Fall 2012

Your MECA Dollars at WORK
Project updates by Program Director Josie Shields-Stromsness

nice break in the new temporary structure built on the site of the demolished cultural café, and get a nice, cool splash of water from the rebuilt bathroom. Your MECA Dollars at WORK, Continued on page 3

Thank-You and Update from Silwan!
MECA and our Silwan partner Madaa Creative Center are thrilled that, thanks to your contributions, Madaa was able to purchase one of the buildings they were renting. This house and courtyard were used for the music and art activities during Madaa’s free summer camp and are used all year for Madaa’s afterschool programs, including their psychosocial project for children who have been arrested. The sports field in Silwan, built with funds from MECA, Playgrounds for Palestine, and War Child, were also put to good use during Madaa’s “Summer Games.” From soccer to musical chairs to fun with blow-up fun houses, hundreds of kids had a blast under the shade on the sports field. Campers could take a

“Dandara,” a rap group in Silwan: “We are coming from Silwan. We will stay Photo: Ziad Abbas in Silwan…. We are holding pens. We will break these walls” CREDIT: Madaa Silwan Creative Center

The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is thrilled to announce the launch of our new online store
For ten years, MECA and the women of Joining Hands have held an annual bazaar of Palestinian handmade crafts. Throughout each year, we spend time building relationships with artisans, farmers and craftspeople—especially women—living in the West Bank and Gaza, who make beautiful hand-woven rugs, wooden sculptures, pottery, embroidery, soap, jewelry and more. Most of these communities have had much of their agricultural land confiscated by Israel, and for many of our Palestinian friends, these crafts are their sole livelihood . Now, these incredible products are available for purchase online, and ask that you continue to check our mecaforpeace.org/shop for new items. Our store will also feature scarves, handbags, and other unique accessories from Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon to support our programs. For any questions on items and orders, please email us at meca@mecaforpeace.org.

Shop Palestine at www.mecaforpeace.org/shop

2012 Holiday Bazaar: Dec. 1-2, Berkeley


Dear Friend,
In July I spent three weeks in Palestine with long-time MECA friend Danny Muller, visiting with MECA staff, and connecting with MECA’s current and prospective partners. It was clear when I was in Gaza in February that some things had to change for MECA’s Maia Project to succeed and grow over the long term. We recognized an increased demand for technical expertise, more community education, and deeper collaboration with the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) that administers the schools in refugee camps, where all of our large water purification units are. No one hates meetings more than I do, especially long meetings in terrible heat. But we spent weeks developing a plan for improvement and I’m really pleased to tell you that we now have a great team in place to move forward: • Dr. Said Ghabayan, a local water engineer who MECA hired, will be overseeing the installations of new units, the repairs of existing units, and conducting regular water quality tests to make sure all units continue to work properly. • UNRWA will be responsible for maintaining the units after the first year. • EWASH, a Palestinian water advocacy group will train young adults to go into each school where Maia units are installed and provide education to students and the community about water and sanitation issues and get the kids involved in taking care of the units. EWASH also runs the global awareness campaign called “Thirsting for Justice” and MECA is now the North American partner for this campaign. (See page 5) At Afaq Jadeeda Association in central Gaza, Danny spent a week teaching kids to use small video cameras we brought with us. It was so, so hot and humid I just couldn’t stand it, so one day I decided to hire a bus and took the kids and their cameras to the beach. It was wonderful to see them playing in the water and making movies about themselves. Please visit our website www.mecaforpeace.org, as we will be sharing this footage with you. Another day, Dr. Mona El-Farra, MECA’s Gaza Projects Coordi-

“It was just so unbearably hot and humid in Gaza we hired a bus and took the kids and their new video cameras to the beach.” CREDIT: MECA

nator took us to meet Samira, an amazing woman who started a project for children whose parents have been accused of collaborating with Israel. These children are ostracized and bullied within their own communities. The women who work with her, mostly volunteers, were all trained through “Let the Children Play & Heal,“ Afaq Jadeeda’s psychosocial support program that MECA supports. Also, working there are several young students who are getting university degrees with help from MECA’s two scholarship funds. (See page 3) One student, who looked practically like a child herself, told us she volunteers because “when I bring a smile to a child’s face, I feel that I am fighting the Israeli Occupation.” She went on to talk about her love of English literature, her ambition to translate novels, her own writing, and her frustration with Arab leaders. Listening to these young women, I thought, “This is the future of Palestine.” After Gaza, Danny and I went to Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank where MECA Program Director Josie ShieldsStromsness lives with her husband and four-month-old son Marcel. We took some time just to visit with them and other old friends. One thing that struck me on this trip is that people don’t talk as much as they used to about Israel and the Occupation. It’s gone on so long, younger people don’t even know what it’s like to go to the Mediterranean Sea or into Jerusalem; to Ramallah in twenty minutes instead of the three hours it can now take to go through checkpoints and around the Wall. Letter from Barbara, Continued on page 5


Your MECA Dollars at WORK Continued from page 1
Also in July, MECA co-organized a special reception in Silwan for representatives from different international organizations to learn about the challenges of daily life in Silwan directly from the children and the local community. Sahar Baidone, Madaa Center’s Children and Women’s Coordinator, gave a presentation about child arrests and explained the challenges for families in Silwan from settlers and settler “security” to home demolitions and evictions to neglect by the Israeli municipality. Kholoud, the mother of a fourteen-year-old boy who was held in Israeli custody for a month and who is now under house arrest, told us about going to her son’s court date and seeing marks on his face from beatings. She was in tears when she explained that the house arrest prevented her son from finishing the ninth grade because she believes that education is his only hope for a better future. A group of children from Silwan calling themselves “Dandara” (youth slang for music group) performed a rap song they composed about their lives. Ali, 16, rapped: Soon I will be a doctor I will achieve The impossible and become a doctor Will heal the world, if you don’t have money to pay It’s ok, I will do it for free Razan continued: My dream is to be a reporter Broadcast the news of Palestine The way it is, no lies I will broadcast the happy news and the hard ones I won’t make up the news But I will try and make up new ways New paths so we walk through it So we can kiss the present situation goodbye students at 11 universities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the 2011-2012 academic year, thanks to two special funds established by individual MECA donors—the Elly Jaensch Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Tree of Life Scholarship Fund—plus contributions to MECA’s Ramzy Halaby Education Fund. Students are nominated by local organizations, financial aid offices, and MECA staff and volunteers in Palestine. Each year we receive many more applications than we can support and must chose students on the basis of their financial need, prior academic achievement, and commitment to giving back to the community. We also give special consideration to women and refugees. This is the seventh consecutive year that MECA has awarded scholarships and helped hundreds of students complete their undergraduate degrees and go on to careers in teaching, law, dentistry, social work and many other fields. I have graduated recently from the university. On this occasion, I am writing to you to thank you for your great help to me. So, thank you very much for your generous support. Of course, your help has opened a great opportunity for me to complete my higher studies and to achieve my dreams of becoming a lawyer. Thank you again. —Nujoud, graduated from Birzeit University with a legal degree. She is one of 25 MECA scholarship recipients who graduated in 2012.

Palestine Writing Workshop: Yalla, Let’s Read Palestine!
MECA supported this month-long project designed to make reading Ghada, with her reading buddy, a university fun. Children came to the student, says, “I would come every day if Palestine Writing Work- the center was open because I love reading so much! I’ve already finished Level One shop in Birzeit Village near and got a t-shirt.” CREDIT: MECA Ramallah four mornings a week for storytelling, arts and crafts, and reading aloud to volunteer reading buddies from the local university. The children receive stamps for each book they read out loud and different prizes for filling up their reading card with ten stamps. A young girl Ghada told us “I would come every day if the center was open because I love reading so much! I’ve already finished Level One and got a t-shirt.” She plans to make it to Level Four (reading 40 books!) by the end of the month. Her friend Iman is still working on finishing Level One but explained that she’s older and has chosen longer books so it takes her longer. The Palestine Writing Workshop is also organizing storytelling

Scholarships: Graduates and New Students
An education is for a lifetime. It cannot be bulldozed, stolen, chopped down or burned down.— MECA scholarship donor MECA awarded university scholarships to 143
“With my skills and abilities, I want to help my country and my people. Thank you for your good help for students in Palestine.”—Mohammed, engineering student at Palestine Polytechnic University from Al-Fawwar Refugee Camp CREDIT: MECA


Your MECA Dollars at WORK Continued from page 3
activities in Bil’in Village, Deir Ghassana Village, and Jalazone Refugee Camp as part of “Yalla, Let’s Read Palestine!” They partnered with organizations in each location that have children’s libraries but no library programming. MECA Director Barbara Lubin, Danny Muller and I (with my four-month old son Marcel) tagged along for a session at Jalazone and loved what we saw. Maya, a novelist, poet and mother of three, is full of energy. She spent three hours in Jalazone reading stories and helping the kids create and act out their own stories. We are looking forward to working with the Palestine Writing Workshop on more activities to encourage the love of reading and activate children’s libraries! restored an empty building to be used as a community center and is working closely with the community every step of the way. The playground is the first free, public playground in the village. Shatha, the architect from Riwaq overseeing this project, explained how much the children are looking forward to this new playground complete with slides, swings, and climbing structures. Riwaq organized several activities for the local children and heard again and again how much they wanted a place of their own to play.

Old & New: A Place to Play in Hajjah Village
When we visited July, the playground still needed some final touches, but the children were so excited they couldn’t wait!. CREDIT: MECA

Summer Fun in Dheisheh
The kindergarten teachers in Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank were determined to make this summer special. They organized an all-volunteer two-week summer camp for eighty children. Local stores donated art supplies, daily snacks and lunches. MECA chipped in for buses and entry fees to send these kids on field trips to outdoor parks.

MECA provided funds for a playground in the historic center of Hajjah Village, in the northern West Bank. The playground is being created by Riwaq, a Palestinian cultural preservation organization. Riwaq’s “50 Villages Project” is revitalizing the old centers in villages across the West Bank and Gaza—preserving history and culture, while addressing current community needs. The land for the playground was donated by a woman who owns a very old building directly across from the playground. In exchange for the land for the playground, Riwaq completely restored her two-story house to its original design. Riwaq has also

The trip to Murad Tourist Resort was the highlight for the kids from Dheisheh Refugee Camp, giving them a rare chance to cool off in a pool for a day. CREDIT: MECA

Getting ready to try the slide. CREDIT: MECA


Letter from Barbara, Continued from page 2
It seems that people have learned to live with it because they have to—like learning to live with a chronic disease. Danny, Josie—with baby Marcel in tow—and I set off to visit MECA projects. In Silwan, we had the pleasure of seeing kids playing on the sports field MECA helped the Madaa Creative Center build and doing music, dance and art activities in the building we recently helped them purchase. We saw kids swinging on the swings at the gorgeous, not-quite-completed playground in the village of Al-Hajjah, and learned about the work of Riwaq and their “50 Villages Project” to restore historic buildings and contribute to the life of small rural communities. We went to the Palestine Writing Workshop (See page 4) in Birzeit and enjoyed seeing kids scattered in small groups in the yard, on the stairs—any quiet spot they could find to read and write. While shopping for MECA’s December bazaar and our new online store, (see page 1) we met so many wonderful, talented craftspeople, making jewelry, pottery, and traditional embroidery and weaving. We visited Palestine’s last keffiya factory and bought up dozens of keffiyas in every color. We went to Hebron to see our friend Hesham Sharabati whose family has lived in the city for generations. He’s been taking MECA delegations on tours of the city for many years. Hesham and others recently started the Hebron Defense Committee with a program for children in the Tel Rumeida area whose homes are surrounded by vicious, maniacal settlers right in the heart of the old city. Their first project is to revive an abandoned olive orchard. This must have been about my thirtieth trip to Palestine (I’ve lost count.) Many times, I can only focus on the horrors of the occupation, and I saw plenty of that. But on this trip, I was able to see more of the other side of Palestinian life: The many sweet moments, and the amazing work people were doing, the new ideas, the young leadership, and the appreciation for people like you who give to make this incredible work possible. All this in the midst of terrible economic conditions; constant fear of violence, arrests, and home demolitions; working around walls, checkpoints and shortages just to do the simplest things you and I take for granted; and, on top of it, dealing with the heavy hand of their own government officials. I hope reading the project updates by Josie, (starting on page 1), you’ll feel heartened and appreciated the way we did on our visit. With many thanks,

Join MECA and the Thirsting for Justice Campaign!
MECA is a member of the Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a coalition of 30 leading humanitarian organizations that launched the Thirsting for Justice Campaign. While MECA works to provide safe, clean water to children in Gaza through the Maia Project, we are also working to educate and advocate for Palestinian water rights. TAKE ACTION! Join the Thirsting for Justice Summer Challenge! Live on 24 liters (just 6.3 gallons) of water for 24 hours in solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Go to www.mecaforpeace.org/thirst to find out more and sign up.
We haven’t received water for a month...so we are forced to buy tankered water [from trucks] but they are expensive. When it is like this we have to ration what we use and I have to take money away from other things like my children’s education and healthcare to afford the water. This situation is unfair. We see that the nearby settlement is green and has grass growing all year and we feel pain that we are being robbed of water. All we want is justice. —Um Helmi in Nabi Saleh Village

Barbara Lubin, Founder and Director


MECA Events
Israeli peace activist and author

The Right to Healthcare Tour! with Jewish Voice for Peace, featuring and

DR. ALLAM JARRAR of the Palestine Medical Relief Society DR. RUCHAMA MARTON

MIKO PELED presents

his riveting new memoir The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, Wednesday, September 19 – 7pm, Berkeley City College, 2050 Center Street. Introduced by Dr. Hisham Ahmed, a Fulbright scholar from Deheisheh refugee camp. Tickets $10 advance, $12 door, BCC students $5 There are few books on the Israel/ Palestine issue that seem as hopeful to me as this one.—Alice Walker, from the Foreward, In 1997, tragedy struck Miko Peled’s Israeli-American family, when his niece Smadar was killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem, pushing him to re-examine beliefs he had grown up with, as the son and grandson of figures in Israel’s political-military elite. The General’s Son provides a window into the courage of all those who are pursuing a steadfast grassroots struggle for equality for all the residents of the Holy Land.

, President of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and winner of the 2010 Right Livelihood Award. Thursday, October 25, 7pm, La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley. Tickets $10-$15 sliding scale. Their two organizations collaborate closely, especially assisting transporting patients through the barriers imposed by the occupation. This national tour is promoting the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions strategy to bring attention to the injustices of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.


Book Reception for teacher/activist

Saturday, September 15, 2pm, MECA office, 1101 8th Street, Berkeley. Marcy reads from her newest book, The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans, and speaks about Nahr el Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon. Free! Teachers especially invited. Knopf-Newman’s essential book… breaks taboos… providing educators and general readers with real tools to understand the history of Palestine and how we talk about it.—Ali Abunimah

Concert! Sunday October 28 – 3-5pm, 3rd Annual Islamic Cultural Center, 1433 Madison Street, Oakland. Stirring & Celebratory Arabic music and dance, including ASWAT Youth! Families Welcome Tickets $15 advance, $20 door, $10 low-income, $50 reserved seating.


Book sales benefit MECA’s work. If you’d like more affordable paperback and ebook editions of this book, please email Marcy at marcynewman@gmail.com and she’ll forward your message to her publisher. Thanks!

Coming in 2013: MECA 25th Anniversary events, including Angela Davis in April and Noam Chomsky on May 8!

MECA’s Newest Partner: The Freedom Theatre in Jenin
The Middle East Children’s Alliance has recently established a partnership with The Freedom Theatre (TFT), a theatre and cultural center in Jenin Refugee Camp in the Occupied Palestine. TFT is developing the only professional venue for theatre and multimedia in the north of the West Bank in Occupied Palestine—putting on productions, teaching performance, writing, filmmaking and more. The Freedom Theatre offers children, youth and young adults a safe space to express themselves, to explore their creativity and emotions through culture and arts. It provides them with opportunities to develop the skills, self-knowledge and confidence that can empower them to challenge present realities and to speak out in their own society and beyond.

Maia Project unit at Tuyor Al-Jena Kindergarten, Um Al-Nasser, Rafah, Palestine. Installed with funds raised by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Madison Wisconsin CREDIT: Naaman Omar

to MECA, specifying it’s for The Freedom Theatre.

Website: www.thefreedomtheatre.org. Donations can be made

Join the MECA Children’s Circle with a monthly gift!
[ ] YES! I want to join MECA’s Children’s Circle with a monthly contribution of: [ ] $10 [ ]$25* [ ] $50 [ ]$100 [ ]$__________ [ ] I’d like to make a one-time gift of $________________

*When you join with a monthly donation of $25 or more. A gift of just 83¢ a day—that’s $25 a month—will make a significant difference in the number of children and families we can help. As a thank-you for your monthly Children’s Circle gift of $25 or more, we’ll send you a special large, canvas totebag printed with a traditional Palestinian tatriz design.
Note: Monthly gifts can be made with credit card only. Use this form or go to www.mecaforpeace.org/circle. (Checks are fine for one-time gifts.) Card #: ___________________________________Exp: ___________CSV________ Email: __________________________________________________________________ Name: _________________________________________________________________ Address: _______________________________________________________________ City, ST, Zip: ____________________________________________________________ MECA is a 501(c)3 exempt organization. Your gift is tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.

Upcoming benefits for MECA!
More event details on page 6
Israeli peace activist MIKO PELED with his new book The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine – Sept. 19, 7pm

Fall 2012
For more info:

Right to Healthcare Tour! DR. ALLAM JARRAR, Palestine Medical Relief Society & DR. RUCHAMA MARTON, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel – October 25, 7pm

3rd Annual ASWAT CONCERT – October 28, 3pm




with her book The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans – Sept. 15, 2pm

Coming in 2013: MECA 25th Anniversary events, including Angela Davis in April and Noam Chomsky on May 8!

www.mecaforpeace.org 510-548-0542