Gaza’s Little Chef



Khuloud Rabah Sulaiman, We Are Not Numbers, May 20, 2019

“I want to be one of the best chefs in the world,” says Mahmoud Abu Nada. That, despite the fact that he lives in the blockaded Gaza Strip, is just 12 years old and suffers from leukemia.

And…while he is not yet known to the world, Mahmoud has become the first child chef in Palestine, regularly working in one of Gaza’s most well-known restaurants. 

Mahmoud was diagnosed with blood cancer at the age of 8, and physicians determined he needed a bone marrow transplant. But, although the first children’s cancer department in the Gaza Strip opened in February to treat blood cancers and related diseases (which make up roughly 80 percent of malignancies among local children), bone marrow transplants and radiation still are available only outside. Experts in Italy offered to perform the procedure free of charge, and Mahmoud’s parents applied for a medical exit permit. However, Israel rejected it without any explanation.

Exit permits hard to get

The al-Mezan Center for Human rights estimates there are about 9,000 persons with cancer in Gaza, including 600 children. According to the center, more than 40 percent of these children would receive better care outside of Gaza. Yet the World Health Organization says 61 percent of permit applications for medical treatment were approved on time last year, 31 percent were answered too late or not at all, and the rest were rejected.

Mahmoud’s father cannot afford care in Egypt, and the treatment there is often substandard. Thus, Mahmoud must rely on regular pain killers, blood transfusions and chemotherapy treatments every two weeks. The boy also must stay home from school, since his body cannot fight off the infections to which he would be exposed by other pupils.

“I was overwhelmed with sadness when I had to leave school,” Mahmoud says. “But I decided not to give up, so I started homeschooling. With the help of my mum, but I do my school exams.”

Mahmoud has loved watching his mother cook since he was old enough to walk, and when he began spending so much time at home, he discovered cooking programs online. They became a way to break the boredom, and he watched them for hours. He practiced in the kitchen–imitating his mother making sandwiches and fresh juices but with his own variations. His first creation was a spin on the traditional sandwich: For his 17-year-old sister, Yasmeen, he rolled traditional taboon bread with his own tomato sauce mixed with egg, peppers, olives, mushrooms and a blend of spices.

“My siblings also always ask me to make noodles and shakshuka because they like the way I prepare them,” he adds. Shakshuka is a Palestinian dish a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and garlic.

A chef is born

When Mahmoud first started cooking at such a young age, his father was afraid he would burn himself. But he soon changed his mind.   

“My father thought about locking the kitchen at first, but then he encouraged me to keep up with my talent,” he says with a big grin.

Mahmoud shared the “fruits” of his skills with other kids at Gaza’s Basmit Amal Association for Cancer Care, where he made breakfast sandwiches for his fellow participants. In one of the association’s activities, held in the Gazan restaurant Oregano, Mahmoud wore a chef uniform and made various sandwiches for 60 children with the help of the chef. He was amazed by Mahmoud.

Once the initiative finished, Mahmoud asked the chef to allow him to work with him in the restaurant’s kitchen. Although Palestinian law forbids child labor, the chef accepted him as a trainee after he passed a test, including the recognition of spices.

“I impressed the chef when I recognized all of them only by smell,” Mahmoud said. “What else impressed him is that I mastered the use of kitchen tools.”

The youngest professional

Continue reading

July 24-25, 2019
Gaza Freedom Flotilla Comes to Madison!

Since 2008, the Freedom Flotilla movement has sent 35 ships attempting to break Israel’s illegal, US-backed military blockade that has devastated Gaza and denied 2 million people — half of them children — access to food, clean water, fuel, medicine, employment, and basic human dignity for 13 years.

On Wednesday and Thursday, July 24 and 25, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) welcomes the Gaza Freedom Flotilla’s North American Boat to Gaza campaign with two days of activities.

Wednesday, July 24: Gaza Freedom Flotilla on Lake Mendota!

On Wednesday evening a pontoon on Lake Mendota at the Union Terrace and The Edgewater will give visibility to the crisis in Gaza. We will also be leafleting the crowd on shore. (Anyone interested in helping with this should email rafahsistercity at yahoo.com)

Thursday, July 25: Dessert and a Conversation

Former flotilla participants Kathy Kelly (Voices for Creative Non-Violence) and Kit Kittredge (NA Boat to Gaza Campaign) will talk about Gaza, the importance of the flotilla, and plans for the next international sailing in 2020 — James Reeb Unitarian Congregation, 2146 E. Johnson Street, Madison at 7 pm.

This free event will feature a display of Gaza children’s artwork as well as refreshments & dessert including baklawa. Donations to benefit the Flotilla and a new Maia Project clean water system for kids in Rafah will be appreciated.

For more information, contact MRSCP at rafahsistercity at yahoo.com, and follow madisonrafah.org or the Facebook event.

Welcomed by WORT RADIO. Kit Kittredge and Kathy Kelly, fresh from the Freedom Flotilla’s activities in Chicago, will be interviewed live on WORT’s A Public Affair by host Allen Ruff from noon-1 pm on Thursday, July 25. Kathy Kelly will also be a guest on The Morning Buzz with Jan Miyasaki between 8 and 8:30 am on Wednesday, July 24. Tune in at 89.9 FM or listen live online.

If you can’t attend but would like to support either the Flotilla or the Maia Project, you can still donate:

Flotilla
Make a donation online, or send a check payable to Nonviolence International with the memo “2020 US Boat to Gaza” to:

    Nonviolence International
    4000 Albermarle Street, NW, Suite 401
    Washington D.C. 20016

Maia Project
Online donations here, or save the online fee and send a check payable to MRSCP with the memo “water” to:

    MRSCP
    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison, WI 53705

Both MRSCP and Nonviolence International are 501(c)(3) organizations.

The five injured Abu Jazar brothers of the Gaza protests


The injured Abu Jazar brothers, with their father and mother in Gaza. Photo By Mohammed Asad

Ahmad Kabariti, Mondoweiss, April 20, 2019

In a dim room in a two-story building in al-Shaboora, Rafah, the poorest refugee camp in the southern Gaza strip, five brothers of the Abu Jazar family recall the details and pains of their multiple injuries by Israeli fire during 55 weeks of the Great March of Return protest.

Despite injuries, the brothers all planned to participate in yesterday’s 56th protest.

Ibrahim Abu Jazar. Photo by Mohammed Asad.

Ibrahim, 30, is determined to walk again. He has wounds in his right leg from live gunfire from Israeli snipers on March 30. The father of two children, he was injured while calling out loudly to protesters to move close to the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. He now considers himself “powerless” since he cannot operate his grocery and was unable to borrow a wheelchair from a double amputee neighbor, because that neighbor also plans to protest this Friday.

Faraj, 28 and the father of a daughter, sees himself as lucky, since he can easily move to the protest despite being injured three times: once when a tear gas canister hit his hand last May, again when a rubber-coated metal bullet struck his thigh last October, and more recently when a bullet struck his upper arm, which is now fitted with a metal frame called a fixator.

“Despite my young age, Israel’s 12-year blockade and nothing positive whatsoever going on are enough to push young people to protest. We have not seen a single delightful day in our lives,” Faraj told Mondoweiss.

Faraj (l) and Ashraf Abu Jazar. Photo by Mohammed Asad.

On February, a UN inquiry concluded that Israeli military had intentionally targeted Palestinians protesting in Gaza over the past year, creating a generation of disabled youth. According to the report, Israeli soldiers have targeted civilians, killing and maiming protesters, among them children, as well as journalists and medics.

Ra’eesa, 54, the sons’ stepmother, was preparing anise-flavored-cookies in the kitchen, and could not hide her grief. She said she hopes for her sons to have “more patience to overcome their pains.”

“The young need us to lift their spirits, by showing them tearless eyes,” she said. “But how could a mother hide her sadness, when one is wounded in the day and his brother is wounded before sunset.”

That is what happened to Ashraf 17, and Kayed 19, on February 15th. Each suffered a moderate injury to the leg.

Israeli Authorities Arrest Patient’s Husband While Returning to Gaza Strip

Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Ref: 64/2019, April 24, 2019

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns that the Israeli authorities stationed at Beit Hanoun “Erez” Crossing arrested a patient’s companion, from the Gaza Strip, while returning to the Gaza Strip.

According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 12:00 on Tuesday, 23 April 2019, the Israeli authorities arrested Karam Mustafa Mohammed Tantawi (51), from al-Qal’a buildings, south of Khan Younis. Karam, who was accompanying his wife Safa’ ‘Abed al-Majeed Tantawi (47), a cancer patient, was arrested while returning to the Gaza Strip after his wife received treatment at al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem.

Safa’ said to PCHR’s fieldworker that on 01 April 2019, she left the Gaza Strip along with her husband to al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem through Beit Hanoun “Erez” Crossing. She added that she received treatment for 20 days and while she was returning to the Gaza Strip along with her husband, the Israeli authorities arrested him. She clarified that after around 15 minutes, Israeli soldiers ordered her to leave alone to the Gaza Strip, but she refused and waited until 18:00. After that, the Palestinian Civil Liaison informed her that she should return to the Gaza Strip because her husband was arrested.

It should be noted that the PCHR’s lawyer, in his capacity as the legal guardian for al-Tantawi, was prevented today from visiting him in al- Majdal Prison. The court extended his arrest until next Tuesday, 30 April 2019.

PCHR stresses that the ongoing Israeli forces policy of arresting patients and their companions is considered as violation of the international human rights law and the international humanitarian law. It also constitutes a form of inhuman and degrading punishment, which coincides with the policy of tightening the illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. This aggravates the patients’ suffering as their treatment is not available in the Gaza Strip hospitals.

In light of the above, PCHR:

  • Strongly condemns the arrest of Palestinian patients and their companions during their travel to receive treatment by the Israeli authorities. PCHR also calls for their immediate release and ensuring not to put their lives in danger.
  • Calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their obligations and assume their responsibilities and intervene to put an end to the Israeli forces’ violations to the international humanitarian law against Palestinians.
  • Calls for ensuring the freedom of movement of the Gaza Strip’s residents from/to the West Bank, including Jerusalem

Ahmed Abu Artema on the Palestinian Great March of Return

“The only possible option for them is to continue knocking on the walls of their prison with the hope that the world will hear them.”


Ahmed Abu Artema has organized the Great March of Return in protest of Israel’s blockade on Gaza. (Hosney Salah)

Esty Dinur, The Progressive, April 11, 2019

Ahmed Abu Artema is a Palestinian writer and activist. A resident of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, his family was expelled from its home in the Ramle district in 1948. A follower of nonviolent resistance, he is one of the main organizers of the Great March of Return, which has taken place every Friday for more than a year at the separation wall with Israel. A heavy-handed Israeli response has caused hundreds of Palestinian deaths and many more people injured.

A slight man with sad eyes, married and father of four, Abu Atrema was the featured speaker in a nationwide tour in March organized by the American Friends Service Committee and titled “Hashtag to Headlines: How the Gaza Great March of Return Challenged the World.”

I interviewed him recently for my radio show in Madison, Wisconsin, and followed up with emailed questions, which were translated from Arabic by Jehad Abusalim.

Q: What is the Great March of Return about?

Ahmed Abu Artema: The Great March of Return represents the clearest expression of the will of the displaced Palestinian refugees: They want to go home. In 1948, Zionist militias expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their cities and villages to pave the way for the establishment of the state of Israel. These forces believed that, with time, the refugees would adapt to the reality of refugeehood and would forget their homeland.

But the message of the Great March of Return clearly says that the Right of Return is to be negotiated, and that new generations of refugees who were born in the refugee camps in exile still adhere to their inalienable right to return to their homes and property.

Q: How did the march come into being and what has happened since?

Artema: A group of friends and I called for the March of Return twice. The first time was on May 15, 2011, when the call then was met by wide reaction. Thousands of Palestinians gathered near the boundaries of historic Palestine in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and near the green line in the West Bank and Gaza. That was the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba, the Catastrophe [the term used by Palestinians to describe their mass expulsion and the destruction of their society in 1948].

The second time we called for a march of return was in early 2018, when I proposed organizing a mass and peaceful march by the people of the Gaza Strip, to put an end to the blockade there—which has meant a slow death for us—and to call for the implementation of U.N, General Assembly Resolution 194, regarding Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their original homes.

The idea turned into a broad movement in the Palestinian society in Gaza, and it was adopted and promoted by various political and social groups. This led to the creation of an executive committee that represented all these forces, which took on itself to organize the practical steps of the demonstrations.

Q: What makes the march continue despite the large number of casualties?

Artema: The protests continue because people in Gaza can’t adapt to the reality of death and imprisonment. People in Gaza are dying slowly and painfully due to the brutality of the blockade and lack of hope. The only possible option for them is to continue knocking on the walls of their prison with the hope that the world will hear them.

Q: How has your life in Gaza changed since the start of the marches?

Artema: My life in Gaza is relatively quiet, and I prioritize spending time with my family and children despite my engagement in social activism and political writing for more than a decade. After my name received so much attention in the media, my life has become less calm and more busy.

Continue reading

First Anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege

Israeli Forces Kill 3 Palestinian Civilians and Wound 364

Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Ref: 50/2019, March 30, 2019

On Saturday, 30 March 2019, in excessive use of force against the peaceful protesters in the 1st anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege, Israeli forces killed 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child, and wounded 364 others, including 74 children, 12 women, 7 journalists, and 6 paramedics. The injury of seven of them was reported serious.

It should be mentioned that before the protests started today, the Israeli forces deployed military reinforcements along the border fence with the Gaza Strip, and set up more fortified sniper positions. This indicates an Israeli intention to use excessive force against the demonstrators.

Israeli media reported that the Israeli forces had deployed three military brigades and an artillery battalion, and announced the deployment of 200 snipers along the border with the Gaza Strip. This is reminiscent of similar preparations on the eve of the outbreak of Return March a year ago, preceded with systematic incitement by the Israeli political and military echelons and giving direct orders to target the peaceful demonstrators, especially those who were described as “inciters.”

The Israeli military reinforcements came despite the prior declaration of the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege that the demonstrations will be peaceful. On Thursday, the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege confirmed in a press conference the peaceful and popular nature of all activities in the Earth Day demonstrations in order to block the Israeli authorities’ plans, which intend to shed the blood of peaceful demonstrators.

According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence with Israel continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing teargas canisters at them. As a result, dozens of the demonstrators were hit with bullets and teargas canisters without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.

Moreover, PCHR’s fieldworkers said that the Israeli forces increased the sniper-positioning points and raised the sand berms on which the snipers position, enabling them to see clearly and completely the area ,where the protestors spread, and deep into the Return encampment.

PCHR’s fieldworkers monitored the deployment of hundreds of police officers to control the demonstrations and prevent the demonstrators from approaching the border fence. The demonstrations were as always fully peaceful and some protesters in very limited cases approached the border fence and attempted to threw stones at the fence.

On Saturday, 30 March 2019, the incidents were as follows:

At approximately 07:00, Israeli forces opened fire at a group of Palestinian young men who approached the border fence, adjacent to the Return camp in eastern Gaza Strip. As a result, Mohamed Jehad Jawdat Sa’d (20), from al-Shuja’iyia neighborhood, was hit with a live bullet to the chest and his death was declared after half an hour of his arrival at al-Shifa Hospital. It should be noted that Mohamed died before the actual start of the demonstrations to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking and the 43rd anniversary of the Earth Day, which the Supreme National Commission has called “the millions of land and return.”

At early hours, hundreds of civilians, including women, children and entire families, started swarming to the five encampments established by the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege adjacent to the border fence with Israel in eastern Gaza Strip cities. Hundreds, including children and women, approached the border fence with Israel in front of each encampment while hundreds of civil members and police officers deployed along the border fence to prevent the protesters from approaching the fence. Dozens of protesters managed to approach the border fence and attempted to throw stones at the Israeli forces.Although the demonstrators gathered in areas open to the Israeli snipers stationed on the top of the sand berms and military watchtowers and inside and behind the military jeeps, the Israeli forces fired live and rubber bullets in addition to a barrage of teargas canisters.

The Israeli shooting, which continued at around 18:00, resulted in the killing of two civilians identified as:

1- Adham Nedal Saqer ‘Amarah (17), from Gaza City, who was hit with a tear gas canister to the face in eastern Gaza City, and his death was declared at approximately 15:15.

2- Tamer Hashem ‘Isaa Abu al-Khair (18), from Hamad City in Khan Yunis, who was hit with a live bullet to the chest while participating in demonstrations in eastern Khuza’ah in Khan Yunis. At approximately 15:55, Tamer was taken to the Indonesian Hospital and his death was declared at 19:00.

Moreover, 364 Palestinian civilians, including 74 children, 12 women, 7 journalists, and 6 paramedics, were hit with live and rubber bullets and direct tear gas canisters. Ninety-three of them were hit with live bullets and shrapnel, six were hit with rubber bullets, and 148 were directly hit with tear gas canisters. In addition, dozens of demonstrators, paramedics, journalists, and PCHR’s fieldworkers suffered tear gas inhalation and seizures due to tear gas canisters that were fired by the Israeli forces from the military jeeps and riffles in the eastern Gaza Strip.

Moreover, an ambulance was directly hit with a tear gas canister in northern Gaza Strip, indicating the Israeli systematic policy to target the medical personnel and obstruct their humanitarian work guaranteed with protection according to international humanitarian law.

Continue reading