Sister & Brother Respond to Injustice

“If my younger sister

don’t have clean water], so we also wanted to help out with that. We decided to continue collecting money to build a water system in a school in Gaza. And last summer we had a little stand outside our mom’s work and we sold hotdogs, cookies and lemonade.

and I were able to Personal connections succeed in building Despite growing up in Northern California, the children feel a one water purifica- strong connection with their Palestinian roots. Their mother’s tion system, think of family is from Palestine, and the children have enjoyed visiting their relatives there. The violence of the occupation has affectwhat everyone else ed their family directly. Their cousin Khalid, at age 2, became could do. If we could very sick and needed urgent medical care. When Khalid and his parents tried to pass through an Israeli checkpoint to get to the just band together Israeli occupation and build systems all hospital, father from crossingforces delayed them, and prevented Khalid’s the checkpoint, despite the seriousover Gaza, everyone ness of his son’s illness. The father was not allowed to pass, and the mother was eventually allowed to take Khalid alone. It was would have clean too late. By the time she reached the hospital, little Khalid had water over there. died. And I think that’s what they deserve.” Nayema: I feel like it’s home when I think of Palestine. I feel like it fits. I don’t really care what other people say, like “Oh, – Omar
In 2009 and 2010, a sister and brother in rural Northern California, Nayema, 12, and Omar, 13, decided to respond to the urgent needs of young people in Gaza by raising funds in their community for MECA’s Maia Project. On weekends and after school over several months the children raised enough for a water purification and desalination unit for a community kindergarten in Gaza. MECA is inspired by these children who worked so hard and took the initiative to help children in Palestine. Associate Director Ziad Abbas interviewed Omar and Nayema to find out what motivated them and how they were so successful. Here, in their own words, is their story: that’s a bad place.” Because it’s not really their fault that any of this happened to them and they’re just being blamed for something they didn’t do. The people there are really welcoming, and always really nice. It’s just really fun too.

Omar: Because our heritage is there, and I’ve seen some of the problems that go on over there and it has affected me in ways,

Raising Money
Nayema: In 2009, my family and I went to a peace march, around the time when all the bombs were going off in Gaza and we saw all these pictures of children and grown adults dying, for no reason at all, really, and it was really heartbreaking. So we decided to place a jar in our mom’s shop, where customers could donate to Gaza. Omar: Later, our older sister told us about MECA and the Maia Project. We thought that it was really sad [that children in Gaza

Brother & Sister respond to Injustice ... Continued on page 2

Brother & Sister Respond to injustice... Continued from page 1
like I’ve told you about my two-year-old cousin Khalid, and it’s sickening. I think everyone should try and make a stand, try and help in anyway they can, and help the Palestinian movement. Nayema: We went in 2005. It was really fun; we saw family there. I also saw my sister there, and at that time she was away for college. We also went to the Dome of the Rock, which was really fun. There are a lot of good memories other than the checkpoints, which I didn’t really like. I remember being kind of scared when I was little because the [Israeli] soldiers were walking around and had these really big guns that were intimidating for me because I was only six. Omar: When I see what’s going on in Palestine, where I’m from, it has a whole different effect on me. When you see your home, it’s different from seeing any other struggling place; it’s just heartbreaking. And when you have family there, and you’re worried about them, it’s just hard.

have as much of some stuff and so when I come back here it’s just really…it’s just different. I support [the Maia Project] because everybody needs water, no matter what. To not have clean water is just another factor that can lead to diseases, and a whole bunch of bad stuff. We want to prevent that and keep people healthy; we just want to help out with the whole water crisis right now. Omar: We went and spoke at two community gatherings and at one of them we made $970, and that really helped us out. Nayema: We basically tell people that we are raising money for the Maia Project and that it’s to give children clean water in their schools and just basically emphasize that topic. I feel like it’s kind of a wake up call. These two young children are doing this, and I’m pretty sure they’re thinking, “that’s crazy,” and “that’s great.” I feel really good about it. I’m really happy that after all this time of fundraising it actually happened.

Omar: Water is a necessity of life, ; it’s the main thing everyone should have. And for one human being to deprive another human being of water is inhumane. No one should have the power to do that. We have clean water every day so why not them? Nayema: It’s unfair if someone can’t have clean water. Because that’s another human being and if they can’t have clean water, that’s not fair at all. Especially children, because then you’re depriving basically everybody. So my brother and I wanted to help out with that basically, because it’s not their fault and, with all the stuff that’s going on there, they should at least have clean water. Omar: We just ran out of cold water [at home] and basically for us it was like the end of the world. Even though the hot water is clean, we take it for granted. To freak out that badly over something that minor is actually a little embarrassing. There are people who don’t have water and we continue to have water, clean water, and at the same time we ask for more and more everyday. Nayema: Well I mean, one thing I learned from traveling to different countries is that we take things for granted, like all the food we throw away sometimes, and water—we sometimes waste it, and it’s really hard in other countries because you see how they try and save as much as they can because they don’t

Sharing their vision, mobilizing for change
In May 2011, the local newspaper, The Willits News, published an article about Nayema and Omar, “A Plea for Water—Willits siblings raise $4,000 for a water filtration system for Palestinian kids.” Nayema: When my friends saw the article about my brother and me they were really happy for us. They were like, “right on!” My teacher posted it up on the wall, and one of my other teachers asked me to explain it to the class. One of my teachers actually donated $30, and I was really happy about that. Omar: If my younger sister and I were able to succeed in building one water purification system, think of what everyone else could do. If we could just band together and build systems all over Gaza, everyone would have clean water over there. And I think that’s what they deserve. Nayema: I would like more people to help out, to get it out there so people know. I mean, not that many people probably know about this, or they know and are not doing anything about it. So if they know, I’d like them do something about it because if they don’t, then they’re just kind of standing by and that’s not OK either.


MECA welcomes new staff!
All of us at the Middle East Children’s Alliance are thrilled to welcome Leena Al-Arian as MECA’s new Program and Communications Director and Dalia Marina as MECA’s new Office Manager. Many, many thanks and best wishes to Sophia Ritchie who is leaving the position of Office Manager after two years of amazing hard work and commitment. Leena Al-Arian is a native Floridian, transplanted to the nation’s other Bay Area. She has worked for the American Educational Trust, and interned for Human Rights Watch in Cairo, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Among the grassroots organizations she has volunteered with are the Tampabased Friends of Human Rights and the Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality (HOPE). She received her undergraduate degree in International Studies and Religious Studies at the University of South Florida. She holds a master’s in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. Leena is married and expecting her first child. She also has a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. Dalia Marina, MECA’s new Office Manager is a recent UC Berkeley graduate in Music and Political Economy. She is a former member of UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine, participating as a core organizer for five years. She was born and raised in the Bay and never wants to leave. Dalia is excited to be one of two new additions to MECA’s team this year.
MECA is a 501(c) 3 exempt organization. Your gift is tax-deductable as a charitable contribution

Omar: What I’m asking is for youth to stand up and realize that this is a very real problem. They need to help people across the world, those that that honestly need help. And if the youth can do that, then adults will probably follow as well. They’ll see that kids have the power to make a difference, and if kids have the power to do that then adults do as well. Hopefully going into the future, Palestine will eventually be free. Help in anyway you can, put out a jar at the supermarket, at your mom or dad’s store, or anywhere. Maybe help get the word out, talk to your local newspaper, put an article in your school paper. Help out in anyway you can in order to help kids in another country that are in need. Nayema and Omar call on others to follow their example and join them in making sure that the children of Gaza have clean water to drink. To learn more about water in Palestine or to raise funds in your school or community to support the Maia Project, please contact Leena Al-Arian:, 510548-0542, ext. 312.


through schools and organizations on signs of psychological distress and how parents and teachers can help children. The project psychologist is also designing a questionnaire to collect data about the impact of “Let the Children Play and Heal” on the children who participated. Special thanks to Gaza Mental Health Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts for its major financial support for this project.
photos: Afaq Jadeeda

MECA Project Update

Afaq Jadeeda’s Let the Children Play and Heal
Let the Children Play and Heal, a psychosocial support program, was initiated by our partner Afaq Jadeeda (New Horizons) to address children’s psychological needs after the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza. “Let the Children Play and Heal” gives tens of thousands of children and youth opportunities to express themselves though art, dance, music, storytelling, theatre and puppetry; to get support from the larger community; and to have fun and just be children. Your contributions have made it possible for MECA to support this vital project again this year. Here’s an update of what they’ve accomplished so far in 2011: • Afaq Jadeeda’s team of twenty volunteers led singing, dancing, drama and other expressive activities for the children at schools, kindergartens and community organizations, including those serving children with disabilities, for a total of fifty-two days. Ibrahim Juneid, program manager at Right to Live Association, a school for children with Down’s Syndrome, says, “We are so grateful to Afaq Jadeeda’s team for putting a smile on the faces of children with special needs. We are seeing how these projects can help integrate introverted children with their peers.” • Afaq Jadeeda organized and led nine training courses for 4070 women at community organizations across the Gaza Strip. Each course was 30 hours and covers signs of trauma and how to help children cope. Mothers, kindergarten teachers, and recent university graduates in the field of social work participated in the trainings. • A workshop for women on relaxation techniques was held at Afaq Jadeeda Association in Nuseirat Refugee Camp, central Gaza. • Volunteers and staff held five monthlong classes for children in drawing, creative writing, and drama at different schools. • the program will soon complete a brochure to be distributed

Several of the children’s paintings created in Afaq Jadeeda’s “Let the Children Play & Heal” project are featured in the show “A Child’s View From Gaza, opening in Oakland on September 24. See back page.


MECA guides New Mexico students in unique

“Israel/Palestine Field School”
In May, University of New Mexico Anthropologist, Les Field, and myself, the Chair of American Studies at UNM, offered a class called, “Settler Colonialism and Post-Colonial Critique: the Israel/Palestine Field School.” The class combined an accelerated in-class portion with a twelve-day field school in the Occupied West Bank. During the in-class portion of the class, students read a wide range of history and criticism about the Israel/ Palestine conflict by authors such as Ilan Pappe, Rashid Khalidi, Meron Beveniste, Raja Shehadeh, and Nadia Abu el Haj. The course readings and discussions established various modes of settler colonialism, especially those rooted in map-making and State-sponsored archaeology. We also discussed how certain Palestinian memoirs and memories established a means of decolonial criticism and politics. But we knew that in-class readings could only reveal so much about the politics of occupation. Students would gain a theoretical understanding of occupation, but they wouldn’t be exposed to the range of sites, smells, and feeling of occupation. Moreover, we wanted to design a classroom in which the experts weren’t only those with PhD’s after their names, but also those who are activists, artists, and everyday people in Palestine. Given that MECA has always been committed to collaborative work in Palestine, work that prioritizes local and indigenous desires and knowledge, we knew that MECA could help us design a unique field school for our students. Working closely with MECA’s Josie Shields-Stromsness, we designed a ten-day field school experience in which the theoretical work presented in New Mexico could be visibly experienced and emotionally felt in Palestine. Moreover, we broke-down the barriers that often separate the modern research university, by allowing everyday Palestinians – rappers, artists, bus drivers, women, and young people – to be our “professors,” people whose knowledge we would respect and value as more immediate than, and equally important to, those with university affiliations. Seventeen graduate and undergraduate students, along with two professors traveled to places that most Americans never see. We took students all over the West Bank where we witnessed various forms of settler colonialism, including water confiscation, bypass roads, archaeological projects that dispossess Palestinian land and memories, checkpoints, walls and partitions. All of these, taken together, form a complex network of control and violence that seeks to make daily life for Palestinians miserable, unbearable, and unwanted. We witnessed, experienced, and felt settler colonialism at every turn, including in the State of Israel, where the Palestinian hip-hip group DAM gave us a tour of the

A young Palestinian girl runs in front of a divided house in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah where Israeli settlers have occupied the front of the house while the Palestinian family that owns the whole house still lives in the back part of the house. Photo: Jakob Schiller

highly segregated and militarized city of Lyd. We also visited numerous destroyed villages and Israeli national parks, all places in which Israeli leisure co-exists with the traces of destroyed Palestinian lives. A particularly memorable site in the field school was American Independence Park, an Israeli national park that is covered with pine trees planted by Jewish American contributions to the Jewish National Fund. While the park appears similar to many preserved wilderness areas in the United States, the field school students experienced the park in unintended ways. Within the forest, we saw cacti – the plants typically used to demarcate Palestinian farmlands. We saw demolished structures and Palestinian wells – all traces of the village of Dayr al-Hawa, a village 18.5 KM West of Jerusalem, ethnically cleansed in 1948. It was here that the theoretical work we had done in New Mexico was made visible, as students felt how Israeli preservation and U.S. resources are complicit with Palestinian dispossession. With the help of MECA, and its long record of collaborative work in Palestine, the UNM Israel Palestine field school offered an amazing educational experience. The class has been transformative for the students, as well as for the faculty. Alex Lubin, Chair, American Studies, University of New Mexico, and incoming Director, Center for American Studies and Research, American University of Beirut. (Also the son of MECA Director Barbara Lubin.) If you are interested in organizing a “Field School” or delegation to Palestine, please contact Josie Shields-Stromsness:, 510-548-0542, ext. 310


By Josue Rojas, Maia Mural Brigade
Gaza City, Palestine, July 2011. As the news of the Flotilla and “Flytilla” bring messages of solidarity to Gaza through the twittersphere I sit overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, almost lying in wait. I’m not the only one. I’m here as part of an artist collective called the “Maia Mural Brigade” in conjunction with the Estria Foundation’s Water Writes Project, and our aim is to collaborate with local artists to paint public murals about water conditions affecting the people of Palestine. We’re lined up to paint 8 murals in the next 7 days on water filtration systems at schools providing potable water for residents of the Gaza Strip. We meet with Dr. Mona El-Farra, Director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance Maia (Water) Project, which fundraises for and Children in Gaza working with Maia Mural artist to draw their ideas for the murals. implements the units; she is our community liai- Photo: Hilary Hacker son here. We sit on her porch and discuss the details—Drinking mango nectar, eating cucumbers and pita with hummus it’s easy to forget we’re steps away from treatment plant stood before the bombs began to fall. They show piles of rubble that were people’s homes before the siege. us sketches of rain and clouds, fishermen and boats, soldiers and warships, drinking water and growing plants. Dr. Mona’s approach is warm and open, “I won’t tell you what to paint…Artists need to have space to fly.” She sends us to schools “You can’t separate art from politics,” Dr. Mona tells us. to gather content for our murals from the children of Gaza. We bring crayons and questions, and leave with drawings and sto- So we will paint, knowing that our work will speak to people ries. They draw about raw sewage spilling into the sea where the whose basic needs are not being met. Hoping that our images translate their reality to the world and pull solidarity over the sea. The Flotilla and Flytilla have both been stopped by Israel in one way or another. My colleagues and I are witnessing what the 800 activists and committed cultural workers from across the world were denied the ability to see. As I sit here, in the lobby overlooking the sea. My mind goes to what I’ve seen, drawing inspiration for art. Tomorrow we paint, and begin the first in a series of 8 murals. These 8 murals will stand as our statement, we will testify via our craft. Bearing witness to Gaza. The Message: Give these people the water they deserve and need. Josue Rojas is a journalist for New American Media and an artist, seeker and maker. You can read his blog at ceibaamericas.

Mother and daughter pose together in front of a mural painted at Tuyor Al-Jena, Um Al-Nasser Kindergarten in Rafah. Photo: Josue Rojas

More about the Maia Murals at

The Middle East Children’s Alliance Maia Project has now installed thirty-seven water desalination units in Gaza schools and community kindergartens, providing clean, safe drinking water to approximately 35,000 children today and far into the future. Many, many thanks to those who contributed the entire cost of a unit; to the dozens of community groups who raised funds for one or more units; to the Maia Project Leadership Circle of individuals giving $1,000 or more a year to underwrite the entire project; and to hundreds of MECA supporters for their ongoing generosity. The Maia Project’s goal is to install units in all 228 schools in Gaza refugee camps and 250 community kindergartens.

Maia Means Water in Arabic. Mural at Bureij Girls’ Elementary School B, Bureij Refugee Camp. Photo: Hilary Hacker

Plant-a-Tree in Palestine
MECA is pleased to be part of a joint project with the Palestinian Grassroots AntiApartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall), the Palestinian Farmers Union, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network to support Palestinians’ on-going struggle to sustain and rebuild their land by providing resources for villages to plant trees that are indigenous to Palestine’s natural environment and agricultural life. The project is part of the Stop the JNF campaign. It is not possible to replace what is lost while people are displaced, land and a way of life is destroyed, 1,000 year old olive trees uprooted. In Palestine, scores of 2,000-year-old cities and historical sites are buried under Jewish National Fund (JNF) planted forests and parks. Rebuilding and replanting are acts of daily resistance in Palestine. Over time, the project will expand to collect funds for gardens in schools, playgrounds and community spaces that the JNF and the State of Israel have also attempted to destroy.

YES! I want to Plant a Tree in Palestine
[ ] $250 [ ] $100 [ ] $50 [ ] $25 [ ] $ ____________ [ ] My check payable to MECA is enclosed. [ ] Please charge my credit card in the amount above. Card #: _______________________________________ Exp: _____________________________ Name: _________________________________________________________________________ Address: _______________________________________________________________________ Email: _________________________________________________________________________

To Plant a Tree in Palestine, fill out the form below and include it with your gift in the envelope provides or go to www.mecaforpeace. org/tree. Thank you.

This gift is in [ ] honor [ ] memory of (name on certificate): ________________________________________________________ Please send certificate to (Name and mail or email address): ________________________________________________________
Please send the certificate to: MECA is a 501(c)3 exempt organization. Your gift is tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.

MOCHA 538 Ninth St. Suite 210 Oakland Free Opening Reception Saturday, Sept. 24, 1-3pm

An Evening with ALI ABUNIMAH with Special Guest ALICE WALKER
Wednesday October 5, 2012 – 7pm First Presbyterian Church of Oakland • 2619 Broadway
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada & author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Alice Walker is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer, including her book Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel. She participated in

An art exhibit by Palestinian children ages 8-14 that reflects their realities and their dreams for the future.
September 24 - November 15, 2011 Exhibit is free to the public

MECA is urging MOCHA to reverse its decision to cancel the exhibit.
Please visit www.mecaforpeace/ for action alerts. And coming up Sunday, November 20, 3-6pm: a fall concert with ASWAT Arabic Music Ensemble, at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California in Oakland!

the U.S. Boat to Gaza, part of the Freedom Flotilla.