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NEWS Winter 2018 The Nakba, My Brother and Me By Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch This year
NEWS Winter 2018

NEWS

Winter 2018

The Nakba, My Brother and Me

By Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch

This year is the 70th year of the Nakba (the catastrophe when Israel uprooted 750,000 Palestinians from 531 villages in 1948). This year my brother will be 70 years old. He was two weeks old when my family was forced from our village, Zakariya. My mom carried him, swaddled in a cloth, while my father carried my grandmother on his shoulders and back. My stepmom (my father’s first wife), who was very ill, was riding a donkey. Ac- cording to my mom’s description, on the donkey was my step- mom, my two-year-old youngest sister, and a bag with food for a few days. My brother grew up far from our village. He spent his child- hood between Dheisheh Refugee Camp near Bethlehem and vil- lages near Hebron. In July 1967, like many others, my brother had to leave Palestine. He became an exile and lived in many places, but now he is living in Jordan. This year, it will be 50 years since my brother has set foot in Palestine. He has spent 50 years in exile. I don’t know my brother well because I never lived around him in the usual way, when a younger brother knows that his older brother will take him here, take him there. I grew up with

my mom and with her generation, because our house was full of women when I was a child. It’s clear to me that each generation carries inside them- selves the trauma of the Nakba and their reality as refugees. My mother’s generation carried the trauma of the Nakba and memo- ries of those horrible days, reliving the fear of the massacres in village after village. They focused on survival and protecting their families. My brother, like many in his generation, carries his childhood as a refugee and the pain of his life in the diaspora. My generation inherited from them their feelings about the trag- edy; at the same time, we live with the discrimination we have suffered and this feeling that as refugees, we are less than others. My brother doesn’t share a lot unless you push him to share his feelings or his thoughts. He’s a deep person, well educated. As a family, we don’t share that much emotion because we grew up far from each other. The borders ripped our family apart geo- graphically and emotionally. We never had the chance—three brothers and two sisters—to sit down together and have a cup of tea until 2005, when my sister passed away, and the rest of us got together.

Continued on page 4

Dheisheh Refugee Camp in 1959. My brother was eleven years old. I was not yet
Dheisheh Refugee Camp in 1959. My brother was eleven years old. I was not yet

Dheisheh Refugee Camp in 1959. My brother was eleven

years old. I was not yet born.

© UNRWA archive

I n 1948, approximately 750,000 Palestinians (75% of the Arab popula- tion of Palestine) were expelled by Zionist militias from what became Israel (“1948 refugees”). This is known as the Nakba or “catastrophe.”

Some 531 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed or occupied by Israeli settlers.

Internally displaced Palestinians are those who were expelled from their villages but remained in the lands that became Israel. They num- bered 30-40,000 in 1948 and were placed under military rule to facili- tate the expropriation of their land. Israel does not recognize internally displaced Palestinians, whose number (including their descendants) is now estimated at more than 250,000.

During the 1967 Israeli attack, about 300,000 Palestinians were dis- placed to the West Bank and Gaza. More than half of them were al- ready refugees from 1948.

Most Palestinian refugees live in 59 refugee camps in Jordan, Leba- non, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Today, the total Palestin- ian refugee population is estimated at over 7.9 million (66% of the entire, worldwide Palestinian population, estimated at 12.1 million).

Israel forbids Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes, their villages or their country, despite numerous UN resolutions and the right to return embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Gift of Warmth for Refugees

A group of Syrian and Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon came together at the Al-Jalil Center to crochet and knit warm clothing items for refugee children. Support from MECA en- abled Al-Jalil to purchase yarn, provide training, and pay the women for their work. Four hundred children in and around the refugee camp each got a scarf, a pair of mittens, and a hat. An- other 300 items were sold to raise funds to expand the project.

300 items were sold to raise funds to expand the project. “I’m proud of my work

“I’m proud of my work with Al-Jalil Center and this humanitarian

project that will help refugees during winter. Also, I can depend on myself and support my mother and sister.” —Ibtisam Mohammed Al Ahmad, a Palestinian refugee from Syria who spends most of her time at home caring for a disabled sister and her elderly mother. She joined the group because she wanted

to be less isolated.

© Al-Jalil Center, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

be less isolated. © Al-Jalil Center, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2 MECA NEWS New Community Park in

2 MECA NEWS

New Community Park in Beit Lahia, Gaza

Wafaa El-Derawi, Gaza Projects Assistant

Hundreds gathered at the opening of the Turath Garden in Beit Lahia, Gaza last summer. I had been there just a few months before and the place had no grass or plants, just old and unusable playground equipment. Now, a new community garden provides fresh air, a relax- ing place for mothers, and a safe place for children to play. The pressures of life are increasing dramatically in Gaza as a result of unemployment, poverty, electricity shortage, water pollution, siege, closure of crossings, and unstable political and security situation. People need green places to free themselves.

situation. People need green places to free themselves. Children enjoy the new playground equipment © MECA

Children enjoy the new playground equipment

© MECA

Girls’ Basketball for Refugees
Girls’ Basketball
for Refugees

Palestinian and Syrian refugees living in and around Baalbeck Refugee Camp in Lebanon have a new basketball team for girls ages nine to fourteen. After they learn the game, they’ll play against other local teams. When they’re not playing, the proj- ect staff and volunteers will lead workshops on first aid, life skills, conflict resolution, hygiene, menstruation, and psycho- logical health.

© Al-Jalil Center

Education for Deaf Children in Memory of David Halaby

By Mona Halaby

In September 2017, Joining Hands, a group of Bay Area women who support projects for women and children in Pales- tine, held an event to raise funds to sponsor a classroom at the Atfaluna School for the Deaf in Gaza. The classroom will be dedicated to the memory of David Halaby. Below is an excerpt of the talk David’s widow, MECA supporter and Joining Hands member Mona Halaby gave to the more than 60 friends and fam- ily who came to honor David and support education for deaf children. The benefit raised more than $26,000, which will cover expenses for a fourth-grade classroom at Altfaluna for two years.

You know how there are some places that really speak to you? Places that feel like home, that ring true? Well, that’s what Gaza meant to David. Even though he was a native of Jerusalem, he loved the Gazan people, espoused their struggle, and appreci- ated the landscape along the shore. In 2002 and again in 2004 we traveled to Gaza with our two sons, Lex and Greg (our oldest, son Jason who was in graduate school, couldn’t join us) while on a MECA fact-finding delega- tion. I remember one day standing with David on a beach watch- ing a young boy, Ahmed, give his horse, Zouzou and donkey, Mishmish a bath. David immediately struck up a conversation with Ahmed, asking him questions about his life in Gaza. This beautiful scene was juxtaposed to the destruction we saw ev- erywhere. It felt as though we had stepped into a Louis Bunuel movie. It felt unreal and surrealistic. David was forever changed after our two visits to Gaza. We all were. Gaza has suffered numerous wars with Israel, and has never received adequate reconstruction funding and supplies in order to rebuild their lives and economy. The power shortage has led to a water and sewage crisis, which in turn is having serious effects on the health of its inhab- itants. Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza for the past decade, while Egypt has also closed off its border in recent years, both citing security concerns. The already dire humani- tarian circumstances have been exacerbated in recent months by Abbas’ Palestinian Authority seeking to squeeze Hamas, by reducing the electricity to be piped into Gaza among other mea- sures. To return to David and his connection to Gaza, David devel- oped Meniere’s, a debilitating disease that affects the vestibular system, and damages the auditory nerve. In 2008, after 18 years of severe vertigo and declining hearing, he finally became com- pletely deaf, and underwent cochlear implant surgery, by which an electronic medical device replaced the function of his dam- aged inner ear in order to provide sound signals directly to the brain.

Your MECA DOLLAR$ at WORK
Your MECA
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at WORK

Atfaluna is a compelling cause. It touches our family per- sonally, because it combines education, which is my passion, the Gazan people, whom David loved, and the fact that our family knows first-hand how trying it is to face the silence of deafness. We want to give the hearing-impaired children at Atfaluna a chance at education and a trade. To support this project, you can make a donation to MECA and indicate that it’s in memory of David Halaby.

to MECA and indicate that it’s in memory of David Halaby. “I remember one day standing

“I remember one day standing with David on a beach watching a

young boy, Ahmed, give his horse, Zouzou and donkey, Mishmish

a bath. David immediately struck up a conversation with Ahmed, asking him questions about his life in Gaza.” © Mona Halaby

him questions about his life in Gaza.” © Mona Halaby A student and teacher at Atfaluna

A student and teacher at Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children com-

municate in Arabic Sign Language.

© Atfaluna

MECA NEWS 3

The Nakba, My Brother and Me, Continued from page 1

My brother is a very practical man, he focuses on his work. But all the time, you feel there is something deep inside him he doesn’t speak about, he doesn’t share. When I visited Jordan in 2003, his family told me he leaves sometimes in the after- noons. He takes his coffee, his cigarettes, and some snacks, and he leaves the house for hours. This is his own tradition. He never told the family where he was going or what he was doing. That visit, I asked him directly what he was doing. He avoided answering me. Two days later, he invited me to come with him. I said yes, so he told me, “OK, come with me.” We started driving from Amman, where he lives, toward the Dead Sea. As we were driving down toward the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley opened up in front of us, and we could see Palestine on the other side of the valley. When we were close to the Dead Sea, he turned left and started to drive up the mountain toward Mount Nebo. When we reached the top, there was an archeological site, it is a Christian holy place with lots of olive trees. We parked and walked a few hun- dred meters until we came to an amazing vista. We could see all of Palestine spread out before us. My brother, be- cause he comes here all the time, knew just where he was going to his favorite olive tree. We spread out a blanket and sat down. “Here,” he said. “This is where I come. This is how I communicate with all of you on the other side, this is how I recharge myself. This is Palestine in front of me, this is where I grew up. If I were a bird I could fly in just a few minutes. This is how I build my spirit as a refugee, this is how I feel connected to my family, remember my childhood, charge my hope. This is an experience shared by many Palestin- ian refugees. “At the same time,” he said, “I have mixed feelings. Being here gives me good feelings—hope and closeness—but at the same time it’s painful. The view I see makes me feel strong be- cause of what I carry inside for my village, for my land, for my family, but also it makes me feel weak because I can’t cross, I feel helpless.” For 50 years my brother hasn’t been allowed to cross the border. He lost his dad, his mom, and many friends who died before they could meet again. There are so many Palestinian

refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria who are so close they can see their country but they can’t cross. Especially the Syr- ians. when the civil war arrived a few years ago, they could see their villages just a few miles away, but they couldn’t go to their homes in Palestine. They were forced to go everywhere else in the world, but couldn’t go home. These border fences, walls, and landmines that the Israelis built have ripped the Palestinians from our land and from our families. Destroyed our families. But holding on to family is in the nature of human beings. In Palestine, after they bomb your house, you go through the piles of debris to see what you can save. They call it lamlamet, which means a bundle of what re- mains, to try to start again. This is what we do with our families. Because there is a necessity to survive and to hold onto our fami- lies, however we can. I will share a secret with you. I don’t know if we will suc- ceed, but my family has a plan, a hope to be together to celebrate my brother’s 70th birthday. At the same time, we will com- memorate 70 years of Nakba. Whatever hap- pens to us, our family struggles to challenge the borders and stay connected, struggles for our rights, and struggles to return to our village.

for our rights, and struggles to return to our village. At the entrance to my mother’s

At the entrance to my mother’s village Jarash, just west of Jerusalem. It is now an Israeli “nature reserve” and the in- digenous Palestinian inhabitants are not permitted to re- turn. Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi writes, “The site is overgrown with grass, interspersed with the debris of de- stroyed houses and stones from the terraces. The ruins of a cemetery lie northwest of the site. Groves of trees cover two hills to the west of the site that are separated by a valley. Carob, fig, almond, and olive trees grow on these hills.”

© Pablo Pitcher-DeProto

Your MECA DOLLAR$ at WORK
Your MECA
DOLLAR$
at WORK

Campaign Against Displacement:

“We are steadfast in our village.”

Approximately 90,000 Palestinians live in the 176 unrecog- nized villages inside Israel, mainly in the Galilee or the Naqab

(Negev) desert. Villagers are not entitled to municipal services like water, electricity, roads, transport, sanitation, education, or healthcare. The postal and telephone systems do not serve them and trash is not collected. Construction and residence in these areas are illegal under Israeli law. Residents are instructed to de- molish their own houses. Failure to do so can result in arrest and fine. If houses are demolished by the Israeli police, the owners have to pay the costs. Al-Zarnug, home to approximately 5,000 Palestinian Bed- ouins, is one of approximately 40 unrecognized villages in the Naqab in southern Israel. A mosque was the only public facil- ity until, after a long legal battle, the Israeli government finally agreed to allow the opening of one public elementary school. There have been many home demolitions in Al-Zarnug and the residents are threatened with displacement by the “Prawer Plan,” legislation that would mandate the dismantling of the unrecog- nized villages of the Naqab, displacing more than 80,000 Pales- tinians with Israeli citizenship from their homes. The Israeli state sold the land of Al-Zarnug to a real estate mogul who plans to build houses for Israeli settlers. In 2017, MECA provided support for a campaign developed and implemented by 7amleh, a professional Palestinian social media center. The center provided training to men, women and youth to:

• Amplify the cause of saving the Naqab’s unrecognized villages through online media and empowering the Pal- estinian Bedouin population to advocate for themselves;

Volunteer Corner

By Lamia Wahba

Even though I grew up in Egypt, I didn’t know very much about life in Palestine until I went to graduate school in Mary- land. My best friend was Palestinian and she told me a lot about day-to-day life under Israeli occupation. So, when I came to the Bay Area for post-graduate work in 2010, I wanted to get in- volved with a local organization working for the rights of Pal- estinians. I found the Middle East Children’s Alliance and I was immediately attracted to the work. How can you disagree with meeting children’s basic needs? One of the first things I got involved with was the “Child’s View from Gaza” exhibit of art by children who survived the 2008-2009 Israeli assault. They expressed their fears and de- picted their memories in paintings and drawings. Right before the show was supposed to open at the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland, the museum’s board canceled it. Fortunately, an inexpensive storefront was found nearby and I volunteered at the exhibit for several weeks. For six years now I’ve worked at dozens of public events. I’ve learned so much from speakers like Noam Chomsky, from films, and meeting people at the busy Annual Holiday Bazaar. I’m always eager to talk with people about Palestine and ME- CA’s work.

to talk with people about Palestine and ME - CA’s work. Lamia at the MECA sales

Lamia at the MECA sales table during a

recent event with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti

from Palestine

© MECA

• Give the residents of the unrecognized village al-Zarnug the tools and knowledge they need in order to build a strong online presence and support their cause;

• Teach photography and online activism to the residents of al-Zarnug while tailoring the trainings to the individual needs of different groups.

the trainings to the individual needs of different groups. “Many homes have been destroyed in our

“Many homes have been destroyed in our village. We are steadfast in our village.”

© 7amleh

MECA NEWS 5

The Freedom Theatre Made History with its Ten-Day Run of The Siege in New York

Made History with its Ten-Day Run of The Siege in New York “We never brought a

“We never brought a tank into the stage. We brought a play. This is why art is important; to open the way for people to agree or disagree, negotiate, talk.” –Playwright Nabil Al-Raee said on NPR.

© Ian Douglas

The Siege tells the story of the 2002 siege on Bethlehem’s Holy Church of the Nativity, at the height of the Second Inti- fada, from the point of view of six Palestinian fighters who took refuge inside the church and were trapped there for 39 days. Co- directors Nabil Al-Raee and Zoe Lafferty spent several years de- veloping the play, and Nabil crafted the script from interviews they conducted with fighters exiled to Europe and Gaza. In October 2017, it was performed to an audience of 3,500 people in New York, as well as to five packed houses in Jenin Refugee Camp. The Siege opened the door not only to future Freedom Theatre productions, but to Palestinian works of art be- ing produced more widely all over the U.S.

works of art be- ing produced more widely all over the U.S. New Backpacks Thanks to

New Backpacks Thanks to Zam Zam Water

Zam Zam Water is a California based non-profit organization providing water and other resources for people in Palestine, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and Uganda. They have been support- ing MECA’s Maia Project to install water purification units in Gaza schools. When our Gaza staff told us that many kids at the schools needed backpacks and other supplies, Zam Zam stepped up and raised funds along with MECA and PaliRoots. The backpacks were made in Gaza, filled with hygiene products and a reusable water bottle, and distributed to 1,500 children.

One child told MECA staff: “My brother Amir and I share one backpack. Amir goes to school in the morning shift and I go in

the afternoon shift. Every day I wait for Amir to come back from school then take his bag, put my books and pens and rush to school often late. I am very happy because for the first time I have my own bag and go to my school early and eager to

study.”

© MECA

TEACH PALESTINE:

Resources for Educators

For the past 20 years, teachers have asked MECA to come visit their classes to talk about Palestine and the Middle East, and for curricular materials and resources. In response, we de- veloped the Teach Palestine Project, coordinated by educator and Palestine activist Jody Sokolower. Teach Palestine Project staff and volunteers lead workshops at conferences for K-12 and post-secondary educators, do classrooms presentations, and work with individual teachers on curriculum about Palestine.

work with individual teachers on curriculum about Palestine. Jody is working with Palestinian-American educator Samia

Jody is working with Palestinian-American educator Samia Shoman and designer Lisa Roth on the Teach Palestine website (coming soon!). The website will include articles on teaching about Palestine, curriculum and lesson plans, resources, and op- portunities for teachers to collaborate and discuss challenges and successes. If you’d like to have MECA staff speak in your class- room or would like help finding and/or developing resources,

contact jody@mecaforpeace.org.

6 MECA NEWS

Gaza Lights: Electrical Power for Families The Gaza Strip has been deprived of adequate electrical

Gaza Lights: Electrical Power for Families

The Gaza Strip has been deprived of adequate electrical power for most of the last ten years. By June 2017, as the hot summer approached, most families were getting just a few hours of electricity per day. The shortage affected almost every aspect of daily life: storing perishable food and medicines, perform- ing basic household and care-taking tasks; studying and work- ing; phone and internet communication. The widespread use of candles caused many house fires. “Gaza Lights” provides households with electrical power by using a rechargeable system that generates electricity for about twelve hours and includes three lights, a fan, and a mobile phone charger. The target population are the most vulnerable families in the Gaza Strip, including those with infants, elderly or dis- abled family members, and those who do not have the financial means to purchase generators. The systems were designed by local Palestinian engineers and are made with materials that are available and affordable in Gaza.

So far, more than 300 families have Gaza Lights systems set up in their homes.

© MECA

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Your MECA
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set up in their homes. © MECA Your MECA DOLLAR$ at WORK “Many mothers told us

“Many mothers told us the same story. Their children are so scared of the dark they won’t even get up at night to use the bathroom. One mother brings home rubbing alcohol from the clinic where she works to make a small fire so her children can have light to do their schoolwork.” –Amal Abu Moailqe, MECA Maia Project Coordinator, Engineer

Abu Moailqe, MECA Maia Project Coordinator, Enginee r Yes, I want to help MECA protect the

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NEWS Winter 2018 JOIN US for these events, to celebrate Monday, June 4, 2018 5

NEWS

Winter 2018

NEWS Winter 2018 JOIN US for these events, to celebrate Monday, June 4, 2018 5 -

JOIN US for these events, to celebrate

Monday, June 4, 2018 5 - 9:30pm:

 

MECA’s 30th Anniversary!

MECA 30th Anniversary Celebration & Tribute to Barbara Lubin

Sunday, March 4, 2018 - 7pm:

Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley

NOAM CHOMSKY

speaking at Oakland Tech High School Auditorium

© S. Smith Patrick
© S. Smith Patrick

With: Ali Abunimah, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Melanie DeMore & Holly Near!

Auditorium © S. Smith Patrick With: Ali Abunimah, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Melanie DeMore & Holly
Auditorium © S. Smith Patrick With: Ali Abunimah, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Melanie DeMore & Holly
Auditorium © S. Smith Patrick With: Ali Abunimah, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Melanie DeMore & Holly
Auditorium © S. Smith Patrick With: Ali Abunimah, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Melanie DeMore & Holly
Auditorium © S. Smith Patrick With: Ali Abunimah, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Melanie DeMore & Holly
Auditorium © S. Smith Patrick With: Ali Abunimah, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Melanie DeMore & Holly