Samira Remedial Education

GAZA KIDS NEED YOUR HELP!

Barb Olson, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, March 9, 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 Remedial Education Project in Rafah. Organized by the Rafah branch of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), this project employs special education teachers and a social worker to provide psycho-social support to 180 economically disadvantaged and learning-disabled children age six to twelve and their families.

The Gaza Strip, turned by Israel’s siege into the world’s largest open-air prison, is already one of the poorest and most crowded places on earth. The educational system is overcrowded, unstable and inconsistent. Sanitation, water and electrical services barely function. Public services are weak and underfunded, especially those serving mainly women and children. The recent US cuts to The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) threaten to turn crisis into catastrophe. Three-quarters of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are refugees dependent on the schools, hospitals and food distributions of UNRWA just to survive. In addition, Gaza is subjected to frequent Israeli military land and sea attacks and has not recovered from the last decade’s three full-scale bombardments and invasions. Every one of the close to 1 million children in Gaza knows someone who was killed, injured or made homeless.

Gaza Community Mental Health Program

Children have been affected more than others because every aspect of their lives, especially the education system, has been repeatedly disrupted if not destroyed. Psychologically, the negative impact on children is enormous: nightmares, racing thoughts, nail-biting, panic attacks, uncontrolled urination, violent behavior and hyperactivity are common symptoms. It is estimated that at least 30 percent of all children in Gaza are so severely affected that they require some form of structured psycho-social intervention.

For the past couple of years, the Samira Remedial Education Project has been successfully intervening to develop the children’s skills and increase their ability to learn (especially reading, writing and mathematics); to support them psychologically and socially and rebuild their confidence; to implement scientific solutions to learning disabilities and reduce violent and disruptive behavior; to train families to better support their children; and to create job opportunities for qualified professionals in this field. Field trips, a children’s library and activities such as theater, music, art and reading help the staff to understand the children and create a space for the children to express their feelings.

The total cost of this project for the current phase is $14,049. The Rachel Corrie Foundation has pledged $2,000, MRSCP will contribute $2,500 and aims to raise at least $5,500 more by June, 2018 so that the project can be fully funded by MECA. We need your help to meet this goal! Please make checks payable to MRSCP with the note “Samira”, and mail to:

    MRSCP
    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison, WI 53705

If you prefer to donate on line, you can do so through the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA).

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and all donations are tax deductible. Checks to MRSCP will receive a letter at the end of the year acknowledging your contribution. Contributions made online will receive a receipt from MECA.

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.

"I know very well that the world around us is advancing, while our lives in Gaza are frozen,” she says. “But instead of wasting time complaining about how bad our situation is, I prefer to seek solutions for problems."

Green Cake

Gaza men make Green Cake

Continue reading

Book talk: “Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom”

with Norman Finkelstein

Monday, March 12, 2018 12:00 p.m CDT
Livestream Here

The Gaza Strip is among the most densely populated places in the world. More than two-thirds of its inhabitants are refugees, and more than half are under eighteen years of age. Since 2004, Israel has launched eight devastating “operations” against Gaza’s largely defenseless population. Thousands have perished, and tens of thousands have been left homeless. In the meantime, Israel has subjected Gaza to a merciless illegal blockade.

Based on scores of human rights reports, Norman G. Finkelstein’s new book presents a meticulously researched inquest into Gaza’s martyrdom. He shows that although Israel has justified its assaults in the name of self-defense, in fact these actions constituted flagrant violations of international law.

Author Bio
Norman G. Finkelstein received his doctorate from the Princeton University Department of Politics. His many books, including The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Human Suffering and Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End, have been translated into fifty foreign editions. He is a frequent lecturer and commentator on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

 

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 ____________

E-mail: ____________________________________________ Contribution: $__________


Organized by the Rafah branch of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), this project (continued on back side) employs special education teachers and a social worker to provide economically disadvantaged and learning-disabled children age six to twelve, and their families, with psycho-social support.

The Gaza Strip, often described as the world’s largest open-air prison, is already one of the poorest and most crowded places on earth. Since 2006 the Israeli/Egyptian siege has drastically restricted human travel as well as all external commerce. As a result at least 80% of the people live under the poverty line. Unemployment for adults and youth is rampant. The educational system is overcrowded, unstable and inconsistent. Sanitation, water and electrical services barely function. Public services are weak and underfunded, especially those serving mainly women and children.

The recent US defunding of UNRWA, the the UN’s vital refugee support program, threatens to turn crisis into catastrophe. Three-quarters of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are refugees dependent on the schools, hospitals and food distributions of UNRWA just to survive.

The people of Gaza also continue to be subjected to frequent Israeli military land and sea attacks, which three times in the last decade have turned into full-scale assaults and invasions. In 2014, your US tax dollars helped pay for a 50 day Israeli bombardment of Gaza that killed hundreds of children and severely injured thousands more. Entire families were wiped out, and every one of the close to 1 million children in Gaza knows someone who was killed, injured or made homeless.

Children have been affected more than others because every aspect of their lives, especially the education system, has been repeatedly disrupted if not destroyed. Psychologically, the negative impact on children is enormous: nightmares, racing thoughts, nail-biting, panic attacks, uncontrolled urination, violent behavior and hyperactivity are common symptoms. It is estimated that at least 30 percent of all children in Gaza are so severely affected that they require some form of structured psycho-social intervention.

The Samira Project successfully intervenes to develop the children’s skills and increase their ability to learn (especially reading, writing and mathematics); to support them psychologically and socially and rebuild their confidence; to implement scientific solutions to learning disabilities and reduce violent and disruptive behavior; to train families to better support their children; and to create job opportunities for qualified professionals in this field. Field trips, a children’s library and activities such as theater, music, art and reading help the staff to understand the children and create a space for the children to express their feelings.

The total cost of this project for the current phase is $14,049. The Rachel Corrie Foundation has pledged $2000, MRSCP will contribute $2,500, and we need to raise at least $5,500 by June, 2018 so that the project can be fully funded by MECA.

Continue reading

Israeli Academic Community Unites Against Deportation of Refugees

Last week I sent an email asking you to consider signing an open letter against the deportation of African refugees from Israel. Many of you did. ~470 faculty from our universities and colleges signed the open letter. Toda raba!

Attached is the final letter with all eligible signatories.

I made only one small but important revision to the letter. Rather than state that it is from faculty from universities in Israel, I now write more accurately that it is from faculty from universities and colleges in Israel – to better reflect our united academic community and the many that signed the letter from both our universities and colleges. There are no other changes to the letter.

1. As promised, I will work to publicize the letter in various media.

2. Please feel free to share and publicize the letter as well – in any way that you are interested and able (Facebook, within your university, etc.).

3. If you have an ability to get this letter into the hands of Knesset members or persons working in the Knesset, please reach out to them with the signed petition.

If you would like to talk about this, please feel free to send me an email.

p.s., There are a growing number of petitions and social actions being taken now to communicate to our government that we are united against the recent policy decision to deport African asylum seekers. Hopefully, this will gain steam across sectors of Israeli society. Together, I hope we will be successful.

best wishes and toda,
amit

Prof. Amit Bernstein, PhD
Department of Psychology
University of Haifa
Our Lab: https://irca-haifa-6h5e.squarespace.com/

IsraelFacultyUniteAgainstDeportation_Jan 18 2018pdf

Call on Congress on to oppose Jerusalem recognition and UNRWA cuts

UWNRWA aid in Gaza

 
Last month, President Trump announced his administration’s reckless, one-sided decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and eventually move the U.S. embassy there. Now the administration is threatening to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinians — a move that would have disastrous consequences for the Palestinian refugees who depend on it.

Take action today by signing the AFSC petition urging Congress
  • to reject any cuts to vital aid for Palestinians and
  • to oppose the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

 
We must oppose the administration’s actions, which undermine prospects for peace, threaten to harm security for both Israelis and Palestinians, and could make daily life harder for the most vulnerable Palestinians.

The Trump administration’s threat to cut assistance to UNRWA came after the Palestinian Authority understandably rejected the U.S. decision on Jerusalem and announced that it would no longer accept the U.S. as a mediator for peace talks.

U.S. aid to the Palestinians includes bilateral assistance for programs in the West Bank and Gaza and annual contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Although it was unclear which aid will be targeted for cuts, the administration has already announced that only $60 million of a $125 million dollar funding installment will be released to UNRWA, with conditions placed on any future U.S. funding to UNRWA.

U.S. support for UNRWA amounts to approximately one-third of the agency’s annual budget. The agency reaches roughly five million Palestinian refugees living in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, providing services including education, health care, and emergency assistance.

If UNRWA cannot deliver services, half a million Palestinian children will suffer, according to spokesman Chris Gunness.

While we urge Congress to protect aid for Palestinians, we must also continue to press them to address the core issue of Palestinian refugees continually denied their fundamental rights, specifically the right to return to their lands and homes.

Contact your members of Congress today and ask them to:

  • Support constructive political action to achieve a just and lasting peace that will include a fair resolution to all outstanding Israeli and Palestinian concerns, including the status of Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinian refugees.

  • Advocate for the U.S. administration to reverse its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to begin the process of moving the embassy there.

  • Reject any cuts to U.S. funding for UNRWA.

In Peace,

Mike Merryman-Lotze
Middle East Program Director
American Friends Service Committee