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).
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.
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. Continue reading →
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.
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.
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.
On January 16, 2018, the US Administration made the decision to freeze millions of dollars to UNRWA in 2018. As the single largest contributor to UNRWA globally, this is an unprecedented and extremely dangerous decision that will cause untold additional trauma and harm to Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, who rely on UNRWA’s services.
Since UNRWA began its operations in May 1950, every administration, from Truman onwards, has stood with and provided strong, generous, and committed support to the agency. This administration is the only to make the destructive decision to cut such funding.
Through UNRWA’s humanitarian and development work, it is unique in providing vital services that are akin to those normally provided through governments and does so directly through over 33,000 staff, most of whom are Palestine refugees themselves.
As a neutral and impartial UN agency, it:
• Educates 525,000 girls and boys in 700 UNRWA schools, including education on human rights, conflict resolution, and tolerance.
• Operates more than 140 health centers and delivers comprehensive primary health-care services, handling more than 9 million patient visits per year.
• Provides cash assistance and shelter rehabilitation to help refugees meet their basic human needs of food, shelter, and environmental health to achieve a decent standard of living and improve infrastructure and living conditions in the 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps.
• Provides emergency humanitarian assistance through life-saving cash, food, and shelter support in Gaza and Syria.
While there is so much going on in this country and so much upheaval continues to swirl around our planet, many millions of Americans find themselves in a rush to get away from all things political long enough to find even a few moments of distraction. We all deserve and need that from time to time.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other Myanmar officials visit arms maker Israel Aerospace Industries in September 2015. (via Facebook)
Israel is attempting to bury information about its arms sales to the military regime in Myanmar, which the UN accuses of a “brutal” campaign against the country’s Muslim Rohingya population, amounting to a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled their homes as the military and Buddhist mobs burn their villages.
“The military has committed forced deportation, murder, rape and persecution against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State, resulting in countless deaths and mass displacement,” Human Rights Watch said.
In this September 27, 1982 file photo, a Palestinian woman attending a Beirut memorial service holds the helmets worn by those who committed the Sabra and Shatila massacre. (AP Photo / Bill Foley, File)
On the night of September 16, 1982, my younger brother and I were baffled as we watched dozens of Israeli flares floating down in complete silence over the southern reaches of Beirut, for what seemed like an eternity. We knew that the Israeli army had rapidly occupied the western part of the city two days earlier. But flares are used by armies to illuminate a battlefield, and with all the PLO fighters who had resisted the Israeli army during the months-long siege of the city already evacuated from Beirut, we went to bed perplexed, wondering what enemy was left for the occupying army to hunt.
Massacre survivors Yousef Hamzeh and Abu Jamal walk together at the site of the Sabra and Shatila massacre on the outskirts of Beirut [Caren Firouz/Reuters]
On September 16, 1982, following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the right-wing Christian Phalange militia stormed the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut and began a massacre which ended in the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands, of mostly Palestinian civilians. I was 19 years old at the time. By chance and by luck I managed to survive. My mother and five younger sisters and brothers; and my uncle, his wife and eight kids did not.
Israel’s invasion began June 6, 1982. After much destruction, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had defended the camps since its inception, agreed to leave Lebanon in August. They were given American assurances that civilians left behind would be protected. The president-elect of Lebanon, and the leader of the Phalange, was assassinated on September 14th. The Israeli army proceeded to invade and occupy West Beirut.