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NEWS Fall 2017

In Gaza the Electricity Situation By Dr. Mona El-Farra,
MECA Director of Gaza Projects, June 2017
Overshadows Everything
It’s been ten years of living under siege in Gaza and
things are getting worse on every level. Forty percent of the
medications we need to treat our patients are not available
in Gaza. Cancer patients are dying daily because we have
no medicine for them and they can’t leave Gaza. No one
can leave Gaza. The border with Egypt has been closed for
three and a half months which is the longest period since
this inhumane siege started ten years ago.
The electricity situation right now overshadows every-
thing. We are getting just one and a half to three hours of
electricity each day, depending on where you are. It’s a di-
saster. In the hospitals, we have to postpone surgeries. The
sewage treatment plants can’t cope with the electricity cuts
so most of the sea is not suitable for swimming because
the raw sewage is being dumped in the sea. Our water is
Children study by candlelight due to the power crisis in Gaza
Credit: Mohammed Asad

getting worse too, and people who live in high buildings or rural
areas can’t even get the bad water because there is not enough
electricity in a day to pump the water to them. I expect we will
have more diseases and diarrhea this summer, especially among
Dr. Mona El-Farra children.
This year when we distributed food parcels to families in
Gaza, I saw there is real hunger. Poverty is everywhere and peo-
ple are scared.
But despite the terrible situation and the shortages, people
support each other. There is community solidarity and spirit,
especially in the young people. In Khan Younis refugee camp,
to our partner center, Never Stop Dreaming. People contributed
funds or volunteered to work in the summer heat.
In Shati refugee camp, I entered homes that don’t have lights
at all. Even if there was electricity, they don’t have any lights.
And no sunlight either because of the crowding. I went with

You can
a team of volunteer engineers who designed battery-operated
lighting systems for families. Solidarity activists in Scotland and
provide families MECA supporters donated to buy the materials and these young
engineers are building and installing the units.
in Gaza with light and We are living in Gaza like it’s the Middle Ages and it affects

electrical power.
us on such a deep level. The heat, the rotting food, the darkness.
It affects us physically and psychologically every day and every
Go to: night.
A Visit to Lebanon:
MECA Projects for Refugees
from Syria
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In June, I travelled to Lebanon with my daughter, Lucia, to
stop was Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, which was established
after 1948 to provide temporary housing to Palestinian victims
of the Nabka. Today close to 40,000 people live in this crowded,
deteriorating camp. We wandered through the narrow alleyways,
WKURXJKRXWWKHDUHD5HVLGHQWVWROGXVVWRULHVRIWKHPDQ\¿UHV We met with some of the girls who were excited to begin a
that occur as a result of this faulty wiring. Adults and children basketball team, and witnessed lively summer activities
have even been electrocuted.
In Shatila we met Olfat Mahmoud, director of the Palestinian
Women’s Humanitarian Organization (PWHO), MECA’s partner
in Beirut. Talking about the child refugees from Syria, she told
MECA Medical Shipment for
us, “our biggest challenge right now is the children’s loss of hope
for the future. Kids see their parents sleeping much of the day Refugees Has Arrived!
since they’re not allowed to work in Lebanon, and the children MECA’s shipment of medical supplies
can’t attend public schools. They’re angry and feel forgotten by
the world, and many suffer from depression, fatigue, and many valued at one million dollars has
other health problems.” Olfat described the heart-breaking re- ƒ””‹˜‡†‹‡„ƒ‘Ǥ –…‘–ƒ‹••’‡…‹Ƥ…
ality that children as young as nine, ten, and eleven talk about
death and actually say they look forward to dying.
items community clinics and pharmacies
PWHO’s job is incredibly tough in the face of such despair. requested for the growing population
But they’re working hard in several arenas. MECA supports a of refugees from Syria, including medicines
is limited, the place is warm, welcoming, and family-centered. ƒ‹”™ƒ› –—„‡•ǡ „ƒ†ƒ‰‡•ǡ  ƪ—‹†•ǡ
A social worker, teacher, and physical therapist are on staff to syringes, and antiseptics.
assist 40 children. They also offer parenting classes and recently
opened a woman’s drop-in center with child care so that moth-
ers of young children can get involved in activities. PWHO is
hoping to revive a program aimed at empowering young girls
called “Know Your Body,” in which teens are encouraged to ask
questions about sexuality and learn about sexual harassment and
self-defense. We were so impressed with the dedication of the
staff. Many are volunteers, and the paid staff know their funding
could be cut at any moment.
We left Beirut to visit Al-Jalil Children’s Center with proj-
ects in the Bekaa Valley, where conditions are truly appalling.
Most newly-arrived refugees from Syria are not recognized by
and they receive no UN support. Families are living in make-
shift tents with tin roofs—places where people will freeze in the
winter. Many encampments have only one toilet. We visited a
cemetery where 50 new arrivals from Syria live among the dead
just outside the camps.

We met with some of the girls who were excited to begin a
basketball team, and witnessed lively summer activities. We vis-
ited the rooms that serve as a school for refugees from Syria who
can’t go to Lebanese schools. My daughter, who’s a preschool
Meet Shafaq, a Young
teacher, was excited to see some of the kids playing the same
games children play in U.S. preschools.
Refugee from Syria
Palestinians comprise the largest refugee population in the
world. Those in Lebanon live in dire economic and social condi-
tions. The more than one million new arrivals from Syria have
stretched resources beyond limits and many point out the country
is on the brink of a breaking point. As painful as it was to witness
these conditions, we couldn’t help but admire the vibrancy of
people’s responses to their circumstances. The teachers kept up a
cheerful resolve, the classrooms were colorful and bursting with
vegetables, and trees among the tents and tin shacks, and women
were busy preparing holiday meals to celebrate Eid.
“I am behind two years in school because of moving from
one school to another. I am still doing very good in my
school and I will continue to do that.”

Syria and is currently living with her family in Bekaa,
Lebanon, where MECA provides emergency aid to
new refugees and classes for refugees who are unable
to attend local school. Shafaq recently shared her story
with our partner, Al Jalil Children’s Center.

“I used to have a peaceful life and live in my amaz-
ing home in Dera’a. I enjoyed the nature around my
house and the food coming from the land. I woke up ev-
ery morning to the sound of birds singing. The brutality
of the civil war forced my family to leave this house
and to start the journey to be refugees.
“Since the start of our journey, we moved a lot in
Lebanon and I attended different schools. In the end
my family decided to go close to the border with Syria.
We came to this area because we just want to survive.
My father is working as an electrician and this is the
only income for our family. All of my family are living
in a tiny house with one bedroom, a small kitchen and a
bathroom. We are considered illegal because we don’t
“I am behind two years in school because of mov-
ing from one school to another. I am still doing very
good in my school and I will continue to do that. I want
other people who want to learn. I consider myself lucky
to have Al Jalil Center. I got a lot of educational, emo-
tional, and psychological support. I am also really sad
because of the unknown future waiting for me. Every
day I wonder where I will be tomorrow. Yes, it’s an un-
known future.”

Shoruq Tour:
Palestinian Refugee Youth Visit the U.S.

In March 2017, MECA brought eighteen young dancers and
hip-hop performers from Shoruq (“Sunrise”) Organization in
California to New Jersey heard the voices of Palestinian refugee
children and learned about their lives and their culture.
In a total of ten public events, Shoruq’s beautiful debka (tra-
ditional Palestinian dance) show celebrated Palestinian culture
Credit: Brooke Anderson
and told the history of Palestinian refugees and daily life under
occupation. Between dances, Shoruq’s girls’ hip hop group per-
I Want to Dream formed their original songs about their dreams, their homeland,
and the role of women and girls in Palestine.
I dream to be a doctor The group visited fourteen high school and university class-
who will live through the tough times rooms where the Palestinian and U.S. youth learned about each
other’s lives, political struggles, and dance steps. This was the
of the situation we are living in ¿UVW WLPH PRVW RI WKH 86 VWXGHQWV PHW 3DOHVWLQLDQV $QG WKH
group from Shoruq learned so much about racism and discrimi-
I want love, not violence
nation in the US.
I want education, not ignorance All of us at MECA are grateful to everyone who contributed
as event organizers and audience members, hosting the children
I want to achieve my dreams, not illusions in your homes, classrooms, and community centers, as well as
estinian refugees. The tour was a huge effort and a very worth-
—Original song by Shoruq Girls’ Hip-Hop Group while one.

The show celebrated Palestinian culture
and told the history of Palestinian refugees
and daily life under occupation.
Credit: Brooke Anderson

Silwan, East Jerusalem: By Jody Sokolower
Celebration Amid Displacement

I recently returned from my third visit to Silwan, a
neighborhood just south of the Old City in Jerusalem. In
an effort to force Palestinians out of Jerusalem, Israeli de-
velopers have tunneled under the neighborhood to create an
archeological theme park, Zionist settlers occupy and steal
jailed by Israeli police. I haven’t met a boy over the age of
ten who hasn’t been arrested.
Silwan is the home of the Madaa Creative Center, one
of MECA’s Palestinian partner organizations. On previous
trips, I watched children playing in the computer room, read-
ing in the library, practicing hip-hop, and making animated
videos. As one mother told me, “Madaa is a lovely place for
the kids to breathe. They don’t want the kids to live in the
situation of settlers and the occupation all the time. They
want them, for a little bit, to be far away from these horrible
things.” I was inspired enough to want to write a book about
Silwan for teenagers in the United States.
That book is why I was back in Silwan, and this time I
had the opportunity to see something special: A big com-
munity party for children and women who completed spring
classes at Madaa. It was all about joy and pride. The event
see up the hill to Palestinian homes with water cisterns on
walls of the Old City at the top. Almost nothing grows these
days in densely overcrowded Silwan, but there is a grape-
vine at the edge of the patio. As we got ready for the party,
several women brought out plastic bags and stood on chairs
to pick the tender young leaves. A few days later, we had
stuffed grape leaves for lunch!
A children’s gymnastics team performed at the packed
graduation celebration, along with three dance troupes, a choir,
munity members sitting in chairs, kids sitting on the ground musicians, and two hip-hop groups.
or on laps, parents standing in the back. A young girl em- Credit: Fidaa Rwaidy
ceed the program. There were three dance troupes perform-
ing debka (traditional Palestinian dance), a choir, musicians,
a gymnastics group, and two hip-hop groups.
The love and warmth—toward the children, the women,
the teachers, the whole community—generated more energy
than the sun beating down on us. That love and support are
central to the Palestinian determination to stay in Silwan, no
matter how brutal the Israeli attacks.

Jody Sokolower is working at MECA as project man-
ager of the Teach Palestine program. Her book on Silwan
will be published in the next year.

Zam Zam Water Joins MECA’s Volunteer Corner
Maia Project to Bring Water to By Ayat Biltagi
Gaza Schoolchildren In my senior year at
California State Univer-
sity-East Bay I had to do
an 80-hour internship
About two years ago, Yusuf Nessary, Founder of Zam Zam at a non-profit organiza-
Water contacted MECA because he wanted to work with us on tion. When I found MECA
the Maia Project. Since 2009, MECA has been installing water on the school’s website, I
have access to clean, safe drinking water. Over the years, indi- Palestinian, I was elated
viduals and groups have raised or donated funds for one whole to find an organization that was working for Pal-
Maia unit (now about $15,000) or part of a unit. Meanwhile, estinian children. I was blown away by the orga-
Zam Zam Water had been building wells and providing other nizations MECA works with in Gaza, where my
help to communities in Afghanistan and Rwanda. Yusuf’s de- family is from. I was really excited about the Maia
termination, the amazing team of committed volunteers he’s Project that installs water purification systems
brought together, and his deep connections to the Afghan im- for Gaza schools.
migrant community where he grew up are clearly the keys to his For about six months I helped out with ad-
remarkable success in such a short period of time. ministrative tasks in the office, distributed flyers
So far, Zam Zam has raised funds for six water systems in to publicize MECA’s events, worked at the events
Gaza schools, three are completed and the installation of three and the Annual Palestinian Crafts Bazaar in De-
more will begin soon. They also raised funds for MECA to pur- cember. I liked working at the Bazaar the best of
chase and distribute backpacks with hygiene kits to kids in Gaza. all the things I did at MECA. It was the first time I
saw a place so full of things direct from Palestine.
I got to know MECA staff and supporters and
other volunteers. I didn’t have to explain where
Palestine was or what was going on there like I
often do in so many other situations. Everyone
was there to appreciate the beauty of Palestine
and support the people there.
I am so glad I was able to contribute to MECA’s
work in Palestine because there is such a great
need as long as there is an occupation. Palestin-
ians have been suffering for more than 70 years
and I don’t see an end on the horizon. We are
up against a big giant. I have family in Gaza but
it’s very hard to be in touch with them because
most of the time they don’t have any electricity.
And I can’t really do anything for them and that’s
the part that feels the most helpless and terrify-
ing. But I do believe the occupation will end one
day, if we work hard enough. Then MECA’s work
will still be necessary. There will be a healing pro-
cess and people will still need basic necessities
like water, electricity, and health care.
MECA Gaza Staff and students at the Elementary Beach
Boys School celebrating their new water purification unit. To volunteer at MECA,
please email Nawal Tamimi:

MECA PartnerSpotlight:
Dalia Association
sociation, “A Palestinian Community Foundation,” which
raises funds from Palestinians and others around the world
to support grassroots initiatives in Palestine, including proj-
ects from sheep farming to youth sports; from kindergarten
renovation to food production and sales.
girls’ school in an isolated and neglected neighborhood of
Jerusalem. A group of ninth-graders went through a months-
long process of planning, implementing, and evaluating two
projects to address needs in their school and beyond—with
Ninth graders initiated weekly dance Zumba classes at their
school for fun and physical fitness
tival for students and families with games, performances,
and messages about issues such as drug abuse and the im-
curricular sports, primarily Zumba dance classes.

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Fall 2017

Save These Dates!
Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 7pm:
Murder Under the Fig Tree,
518 Valencia St., San Francisco

December 9 & 10, 2017, Berkeley:
MECA and Joining Hands Annual Palestinian
Holiday Crafts Bazaar

Sunday, March 4, 2018, Oakland:

Monday, June 4, 2018, Berkeley:
MECA 30th Anniversary Celebration & Tribute
to Barbara Lubin Credit: Smith Patrick