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

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.

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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.

Please consider a donation to The Samira Project. As always, we thank you for your support as we work to mitigate the results of our nation’s disastrous Middle East policy, and ultimately to change that policy toward one that supports peace with justice, equality and human rights for all.

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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
 

Don’t let Trump turn his back on Palestine refugees in need


Petition Background

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.

I implore the White House to reconsider this decision, as it is against our American principles, global security and safety, and common human interest. In line with the democratic and humanitarian values this country was founded on and stands for, the US government’s investment in UNRWA’s work must be sustained, as it affects not only the lives of the over 5 million Palestine refugees the organization serves but the future and stability of the Middle East and beyond.
 

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: