Saturday, April 16, 2011


Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday, October 29, 2010

Despite the Pain:A Youthbank Initiative in Gaza

When we think of the Gaza Strip, where the buildings bombed over a year ago still lie in ruins and the ground – visibly or not – is still stained with blood, it’s easier to think of suffering than inspiration. It’s easier to think of wounds than life, easier to imagine dust than light. It’s painful to envision a place where children can draw images of carnage and loss more readily than flowers or cartoons. When Gaza has cried out, the world has so seldom answered. And Gaza has not only asked Where is our justice? but also Where are our paintings? Where is our cloth? Where are our handicrafts? What can we create?

A group of young people (click here to see a report about them) from Gaza has asked these questions, and they have also answered them. Youthbank, a youth-led group that helps young people decide how to use resources and strengthen their own communities, decided to work together and create a Bazaar where young people who make products by hand (jewelry, embroidery, graphics, woodwork, pottery, food) could market and display their creations at the University of Palestine. Their work is not only energetic and resourceful; it is also inspiring in the truest sense of the world, borne of a spirit and resilience that refuses to be limited by the blows dealt to their home.

We at Dalia Association were struck and moved by Youthbank, and we wanted to connect our work to theirs. Among our goals is to make grants that support inspirational and relevant civil society initiatives, especially grassroots efforts that are supplement local resources. Community-controlled grantmaking increases the transparency, accountability and professionalism of local initiatives. We were excited by Youthbank’s work in Gaza in large part because it shares these goals: it supports youth initiatives by calling young Palestinians to present proposals and then allotting small grants for projects that aim to create social change. Facilitating creativity and change in Gaza felt all the more urgent.


Inspired by their mission, we gave a grant of $1200 to Youthbank in order to fund their Bazaar. This isn’t a great deal of money, but it creates many opportunities: to secure resources, to organize, to support each other, to network and build contacts, to improve their projects, and to market them effectively. The Bazaar required extensive planning and coordination: administrative tasks, meetings and communication both with the participants and with the university that housed them, arrangements with community organizations, marketing, financing, and so on. And the young organizers rose to the occasion every step of the way, showing exactly the kind of commitment and creativity that Dalia Association so admires. (Since Dalia Association cannot physically enter the Gaza Strip, the American Friends Service Committee in Gaza offered its help to Youthbank in their planning and reporting.)

The Bazaar itself was held for two days in December 2009, and it was a spectacular success. Around 450 people attended, and at least 200 purchased something – that’s an impressive percentage! What this means, too, is that people felt moved and impressed by the young people’s initiative and skill, and that they were compelled to support them. It’s possible to buy mass-produced, cheaply-made handicrafts for much less money, but this Bazaar was about something very different: community, strategy, and solidarity.

While the success of the Bazaar is certainly reflected in the quantifiable outcome (the number of participants, the number of purchases, and so on), the less tangible results are even more inspiring to us. By this we mean the way in which the participants, the young people themselves, gained skills and confidence from their work. Maha Al-Qdwa, a young woman who contributed embroidered handicrafts to the Bazaar, told Youthbank that she wanted to start her own small business selling jewelry and crafts. Another participant, Ahmad Abu-Za’iter, sold all of his products in the Bazaar, and expressed reassurance and renewed energy about finding other venues and securing other initiatives to sell his artwork. Clearly, the community project had been inspiring – to their community, certainly, but also to the young people themselves.

We were excited to sponsor a project that supported youth initiatives – both creative and entrepreneurial – and showcased their abilities. And we were moved to see this project make our core philosophy come alive. The Bazaar helped its young organizers build their capacities, but also realize the capacities they already had. It gave them a practical opportunity to participate in a complicated social and professional process and to see that they were more than successful. The project not only fulfilled its stated goals, but also opened new horizons for its participants, new ways to think about what they could do – as individuals and as a community so often categorized as a place of crisis, not creativity.

We’re grateful for the chance to work with Youthbank in Gaza, and we’re eager to keep supporting such inspiring initiatives!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gaza's only fisherwaoman

I respect journalists who show the beautiful stereotype about Palestine. Even though Palestinians live under the Israeli Occupation, they have a beautiful life to share with others. They prove the love of life in spite of challenges.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

“No or Bad Signal”

This evening, I went with a friend of mine to watch the football game between Realmadrid and AcMilan. At first, we went to different coffee shops around in Gaza city but they all were already packed with football fans. Eventually, we found this coffee shop with enough room inside for both of us, we were happy at last although we didn’t get to be outside with the “crazy” fans. Jamil and I were excited just like all the people around us; and one could feel the spirit and the excitement around the place. A lot of young people in Gaza enjoy watching football and cheering for their favorite teams; I believe it is a way for them to let all the stress out and enjoy their time for a little. However, it started becoming more obvious that it is defiantly not our night. Thanks to the Israeli reconnaissance aircraft that buzzed overhead throughout the whole night, the T.V. signal was quite bad during almost the whole game. The signal starts fading out until the alert message “No or Bad Signal” came up on the screen. The Israeli army uses the reconnaissance aircrafts to monitor activities in the Gaza strip, they are also used for bombing and shelling targets in different places all over the Gaza strip. The aircraft affects negatively the satellite TV receivers by jamming the T.V. signals. The fact that does really matter at the end is that whether used for operations or for only monitoring, reconnaissance aircrafts are devastating Palestinians’ life.

Despite the terrible situations people have been living under the siege in Gaza since 2007 and despite the continuous Israeli invasions, airstrikes and land operations, some residents of Gaza are still trying to enjoy any moments of life they could live as a normal life; like going to the beach on the weekends or even just watching football games on the T.V. While Palestinians are trying to endure the painful life, political leaders feel rather disappointed at the failure of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations; however they are not disappointed with the sufferings of the innocent people. In fact, they are not even considering any movements towards improving the life of those people in any way. The question here is are these football fans, who are Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation, more concerned with the unproductive Palestinian-Israeli negotiations or with stopping the Israeli army attacks against them so that they can, at least, peacefully enjoy watching a football game?

What interested me the most is that in spite of the terrible signal, the fans of both teams stayed until the last minute of the game, they were one example of the Palestinian who never abandoned his land despite Israeli aggression and violations of international law and human rights? From Gaza, I would like to say congratulation for Realmadrid’s fan and hard luck Ac Milan’s!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Freedom Black Day

Today morning I got up on the horrific news about the Freedom Flotilla cargo ships. I haven’t expected that Israeli terrorists will deal with the Peaceful activists in this bloody way, they attacked them without caring about law nor humanity. I used to know that Israeli soldiers can easily kill Palestinians but to kill International activists who come to support people under siege and break it ... I cannot believe that but it's the truth . The Israeli navy killed more than 15 activists, detained others and the freedom ships. It's much obviously that Israelis are terrorists and act against humanity and human rights. They don't care about International law or they don't find anyone to stop them.... Who can Stop Israeli massacres against Palestinians and International Activist? Who can end the siege of Gaza? Who can end the Israeli Occupation of Palestine? If the leaders of this world don't want to stop the Israeli Terrorists, We are the people of this world must stop them. Everyone must take action against those terrorists to make this world safe and peaceful.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Shining Lights from out of the Darkness

Mohammed Al Majdalawi

This mother has three daughters and two sons. “When they ask me to teach them English and I cannot give it to them, they ask me why.” she exclaims. “I explain to them that it is because I spent my whole life under occupation but this does not explain things any further to them, they still ask me ‘Why?’ and I am shy that I have no answer for them.” For a myriad of reasons she had dropped out of her prep school aged 13. Her family hadn’t been able to support her studies, the transport restrictions with Israeli checkpoints, the curfews, the extra demands to help her family and community in these difficult times, not to mention the pressures around starting her own family. Now she is determined that her children can have the opportunities of which she was deprived.

“So I come here to learn English and I hope that this will be the last time that we live like this, forever”.

So our project is intent on teaching English to women and their children with Ajyal Association, called ‘Lets Learn English’ focusing on rural areas. This project is winner of Youth for Change project and implemented in Ajyal Association for Creativity and development in the east of Gaza city. The project is funded by Takingitglobal , Bibliotheca Alexandrina , Zaatar Organization , Ajyal Association for Creativity and Development , and Palestine Youth Committee

During my work as both an assistant coordinator for English language teaching and as a documentary film director, I saw the hopes in the faces of many women and their children who want to speak and learn English. In this project we aim to teach children and their mothers, exploring creative ways such as songs, videos and participation in group and partner activities. We work with volunteers like social workers and English students in universities, using simple materials like my laptop, even recording songs mixed in Arabic and English.

For example, the song ‘baba means father, and mama means mother’. This is part of the lyrics of a song about names of family members and the kind of tool used for children and their mothers to use and remember them. Our group of trainers work together to design these classes, such as the personal information in English segment. Again we didn’t have the entire material available, but that didn’t stop us from creating our own materials from simple equipment

It is a delight when we saw mothers challenging each other, one asking the other in arabic, “If you’re so good at speaking English, can you translate ‘I’m drinking tea’?”, to which the woman replied, yes, “I am drunking tea”

It was one of many funny incidents as the women show no fear in their attempts to speak English. Another woman said not only was she continuing the teaching of English at home to her children, she had even begun to teach her husband too.

Sarah, a coach in the ‘Let's Learn English’ projects spoke about how the teaching methods were sinking in:

“When we had a revision class on days and months, colors, body, and time, I wrote on the board the letters of the alphabet and told the women to write a word for every letter. Many women specifically remembered the words taught in the class.

The Children in the Project

Another coach Shahd, describes his experience with the children from the ‘Let's Learn English’ project:

“Amani Abdelal is a very cute girl. She was waiting for me in front of the Ajyal Association, the Creativity and Development building. When she saw me coming, she ran to me to give me this card with a very pure smile. I was surprised by her kindness and very impressed by the simple way she had designed my name. I thanked her and asked her why she had made this beautiful card for me. She answered me saying that she loves me and loves learning English in this project. They were very simple words full of innocence. However, she affected me very much and she let me feel the taste of success.”

As a Palestinian in Gaza under a siege, a military occupation and still reconstructing our lives after the bombings in early 2009, I believe we must do what we can on the ground to bring a smile to people, giving them the benefits of the English language in a creative way. I also appeal to the international community and people who love peace and freedom to break the silence, take moral and legal action towards the people of Gaza, demanding the provision of basic needs, the minimum of international protection and work to support the rights of Palestinian people which for so long have been deprived, especially for children. Our children are our future, so we must work together so that we can make this future better than the present. The Universal declaration of Human Rights states that all children should have the right to education, and Palestinian children are as deserving as any others.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It’s Not Just Teaching English

If you just read the project name, a normal class room with a teacher writing on the board will be the first thing comes to your mind. But no, for us it’s much more than that.

The targeted groups of Let’s Learn English project are the simple people who live in marginal area. The majority of them are poor. Families don’t own money to pay fees around 100$ to get English course in special institute. They don’t have computers in their houses. They also live sad situation as all Palestinians. Moreover, they live under the Israeli Siege on Gaza since 2006. They have lived under fire for 22 days in the last Israeli war on Gaza.

The main issue of Let’s Learn English project is Education. We work as a team to achieve other issues: Human Rights, they have the right of Education and Play. Besides, we try to facilitate Education by using technology and media in workshops. For example, we use the LCD, laptop, video, song and game in order to make Education process easy and interested.

In addition to peace and conflict issue, we deal with children, mothers and youth have been affected by Israeli Occupation in several and horrible ways. I have noticed through my experience in social work that people usually participate in psychosocial support projects and they asked them to talk about their suffering or they benefit from emergency and humanitarian aid programs. Honestly, they need that, but they also need projects that educate them about their needs and promote them to play a good role in the society.

In the Let’s Learn English project, we work with women to enable them finding the strength and power in themselves to help their children in studying. They need projects that tell them about the hope in the future not talking all the time about the sad memories. We are working to change the stereotype about the Palestinians that they are terrorists. We want to show the beautiful photos of our children when they are happy in learning about months by drawing on balloons not the usual bloody photos.

Palestinians must prove to the world that we are educated people and we deserve to live just like others. These women and children are real examples of Palestinian’s desire to create the better future, but the only thing standing in their way is ISRAEL.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Many thanks Tom

Adham Khalil is one of the great young advocates of nonviolent social change in Gaza today. Here is a brief clip from the forthcoming Joe Public Films documentary on Gaza.

Adham Khalil, AFSC-Gaza from Joe Public Films on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Let's Learn English Project

During our follow up to English teaching in Palestinian schools in the Gaza Strip, we have noticed that teachers use the old and normal teaching methods. As a result of that, students become uninterested in English language and they get low marks in English subject. In addition to the absence of families awareness of English language and teaching methods which affect negatively on their roles in helping their children to learn positively and do their home works.
Children are more interactive with games, music, and activities. So that, they will like to learn English if we use these methods through the process of education.

Objects of the project :
• Enhance the capacity of 7 English students in teaching English.
• Improve English language for 60 children .
• Improve English language for 60 women.
• Improve English language for 60 families.
• Improve English language for 30 youth.

This project is winner of Youth for Change project and implemented in Ajyal Association for Creativity and development in the east of Gaza city. The project is funded by Takingitglobal , Bibliotheca Alexandrina , Zaatar Association , Ajyal Association for Creativity and Development , and Palestine Youth Committee.
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Monday, April 26, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

She was like An Angel

She was like an angel when I saw her dancing with a group of classmates in Alassria Cultural Center in Jabalia Refugee Camp. I didn’t see her for three years. I asked my friend Abdallah Abuzaiter, the instructor “isn’t she the girl from Abulaish family who joined our summer camp in Alassria before three years, didn’t she die in the last war on Gaza ?”. Abdallah says: “No Adham, she is still alive, don’t you see here in front of your eyes? She is Esraa Abulaish, who joined the summer camp and was with you in the song corner”.

Honestly, I didn’t believe Abdallah and asked her to come, to check myself she is Esraa. Yes, she is Esraa, Thanks GOD. Sadly, I thought Esraa was killed during the war when Israeli missile targeted their house. I didn’t remember her name at the horrible time of the war. Now I realize the truth that she is not the daughter of Dr. Ezzaldeen Abulaish, He is her uncle and the four girls who were killed are her cousins, Besan 20, Mayar 15, Aya 14 and Noor 14 years old.

Esraa is 11 years old. She has a strong desire and continues her life despite of the massacre she witnessed during the war on Gaza.

She is still the lovely girl I met in the summer camp. I talked with her but didn’t mention to my previous thought that she was killed and the tragedy death of her cousins trying not to remind her of the horrific memories.

She went back to the activity with a shiny smile and keeps dancing with the group like a little angel.

I wish Esraa and the Palestinian children all the happiness and peace in their life.

Please kindly watch this report about the tragedy of Dr. Ezzaldeen Abulaish family. He is a messenger of peace and serves in Palestinian and Israeli Hospitals. He is nominated for Nobel Peace Prize and surely he deserves it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Post Recovery after the War


 big holes in the wall, broken windows and doors; Moreover, the black room is burnt by phosphorous.

This is what we found in Mohamed Alareer's house when we visited him  in  Alshaaf area to the East of the Gaza City. Mohamed was nominated by local partner organization for the house repairing project . His family consists of 10 members, 6 of them are under the age 18. Mohamed has no work and depends on humanitarian aid to feed his children.  During the last war on Gaza , his house has been targeted with phosphorous  by the Israeli Army missiles and two departments were  partially destroyed.

After the war,  he lives with his family in the ground floor with his son who is married, the place is too small that the family cannot adapt living in. Mohammed Alareer is financially unable to repair his house and is waiting international organization to help in repairing the house. American Friends Service committee Quakers  has decided to include his house in the House Repairing project as he deserves that besides his case meets the criteria of the project.

Alareer Family feels happy and welcomes us saying that it will be a good thing to make their life better and comfortable. After the field visits assessment, we decided to build the big holes and plaster them, painting the burnt black room and make a door and window and  the finishing for the department.

Honestly, the money we have for each house does not cover the needs of repairing the house completely, but the house becomes suitable to live in and it protects the family from the cold of winter.

What surprised me when I visited him to put the poster of the project and to sign the implementation contract, that he decided to complete repairing the house saying, “ Quakers encourages me to make recovery and repair my house" 

Here is another sad story, Akram Khader's family who lives in Beitlahia to the  north of the Gaza Strip. The father was killed during the war when Israeli Army targeted his house by a missile. The family escaped from the house and the father refused to get out  in order to take care of the house. The family came back and found their father dead.  The missile partially destroyed the house. We, in the project build the big holes and make a door and a window enabling the family to live safely in the house.

All families live sad and horrible conditions during the war. Besides, all families are still affected as a result of the Israeli siege which is imposed since July2007. They are suffering from the lack of food, medicine and construction materials as a result of closing borders and preventing entry of basic materials by the Israeli occupation.

 House repairing project is a joint project between AFSC and AFSC’s partner youth groups engaged in Youth Bank and funded by UUSC in August 2009.

The main goal of the project is to re-establish a sense of normalcy in the lives of people, especially young people, aftermath the recent war in Gaza, by engaging youth in the physical reconstruction of their communities.


Monday, January 18, 2010

RadioActive 1/14/10

Tom Jackson , American film maker. He visited Gaza Strip and train youth about film making with American Friends Service Committee . He talks about me in this radio interview .

RadioActive 1/14/10

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