Middle East Children’s Alliance

Your MECA Dollars Palestinian Kids Write, Illustrate and Tell their Stories

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Summer 2013

at Work

MECA provided funds for the Palestine Writing Workshop’s two-part training in February and March for fifteen youth from Jalazone Refugee Camp. The participants learned to create original “storyboards,” large illustrated boards of their own stories. Each Friday and Saturday, they came together at the camp’s youth center to work with a local storyteller/writer and illustrator. The children discussed identity and relationships to family, community and the world. They were encouraged to find their “own voice” and to use it through writing and illustration. Seven “The best moment during the workshop was when we wrote about kids completed beautiful storyboards that will be used for sto- our name, who named us and everything about our name.” rytelling activities in different communities. The children also had training to help them present their own storyboards in front of audiences of children and adults. In May, four of the kids read their stories aloud at the Festival of Stories and Strange

Maia Education Project: Water and Knowledge Together

MECA’s Maia project has now installed thirtynine water purification and desalination units, providing safe, clean drinking water for more than 32,000 children at kindergartens, elementary and middle schools throughout Gaza. In the spring, trained youth volunteers from Save the Youth Future Society (SYFS) led the Maia Education Project, a new component of the Maia Project to increase Gaza students’ understanding of the water crisis and its root causes, the science of how the Maia units purify and desalinate their drinking water, and to encourage responsibility for keeping the units from being damaged.
“The hardest moment was when the teacher asked us to draw or write a complicated story and we couldn’t do it. But then she would come and show us how to do it.”

Creatures, which featured a large variety of art activities from puppet-making to face-painting, and showcased the storyboards from the children in Jalazone. MECA Program Director Josie Shields-Stromsness attended the festival and reported, “I was so impressed as they confidently read out their stories with emotion and dramatic pauses, keeping us all engaged!”

SYFS has been working with Emergency Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (EWASH) and its Thirsting for Justice Campaign for two years, so most of the youth instructors already have good grounding in the water crisis in Gaza, Palestinian water rights and Israeli violations. After an initial training about how to work effectively with children, the youth set out to all thirty-two elementary and middle schools with Maia units. (There are just 16 units but because of the lack of schools in Gaza, all of these locations have two shifts of students, so are really two schools in one.) They led interactive workshops for 1,497 students and 173 teachers. Your MECA Dollars at Work, Continued on page 3

Your MECA Dollars at Work, Continued from page 1 The youth leaders designed posters and banners about the water situation in Gaza and the Maia Project to be hung in each school building and printed in school bulletins. Together with the students, they developed flyers that were distributed to students who did not have a chance to join the workshops. They made murals with the children about the Maia Project at each school, located centrally so all the students will see them. The education campaign concluded with festivals for children in eight locations to reinforce the main messages of the project; to celebrate their collective efforts to take care of the Maia water units in their schools; and learning and educating others about the importance of clean water to their health and their rights.

Co-Founder and Director
Dear Friends Sitting on my desk are two tear gas canisters and some rubbercoated bullets. They are souvenirs from my first trip to Palestine 25 years ago, and for me they remain constant, powerful symbols of why on May 1, 1988, Howard Levine and I founded the Middle East Children’s Alliance. The rubber-coated bullets signify the suffering of the innocent Palestinian children who want nothing more than what any other child anywhere wants and deserves—to grow up happy without fear or hunger, to get a good education, and to have a future filled with freedom, peace and justice. The tear gas canisters, marked “made in the USA,” remind me that it is our government and our tax dollars that sustain the occupation and oppression of these children. Poring over my files of the past two and a half decades, I am filled with deeply bittersweet feelings. As always, I am overwhelmed by the depth of the suffering of the Palestinians, in Palestine but also in Lebanon and now Syria, as well as the Iraqi children in the aftermath of two horrible wars and 13 years of grinding sanctions. I’m angry that, after all this time, the Palestinians still don’t have political rights. But I believe that there has been a change in the United States, and people who once disagreed with me, now support the Palestinian struggle for justice. It has been MECA’s mission—and privilege—to help make children’s lives a little better by delivering humanitarian aid like food and medicine; building parks and playgrounds; providing scholarships; and supporting medical and dental clinics, and projects that encourage and empower women. Throughout Gaza our Maia Project has been building small and medium-sized water desalination units in schools. Now, more than 32,000 children can have a clean drink of water when they go to school—and bring a jug of water home to their families, for whom it might be the only clean water they have all day. I traveled to Iraq on the eve of the first Gulf War and then went many times over the next decade and watched as their once-modern infrastructure was destroyed by war, and the sanctions denied them even the most basic necessities. For 13 years we provided food and medical aid to Iraqi children suffering and dying from these twin horrors. For the past 15 years, we have been working in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, bringing food and medicine there. That work has taken on a new urgency in the past few months as thousands of refugees from Syria are pouring into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. I met hundreds of them while I was visiting friends in Shatila Refugee Camp. They were desperate, begging for some milk for their children or some food for them to eat. As soon as I arrived home, MECA sent $25,000 so the project we work with there could buy enough necessities to hold the refugees over until we could raise enough funds for a large shipment. Despite all we have accomplished, I wish we weren’t marking our 25th year. I wish our work was done and the children of Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon were living in freedom with a bright future ahead of them, instead of living every day with violence, fear and deprivation. I’m encouraged by the growing Palestine solidarity movement and the greater willingness of people to speak out and take action for Palestinian rights. At the same time, I see every time I visit that conditions on the ground are not getting better. If anything, they’re getting worse as Israel cracks down violently on the whole population, including children. MECA’s work is as critical as ever and will go on, if necessary, for the next 25 years. MECA’s work is sustained almost entirely by contributions from about 5,000 individuals. And although it would be great to have a million donors, I have always appreciated the fact that support for MECA may not be very broad, but it is very deep. For many people, what they give involves real personal sacrifice, especially during this prolonged economic crisis. All of us are deeply grateful for those who can donate the cost of an entire water purification unit for a school in Gaza ($11,500), and equally for those who know that their $10, when added to hundreds of others, will provide life-saving medicine for children and families struggling every day just to survive.

by Barbara Lubin

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Futures: A Woman’s Initiative in Mas’ara Village
Five years ago, a group of women in the small village of Mas’ara, near Bethlehem took over the school cafeteria, threw out all the junk food and began making the food themselves. For several years, the women didn’t receive any support for the project. They brought ingredients from home and got by on small donations here and there. One of the women made grape syrup and sold it from her home to pay the rent on the cafeteria. MECA is pleased to support this vital project for the health and well being of the children in Mas’ara. In February, MECA Program Director Josie Shields-Stromsness visited the school and she just completed a short video, in which the women talk about why this initiative is so important. Below is an excerpt from Josie‘s blog entry about her visit. You can read the full version and see the video at www.mecaforpeace.org. Each day at 5:30am women from the village gather in the basement kitchen to prepare food such as zaatar (wild thyme) pies, meat pies, spinach pies, popcorn, fava beans, fruits, termos (beans with lemon and salt), and muffins for children attending the village schools. Um Hasan, a farmer, grandmother and one of the founders of the project, explained that the group sees this work as an act of resistance against the occupation: “Palestinian children need strong bodies because we are living under occupation. And when the occupation is combined with poverty, this is impossible for the children…. I have 26 grandkids and I’m doing my best to help raise them well. But we have to take care of all the children.” The women use only Palestinian products and organic, fresh vegetables and fruits that Um Hasan grows herself. She even donates the zaatar (wild thyme), which she picks, dries, and grinds before bringing it to the kitchen. Now, with MECA’s support, the women bought an industrial blender to make juices and smoothies and they are able to cover their monthly expenses for flour, milk, gas, cleaning supplies and other necessities.

The youth leaders organize games to teach the importance of conserving water.

A student gets a fresh zaatar (thyme) pie from the kitchen CREDIT: Josie Shields-Stromsness

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MECA NEWS 3

65 Years of Nakba
Generation after generation, Palestinians are still holding the keys to their original homes to return to their land in Palestine. This return is not simply a right bestowed upon Palestinians by the international community. Far more than this, return for Palestinians is an inherent part of their identity, freedom and dignity. Each year, the laws and unwritten policies of the Israeli occupation make return more difficult for the many Palestinians living beyond its borders. The United States turns a blind eye to the growing number of its own citizens, Palestinian and otherwise, who have been denied entry to Palestine. Denying Palestinians and others access to the land of historic Palestine highlights the incredible fear doctrine that has been constructed within Israeli society; Israeli leaders fully understand that recognizing this right of return means the beginning of the end of the settler-colonial state. During these 65 years of occupation, we have witnessed the return of many refugees—with the support of the international community—to their homes in Bosnia, East Timor, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, the Palestinian refugee population is ever increasing within the camps of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and in the diaspora. Palestinians in the camps spend their entire lives as refugees, often only minutes away from their original villages and homes, with walls and checkpoints forever partitioning them from the reality of return. Now, with the current escalation of violence in the region, Palestinian refugees in Syria have become refugees once more. Absent a homeland to which they can return, the issues of landlessness, violence and militarized borders have become more pressing than ever. Women and children are among the tens of thousands of refugees who now live in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The vulnerability of these communities is escalating. The Arab uprisings that began in 2011 have changed the political landscape of the Middle East and opened the door for many new possibilities. Shedding the fear of decades-long repression, the people have united to challenge and overthrow the dictatorial regimes of the Arab world. Soon after the end of Mubarak’s rule in Egypt and Ben Ali’s rule in Tunisia, in a moment inspired by the uprisings of their Arab neighbors, the image of return for Palestinians transformed into an imminent possibility. In May 2011, thousands of Palestinian refugees and others marched to the borders of Palestine from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Some

Ziad Abbas, MECA Manager of Cross-Cultural Programs shows visitors and old UN “house” in Dheisheh Refugee Camp where he grew up. CREDIT: Pablo Pitcher

By Ziad Abbas and Nadia Barhoum, MECA Staff

The question of Palestine is the key to change in the Middle East and the right of return is the simple answer to this question. Until return is realized, liberation for the land and its people can never be achieved. For this, MECA will continue its work in hopes of making the dream of return a reality for all Palestinians.
Students attend a makeshift school in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, 1961. CREDIT: UNRWA

MECA Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Holly Near
By Penny Rosenwasser,
MECA Events Coordinator

Palestinians were able to cross the border and visit their family’s homes for the first time in their lives, risking everything along the way. This action gave Palestinians a glimpse of freedom, as well as a more complete picture of the obstacles that obstruct the path to their homeland. Their march homeward symbolized a people suspended somewhere between time and space, living on the margins of society and within the borders of their dreams. Their march home lifted the spirits of many around the world, especially Palestinians, for it was one of the first moments since 1948 when return became a reality; it became a palpable movement rather than an abstract notion. On the other hand, the Arab movements and the Palestinian march of return in 2011 have created much cause for concern within Israel. The repressive Arab regimes were long- standing allies of Israel, allies that did not challenge its brutal and discriminatory actions and policies towards Palestinians. As these regimes fell, Israel began to fortify and deepen its borders with Egypt, Jordan and Syria, creating more distance between itself and the region. With the movements in the Arab world still in formation, the future of the Middle East looks uncertain and unstable. Moving forward to tangible change is a process that will take years. However, return for Palestinians is among the changes that will have to take place to ensure freedom for all the people of the region The role of western powers, particularly the United States and the state of Israel, will also have to be confronted and redefined if any progress is to be made. The minority of the world cannot go on living at the expense of the majority. Security and superiority cannot supersede justice and dignity. Despite Israel’s best efforts at dividing and fragmenting the Palestinian population, for 65 years the Palestinian people have maintained their struggle for return to their original homes and villages. Through MECA’s work in the refugee camps, we are continually inspired by the spirit of the new generation and their determination to end the Israeli occupation of their lands.

What a huge honor to have magnificent freedom fighter, educator, Critical Resistance Co-Founder and author Angela Davis speak at a benefit for MECA on Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, April 17, 2013. The nearly sold-out crowd of 620+ was riveted—first by Ziad Abbas, Palestinian refugee and journalist (and MECA staff) speaking from personal experience about Palestinian political prisoners—and then by Professor Davis herself. Angela and Ziad both spoke movingly about the connections between political prisoners in the U.S. and in Palestine. Angela talked about the eight million dollars per day in U.S. military aid to Israel that could provide health care, education and meet other urgent needs. She recounted meeting teenagers who had been arrested on her recent trip to Palestine and about how Palestinian children’s acts of resistance, including throwing stones, are what “children are supposed to do in order to avoid internalizing a sense of inferiority that Israel would like to see.”

Angela Davis speaking to a sold-out crowd at a MECA event on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, April 17, 2013. CREDIT: Jay Finneburg

Just weeks later, 2200 people came to MECA’s anniversary event with international hero and activist/intellectual Noam Chomsky, accompanied by Holly Near and her Peace Becomes You Band at Oakland’s historic Paramount Theatre. After MECA’s 25th anniversary video, highlighting our programs in Palestine, Holly and band (Gina Breedlove, Jan Martinelli, David Rokeach and Julie Wolf) performed an electrifying set, including the soulful “Peace Becomes You.” MECA Board Chair and former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport surprised MECA Director Barbara Lubin with flowers and a plaque honoring her intrepid and inspiring leadership for 25 years. All this paved the way for 90 minutes of non-stop eloquence from Professor Chomsky, speaking on “Palestinian Hopes, Regional Turmoil” covering Palestine and the U.S. role, and laced throughout with references to the struggle for justice worldwide. Huge thanks to our expansive Bay Area audience for supporting these two events, as well as to our volunteers who help make it all happen—we simply couldn’t do it without you!

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MECA friend and Founding Advisor Noam Chomsky engages 2,200 in Oakland on May 8th to honor MECA’s 25th anniversary. CREDIT: S. Smith Patrick

In response to the last question from the audience, “What’s your favorite joke?” Chomsky replied “My favorite joke is that the U.S. is an even-handed broker.”
MECA NEWS 5

Broken Umbrellas Transformed into Water for Gaza By Caroline Razook
In NYC, after a heavy windy rain, busted umbrellas, items used for avoiding water, line the streets with nowhere to go but the dump. In many areas of the world, people are desperate for clean water. Through this project, those broken umbrellas will help bring water to those most in need. Using the umbrella fabric, roll up tote bags are produced and sold with profits going to MECA’s Maia Project to install water purification units in Gaza schools. The umbrellas, for the most part, are found on the streets, sidewalks, and even garbage cans of NYC. Early in 2010, I had a two-part realization. One, I seem to always be going into grocery stores unplanned, and without one of my many canvas bags. On the verge of buying a ready made roll up bag, I realized I could make one. Two, New Yorkers litter. A lot. After a heavy windy rain, busted umbrellas line the streets. And then the a-ha moment—use that fabric from the broken umbrellas to create a compact, reusable bag. Support the environment, support children in need of water, and be stylish doing it —check out the bags at: www.carstuffnyc.com. Caroline Razook is an architect and designer who developed the fondation le monde de car, “focusing on small scale design in service of large scale social responsibility.” Caroline was named a semi-finalist in the Dell’s Global Social Innovation Challenge and a Start Something That Matters fellow for her Umbrellas for Water project.

Oregon Group Educating the Community, Providing Clean Water
Albany/Corvallis Friends of Middle East Peace (FoMEP) is a group of people in Oregon who came together “to do something to support the Palestinians in their efforts to end the Israeli occupation of their lands.” FoMEP brings speakers to Corvallis; shows films that focus on the occupation’s devastating effects on the Palestinian people; write letters to the editor of our local newspapers to raise awareness of U.S. military aid to Israel. Many participate in the Corvallis vigil against war. In 2010, FoMEP sponsored a fundraiser for MECA’s Maia Project, raising funds for an entire water purification unit for Ashbal School in Gaza. In May 2013, they again raised more than $4,000 for a water purification unit at a Gaza kindergarten. Grethen Newlin of FoMEP says, “Attendance at our events is growing as we continue our efforts. We are amazed at the support we find here in Oregon and hope to continue our efforts to create a better, more peaceful world.”

Cooking for FoMEP’s Palestinian Culture Night fundraiser. The group has raised more than $8,000 for MECA’s Maia Project to install water purification units in two Gaza kindergartens. CREDIT: Gretchen Newlin

Light-weight, durable, stylish brella bags are good for the environment and children in Gaza. You can get yours at www.carstuffnyc.com. CREDIT: Martina Grilec

URGENT: $45,000 needed by July 31st!
Yes, I want to invest in Palestine’s future by supporting university scholarships for academically gifted Palestinian students in need. Here is my contribution of:

______ $25 ______ $250 ______ $50 ______ $____________ ______ $100

See MECA’s 25th Anniversary Video

Learn about 25 years of resistance and humanitarian work conducted by the Middle East Children’s Alliance. A video by S. Smith Patrick http://www.mecaforpeace.org/news/mecas-25th-anniversary-video

I’d like to join MECA’s Children’s Circle with a monthly gift of $ ____________ [ ] A check payable to MECA is enclosed. [ ] Please charge this credit card in the amount indicated above.

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100% of every purchase you make aids Palestinian children and families. Featuring gorgeous hand-woven rugs, olive oil soap, Dead Sea products, Jerusalem pottery, embroidery, jewelry, scarves, clothing for children and adults, tote bags, Middle Eastern books, and more!

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Coming up in the Fall! THE GAZA KITCHEN Cookbook reception, plus a cooking class, with Laila El-Haddad —a MECA partnership with Joining Hands — stay tuned!