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).
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).
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."
One of those challenges confronted her family when her brother got married and her father wanted to add a floor to their home for the new couple. However, that was impossible because he could not obtain any cement. In fact, today, nearly four years after Israel's war on the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, an estimated 4,500 families still are living without a permanent home. Exacerbating the housing shortage is population growth and restrictions imposed by Israel on the importation of construction materials. The UN Population Fund predicts the population of Gaza, already the densest place on earth, will more than double to 4.8 million by 2050. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of the cement needed has been allowed into Gaza since the Israeli offensive.
Palestinian Journeys is an online portal into the multiple facets of the Palestinian experience, filled with fact-based historical accounts, biographies, events, and undiscovered stories. Together, they seek to craft an ever-growing comprehensive narrative which highlights the active role of the Palestinian people in crafting their own history. Presently absent from the global Palestinian narrative are stories of resistance, persistence, and hope, which Palestinian Journeys strives to bring forward.
Palestinian Journeys is a project of the Palestinian Museum, in collaboration with the Institute for Palestine Studies and Visualizing Palestine. Beyond that, Palestinian Journeys strives to tell a comprehensive Palestinian narrative through a growing pool of collaborations and partnerships with kindred projects, institutions, and groups which produce knowledge on Palestine and the Palestinians.
The online platform is currently divided into two parts: the “Timeline,” and the “Stories.” The Timeline content is an original creation of the Institute for Palestine Studies, while the Stories are original creations of the Palestinian Museum.
The Timeline is an ever-growing encyclopedic collection of historical events, biographies, themed chronologies, highlights of historical, socio-economic and cultural themes, historical documents, and multimedia. It serves as an indispensable scholarly reference for the breadth of Palestinian history.
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Abu Thurayyah was demonstrating against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when he was killed [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]
AL JAZEERA NEWS, 16 Dec 2017
Two days before he was killed, Ibrahim Abu Thurayyah filmed a message to the Israeli army.
“I am passing a message to the Zionist occupation army,” the 29-year-old double amputee, who lost both of his legs and a kidney in a 2008 Israeli air raid, said.
“This land is our land. We are not going to give up. America has to withdraw the declaration it made.”
Since December 6, he and his fellow demonstrators decried US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In photos, Abu Thurayyah can be seen climbing an electricity pole and sticking a Palestinian flag on it.
On December 15, Abu Thurayyah was fatally shot in the head by an Israeli sniper.
WATCH: Funeral of Palestinian amputee killed by Israeli fire
Another Palestinian, Yaser Sukkar, was killed the same day while protesting at Gaza’s border. Two others were killed by the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank, bringing the death toll since Trump’s decision in the first week of December to eight Palestinians.
On Saturday, funerals were held for Abu Thurayyah and the three other Palestinians killed a day earlier.
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Abu Thurayyah’s funeral procession in Gaza, said thousands of people had taken to the streets to pay their respects for “unlikely figure of Palestinian resistance and defiance”.
“He would often leave his wheelchair at home and attend rallies in protests around Gaza City just carrying his Palestinian flag,” said Fisher.
“He was carrying that flag when he was shot by the Israelis.”
Mourners carry Abu Thurayyah’s body during his funeral in Gaza City on Saturday [Suhaib Salem/Reuters]
Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesman for Gaza’s health ministry, said in a statement on Saturday that the Israeli army has been using snipers armed with explosive bullets and indiscriminately firing tear gas canisters.
“The army also uses gas bombs of unknown quality, which has led to the injury of dozens in the form of convulsions, vomiting, coughing and rapid heartbeat,” he said.
Qidra also noted that Israeli forces have been using excessive violence against civilians and deliberately targeting paramedics, ambulances and news crews.
In April 2008, Abu Thurayyah was sitting with several friends in al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza when he was hit by the Israeli air raid that cost him his legs and kidney. Seven people were killed in the attack.
As the sole breadwinner for his 11-member family, which consisted of his two, sick parents, six sisters and three brothers, Abu Thurayyah, who was a fisherman before the Israeli air raid, was forced to find new work to pay the bills for their home in the camp.
Israeli Forces Kill 4 Palestinians, including Lower-Limb Amputee, and Wound 252 Civilians, including Children, Journalists and Paramedics
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Gaza City, Ref: 90/2017, December 16, 2017
On Friday Afternoon, 15 December 2017,Israeli forces killed 3 Palestinian civilians; one of whom is a lower-limb amputee, and wounded 252 civilians, including 19 children, 2 paramedics and 2 journalists; one is Indonesian, in the Gaza Strip and West Bank as Israeli forces excessively used force against participants in protests. Meanwhile, shown in a video widely published, Israeli forces liquidated a forth Palestinian after he carried out a stab attack at the northern entrance to al-Bireh in the West Bank during clashes in the area. These incidents came in light of the ongoing tense atmosphere following the U.S. President’s Donald Trump Decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy to it, constituting a dangerous precedent that violates the international law.
This high number of casualties, particularly targeting a disabled and lower-limp amputee by directly shooting him in the head, prove that Israeli forces continue their systematic crimes and indiscriminate use of excessive and disproportionate force against Palestinian civilians in disregard for their lives.
PCHR’s follow up showed that it is clear that the Israeli forces heavily and upon a decision use live ammunition; some of which is explosive, to confront the unarmed civilians. Thus, comparing with the last year, the number of Palestinians wounded with live bullets east of the Gaza Strip increased in addition to directly hitting them with tear gas canisters.
The Israeli forces also fired dozens of tear gas canisters through special vehciles at the protests. As a result, dozens of civilians suffered fatigue, cramps, vomiting, coughing and high heart rate. Some of them were transered to the hospital while others were treated on the spot.
In the Gaza Strip, the eastern and northern areas witnessed protests against the U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision, and the Israeli forces used force against the protestors. As a result, two Palestinian civilians were killed, including a lower-limb amputee, and wounded 192 civilians, including 18 children, 2 paramedics and 2 journalists; one is Indonesian. 117 of the Wounded civilians were hit with live bullets, 55 were hit with tear gas canisters, and dozens suffered tear gas inhalation.
According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 13:30 on Friday, 15 December 2017, dozens of young men and youngsters gathered tens of meters away from the border fence with Israel near former Nahal Oz Crossing, east of al-Shuja’iyah neighborhood, east of Gaza City. They set fire to tires, threw stones at the Israeli forces stationed along the border fence in protest against the U.S. President’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel. During the 6-hour clashes, the Israeli soldiers sporadically fired tear gas canisters and live and rubber-coated metal bullets at the protestors. As a result, 2 civilians, from al-Shuja’iyah neighborhood in Gaza, were killed with live bullets; one of them is disabled with no legs. The killed civilians were identified as Yasser Naji Sukar (23) hit with a bullet to the head and Ibrahim Nayeh Ibrahim Abu Thurayah (29) hit with a bullet to the forehead, noting that he lost his legs in an Israeli airstrike in 2008.
According to PCHR’s investigations, wheelchair-bound Abu Thurayah was directly shot to the head when he was 30 meters away from the border fence, where Israeli forces can clearly see him, and did not pose any threat to the soldiers. Moreover, shooting him in the forehead prove that he was deliberately sniped by the Israeli soldiers, without posing any threat to the soldiers’ lives, during a protest that was only about chanting slogans, throwing stones and setting fire to tires. This also emphasizes that the Israeli forces used lethal and disproportionate force against armed civilians.
The Injuries were as follows throughout the Gaza Strip:
Northern Gaza Strip: the confrontations were mainly in the vicinity of al-Shuhadaa’ Cemetery, east of Jabalia; in the vicinity of Beit Hanoun Crossing; and in Abu Samrah area, north of Beit Lahia. As a result, 67 Palestinians, including 7 children, 2 paramedics and an Indonesian journalist, were wounded. Forty were hit with live bullets; one was hit with rubber-coated metal bullets; 18 were hit with tear gas canisters; and 8 suffered tear gas inhalation. Moreover, an ambulance belonging to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) sustained damage after being hit with a tear gas canister.
Gaza City: the clashes and Israeli shooting were mainly near former Nahal Oz Crossing, east of al-Shuja’iyah neighborhood. As a result, 43 Palestinians, including 3 children, were wounded. Twenty-three of them were hit with live bullets; 18 were hit with tear gas canisters; and 2 suffered tear gas inhalation.
Central Gaza Strip: the clashes and Israeli shooting occurred in the eastern side of al-Bureij refugee camp. As a result, 14 Palestinians, including 2 children, were wounded. Six were hit with live bullets; one of whom to the head and transferred to al-Shifa Hospital due to his serious condition; 5 were hit with tear gas canisters, including 3 directly hit to their heads; and 3 suffered tear gas inhalation.
July 9, 2016
I went to Hebron yesterday and helped with the installation of the playground. They were supposed to continue today but working on Saturday is a bit risky because of the settlers. See attached some pics. 2 international volunteers were also helping us.
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. (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.
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.
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 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.
The White House should intervene
A Yemeni woman takes the clothes off her malnourished child. (Yahya Arhab/Epa-Efe/Rex/Shutterstock)
Editorial Board, Washington Post, November 20, 2017
IT HAS been two weeks since Saudi Arabia imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Yemen, a country already devastated by two and a half years of Saudi bombing. Before the embargo, Yemen was suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with 7 million people on the brink of famine and another 900,000 stricken by cholera. Those conditions have now grown far worse — and yet the Saudis persist with their siege. It is time for the Trump administration, which has indulged the Saudi leadership for too long, to intervene.
Yemen’s 28 million people depend on imports for up to 90 percent of their basic needs, including food, fuel and medicine. The vast majority of those imports come through the port of Hodeida, in northern Yemen, which along with the capital, Sanaa, is under the control of Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia imposed the blockade after a missile allegedly fired by the Houthis came close to its capital, Riyadh. The Saudis blamed Iran for supplying the weapon, though U.N. monitors in Yemen say they have not seen convincing evidence of that.
U.N. humanitarian officials warned that the shutdown would quickly lead to an emergency. Now their predictions are coming true. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sanaa, Hodeida and three other crowded cities — with 2.5 million people in all — have lost access to clean drinking water because of a lack of fuel. One million children are at risk from an incipient diphtheria epidemic because vaccines are out of reach on U.N. ships offshore. According to Rasha Muhrez, Save the Children’s director of operations in Yemen, several governates are down to a five-day supply of the fuel needed to operate flour mills, without which the millions dependent on food handouts will starve. “This blockage has cut off the lifeline of Yemen,” Ms. Muhrez told us.
Last week the Saudis began allowing limited humanitarian imports through the southern port of Aden, which is controlled by their Yemeni allies. But that is not adequate access. That’s why three U.N. agencies — the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and UNICEF — issued a joint statement last Thursday saying that the continued shutdown of other ports and airports “is making an already catastrophic situation far worse.” A confidential report by U.N. monitors, seen by Reuters, went further, saying the Saudis were violating a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution on Yemen by obstructing humanitarian assistance.
The Trump administration, through the State Department, has objected to the ongoing blockade and called for “unimpeded access” for humanitarian supplies. But many in Yemen suspect, with some reason, that the White House is tolerating, if not encouraging, the crime. Shortly before the siege was announced, Jared Kushner paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and reportedly met late into the evening with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince. Even if it was unaware of the subsequent crackdown, the White House has the leverage to put a stop to it. It should act immediately, or it will be complicit in a crime against humanity.
Bill Chappell, NPR, March 3, 2017
A doorman stands at the entrance of The Walled Off Hotel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem Friday. Dusan Vranic/AP
There’s no pool, but there is a piano bar that exudes “an air of undeserved authority.” That’s part of the promise at The Walled Off Hotel, the artist Banksy’s vision of a hotel along the wall Israel built in the occupied West Bank.
The project blends Banksy’s trademark style — a trickster’s eye for trompe l’oeil and a political cartoonist’s ear for satire — into more traditional hotel amenities such as food, drinks and well-appointed rooms. The hotel will begin taking reservations on March 11.
Just don’t call it the Waldorf. For a hint of what awaits visitors to the small hotel in Bethlehem, consider this description of the piano bar inside:
The Walled Off Hotel, which offers what it calls the “worst view in the world,” has rooms that look onto an Israeli security barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Dusan Vranic/AP
“Guests can peruse a collection of Banksy artworks that include vandalized oil paintings and statues choking on tear gas fumes. Warm scones and freshly brewed tea are served daily on fine bone china and the Walled Off Salad should not be missed.”
That’s from Banksy’s website, which adds that the engagement is open-ended: “We’re aiming to be here for the whole of the centenary year, maybe longer if people come.”
Israeli forces suppress weekly marches in Bilin, Kafr Qaddum
Ma’an News Agency, January 21, 2017
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Israeli forces Friday suppressed weekly marches held in the villages of Billin and Kafr Qaddum in the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah and Qalqiliya.
In Bilin, the weekly march, which occur every Friday to protest the Israeli separation wall and illegal settlements, was launched in solidarity with the Bedouin village of Umm Hiran on Wednesday which was violently raided by Israeli forces on Wednesday, leaving a local teacher and an Israeli police officer killed, before Israeli forces carried out home demolitions in the village.
The demonstration was also centered on protesting President Donald Trump’s support of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Palestinian and international solidarity activists held up Palestinian flags and signs condemning the potential embassy move and threatening an escalation of the resistance if such a decision is made.
As the demonstrators marched through the streets, they called for national unity, resisting the Israeli occupation, and releasing all Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
When the protestors reached the western part of the village near the separation wall, Israeli forces prevented them from marching on, declaring the area a military post and firing rubber bullets, sound bombs, and plastic bullets at protesters.
Abu Ahmad noted that Israeli forces detained Palestinian activist Ahmad Abu Rahma during the protest, but he was released afterwards.