You are on page 1of 8

NEWS Winter 2019


MECA’s Teach Palestine Project: Jody Sokolower, Teach Palestine

Coordinator and Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch,
Making Connections with Native Americans Executive Director

“Now I can tell my family that we aren’t the only people who
went through this,” a Pueblo student wrote at the end of a Teach
Palestine Project workshop at the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS)
in New Mexico. Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch and Jody Sokolower,
representing MECA’s Teach Palestine Project, spent Oct. 8-10,
2018, at SFIS, learning about Pueblo and Navajo history, teach-
ing Palestinian history, and talking with students and staff about
the similarities of Israeli and US settler colonialism.
Monday, Oct. 8, was the school’s annual Feast Day, a celebra-
tion of the Pueblo Revolt: In 1680, Po’Pay, an Ohkay Owingeh
(San Juan Pueblo) leader, united Tewa, Tiwa, Hopi, Zuni, and
Apache peoples from the surrounding areas and forced the Span-
ish military and settlers out. They maintained their independence
for 12 years before better-armed Spanish forces returned to re-
conquer the Santa Fe area. A student at the Santa Fe Indian School tries to find Palestine
Continued on Page 4 on a world map. Zeiad explains why it isn’t there.
Credit: Jody Sokolower

Aid & Project Updates DOLLAR$

Psychological Support for

Children with Chronic Diseases
Daily life in Gaza is hard for any child and most have some
kind of emotional distress. Children with chronic diseases like
diabetes, heart diseases, kidney and respiratory disorders face
additional challenges. Their families are stressed by worry and
the demands of caring for a sick child. They are often bullied
or rejected by other children.
MECA is supporting a groundbreaking project run by the
Community Training Center and Crisis Management in Gaza
to address the psychological and social needs of children with
chronic diseases. Twelve weekly sessions at local hospitals in-
clude a variety of activities to address issues like expressing
feelings, physical strengths and weaknesses, how to deal with
conflict, desires and ambitions, making friends, cooperation,
Children with chronic diseases learn to cope through how to deal with bullying, and more.
games and other activities.

Continued on next page

Aid & Project Updates
Gaza Lights
Psychological Support for Children with Chronic Diseases, Rechargeable electrical systems and solar panels for more
Continued from page 1 than 700 families so far
Parents report that children who used to dread going to the MECA’s Gaza staff initiated this project over a year ago to
hospital, now look forward to the sessions. One mother reported address the severe shortage of electricity. Gaza Lights provides re-
that her child quarreled with a taxi driver because he was late for chargeable electrical systems—designed and produced in Gaza—
the hospital and feared he would be delayed for project activi- to provide the most vulnerable families with three lights and a cell
phone charger. Solar panels are installed for homes that are not
ties. Another said, “My son who has diabetes was not ashamed
connected to the electricity grid at all.
anymore to take the insulin in front of his brothers or friends.”
Samir, a twelve-year-old boy, said “The best thing I have
What’s it like to live with just six hours of electricity a day?
done is to participate in the activities because they changed me
By Ghada Mansi, Maia Project Coordinator, Gaza
very much. I have the ability to express myself strongly. Even I
sleep at night in a good way because I do what I have learned in I can tell you what it’s like to live without electricity because
the sessions.” His mother added, “My son returned to his normal I live in Gaza. Six hours is the most we get because of the Israeli
status. He has friends and sleeps very well at night. Thanks to siege that cuts off fuel to keep the electricity plant running.
Allah and thanks for your help.” Now, I’m working for MECA, managing the “Gaza Lights”
project to bring electricity to power lights, a phone charger and a
fan for up to 12 hours to families who need it most.
The lack of electricity makes our lives very difficult. But it’s
Support for Children Arrested and worse than that. It’s dangerous too. Old people getting up at night
Detained in East Jerusalem often fall down, breaking their arms, wrists, or hips. It is danger-
ous and painful and takes a long time to recover. Half the people
The ongoing effort by the Israeli government to push Pales- in Gaza are children and many are afraid of the dark. They are too
tinians out of East Jerusalem—with the help of Israeli settlers scared to get up at night to go to the bathroom. They pee in their
and their private security forces—is causing an epidemic of beds instead. The electricity shortage affects us in the day too. In
child arrests. In response, MECA’s partner the Madaa Creative Gaza many houses are close to tall buildings that block the light.
Center has organized a team of lawyers and social workers to Now, as winter comes, it’s getting dark in the afternoon. How can
help the children and their families through the traumatizing or- children do their homework assignments? How can high school
deal. Madaa also educates children in the community about their and university students study for exams?
rights and how to protect themselves. A twenty-one-year-old mother only has a few small lights in
her home. Her son Mohammad is just one-and-a-half and he wants
to be with his mother every minute. He wants her to carry him
“Mohammad” is a thirteen-year-old boy, who had been sen-
everywhere. One day she was making tea with her small son in her
tenced to house arrest. When the social worker visited him, he arms. She stumbled because of the dark and the hot water spilled
told her, “When the soldiers interrogated me, I remembered that on both of them. Little Mohammad will have scars on his arms and
the lawyer held workshops in the [Madaa] center. He said that if chest always.
the soldiers arrested any kid, we have the right of silence, so I Continued on next page
refused to talk or to sign any paper without the lawyer and that
helped me a lot with the case.” Despite Mohammad’s bravery
and the legal support he received, he was still detained and sen-
tenced but his punishment could have been much worse without
the help of the Madaa team.

(At right) This is not the child described in the story,

MECA does not share the names of children who’ve been
arrested and we only share photos that are already public.

Gaza Lights - Continued from page 2
Rasmi is a young father in Gaza who is working very hard
to feed his family. He does construction and other kinds of
work he can find. He buys food for dinner each night on his
way home from work because they cannot keep anything in
the refrigerator without electricity. He arrived one evening to
his dark home with his wife and three small children. His wife
prepared a good dinner of fried eggs and ful [a bean dish] from
the groceries Rasmi brought home. But as she is bringing it to
the table she tripped in the dark and the family’s entire dinner
fell to the floor and was ruined. They barely had anything to eat
until the next night. Rasmi came to me and said, half kidding
and half angry, “You are putting electricity systems in all these
houses. Why not my house? If we had light we would have had
dinner.” I told him that his family would be in the next group
to get Gaza Lights.
One day people in Gaza will live like other people: no one
will keep us from having enough food, medicine, clean water,
and electricity. I don’t know when but that day will come. Installing solar panels for a family that is not connected to
the electrical grid and had no electricity at all.

Help for Palestinian and Syrian

Refugees in Lebanon
The Al-Jalil Center (CJC) works with Palestinian and
Syrian refugees in Lebanon, providing academic classes,
sports, psychological support, and humanitarian relief. Hawas fled with his
family from Syria to
Lebanon in 2007 when
Ahmed was born in Syria he was four years old.
in 2011, when the war began. Although he was very
His family fled to Lebanon in young when he left, he
2014. Ahmed has five broth- remembers his life in
ers and two sisters. His father Syria and talks about
and a sister both have cerebral bombs, snipers on the
arteriosclerosis, a serious and streets, killing, and kid-
chronic brain disease. Ahmed napping. Hawas par-
says, “I always feel sad for my ticipates in many ac-
sister but I can’t help her.” tivities at al-Jalil center
When Ahmed came to Al- but most of all he loves
Jalil Center he was aggressive art and is very talented.
with other children so he was He says, “I draw every-
referred to an organization thing inside me, also
that provides mental health nature, the sea and sun-
care. A psychologist worked sets.”
with Ahmed for seven months
and he was able to play with other children, and express his
needs clearly and calmly.

MECA’s Teach Palestine Project: Making Connections with at WORK
Native Americans, Continued from page 1

The SFIS Feast Day began with a student run commemorat-

ing the messengers who carried plans for the revolt from pueblo “What happened to our ancestors is still inside us. It doesn’t
to pueblo. The rest of the day included a schoolwide convocation matter if we seem ok on the outside, we are still all waiting for
on resistance and reconciliation, traditional dances by student justice. This ties us together. There is a need inside us, like the
groups, and lots of music, food, and crafts. need for water, for food. This is a need for justice. We don’t
The following day, Zeiad and Jody led workshops for stu- know how it will feel when we experience it, but we can’t give
dents about Palestine and the connections to the students’ own up the fight.”
histories and current realities. The workshops began with a gal- Jennifer Guerin, the SFIS librarian who played a key role in
lery walk: Students examined four sets of pictures on the walls. organizing the visit, says that the school community was inspired
Each set illuminated an issue that resonates for both Palestinians by the workshops. “We’ve had wonderful, thought-provoking
and Indigenous peoples from the Santa Fe area—forced migra- conversations with the students and among the staff. At the end
tion, the impact on children and youth of continuing colonial of each workshop, students created ‘quilt squares’ on origami
conquest, efforts by colonizers to cover over real history, and re- paper with some reflection on what they learned. A group of stu-
sistance. Many of the students were struck by the drawings cre- dents turned the squares into a quilt, and now they’re interested
ated by children in Gaza. “Is this their reality?” they asked, star- in learning more about Palestine and what they can do to help.”
ing at the representations of burning schools, dropping bombs, “Once we started talking, we could see how deep the similari-
and destroyed olive trees. ties go, both in terms of history and current issues,” Jody reflects.
Then Zeiad used historical photos and his own family’s his- “For example, SFIS has a strong focus on environmental activ-
tory to explain Palestinian history since the beginning of Zion- ism. Like the people of Palestine, Indigenous people here are
ism in the 19th century, the issues facing Palestinians today, and very concerned about water. In the Santa Fe area, there is serious
the nature of ongoing Palestinian survival and struggle. degradation of the environment caused by continuing theft of in-
“I went to teach, but I learned more than I taught,” Zeiad says digenous land and resources, and by climate change. This is just
about the visit to SFIS. “As much as you think you know about one of the areas where we can see working together.
Native American history, when you learn about a specific area, “Everyone at the school was so welcoming and we learned
you learn something new. And every time I learn a new aspect so much from the discussions and being part of the community.
of Native American history, I learn something about myself and We can’t wait to return and continue our work together. We hope
my own history. this is the beginning of a long-term collaboration on curriculum
“One of the most important things I learned was the long and solidarity.”
history of Pueblo and Navajo people in rejecting assimilation.
They refuse to accept US colonization. Everything around them
is pushing them to accept this new reality. But, like Palestin-
ians, many refuse to assimilate. When we realize what happened
to our parents, our grandparents—and for the Native Americans
here, many generations back—it leads us to challenge the real-
ity of conquest. We do everything we can to stop the forces that
want to erase our history and identity, to uproot us and our his-
tory. Seeing how the Indigenous people here have fought for so
many generations without giving up, for us as Palestinians, this
is an inspiration.
“Another thing that struck me was the connection between
us as indigenous peoples. When I was presenting my story to
the students, I could feel them thinking: ‘We know what you are
talking about. This is how it is for us; this is our life, too. When
we see the bombs and teargas raining down on Gaza, this is hap- Students analyze photos that highlight similarities between
pening to you now, but something so similar happened to us and the experience of the Palestinian and Pueblo peoples.
is still happening. Credit: Jody Sokolower

Volunteer Corner:
16th Annual Palestinian Joseph Mutti
Crafts Bazaar I’ve been involved with Palestinian
solidarity work since I was in my early
Joining Hands, a group of women in the Bay Area, have sup- twenties when my job once involved
ported MECA projects for nearly twenty years in a variety of ways. accompanying a group of French dairy
In 2002, they initiated an Annual Palestinian Crafts Bazaar to sup- farmers to meet their Israeli counter-
port Palestinian artisans, farmers, and family businesses. parts.
The Bazaar has grown tremendously in the last sixteen years Waiting for the group to gather at
and now MECA staff and volunteers work side-by-side with Join- Ben Gurion Airport, I had a gun thrust
ing Hands ordering items, setting up, and running the two-day into my back and was taken to a room
for interrogation as to who I was. It was
event. Together we transform the MECA office and the space of
the first of a series of unpleasant experi-
Alliance Graphics, our union screen-printing shop, into a festive
ences which politicized me forever with
community event.
regard to Israeli repression of the people
of Palestine.
Later that week, as we drove through the country, we passed the
remains of a Palestinian village that had been destroyed: its homes
blown up and bulldozed. The Israeli guide who was accompanying
us attempted to justify this crime by reciting a biblical passage (I
don’t recall which one), very much to everyone’s disgust.
The following day, when our bus made a stop, and at the invi-
tation of a member of the group, a young Palestinian of about 11
boarded the bus to sell us postcards. The Israeli driver struck the
boy across the head and threw him off the bus with such force that
the entire bus reacted with astonishment and anger. I still remember
the sound of that slap. The boy was at our next stop as we disem-
barked and every single person in our group purchased postcards
from him. Afterwards, the boy insisted on giving me 10 cards as
a thank-you gift—a remarkable gesture for one so young who had
The bazaar supports women’s collectives, the Union of Agri-
won us all over with his dignity and strength in the face of such a
cultural Workers Committees, Palestine’s last keffiyeh factory, and
other small shops and community organizations who are preserv-
All of the subsequent good exchanges I had with Israelis and
ing their traditions and supporting their families and communities, their culture were overshadowed by these incidents. When I got
even while the Israeli Occupation strangles the economy. MECA’s back home I began reading more on the history of Palestine and
online store and the annual Palestinian Bazaar Zionism.
give people the opportunity to find beautiful handmade ceramics, When MECA began in 1988, I attended the initial reception at
toys, textiles, olive oil, and more, while helping to sustain Pales- co-founder Barbara Lubin’s house. After that I left the Bay Area for
tine’s culture. several years, but when I returned I decided to volunteer for MECA.
If you don’t live in Northern California or you just haven’t MECA does important work supporting people on the ground
been able to make it to the Bazaar, you can get the items online at like Dr. Mona El-Farra in Gaza. It has never stepped down from (see back page). its complete commitment to Palestinian self-determination and has
long held its head above the despair engendered by the continuing
Israeli repression.
I wish I had more time to volunteer.

Federal Employees!
Support MECA through the Combined Federal Campaign

The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) makes it easy for federal

government workers to support the work of the Middle East Children’s
Alliance through payroll deductions. Your pledge made during the annual
campaign season will help fund projects and provide aid to meet the
needs of Palestinian children and refugees from Syria. Please designate
the Middle East Children’s Alliance, CFC #14154. Thank you!
MECA Welcomes New Staff in
Berkeley and Gaza
Ghada Mansi, Maia Patrick O’Neill, Bookkeeper and Administrative Coordinator
Project Coordinator, is spent most of his life in the Arabian Gulf where he completed his
an engineer living in Deir education in International Studies and later worked as an edu-
El Balah town in Gaza, cator and program coordinator at a not-for-profit K-12 school.
Palestine. She joined the An activist and artist, he has always been committed to raising
MECA staff in July 2018 awareness about issues surrounding the Middle East, social jus-
as the Maia Project Co- tice, and the environment. In addition to his work at MECA, Pat-
ordinator, overseeing the rick works to promote Arab Culture through the arts in the San
installation of new wa- Francisco Bay Area.
ter purification units for Patrick says, “I’ve been familiar with MECA’s work for sev-
schools through Gaza, eral years. When they invited me to join the team, I was very
regularly checking the eager to contribute to MECA’s mission, which is one very close
water quality at each to my heart.
school, and following up “I’m most amazed at the ingenuity and drive of those on the
any necessary mainte- ground who are coming up with real life solutions and making
nance and repairs. the most of incredibly difficult circumstances. It’s very heart-
Ghada is joined by a group of Ghada is the cofound- warming to witness the generosity of the community and grass-
students at Bureij Boys School er of the Sketch Engi- roots organizing that is happening throughout the world to sup-
as she oversees maintenance of neering Company which port those who need it most.
their Maia water unit It’s been great getting to know the MECA team. Everyone
aims to use engineering
to improve conditions for the local community by solving some here has a whacky sense of humor and that makes for an interest-
of the problems of everyday life under occupation and siege in ing and hilarious work environment.”
Gaza. Sketch engineers designed the “Gaza Lights” systems
that MECA has installed in hundreds of homes throughout
In her spare time, Ghada is researching how to use wind
energy to help alleviate the energy crisis in Gaza and taking
care of her nine cats.
“Polluted water causes children to die in Gaza, we need se-
rious action to save our children. I’m proud to contribute to
the solution of one of the biggest disasters in the Gaza Strip
through the Maia Project. When I see children drink clean wa-
ter from the Maia Project units, I feel a positive feeling inside
me different from any other feeling.”

Maia Update
Thousands of children getting clean, safe water

Since 2009, MECA has installed, maintained, upgraded

or rebuilt a total of 68 Maia Project water purification
and desalination units in Gaza schools, providing 66,000
children with clean, safe water.

You Can Do Your own Thank You, San Antonio, Texas
MECA fundraiser In October, MECA supporter Judy Norman, philosophy
To provide even more help for Palestinian children and professor at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas,
refugees from Syria. Jewish Voice for Peace-San Antonio, and other members of
It’s pretty easy. the university and community organized “A Night of Hope:
It doesn’t take a lot of time. 5th Annual Fundraiser for the Children of Gaza,” to raise
It’s fun and gratifying. funds for MECA.
You can set up a page on our website and do it all by Performance poet and activist Remi Kanazi was a big
email. hit at the event. Trinity student Claire Nakayama said, “The
You could do a fundraising campaign on Facebook. energy in the room went up, people were snapping, all the
You could have a live event like a dance party or Middle points he was making were really true and were things that
Eastern meal. no one ever has the guts to say.”
Send an email message to MECA Event Coordinator Judith said the organizers had two purposes: “One is to
Penny Rosenwasser. to get provide material and humanitarian aid for people in Gaza.
started with online or live event fundraising. We also want to raise awareness about the situation in Gaza.
It is a situation that the U.S. has had an enormous hand in
engineering and permitting to go forward.”
The event raised $5,800.00!

“A Night of Hope: 5th Annual Fundraiser for the

Children of Gaza.”

Yes, I want to help MECA protect the health, lives, and rights of
Palestinian children and refugees from Syria.
Here is my tax-deductible contribution of:

[ ] $250 [ ] $100 [ ] $50 [ ] $25 [ ] $ ____________

[ ] I would like to make this a monthly contribution.

Please enclose a check or fill out the credit card form below.

Card Number: __________________________________ Expiration: ______/_____

Signature: ______________________________________ Security code__________

Email: _________________________________________

Name: _________________________________________

Address: _______________________________________

City_____________________ ST,___________ Zip:______________


To make a donation online, go to:

MECA is a 501(c)3 exempt organization. Your gift is tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.
Winter 2019

Another Great Film from MECA Beautiful Palestinian Crafts

Film screening of “Naila and the Uprising”

Thursday, March 14, 2019, in honor of International
Women’s Day
“A story of love, family, and freedom” and the role
women played in the First Intifada”

Event is at Berkeley City College Auditorium

Naila and the Uprising

w ca fo rpea ce.o r g • w w w. s h o p p a l e sti n e . or g

Related Interests