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.

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Justice for Palestine

War On Want logo    Justice for Palestine, War on Want

The catastrophe facing the Palestinian people is a defining global justice issue of our time. It is not an intractable conflict between two equal sides. It is an Occupation by a powerful military state, armed and supported by the West, against an impoverished, stateless and displaced people.

  • A fourth generation of Palestinian children is now being brought up in refugee camps inside and outside Palestine, living in chronic poverty and denied the right to return to their family homes.
  • Hundreds of thousands more Palestinians suffer discrimination over access to public services, land rights and employment within Israel itself.
  • Israel’s siege of Gaza has condemned its 1.9 million inhabitants to poverty and psychological violence on a daily basis as movement is restricted and there is an ever present threat of military force.
  • In the West Bank, the expansion of Israeli settlements, the continued construction of the Apartheid Wall, the military closure of the Jordan Valley and the annexation of East Jerusalem are creating an irreversible reality of permanent Occupation.
  • This brutal Occupation, the building of the Apartheid Wall and ongoing military oppression can only be continued with the support of countries and companies that continue to back Israel through business and investment.

Stop Arming Israel

UK banks and financial institutions hold billions of pounds worth of shares in companies that sell weapons, military equipment and technology to Israel. We can’t allow banks on our high streets to continue lending support to Israel’s militarised repression of Palestinians. Stay tuned for our new report and campaign focused on the role played by HSBC in financing the sale of weapons to Israel. Take action.

The UK government is complicit in Israel’s continuing violations of human rights and international law. By purchasing arms from and selling arms to Israel, the UK government is giving direct material support for Israel’s aggression and sending a clear message of approval for its actions.Take action.

Political Prisoners

A political prisoner is someone who is arrested and detained because of their beliefs or political activities. Israel holds thousands of Palestinian men, women and children as political prisoners. Israel’s system of arrest and detention is an integral part of Israel’s Apartheid system, under which Palestinians are governed under a separate set of laws than Israelis.

We’ve successfully campaigned to get G4S to stop providing services to Israeli prisons, but others are still directly complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the unlawful imprisonment of Palestinians, including children. The UK government has a responsibility under international law not to aid and abet war crimes like torture, which is routine in the Israeli prison system.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)

Palestinians have suffered from Israeli repression and human rights abuse for over 60 years, during which time governments all over the world have allowed Israel to act with impunity.

The response from grassroots Palestinian civil society has been to call on people of conscience around the world to join them in the movement for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. Read more.

Palestine: The importance of language

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May 26 – June 25, 2017
Sponsor an Orphan this Ramadan

Palestine Children’s Relief Fund

This Ramadan, Give Hope to Orphans in Gaza

Make a difference during the month of Ramadan by supporting the PCRF’s Gaza Orphan Sponsorship Program. Throughout this month, millions of people all over the world will fast from sunrise to sunset and provide charity to those in need. Please consider making the PCRF your chosen charity and help us successfully launch our Ramadan campaign!

Our goal for the Ramadan 2017 Campaign, “Give Hope: Gaza Orphan Sponsorship Ramadan Campaign”, is to provide orphans in Gaza food and other commodities they need to live a better childhood. As a donor, you will be able to choose either 1) to make a one-time donation in any amount towards the general fund for these orphans, thus keeping it sustainable for years to come; or 2) to provide monthly support for a specific orphan.

How can you help?

  1. Read about the Gaza Orphan Sponsorship Program at www.pcrf.net.
  2. Share our special Ramadan messages with a loved one.
  3. Spread awareness! Post about our upcoming campaign on social media, share our Facebook posts throughout the month, or forward this newsletter. Share the news of this campaign with your friends, and follow it on social media using our hashtag #hope4orphans.
  4. Don’t forget that you can support the PCRF while shopping by designating us as your charity of choice on Amazon Smile. By shopping on smile.amazon.com, your Amazon experience donates a small portion of proceeds to us.

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund
PO Box 1926
Kent, Oh 44240

May 26 – June 25, 2017
Feed Families in Gaza This Ramadan

From our friend Anees in Rafah: Donate to send food packages to needy families. The project has raised more than half of its $5,000 goal; please help them over the top in this Ramadan Challenge.

Hello from Gaza

Ramadan is just a few weeks away – and we need your help to provide support and care to those most in need. The conditions in Gaza grow worse every day, with unemployment now sitting at 43%. For many, there is nowhere to work and no-one to help them.

مرحبا من غزة

باقي لشهر رمضان أسابيع قليلة، ونحنبحاجة لمساعدتكم لتوفير الدعم والرعاية لأولئك الذين هم في أمس الحاجة إليها، معالعلم بأن الظروف الاقتصادية والاجتماعية في قطاع غزة تزداد سواء يوما بعد يوم.حيث تبلغ نسبة البطالة 43% ولا يوجد من يهتم في العائلات الفقير بالشكل المطلوب.

With your help we have raised money for three years’ worth of incredible projects, you can see the impact and positive difference we have made in Gaza through the links we’ve shared below. But as the occupation cuts off a large amount of traditional funding to NGOs we are left with little choice but to run crowdfunding campaigns to help with the most basic needs.

خلال السنوات الماضية قمنا بتنفيذالعديد من الأنشطة الفنية والثقافية التي تهتم بالطفل، ومن خلال الروابط أسفلالصفحة يمكنكم الإطلاع على صور الأنشطة خلال المرحلة الماضية. وبما أن الوضع صعب وسيءبواسطة هذا الاحتلال الغاشم وحصاره المفروض على غزة إلا أننا نعمل جاهدين من خلالالقيام بهذه الحملات لمساعدة أطفالنا.

How You Can Help Feed Palestinian Families 

With your help we will distribute food packages to some of the families most at-risk in Rafah throughout Ramadan, our city at the southern edge of Gaza.

What Is In a Food Package?

Your support will allow us to provide food packages to feed Palestinian families by providing them with basic food items – one food package contains items such as beans, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, green beans, onions and essentials like flour, rice, sugar and tea during Ramadan.

If you can’t spare any money now, you can also help by spreading the word.

Our Previous Projects in Gaza

The siege of Gaza is strangling us slowly and we rely on the generosity of our online friends. If you haven’t seen our work before, please do click on the links below. We are a small, dedicated team of volunteers that work primarily with at-risk children. Work we cannot do without your help.

1. Gaza Summer Camp 2015:

Keep Gaza Children Warm

Anees Mansour, gofundme, November 5, 2016 

We are about to enter the winter season in Gaza. The houses can’t handle the weather as they are not insulated properly and we only get about eight hours of electricity a day. The conditions are extremely difficult.

We’ve been working with children from some of the most marginalized communities for over a year now putting together summer camps and educational workshops which has resulted in terrific participation and results.

But now we need to deal with the absolute basics: we just need to keep the children warm.

Public response and support of our work has been tremendous in the past and we’ve raised enough money for many activities. So now we’re looking for help to provide warm Jackets to the children here in Rafah.

Rafah is one of the poorest areas in Gaza, which, of course, is suffering from a prolonged brutal siege. All and any help is appreciated. Each jacket costs $20. The more money we can raise together, the more children we can keep warm.

Winter is close and we expect it will be harsh so we are aiming to raise this money in just a few days.

You can see photos of our previous work in the last year here:

For any further information, don’t hesitate to contact me: