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My Visit to Khuza’a Village, Continued on page 3

Middle East Children’s Alliance
Wi n t e r 2 0 1 4
days around the remnants of their homes. They told me that even
though their houses have been destroyed, it is where they feel
most comfortable, it’s the only home they have.
I could see many signs of life in the aftermath of this horrendous
event: a barber resuming his work in a partially destroyed shop;
women making bread in clay ovens, even offering us some to
eat; children wandering in the streets. But what really caught
my attention was that the village doesn’t have any running wa-
ter or electricity. I could see the clearly destroyed electric lines,
the feelings of frustration, anger. and despair on the faces of the
people I met.
Later that day, we went to Al Ameer kindergarten where a “Let
the Children Play and Heal” team of two psychologists and two
children’s counselors was working with about 50 children and
their mothers. This is one of the psychosocial support projects
MECA is supporting. The kindergarten is very modest and very
close to the border with Israel. Many of those kids have expe-
rienced traumatic events: some of them lost their homes, some
witnessed the killing of a relative, a neighbor, or a friend. One
child Adel, age eight, was immersed in building a fort from sand
for the whole hour we were visiting. With all the playing and
shouting around him, he didn’t look up once. He shut out the
world completely. MECA’s work with the children at this time is
extremely important for the thousands of children who need help
to overcome their traumatic experiences.
The community’s pre-school
“This is Hamza, a beautiful
child who kept asking me to
take his picture, so I did!”
“This lady was making bread
in a clay oven next to the
remains of her house. She
insisted that we take some!”
CREDIT: Basma Ghalayini
Dr. Mona El-Farra,
MECA Director of Gaza Projects
In September, I visited Khuza’a village in Gaza with
my daughter Basma. The village was savagely attacked,
frst by bombs and then even worse when Israeli troops
invaded on July 23rd. I was there during a brief cease-
fre in August but this visit was different. I had time to
take in the extent of the destruction. It was not easy for
me to see kindergartens that were destroyed, along with
water reservoirs, schools, tens of buildings, and agricul-
tural land with trees uprooted.
We drove in the streets with diffculty, as they were also
badly damaged by the army tanks. I came across people
sitting in front of their demolished homes—nearly ev-
ery single house was completely demolished or badly
damaged. But people were still spending most of their
meca newsOct. 2014.indd 1 10/21/14 1:59 PM
using their reptilian brain—
fght or fight. They are
impulsive and reactionary.
In 2008, when I taught at
the Ramallah School in the
West Bank, I saw this type
of impulsivity and anxiety
in the classroom, and these
were children who hadn’t
experienced the violent traumas of Gaza, but who lived in a milita-
rized area, exposed daily to Israeli soldiers and tanks.
Let me tell you the story of Shima. Shima is a four year-old Pales-
tinian girl, who survived the assault on Gaza. This is how her fa-
ther, Ibrahim, described her behaviors since the 51 days of intense
bombing: “She clings to me wherever I go, and will only sleep in
my lap. She knows her mother, her sister and her brother are dead,
but she keeps asking me when they will come back.”
One treatment found highly effective in helping children with
nightmares is a stuffed toy puppy. In this therapy, children are told
that “the once happy puppy is now sad.” They are given the re-
sponsibility of being the puppy’s friend, caring for him, and ensur-
ing that he is not afraid at night. Shima needs such a treatment to
overcome her nighttime fears.
Of course, this type of intervention and other forms of play ther-
apy need funding, and that’s why I made a larger than usual con-
tribution to MECA recently, and asked others to do the same—to
provide three mental health centers with clinicians and interven-
tion programs in Rafah, Gaza City, and Jabalia Refugee Camp.
Mental health for traumatized children in Gaza is an investment in
the future for them and for the rest of the world.
By Mona Halaby
These days in Gaza children play a game where one child pretends
to be dead, while the rest carry him, or her, in a mock funeral
procession. It is horrifying to wrap our heads around such an im-
age. Imagine if your own child, or grandchild, played such a game
instead of tag or hide-and-go-seek.
There is something disconcerting and completely unnatural when
children pretend to die, even when it’s just a game.
373,000 children in Gaza are showing signs of severe psychological
distress. And Gaza has only ten psychiatrists. For most ten-year-
olds in Gaza, this year’s Israeli attack is the third war they have
witnessed in their short lifetime. Many have adapted, but this “ad-
aptation” carries a hefty price tag.
As an educator and a strong advocate of children’s rights, I am
deeply concerned, because I know that continuous exposure to
violence and confict can have long-term damaging effects on chil-
dren, even if they don’t show it immediately.
In the aftermath of the massacre this past summer, the children
in Gaza are exhibiting symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fa-
tigue. Many have stopped talking, a disorder called selective mut-
ism, silenced by their grief and the shock of losing everything and
everyone they held dear. They develop chronic bed-wetting and
other regressions. They are scared to walk alone, scared of dogs,
scared when an airplane fies by. They have nightmares; they be-
come clingy to parents and experience separation anxiety. 41% of
teenage girls and boys are contemplating suicide, or want to fght
the oppressors.
As a classroom teacher, I am especially sensitive to another de-
bilitating symptom of trauma in children—diffculty concentrating
and learning in school.
According to Dr. Bruce Perry, an American psychiatrist, and Senior
Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas, children
learn differently depending on their anxiety level. When children
are calm and safe, they can access their neo-cortex, thus they can
use their metacognition, conceptual learning, higher levels of learn-
ing—summarizing, comparing, analyzing. If anxious, they learn
The MECA newsletter normally includes a “Letter from the Director” in this space.
But recently, long-time MECA supporter and dear friend Mona Halaby gave this
talk at a fundraiser she organized with other members of the group Joining Hands.
It was so eloquent and timely, that I wanted to include it here.
—Barbara Lubin, Director
For the Traumatized Children of Gaza
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The Maia Project Update:
Providing Water During and
After the Attacks
With Special Report
from Maia Coordinator in Gaza
Since 2009, MECA has installed water purifcation and
desalination units in 26 UNRWA schools and 26 commu-
nity kindergartens throughout Gaza. MECA’s new water
engineer, Safaa El-Derawi, was able to visit most of the
schools in the early weeks of the attacks to check on the
units and test the water quality. Since the ceasefre, Safaa
has been visiting all the schools to examine the units and
make arrangements for repairs.
At the beginning of the Israeli bombing, 16 of our Maia
units were providing clean, safe drinking water for dis-
placed families that sought shelter in UNRWA schools.
Some of these units stopped working a few weeks later
due to the bombing of Gaza’s only electricity plant, direct
damage from shelling, or overuse. At that point the water
tanks MECA installed were used to store clean drinking
water when it was delivered to the shelters. MECA also
provided funds to our partner, Afaq Jadeeda Association
to distribute water from their own Maia unit to families at
shelters in the nearby refugee camps.
Three of the schools where we have water units are still
serving as emergency shelters. These units are under re-
pair. In the meantime, the schools are using our tanks and
flling them with purifed water delivered daily.
One school was very badly damaged during the massa-
cre in Shejayia neighborhood and the water network in
the area was also destroyed. We will fnish repairs of the
unit once the water network is repaired.
The remaining 22 water purifcation units at UNRWA
schools have all been repaired and undergone routine
maintenance and they are providing clean drinking water
for schoolchildren daily. Some of these units were dam-
aged by Israeli shelling or the pumps were destroyed by
the irregular power currents after Israel bombed the only
power station in Gaza.
We are now living the real tragedy. The
shelling is over but not the destruction
and homelessness. Sadness and pain are
everywhere in Gaza.
We are still completing the site visits and evaluation of all
the kindergartens where we have water purifcation units.
Some of these kindergartens are in areas so severely
devastated that our staff could not reach them by road
even weeks after the ceasefre was in place.
In the wake of the terrible assault and so much dam-
age, the Maia Project continues to move forward. In the
next few weeks, new units will be installed at three kin-
dergartens, a school for the visually impaired, and four
schools in refugee camps. These units were partially built
in June but work stopped during the Israeli attacks. We
are thrilled that an additional 7,000 children in Gaza will
have safe, clean water very soon.
The following is a frst-hand account from water engineer and
Maia Project Coordinator Safaa El-Derawi of her visits to
schools where MECA installed water purifcation and desalina-
tion units:

Jabalia Elementary A&B Girls School
(Abu Hussein School):
I traveled north from my home in Nuseirat Refugee Camp to
check on the MECA water purifcation and desalination unit at
Jabalia Girls Elementary School. I expected to fnd the unit de-
stroyed since I knew the school was bombed during the aggression
on Gaza. But I was surprised to fnd that the unit was still intact.
One school was very badly damaged during the massacre in Shejayia neighbor-
hood and the water network in the area was also destroyed. MECA will repair the
Maia unit once the water network is repaired.
CREDIT: Safaa El-Derawi
The Maia Project Update, continued on page 4
-Safaa El-Derawi
meca newsOct. 2014.indd 3 10/21/14 1:59 PM
MECA Maia Project
Coordinator in Gaza
Safaa El-Derawi
Mr. Abu Yousef, who works as a services employee at the school,
told me “Thousands of families sought safety at the school in the
early days of the attack and the MECA unit was providing them
with part of their need for clean drinking water. After the power
station was bombed there were power outages all over the Gaza
Strip and the water unit stopped working. We stayed without wa-
ter for two days and then we had to separate the storage tanks
from the purifcation unit to be flled with water provided by the UN.”
Though the school year started weeks ago in Gaza, this school is
still serving as a shelter for displaced families. I met a young girl
named Islam who is nine years old and lives with her family at
the school. She described what happened with her family during
the attacks:
“We lived in the eastern part of Jabalia village and we were
asleep when the Israeli shells fell on our house. I was very scared
and cried a lot. My father carried me and my little sister and
outside. All the neighbors were screaming and feeing from the
shells. My mother and neighbors raised white fags in order to
stop the bombing, but it didn’t stop. I saw the children and adults
on the ground lying in blood. We came to this school for shelter,
but then it was also bombed and we fed to the street.
After the ceasefre, we went back to our house and we did not
fnd it. We did not fnd anything, not even my clothes and my
toys. I wish to return to our house and go to school and play with
the kids like I used to. “
Shejayia Elem. A&B Co-ed School
I went to Shejayia neighborhood during one of the humanitarian
ceasefres this summer and was shocked by the large destruction
and the smell of death everywhere. The destruction was so mas-
sive that I could not reach the school where MECA installed a
water purifcation unit because of the rubble in the roads.
I returned after the end of the aggression. Everything about
my visit there made me sad. In the past, the overcrowding in
the neighborhood used to make it diffcult for me to access the
school. But this time the empty streets troubled me. No noise. No
congestion. No life. Only destruction and rubble.
I arrived to school and found it had been largely destroyed due
to indiscriminate shelling during the Shejayia massacre. Mr. Abu
Raed Amasi works at the school and told me that they collected
all the broken pieces of the water purifcation unit. He hopes
that we can repair the unit to be used after the restoration of the
school and I promised we would.
Beit Hanoun Prep A&C Boys
I visited Beit Hanoun after the end of the Israeli attacks and met
Zainab, mother of two, who was taking shelter at the school.
Zainab explained what happened to her family. She said: “We
escaped from the Israeli bombing which destroyed our house
and our land and we came to the school. At frst we slept on the
ground and there was no water, no food. Now they give us food
and water to drink and we have blankets. But every day I need to
treat my children. Diseases have spread here and we cannot do
anything. We do not know what our future is!!”
The Maia Project Update, continued from page 3
Wins Two
MECA congratulates the Palestinian Union of Agricultural
Work Committees (UAWC) on being awarded both the US
Food Sovereignty Alliance’s 2014 Food Sovereignty Prize
for its work to bring about a more democratic food system,
and the United Nations Development Agency’s Equator
Prize 2014. UAWC supports Palestinian farmers to mar-
ket their produce, develop agriculture and water resource
protection programs, and restore and irrigate their lands.
Agricultural extension services are used to train farmers
in improved farming practices. UAWC has also created
a National Bank for Local Seeds, which dries, processes,
stores, and documents local seeds with the vision of more
organic, healthy, and environmentally-friendly produce.
Buy your fair trade Palestinian UAWC olive oil
and honey from the Middle East Children’s Alli-
ance online at or at our
Holiday Bazaar in Berkeley,
December 6th & 7th.
meca newsOct. 2014.indd 4 10/21/14 1:59 PM
Three Remarkable MECA
Founding Advisors
In a 2004 interview Casey Kasem said, “I’ll be one of those
guys people say, ‘Who’s that?’ about. And someone else will
say, ‘He’s just some guy who used to be on the radio.’” But
Casey Kasem, who died in June, was much more than “some
guy who used to be on the radio.” In fact, he was much more
than the host of “American Top 40,” one of the most popular
radio shows ever. He was more than the voice of “Shaggy” the
Scooby-Doo cartoon series, and dozens of other voices.
Casey Kasem was born Kemal Amen Kasem, the son of Leba-
nese immigrants. He became active in Middle East politics after
the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He was an outspoken op-
ponent of both U.S. wars against Iraq and an advocate for the
homeless, universal health care, Palestine, and Arab-American
civil rights. In 1988, when MECA Director Barbara Lubin asked
Kasem to join the Advisory Board of the organization she was
just starting, he eagerly said yes and supported MECA’s work
for many years.
When Ruby Dee died in June she was hailed in the media
as an important actress who broke through racial barriers. But
Dee—along with her husband of more than ffty years, actor
Ossie Davis—was a life-long radical political activist who faced
major professional obstacles because of her race, her politics and
her refusal to play the stereotypical roles offered black actresses.
Dee and Davis were at the forefront of most left-wing causes
over the years, from the defense of the Rosenbergs, to opposi-
tion to McCarthyism, to anti-Vietnam war activity, to support for
civil rights and opposition to the Iraq war. Unlike most actors
who work in Hollywood, Davis and Dee were not afraid to speak
out for Palestine.
In May, when the great African-American poet and activist and
MECA Founding Advisor Maya Angelou died, her family
remembered her as “a warrior for equality, tolerance, and peace.”
In 2006, on the third anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death by an
Israeli military bulldozer in Gaza, Angelou was flmed reading a
passage of Rachel’s writings from “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.”
(The video can be seen on youtube.) Maya Angelou’s deep com-
mitment to justice for African-Americans, women and oppressed
people all over the world is evident throughout all of her writing.
In her 1978 poem “Still I Rise,” she writes, “You may write me
down in history/With your bitter, twisted lies/You may trod me
in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
Casey Kasem at the head of anti-war march,
Jan. 26, 1991, Los Angeles
Ruby Dee speaks at a 1969 press conference during the trial
of the Panther 21, who were on trial for conspiracy and other
charges for which they were all ultimately acquitted.
CREDIT: David Fenton/Getty Images
Maya Angelou and Malcolm X became friends during his visit to
Ghana in May 1964 and the two wrote frequently to each other
after he returned to America.
CREDIT: Alice M. Windom
meca newsOct. 2014.indd 5 10/21/14 1:59 PM
Shoruq Association, MECA’s partner in Dhiesheh Refugee
Camp (Bethlehem District, Palestine), gives children and youth
opportunities to express themselves and tell their community
and the world about their lives through hip-hop, poetry and
songwriting workshops, state-of-the art media training and
equipment, traditional debka dance instruction and performanc-
es. Soon video and radio production and photography will be
offered. Shoruq also provides legal advocacy and education on
refugee rights and individual civil rights.
Recently, Hazem Al-Qassas, Shoruq’s Program Coordinator,
who grew up playing football/soccer with a related organization
in Dheisheh, asked children why they came to learn traditional
Palestinian debka dance, and what they want from the dance
troupe and Shoruq in the future. Here are some of their an-
Nour, age 11:
I always play in the neighborhood and I saw the new sign
outside the door and I wanted to be part of this organization.
Debka is something I love but I can’t explain it. I hope to have
debka shows and to perform both around Palestine and interna-
tionally in the future.
Dalia, age 12:
We have a goal with the debka. We want everyone to know us
and to send a message to the people in the world who don’t
know Palestine. Our costumes are also a part of our culture. We
want to send the message we are living under occupation and
we don’t have our freedom or our rights. I hope to improve my
debka skills and I would like to be part of rap and to learn to
draw. I loved the summer camp too. I come to debka to im-
prove and also to see my friends.
Nancy, age 12
I was part of Shoruq’s summer camp and then I decided to join
the dance troupe because I liked learning debka. If we stay
committed and work hard, we can travel. People outside don’t
know about Palestine so we should travel to show them. In the
future I hope Shoruq will have art and music classes and also
to help some of us who are having trouble with our grades in
Durgam, age 13
I want Dheisheh Camp to have a cultural troupe and to become
known. I would love to see a music group to play live music
while we dance. This is our culture, our heritage.
A Project of

Middle East
Children’s Alliance
Dancing for Freedom in Dheisheh Refugee Camp
meca newsOct. 2014.indd 6 10/21/14 1:59 PM
Yes! I want to help provide direct aid and psychological support for children in
Palestine and Lebanon • Here is my tax-deductible contribution
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To make a donation online, go to:
MECA is a 501(c)3 exempt organization. Your gift is tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.
Two mothers told
MECA how much the
children loved hav-
ing a space to play
both during and
after school. Every
afternoon, they said,
you can fnd most
of the village’s 60
children at the play-
CREDIT: Beit Skariya
Village Council
MECA funded the construction of another beautiful playground
in Beit Skariya village in partnership with Riwaq Association
for Architectural Conservation. The playground is located next
to the village’s one room elementary school on land donated
by the head of the village council. It includes a fun elephant
climbing structure with a slide, a small stone pavilion area for
children’s activities like theater, and swings.
Before the construction of the playground, one woman in the
village complained, “Our children are isolated here. There is
no safe place to play because of threats from the settlers and
transportation diffculties make it hard to take them out of the
village to interact with other children or to participate in sum-
mer camps or sports.”
Thanks to MECA and Riwaq, all this has changed. Two moth-
ers told MECA how much the children loved having a space to
play both during and after school. Every afternoon, they said,
you can fnd most of the village’s 60 children at the playground.
This small agricultural village, between Bethlehem and Hebron
in the West Bank, is broken up into fve enclaves by illegal Is-
raeli settlements, Israeli-only bypass roads, and an Israeli mili-
tary base. The settlements block access to the village, confs-
cate agricultural land, and settlers regularly harass and threaten
the villagers. Many families have been forced to abandon their
homes in Beit Skariya. As part of this project, and to help
people stay, Riwaq renovated 18 homes and installed insulation
in the school, which also serves as a clinic when a doctor visits
and as the village’s meeting place.
New Playground Amid Settlements
meca newsOct. 2014.indd 7 10/21/14 1:59 PM
Nov. 11
Steven Salaita
Nov. 13
Jenin Freedom Theatre,
Nov. 14
Women Poets for Gaza
– see for details!
Book Celebration for PALESTINE: THE
Falk, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the
Occupied Palestinian Territories
Thursday, December 11, 7pm
St. John’s
Presbyterian Church
2727 College Ave. Berkeley
Beneft for Gaza
12th Annual
Palestinian Holiday
Crafts Bazaar!
Saturday /Sunday, December 6 & 7 Only, 10am-5pm
at The Middle East Children’s Alliance (with Joining Hands)
1101 Eighth Street, Berkeley
– Benefits Programs for Children in Gaza
Our biggest selection ever of gorgeous items
from Palestine and Lebanon.
meca newsOct. 2014.indd 8 10/21/14 1:59 PM