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NEWS Fall 2019

Raising Resistance
Palestinians want peace.
—Um Hasan
By Reina Sofia Cabezas,
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)
Teacher, Oakland, California

On June 22, 2019, MECA’s Teacher Trip to Palestine had

the privilege of visiting Um Hasan in the village of Masara, near
Bethlehem. It was the second-to-last stop of a long, hot, intense
Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch

as she welcomed us, started the Woman’s Association of Masara

an organic farmer who studies the land like a scientist and passes
on her knowledge to the next generations.

grandchildren. One of her sons was killed by Israeli forces; an-

other spent twelve years in an Israeli prison. As the mother of
two sons myself, I cannot stand the thought of being free or alive
while my children suffer or die. But, as we learned on our trip,
this is the experience of almost every Palestinian family.
Um Hasan and several of her young grandchildren took us

cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, and squash; sheep; fruit and ol-

ives trees; and a large chicken coop. From this plenty, Um Hasan
sells produce to local buyers. With the help of women from the
village, she also provides free breakfast to all the kindergarteners Um Hasan speaks to the MECA Teachers’ delega-
at the local school and healthy, low-cost meals to 400 children tion in her greenhouse, which helps provide healthy
every day. For one-half shekel (about 14 cents) the children can food for 400 children at the school in Masara Village.
CREDIT: Alvin Rosales
The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNI-
FEM) offered Um Hasan a grant, but she refused because it came Um Hasan’s farm is in Area B—under nominal Palestinian
at too high a price: UNIFEM required her to charge children two Authority civil control, but Israeli security control. This means
shekels for lunch. “What will a kid with just one shekel do?” she she has been able to build on her property (unlike residents of
asked. She added that MECA now supports that work with no Jerusalem), but her land is under constant threat of seizure for
strings attached. demolition and the construction of more Israeli settlements.
One story Um Hasan told resonated for us as teachers who Therefore, protests are an integral part of life in Masara. For
consciously balance discipline and a commitment to non-oppres- many years, there were protests every Friday against the Israeli
sive culture in our classrooms. One of the children stole money apartheid wall. One night, Um Hasan was enjoying a wedding
from the money box. Rather than punishing him, she put him in when Israeli soldiers invaded her home. When she went home to
charge of collecting shekels and protecting the box. Instead of deal with them, the soldiers said they were warning the village
shaming him, she said, “You are such a leader, you should do it.” not to demonstrate the next day or they would all be arrested.

Raising Resistance, Continued on page 5

From the Director
Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch No child
No is
too young
You may have seen recent reports about Israeli authorities is-
suing arrest orders for very young children in East Jerusalem
to be targeted
to be targeted
by Israel
by Isra
and the West Bank. Mohamed was only four years old when he
was accused of throwing stones and ordered to appear at an Is-
raeli police station. Six-year-old Qais was arrested and accused
of throwing a juice carton at Israeli soldiers. In Hebron, Israeli
soldiers raided a Palestinian home and handed the parents an or-
der for their eight-year-old daughter Malak to report to military
headquarters. She was accused of harassing the local Israeli set-
tlers. Palestinian children, no matter how young, are considered
a threat to the State of Israel and they are considered criminals
from the moment they are born.
Children living under Israeli apartheid are denied the right to
health care, to education, and the right to just be children. The
threat and reality of arrest, detention, or imprisonment is one of CREDIT: Jay Finneburgh
CREDIT: Jay Finn
the main ways Israel tries to keep children and youth in a con-
stant state of fear. Parents can’t protect their children. In fact, til they die. And think about the impact on the other children in
they are forced to be complicit in their children’s oppression. the family, the whole neighborhood.
They are ordered to keep their children in line “or else,” which Children who are persecuted can internalize the oppressors’
dehumanization. They often feel ashamed and defeated. That’s
or worse. why one of MECA’s top priorities is to support efforts to make
Between 500-700 Palestinian children are charged in military sure they also internalize the pride in their culture and history;
courts every year, according to Defense of Children International. the resilience of their communities; and the strength to resist.
In the West Bank, there are no civil courts; everyone is charged For instance, Madaa Creative Center in the besieged East Je-
in military courts, where the conviction rate is more than 99 per- rusalem neighborhood of Silwan works with children who have
cent. These children are traumatized. They have nightmares. It been arrested, tortured, or are on home arrest. A team of lawyers,
will affect their future because the torture doesn’t end when the social workers, psychologists, and teachers help the children
child is released. It continues to live within them, sometimes un- overcome Israel’s dehumanization and continue with their lives.
Abed was just fourteen when Israeli soldiers arrested and beat
him. After he got out of jail, he started beating up his little broth-
er and he began neglecting his studies and skipping school. This
is how Abed was acting out the trauma. A social worker from
Madaa visited his home for one-on-one emotional support ses-
sions. He was able to talk about the physical and psychological
abuse he suffered when he was under arrest. He stopped hurting
his brother. He went to school every day and his grades improved
Now, Abed dreams of going to college and becoming a nurse.
Along with our supporters, we at MECA—and a number of
other organizations around the world—are committed to doing
everything we can. In addition to material solidarity, there is a
need for political solidarity. One concrete action we can take is
to urge our US Representatives to cosponsor HR2407. This bill,
proposed by Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum, amends the
Foreign Assistance Act to prohibit funding for the military de-
tention of children in any country. It would ban Israel from using
any of the billions of dollars in military assistance it receives
from the US every year to pay for the detention, interrogation, or
torture of Palestinian children living under military occupation
in the West Bank. For more information, explore the No Way to
Treat a Child website at

A warrant was issued after this four-year-old Palestinian child

in Jerusalem was accused of throwing a stone at Israeli soldiers
Gaza Medical Aid Arrives at WORK
“This medicine will have great impact on thousands of

of MECA, our partners, and the thousands of patients I

would like to thank everybody who donated toward this
shipment. By doing this you are part of the change and
justice you want to see in the world.”
—Dr. Mona El-Farra, Gaza Projects Director

When the Great Return March began in Gaza more than a

year ago, MECA sent funds to the Union of Health Work Com-
mittees (UHWC) to treat those injured by Israeli snipers and
to purchase medications for anesthesia, rehydration, childbirth Maya Odeh
complications, neuromuscular disorders, and infections. MECA
also supported a group of volunteer nurses who received special
Fulfilled her
training to support the medical teams at the March, accompany Grandfather’s
the wounded to their homes, and assist in their treatment and Dream and her own.
Everything changes in Gaza and usually becomes more dif- Maya Mousa Odeh, graduated from al-Makassed’s Nursing
School in Jerusalem in June with the help of a MECA schol-
into Gaza from the U.S. or Europe, as we had in the past, we arship from the Elly Jaensch Memorial Scholarship Fund. Her
purchased and received a large donation of medicine from desire to become a nurse came from a bittersweet experience.
SEDICO, a pharmaceutical company in Egypt. Delivering this When Maya was young, her grandfather was very sick and spent
medicine turned out to be challenging as well but MECA staff in lots of time in hospitals. His favorite nurse was named Maya
the U.S. and Palestine worked over many months, in the face of and he prayed that his beloved granddaughter Maya would also
become an amazing nurse. Maya liked the idea of a career caring
and pharmacists needed. for sick people and also making her family proud.
During Ramadan this year, MECA held a fundraiser hosted Maya’s family lives in Silwan, East Jerusalem. They have
by Build Palestine ( Hundreds of new a modest income, but they have done everything they could to
(and some current) supporters contributed funds for surgical in- help their daughter pursue her dreams. The MECA scholarship
struments for Al-Awda hospital and free medical care for people
with diabetes, asthma, cancer, and kidney disease. stress for her family.

Wafaa El-Derawi, MECA

Gaza Projects Assistant
checks the medical
shipment as it enters Gaza

at WORK Refugee Women Earn Income with
Traditional Foods
More than half a million refugee women from Syria are living
in Lebanon with few ways to support themselves and their fami-
lies. Lebanon allows refugees to work in only a few industries
and requires special permits and unaffordable fees .For women
there are the additional obstacles to earning a living like the need
for someone to care for their children and the stigma of women
working outside the home. But refugee women want and need
to work. Last year, MECA’s partner Al-Jalil Center developed
a project to provide a group of Palestinian and Syrian refugee
women with a way to earn money. The project is called Tam-
“It is hot and delicious, I love the chicken, rice and keen, which roughly translates to “Empowerment.”
salads. Each week I eat fruits like bananas and apples. I
love the fruits too.” business management and marketing to provide training, and
—Obeida, kindergarten student purchased the ingredients, supplies, and equipment the women
need to make preserved foods like olives and labneh (traditional
Middle Eastern cheese in olive oil). Once the women learned
Gaza Kindergarten Nutrition Project how to run a small business, how to use the industrial food prep-
aration equipment, and produce large quantities, Al-Jalil orga-
Al-Mosader village is a poor, marginalized area close to the
nized a bazaar in the community for the women to sell their
Israel military fence that surrounds Gaza. When MECA staff
products. Their next goal is to open a shop on the main road.
Mona El-Farra and Wafaa El Derawi went to visit the kinder-
garten there last spring they got some alarming news about the
children. “I need nothing but work. Work allows you to preserve
When the school did blood tests and checked the height and your dignity and self-respect.”
weight of the children, they found that more than half of the
—Hadeel, Syrian refugee in Lebanon
children —sixty-three percent—had anemia and ten children
suffered from stunting as a result of malnutrition and food in-
security. The Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip since 2006 has
impacted all aspects of life including the health and nutritional
status of children.
Shortly after this visit, MECA began a project in four kinder-
gartens in the poorest areas of Gaza to address this crisis. Wafaa,
who is a trained nutritionist and nutrition educator, manages the
project. MECA partnered with a women’s kitchen project we
helped start a few years ago. Wafaa helps them to buy and pre-
pare nutritious food; arranges blood tests and weight and height
checks for the children; and delivers meals to kindergartens.
Recent tests and measurements of the kids showed that the
project is slowly but surely improving the children’s health. In
addition, children came to school more regularly, more children
enrolled in kindergarten, and their attention and behavior im-
Ms. Rahma, Kindergarten Director says, “I am happy that Al-
Fawares Kindergarten became a second home for the children. I
see the children’s enthusiasm when they wait for the meals each
day. The teachers told me that their students are more alert and
more interested in learning. I hope the project will continue for
many years.“

Jelld Leather:
Craft, and

MECA is pleased to offer Jelld leather wallets, purses,

backpacks, and more at our online store: www. ShopPal- and at MECA’s Annual Palestinian Craft Bazaar
in December. (See back page). CREDIT: Jelld

“We’re not just selling a product, we’re telling a story,” says

Ashraf who, along with his friends Ala and Suhaib started a
leather business two years ago. Jelld is already a big success, Welcome Waed Abbas,
employing 20 people in its humble studio in the besieged city of Palestine Projects Assistant
Hebron, and selling its handmade products all over the world.
Ashraf’s family has been in the leather business since the MECA is excited to welcome Waed Abbas to the MECA
1930s, so he was already familiar with some of the leather mate- staff! Waed’s family is from the Old City of Jerusalem. She has
rials, tools, and techniques. Ala and Suhaib learned from Ashraf, years of experience in human rights, development, and transla-
along with internet courses and YouTube videos. tion and brings a passion for justice to the work. She is working
“We did not start from zero. It was far less than that,” says on her Master’s Degree in Humanitarian Action with a focus on
Statelessness and Forced Migration.
$12. They built a workshop in Ashraf’s garage, created their own “It’s only been a few months since I’ve joined MECA’s team,
designs, and even made some of their own tools. Once they got and I’ve already learned so much about my country and com-
off the ground, the three friends were determined to make Jelld munity. I’ve met different people, organizations, and initiatives
part of the whole community. First, they hired women to embel- all over—from Hebron to Jerusalem to Nablus and Ramallah.
lish their products with traditional Palestinian embroidery. Now,
Jelld’s staff includes both men and women, people with disabili- the contrary, I’m part of this entire network of people working
ties, and workers from both Muslim and Christian backgrounds. for the children of Palestine and beyond. I’ve always aimed to
MECA Projects Assistant Waed Abbas was very impressed. have a job where I can continue to learn while I offer what expe
She says, “When Ashraf said they’re not just selling a product
but also telling a story, I thought it might be an overstatement.

is a youth-led initiative that brings together an entire community.

When you buy a Jelld product, you’re also becoming part of the
story. A story of love, hard work, devotion, and community.“

RaisingResistance, Continued from page 1

Um Hasan grabbed her infant niece, put her on her lap, and told
the soldiers: “You want to arrest us? Why don’t you arrest us all
now?” The soldiers retreated.
As Um Hasan nurtures her land and her village, she also
nurtures a counter-narrative of resistance. Through her connec-
tion to the land, she nourishes her culture and her village, which
refuse to stand by as bulldozers seek to demolish all aspects of
Palestinian life. Um Hasan teaches the children a mutualistic
symbiotic relationship with their world that recycles, reinvents,
and resurrects their land, people, and culture.
Um Hasan inspires me to keep a mutualistic symbiotic rela-
tionship with my world, too. So, I wonder what is my direct and
indirect role in enabling all our people’s liberation?
Teach Palestine
Takes K-12 Educators
to Palestine

The Teacher Trip to Palestine delega-

tion meets with youth and staff at
Madaa Creative Center in Silwan, East
CREDIT: Alvin Rosales.

“This trip, this experience, was essential to my lens The group visited Shoruq, a community center in Dheisheh
of justice. Before I went, I intellectually understood the Refugee Camp, near Bethlehem, where they joined the young
concept of settler colonialism; now, I hold a holistic un- women’s hip-hop group in the recording studio. Later, they vis-
derstanding, in my heart and in my core. Our visit, both ited the sites of destroyed Palestinian villages that many families
in the refugee camp were forced to leave in 1948.
tragic and uplifting, inspires me to teach (and live) from
In Hebron, the group walked down the deserted, shuttered
a place more deeply connected to Indigenous culture and
streets of what used to be a thriving center for Middle East trade,
resistance.” now choked by the Israeli soldiers “protecting” the Israeli set-
—Alvin A. A. Rosales, June Jordan School for Equity, tlers. “It’s a dystopian reality,” one teacher wrote, “worse than
San Francisco anything I imagined.”
At the Institute for Biodiversity, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh de-
Alvin was among the thirteen elementary, middle, and high scribed the environmental disasters of the occupation and
school teachers who travelled to Palestine in June as part of showed the teachers the Institute’s projects to strengthen Pales-
MECA’s Teach Palestine Project. They spent nine days learning
and activists from organizations working to support Palestinian
to their students. -
Throughout their visit to various cities and refugee camps, side “1948” (as Palestinians refer to the State of Israel); pro-
they focused on displacement and exile, criminalization of youth, vide lively children’s literature; build the Boycott Divestment
borders and walls, the impact of colonial conquest on the envi- Sanctions (BDS) movement; and promote feminism, gender, and
ronment, efforts to bury Indigenous history, and—of course—re- sexual freedom in Palestinian communities.
silience and resistance. Everywhere, the teachers made connections to the struggles
At the Madaa Creative Center in East Jerusalem, young peo- faced by their own students and were amazed by the resilience of
ple told the teachers about street harassment by Israeli settlers, Palestinian culture and community. As a middle school teacher
Israeli schoolbooks that erase their history; the impact of child from Richmond, California noted: “Witnessing the manifesta-
arrests on them and their families—and about playing soccer, tions of Israeli occupation on Palestinian people and the land
creating art, and having fun. forced me to see Israel for what it is: a settler-colonial state. It
increased my sense of urgency in actively naming, resisting,
and dismantling settler-colonialism in Palestine and all over the
world. These are some of the perspectives I am striving to bring
into my curriculum.”


As the Volunteer Coordinator for the Middle East Children’s
Volunteer Corner:
Alliance, it always does my heart good to see people give their By Nawal Tamimi,
time to help the people of Palestine, especially since I was born Volunteer Coordinator
into this issue. MECA is more than a job for me. MECA and the
many volunteers I have worked with over the years are family Later, when I went to graduate school and I was required
to me.
My father was born in Palestine and he came to the US in work with MECA. I continued to volunteer until I was hired as
1947. I grew up hearing about the loss of his country, what it was the Volunteer Coordinator.
like for him growing up under the British Mandate, and about It’s not often that a person dreams about working for an or-
our relatives still living in Palestine. ganization and then their dream comes true. Being the Volunteer
In the late 1980s, when I was working with the Palestine Coordinator for MECA has truly been the honor of my life.
Solidarity Committee in San Francisco and I started to hear the
name Barbara Lubin [MECA’s Founder], I was only 27 years
old, politically a little naive, but very, very curious about Barbara
and how this new organization was going to help the children of
cles, and cousins who still lived in Halhul, a village near the city
of Hebron, where my father was born. I thought of myself as
well versed on the subject of Palestine and yet, when the Israeli
military imposed a curfew in the area, I began to understand how
my family lived under Occupation. I felt the need to do more to

If you’re interested in volunteering for MECA,

please email

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To make a donation online, go to:

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Fall 2019 OAKLAND, CA

MECA events!
Joining Hands and MECA
Annual Palestinian Holiday Craft Bazaar
December 7th & 8th
at the MECA office in Berkeley

Mark your calendar:

Food Justice with
Reem Assil,
Laila el-Haddad,
and Bryant Terry:
January 25, 2020
CREDIT: Jay Finneburgh

Coming later in
Noam Chomsky
Naomi Shihab Nye
And more

www.meca fo rpea ce.or g • w w w. s h oppa l e s tin e . org