, a mother of five, was only asleep for a few hours when she felt water around her. 

She jumped up and ran to her kids’ room, where she found her kids soaked in water, and her youngest, Hassan, 2, almost completely submerged under water that had overtaken the house. 

“I lifted him up as fast as I could, the water was coming out of his ears,” Abukarsh said, shivering as she remembered the night that her family was forced to flee their flooded home in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza for the nearest shelter, a local school a few blocks away. 

“The water was over 50 centimeters high. Our house was completely flooded,” Abukarsh said. “We stayed at the shelter for two days, and slept on the floor of a classroom. It was very difficult.”

Palestinian municipal workers help UNRWA school students to cross a flooded street in the heavy rain in Gaza City, on January 15, 2022. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)
Palestinian municipal workers help UNRWA school students to cross a flooded street in the heavy rain in Gaza City, on January 15, 2022. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

‘Our house was like a swamp’

After 13 years of siege, and four devastating wars, being in a state of crisis or disaster has become familiar for many Palestinians in Gaza. 

In recent years, however, a more unfamiliar disaster has crept into the homes of many Gazan families. 

As the global climate crisis continues to worsen, many Gazan families, like the Abukarsh’s, are feeling the devastating effects of climate change, which are compounded by Israel’s siege. 

With an infrastructure that’s been crippled by the siege and Israeli offensives, most recently in May 2021, most Palestinians in Gaza are not prepared for what the climate crisis has brought to their doorstep. 

“During the last war, due to airstrikes on our neighborhood, the foundation and walls in our house have cracked,” Abukarsh told Mondoweiss from her modest 60 square meter home. 

When it rains, she said, water seeps easily through the cracks in the walls, and the tin sheet roof that covers the house. 

“Every time it rains, our home becomes uninhabitable, and we have no other place to go except the nearby school,” Abukarsh said, admitting that her family’s home, despite housing seven people, is not really fit for living. 

Abukarsh said that the heavy storms and floods that slammed Gaza this winter were particularly nasty for her family. 

“We could not move in the house, it was like a swamp inside our rooms,” she said. “We went to seek shelter in the school just like during the war.” 

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Maia Project Update

For Over 11 Years



The new unit providing clean water to the kids in Shuka, Rafah (MECA, 12/29/21)

Help us give the gift of Clean Water to the Children of Rafah

There is a water crisis in Palestine that affects the health of virtually every adult and child. In the Gaza Strip poor sanitation and over-extraction have polluted the limited water supply. Israeli military attacks and the blockade have prevented repairs to water infrastructure. Water to Gaza is restricted and often too expensive for families to purchase from a safe source.

MAIA is Arabic for water, and the MAIA Project began when children at a UN school in Gaza picked clean drinking water as the one thing they wanted most for their school.

That’s why the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project joined with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) in 2010 to provide water filters to schools in Rafah. You can help today!

For a limited time we are offering a 22-oz. Trek II aluminum refillable water bottle with this Maia logo for all donations of at least $60.

Donations of $80 or more can also receive a GAZA logo pin. If you want the water bottle and/or pin, please mail a check and send us a phone number or email address with your request; we will contact you to arrange delivery.

  • Make a donation online. Due to coronavirus precautions, this is currently preferred.
  • Mail a check payable to MRSCP with the memo “water”. Send it to
      MRSCP
      P.O. Box 5214
      Madison, WI 53705

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is registered as a 501(c)(3) organization and your donation is tax deductible.


Our History with the Maia Project

2019 — 2020 Our current goal is to raise $16,000 for a large Maia filter at the Al Shuka Preparatory School. The siege of Gaza and lack of building materials forces this school to run in two shifts: the first one girls and the second co-ed. A total of 2,200 students and their families will be able to get clean water from this unit.

Maia Brochure 2019 adobe


2018 — 2019 $16,000 for filters at two schools serving 3,250 students and their families in Rafah. A joint project of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, First Unitarian Society of Madison, Jewish Voice for Peace – Madison, and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. Photos of the filters by Josie Shields-Stromsness, Middle East Children’s Alliance:

  • Drinking Clean Water
  • Drinking Clean Water
  • School Yard
  • School Yard
  • Tank & Filter Unit Delivery
  • Tank and Filter Unit Delivery
  • Units Ready for Transport
  • Filter Unit Fabrication
  • Filter Unit Fabrication
  • Control Panel
  • Control Panel
  • Water Storage Tank
  • Filter Unit Housing

Download the PDF file .

2013 $11,500 for clean water at the Girl’s Preparatory School A in Rafah with 1,187 students.

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December 12, 2021
Online Film: To Treat Kids Like Me in Gaza

Screening & discussion
Sun, Dec 12, 2021, 1:00 PM CST

With severe medicine shortages and an overstretched health care system in Gaza, children in need of medical treatments can only find them outside the strip. Yet Israel’s convoluted, arbitrary permit process leaves them waiting in pain, often missing life-saving care. To Treat Kids Like Me (produced by Donkeysaddle Projects and +972 Magazine) follows the family of Mohamed Saleh and several other children in the Gaza Strip as they navigate the often Kafkaesqe process of getting permission from the Israeli army to leave the besieged strip for medical treatments that are unavailable there.

The 5th offering in DSP’s Freedom Film Series will be followed by a discussion with filmmaker Jen Marlowe and special guests:

  • Ghada Majadli: Director of the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel department for Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); featured in To Treat Kids Like Me.
  • Mohamed Lafi: Public health professional working for the World Health Organization in the OPT, with a focus on access to health care for patients who need to seek care outside the OPT.
  • Fadi Abu Shammalah: Manager of Donkeysaddle’s Palestine Grassroots Distribution Project; has been DSP’s on-the-ground support for Mohamad Salah (who is featured in To Treat Kids Like Me)
  • Miranda Cleland: Communications Manager for Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP). DCIP documents cases like Mohamed’s where Israeli forces kill or injure Palestinian children.
  • Tickets by donation. 50% of ticket proceeds go to Palestine Grassroots Distribution Project, including Mohamad Salah’s medical care.

    Sponsored by Donkeysaddle Projects. Co-sponsored by Just Vision & Defense for Children International-Palestine.

    SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN RETRACTED PRO-PALESTINE ARTICLE WITHOUT ANY FACTUAL ERRORS


    A Palestinian child, wounded by Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, receives treatment at Al-Shifa Hospital on May 19, 2021 in Gaza City, Gaza. Fatima Shbair/Getty Images

    Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept, July 1 2021

    After right-wing outrage, the esteemed journal removed an opinion piece expressing solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli bombardment.

    Sabreen Akhter felt an urge to help in whatever way she could. Like many people around the world this May, Akhter was following news of war in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli bombardment was exacerbating a humanitarian crisis in the territory. Scanning her social media feed, Akhter, a doctor from Chicago, made contact with a few other health care professionals across the United States who had also been posting news online about the crisis.

    Akhter set up a call to discuss what they could do, on behalf of their profession, for Palestinians. They settled on the idea of writing an article together as a group of medical workers concerned about the medical situation in Gaza and pitching it to Scientific American, where Akhter had published in the opinion section in the past.

    “We didn’t know each other previously but had all been watching all of this violence and devastation happening in Palestine and were feeling helpless about it,” said Akhter. “I remembered that there had been an article published in The Lancet in 2014 about health care workers speaking up for Palestine. I thought it was really powerful at the time and remembered that a lot of people in the health care field had responded to it when it was published.”

    On June 2, following an extensive editing and fact-checking process with the publication, the article ran in Scientific American under the headline “As Health Care Workers, We Stand in Solidarity with Palestine.”

    Less than two weeks later, on June 11, the article was removed from Scientific American’s website without warning. A short editor’s note appeared in its place. “This article fell outside the scope of Scientific American and has been removed,” the note said. That same day, an editor from the publication emailed Akhter and the others, informing them of the retraction and apologizing for any “confusion” caused by the initial decision to publish the article.

    “We were shocked, completely shocked. We all got on a call together and talked about it,” Akhter said. “We sent an email back to the editor later stating that we were disappointed and asking to clarify what they meant that the article had fallen ‘outside the scope,’ but we never got a response.”

    The article was a summary of the health crisis taking place in the Gaza Strip as a result of the war, including the role of the conflict in exacerbating the Covid-19 pandemic. The authors categorically condemned the Israeli government for using disproportionate force and expressed support for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel — a call that evidently triggered the anger of Israel supporters online.

    Since the retraction, the authors of the article, which has since been posted online as a PDF, have faced a wave of harassing emails and messages. Right-wing pro-Israel groups gloated over the move by Scientific American.

    Pro-Palestine activists, for their part, have been unsurprised, chalking it up as another example of an insidious campaign of free speech suppression that has for years targeted their cause.

    “Palestinians have been facing systematic reprisal for their speech and activism,” said Marwa Fatafta, the Middle East and North Africa policy manager for Access Now, a digital rights organization. “Folks have lost their jobs, scholarships, and career futures destroyed for legitimate expression. And when your livelihood is on the line, you’re most likely think twice before you express yourself.”

    “Labels of antisemitism and terrorism are also weaponized to publicly smear and intimidate Palestinians and their allies,” Fatafta said. “There are websites and social media pages dedicated to this very mission. Not to mention the relentless efforts to criminalize the BDS movement and any peaceful and nonviolent calls for boycott and accountability. It’s a witch-hunt.”

    The debacle at Scientific American seemed to follow a familiar playbook of silencing pro-Palestinian speech in the United States.

    Immediately after its publication, the article triggered a backlash in right-wing pro-Israel circles online, with the media advocacy organization CAMERA denouncing the article as an “anti-Israel screed parroting Palestinian terror groups’ lies and incitement.”

    In the following days, Scientific American received a flood of emails from individuals espousing roughly that same message. The New York Post later reported that “a number of influential New Yorkers,” including New York Medical College Chancellor Edward Halperin, as well as other medical professionals, sent a letter of their own opposing the article.

    A person with insight into Scientific American’s internal processes, who asked for anonymity to avoid backlash, said that the language used in the editor’s note was written in a manner intended to convey that the retraction was not due to any factual errors in the article itself.

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    How a West Bank Trip Turned This Congressman Into One of Israel’s Strongest Critics

    Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan tells Haaretz why he welcomes a new Israeli government, even one led by a right-winger like Naftali Bennett who has renounced the two-state solution


    Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan. Andy Manis / AP

    Ben Samuels, Haaretz, Jun. 7, 2021

    WASHINGTON – How does a lawmaker go from surface-level familiarity with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to being one of the most vocal proponents of Palestinian rights in the history of Congress?

    It starts with Humpty Dumpty.

    Rep. Mark Pocan had visited Israel on congressional trips since entering office in 2013, where he spent a bit of time in the West Bank. But it was always through an Israeli lens. After learning more about the conflict from the pro-Israel left-wing J Street organization, the progressive Wisconsin Democrat went again in 2016 on the first-ever congressional trip to Palestine organized by the Humpty Dumpty Institute.

    Despite being organized by an NGO that Pocan jokingly admits has “one of the worst names in Washington,” it provided him with a first opportunity to see the land from a Palestinian perspective.

    “Having a chance to see things from that perspective opened my eyes about what was going on, and the barriers in getting to a two-state solution that I have advocated for,” he tells Haaretz. “Seeing and talking to people in Palestine firsthand and walking through all the different issues really mattered a lot.”

    July 1 & 14, 2021
    VIRTUAL DELEGATIONS TO RAFAH REFUGEE CAMP

    Eyewitness Palestine

    Join us for a Virtual Delegation to the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip with We Are Not Numbers, Palestinian youth telling the human stories behind the numbers in the news. The camp was established in 1949 and is now home to more than 125,304 refugees according to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Join us to walk around the camp and understand more of its particular challenges.

    More Information Coming Soon!

    Update: Fresh Food for Families in Rafah

    Josie Shields-Stromsness, Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA)

    Update for Madison Rafah Sister City Project

    BACKGROUND
    The economic situation in the Gaza Strip is deteriorating dramatically as a result of the continuation of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli blockade. The precautions taken to limit the spread of coronavirus including imposing of lockdowns and curfews have worsened the dire situation. As a result, more than 70% of the population are reported below the poverty line and food insecurity and malnutrition pose serious risks to the health of hundreds of thousands of people, particularly children.

    ACCOMPLISHMENTS
    With donations from MRSCP, MECA and our local partner in Gaza, the Never Stop Dreaming Association, were able to provide nutritious food parcels to families in need in Rafah while also supporting local farmers and businesses.

    We received additional funding from several individuals and organizations in the United States for this project and in total were able to provide 1413 families in Rafah, Khan Younis and the middle region of the Gaza Strip with food parcels. Families were nominated by community organizations in each location and then checked against official lists to ensure we are reaching people most in need. MRSCPs donations of $4655 provide food parcels to 116 families in Rafah governate in the southern Gaza Strip, the transportation, warehouse rental, and meals for volunteers were covered by other funding sources.

    The contents of the food parcels were purchased from 4 farms employing 24 individuals and 3 small grocery stores. This project therefore provided critical income to 27 families in Gaza.

    Each food parcel contained fresh vegetables, chickens, and other household staples designed to provide each family with the necessary items to make healthy, balanced meals for two weeks. MECA staff member Wafaa El-Derawi is a trained nutritionist and oversaw the contents of the parcels.

    CHALLENGES
    We faced some challenges with the COVID-19 restrictions in Gaza. We overcame this by having several distribution points, providing all staff and volunteers with masks and gloves, and by organizing pick up times well so there was not overcrowding at the warehouses.

    Some families from remote areas could not reach the distribution points. With help from the local community organizations in each location, we were able to arrange transportation for these families.

    The number of nominated cases was more than the food parcels. This was overcome through rapid research to identify the most difficult cases and families living in severe poverty to prioritize their coverage.

    SUCCESSES
    Beneficiaries had positive evaluation of the contents of the food parcels. We received many comments appreciating the fresh vegetables and chicken which are unusual in food parcels.

    One family in Rafah that received the food parcel was particularly appreciated. She lives with her family – her sick husband and her 11 children – in a marginalized area. Their house doesn’t have a roof, instead corrugated iron board covers part of it, leaving them to drown in rains every winter. The family has no source of livelihood, and they live on food aid. They were very happy with the food and chicken package. She thanked and prayed for all those in charge of the project.


    The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is joining with MECA, ZamZam Water, PaliRoots, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees to provide food parcels to families in Rafah. As always, MECA strives to support the local economy while providing much needed aid for families. With these food parcels many Palestinian farmers and cooperatives benefit, and the end result is a healthy and local package of eggs, vegetables, beans, lentils, rice, cheese, za’atar and more.

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    Dr. Fauci, Please use your Israeli prize money to buy vaccines for Palestine

    JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE HEALTH ADVISORY COUNCIL, Mondoweiss, MARCH 1, 2021

    February 28, 2021

    Dear Dr. Fauci,

    We are writing to you as “fans” of your work. As health professionals, we so often found ourselves appreciative and relieved by your calm steady voice during the Trumpian chaos, bravely, stubbornly standing up for science and public health, truly a monumental task. Thank you. Thank you.

    We understand that you stay above the fray by refusing to engage in bruising political fights. Ironically, public health, by nature, lives at that intersection between health care and politics. Just think of your involvement in HIV/AIDS research and treatment.

    You have said, for this pandemic to be defeated, everyone must be vaccinated, that is the nature of conquering a highly infectious disease. Yet we are faced with massive global inequities, countries – particularly in the global south – where there is no vaccine at all, while first world countries scoop up the vaccine supply as their disadvantaged populations and people of color struggle for access. Addressing this issue is going to take incredible political and moral will.

    In that vein, we want to congratulate you on winning the Israeli Dan David Prize for “Speaking Truth to Power” amid the pandemic. As you are likely aware, Israel is being lauded for an amazing vaccination program (despite a lack of attention to its Palestinian citizens and the resistance of the ultra-Orthodox). However, Israel’s refusal to take responsibility for the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation is highly problematic. That policy is illegal according to international law, immoral, and ill advised. Tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians work in Israel, in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, or are imprisoned in Israeli jails. Living amongst a largely unvaccinated population puts Israelis at risk for the current virus and developing variants.

    Even U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reminded the Israeli government of its obligation to the Palestinians. Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and asked that Israel help in delivering coronavirus vaccines from abroad to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    The ultimate solution to the issue of vaccine inequity for Palestinians is for Israel to uphold its responsibility under international law and provide vaccine to the Palestinians under occupation. However, we would like to suggest that you could send a powerful message and improve public health for many thousands of people if you donated some portion of your one million dollars in prize money and used that to buy vaccines for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Not only would that be a step towards resolving vaccine inequity, but it would be a powerful message about the value and dignity of every human life. It would also be a strong message saying that health care needs to be above politics, and that it is just plain wrong to allow politics to be a divider, where some lives are valued and protected and others ignored.

    Thank you.

    Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council

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