About Tales of a City by the Sea

The play Tales of a City by the Sea is a unique and poetic journey into the lives of ordinary people in the besieged Gaza strip prior to, during and after its bombardment during the winter of 2008.  Jomana, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Shati (beach) refugee camp in Gaza falls in love with Rami, an American born Palestinian doctor and activist who arrives on the first Free Gaza boats in 2008. Their love is met with many challenges forcing Rami to make incredible decisions the least of which is to take a dangerous journey through the underground tunnels that connect Gaza to Egypt.  Although on the surface this love story appears to explore the relationship between diaspora Palestinians and Palestinians under occupation, there is a broader and more universal theme that emerges – one of human survival and tenacity.  Tales of a City by the Sea avoids political pitfalls, ideological agendas and clichés by focusing on the human story of the people in Gaza. Although the play’s characters are fictional, the script is based on real life events and is a product of a collection of real stories the author Samah Sabawi and her family have experienced during the events of the past several years. Sabawi has written most of the poetry in the play during the three-week bombardment of Gaza in 2008/2009.

The writer Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian-Canadian-Australian published writer, commentator and playwright.  She has travelled the world and lived in its far corners, yet always felt as though she was still trapped in her place of birth Gaza.  The war torn besieged and isolated strip has  shaped her understanding of her identity and her humanity.  So what else could Sabawi do but to indulge in Gaza’s overwhelming presence and to succumb to tell the stories of her loved ones back home.  Her most recent play Tales of a City by the Sea is dedicated to them and to all of those who still manage to have faith and hope even as the sky rains death and destruction.

The script is available to interested theatre makers upon request.  Please email play3wishes@gmail.com for more information.

Ms. Sabawi speaking at the Launch of the The People's Charter To Create a Nonviolent World

Photo courtesy http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com/launch-events/

Follow Samah Sabawi on Twitter @gazaheart

Samah Sabawi’s professional bio can be found here

For more information on Samah Sabawi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samah_Sabawi

Let Gaza surprise you!

By Samah Sabawi

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Gaza is one of the most reported on and yet least understood places on earth.  Its mere mention conjures up images of war victims, war criminals, piles of rubble, militants with guns, dead children and weeping mothers.  A simple google search will bring up disturbing images of heart break, terror and destruction.  But all of this is an infliction on a place that has neither surrendered its identity nor lost its beauty to decades of violent Israeli occupation.

Gaza is a city of many tales.  While some are about loss, grief and misery, many others are about enduring love, triumphant moments, tenacity, passion, music and hope that lives beyond the confines of the siege and the occupation.  If you dig deeper than the negative headlines and the devastating news reports you will find many pleasant surprises.  You can take a walk along Gaza’s gorgeous fields, enjoy its magical sunsets, get to know its warm people, visit its ancient sites and eat its delicious dishes.  You will find in Gaza everything that would make you love life with a passion!  So join me here to explore some of Gaza’s unknown side.

The Arts:

There is a common belief that Gaza’s art scene is all but dead.  While it may be true that art in general is not a great priority for the people in Gaza who are too concerned with bigger financial and political issues, Gazan artists continue to create and to excel in their fields.  There is also an appreciation of the need to encourage art in children starting from a young age.

One establishment worthy of salutation for supporting the arts is the Qattan Centre for the Child in Gaza.  This cultural centre is an oasis for the hearts and the minds of children.  Equipped with a large library painted in vibrant colors and comfortable eye soothing furniture the QCC in Gaza focuses on developing the children emotionally and intellectually through visual art, music, education, cultural events and much more.

Below are some images of the QCC in Gaza.  Keep in mind all of the paintings you’ll see in some of these photos were in fact painted by children under 15 years of age at the centre.

The Qattan center was built on land donated by the Gaza municipality and has succeeded in meeting its goal of creating an educational and stimulating space for children and their caregivers.  Parents are encouraged to join their children in the library, engage with them over art and craft activities, or just watch them proudly as they perform their song and dance routines.

Membership at the QCC is free of charge to all children in Gaza from all walks of life and some of the classes offered charge a small symbolic fee.  Many of the events are also free of charge such as the concerts captured in the video below that took place as part of the winter camp activities in January 2013.  In this video below you’ll see a variety of instruments, you’ll hear music of both Arab and western origins ranging from Gershwin to Darweesh.

Also worthy of special salutation is the Gaza Music School and its incredible teachers and talented children.  The children featured in the next video are nine years of age.  They are very dedicated to the art they practice in spite of all the challenges they face including Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Music School  in 2009.

 

The landscape

The Gaza Strip is densely populated mostly by refugees who fled Israel’s war of ethnic cleansing in 1948 and have not been allowed to return to their homes since.  As the population continues to grow in the besieged strip the natural landscape changes to make way for more cement structures and buildings to accommodate this growth.

However, population growth is not the only challenge facing Gaza’s green spaces.  Agricultural land  is shrinking as Israel usurps more of Gaza’s water supplies and if that’s not enough, Israel’s siege, blockade, frequent bombardment and occasional land incursions have left their mark on many of Gaza’s farming land.  A recommended report that sheds great light on this is the UNISPAL report Farming without Land, Fishing without Water.

Below are two pics of bombed trees in our farm in Gaza. The first depicts a tree totally uprooted from the power of a one ton bomb blast.   The second photo  depicts a tree that was uprooted from the blast, flew in the air and actually landed straight on top of another tree.

Despite all of the challenges and the uncertainties of Israel’s incursions and bombings, some farmers have insisted on maintaining their land.  When visiting their farms you get a sense of what Gaza’s landscape looked like before Israel’s war of ethnic cleansing began.   You can imagine how before the refugees were chased into the far corners of their homeland to settle into camps under occupation, how most of Gaza’s natural landscape would have looked like.

The Sea

Perhaps the most important feature of Gaza is its sea.  It is the only landscape that remains unchanged, unaffected by the occupation and the aggression.  The sea is an open recreational space that is free of charge.  For Gazan families the sea is a cure for all of life’s problems.

The food

Finally, no matter where you go to in Palestine, you will always be overwhelmed with warm hospitality and great food.  Gaza is no different.  Here are some pics of some of my favourite dishes, but if you’re looking for a more comprehensive list along with recepies I highly recommend you visit The Gaza Kitchen.  Bon appétit or as they say in Gaza Saha we afya!

The Real News on repression and cultural resistance in Gaza with footage of Tales of a City by the Sea’s public reading

What hope sounds like: a performance by Gaza’s children at the Gaza Music School

The children of the Gaza Music School performing to a French and Egyptian delegation early January 2013. The boys in this clip are around 9 years of age. According to Qattan Foundation’s website, the Gaza Music School (GMS) was established “in response to growing demand for music education voiced by children and parents who attend the Qattan Center for the Child (QCC) in Gaza City, one of the A. M. Qattan Foundation’s main projects.” The Gaza Music School was completely destroyed by Israel during its attack on Gaza in 2008 and was rebuilt since then. A testimony to the resilience of the Palestinian people. To find out more information about the school and Qattan Foundation visit the following linkhttp://www.qattanfoundation.org/subpage/en/gms.asp?sectionID=654

 

Gaza audience feedback following the public reading of Tales of a City by the Sea

Photo Gallery: Gaza public reading of Tales of a City by the Sea

A reading of the play Tales of a City by the Sea took place in Gaza city at the Qattan Centre for the Child followed by a discussion on January 17th  2013.   The reading was part of ongoing efforts by international artists to break the cultural siege of Gaza and to work collaboratively with local talent.  What resulted from this event was a profound experience for both the writer, the cast and the audience.  The audience feedback (video will be uploaded next week) highlighted the need for creating more space for cultural and artistic events in the besieged Gaza strip.

The Gaza team from left: Khaled Harara, Eman Hilles, Sameeha Olwan, Ayman Qwaider, Mohammed Ghalayini, Manar Zimmo, Alaa Shoublaq, Samah Sabawi, Mahmoud Hammad, Najwan Anbar, Alia Abu Oriban and Ayah Abubasheer.

Sameeha Olwan

Sameeha Olwan reading the part of Jomana.

From left: Mohammed Ghalayini, Ayman Qwaider and Mahmoud Hammad

From left Mohammed Ghalayini reading the part of Rami, Ayman Qwaider reading the part of Ali and Mahmoud Hammad as Mohanad.

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Manar Zimmo reading the part of Lama.

From left:  Mahmoud Hammad, Alaa Shoublaq, Mohammed Ghalayini and Ayman Qwaider

From left:  Mahmoud Hammad as Mohanad Alaa Shoublaq as Abu Ahmed, Mohammed Ghalayini as Rami and Ayman Qwaider as Ali.

Eman Hilles

Eman Hilles was the narrator of our Tales.

Mohamad Akilah

Gaza esteemed musician Mohamad Akilah.

Najwan F. Anbar

Najwan Anbar reading the part of Um Ahmed

In Gaza Tales of a City by the Sea at Qattan Centre for the Child

FinalPoster

Israel’s Gaza Bantustan

First published on AlJazeera

Israel’s one state reality greeted us at the gates of the Gaza-Rafah crossing when we were asked by the Egyptian officer to present our Haweyah (Palestinian IDs) in order to be allowed through. It is not like we weren’t expecting this request, we knew that it would come down to this even though our Australian passports clearly showed Gaza as our place of birth we were still not considered Palestinian nationals in our own home city. Rather, we were treated like foreigners who needed an almost impossible amount of bureaucratic red tape designed to discourage the likes of us of ever thinking of visiting loved ones back home.

Allow me to explain: Since Israel’s establishment it has used the system of ID cards to differentiate between its Jewish and non-Jewish residents and citizens, a distinction needed in order to apply its apartheid discriminatory policies of separate and unequal treatment. When Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, its Interior Ministry began to also issue ID cards to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. By 1982, Israel passed the Identity Card Carrying and Displaying Act requiring all residents of Israel both inside its 1948 borders and inside the green line in the Occupied Territories, who are over 16 years of age, to carry at all times these ID cards and to present them upon request to the authorities.

Israeli citizens’ ID cards come in blue plastic casing with the Israeli Coat of Arms on the outer cover. Palestinians prior to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority had orange casings in the West Bank and red casings in the Gaza Strip both with the IDF insignia embossed on the outer cover highlighting Israel’s military control. Palestinians in the Occupied Territories who were forbidden entry into Israel’s 1948 borders had green casings.

 

After the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority and as part of the creation of the illusion of progress, the Palestinian National Authority was handed some limited inconsequential powers. These included issuing Palestinian residents with ID cards. A pointless exercise given that the power to issue these cards hinged on Israel’s approval, which was selectively given. Not only that, Israel continues to this day to control the Palestinian population registry and to assign the actual ID numbers provided for the Palestinian ID cards; the all-important cards required to enter Gaza and the West Bank.

Much has been written about how the system of ID cards is used as a weapon to further cement the fragmentation of the Palestinian population as it confines the Palestinians to their geographic Israeli-controlled Bantustans, forbidding Palestinians with Gaza IDs entry into the West Bank and Jerusalem and vice versa. But perhaps the worst and most insidious effect this system has is in the way it is designed to control and monitor the movement of all Palestinians and to curb the Palestinian population by denying their diaspora the right to come home even if for a short visit.

As we stood at the Rafah crossing, we were confronted with this reality. The Egyptian officer insisted that only Palestinians with the Israeli-controlled Palestinian ID cards are allowed to use this crossing. These orders are a result of an unforgivable move, one of many, that were made by the Palestinian National Authority when in 2005, Palestinian negotiators led by Mohammed Dahlan (a Fatah leader with strong links to Israel and the US) signed an agreement with Israel on movement and access from and to Gaza. One of the conditions they agreed to was restricting the use of the Rafah crossing to Palestinian ID card holders. It is hard to fathom why the Palestinian Authority would have agreed to such an inhumane condition which in reality means that Gazan residents would be cut off from loved ones in exile.

After seven hours of waiting at the Rafah border and after exhausting every connection, every phone number, every thread of hope and every possibility, we managed to make it through. Once inside Gaza, it became abundantly clear that despite Hamas’ visible presence inside the city and the endless waves of green flags, we had arrived into an Israeli controlled Bantustan. The currency used here is the new Israeli Shekel, the IDs all the residents carry are issued by the Israeli interior ministry, all births go through the Israeli national registry, the essential products are all Israeli in this captive market. As I type this to the sound of the Israeli F16 hovering in the sky above, and as I look at the sea patrolled by Israeli cruisers, I am convinced that I am now inside Israel’s one state reality in a Bantustan they call Gaza.

Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian writer and Policy Adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian policy network.  

Follow her on Twitter: @gazaheart

The war in Gaza: photographing the conflict

The Guardian

Associated Press photographer Bernat Armangué tells the story behind some of his images that have featured on front pages around the world in the last week

Palestinians flee their homes after an Israeli forces strike on nearby a sports field

Palestinians flee their homes after an Israeli forces strike on a nearby sports field

During this last Israeli offensive inside the Gaza Strip we were working 18 hours every day, non stop. We usually started at 5am taking pictures of the Israeli air strikes and rockets launched by Palestinian militants. At first light we would cover the direct consequences of these air strikes: destroyed buildings, bodies in the hospital morgues and funerals. In situations like this, there is no fixed agenda; reality changes every minute. It is the experience you have as a photographer and a certain level of improvisation that leads you to tell the story as well as you can and as fast as possible. Our working day finished late at night and then we would attempt to do normal things: eat, take a shower and try to sleep in between the air strikes.

You don’t decide what to photograph, you decide where not to photograph, which is always based on a hypothetical average of risk. There were certain areas that were constantly affected by bombs, which I avoided. My main priority was to show the life of the people in Gaza; I followed them in their houses, on the streets, to the morgues.

The way the people of Gaza face their reality is very different to my life. I guess I tried to transmit some of this through the pictures. In my job, I work with a team of journalists, photojournalists and TV crews. Everyone tells the same story in a different format. But specifically on the street I work with my colleague Majeed Hadman, known as a “fixer”. He helps me in everything; he’s half of my vision and my hearing and most importantly: he’s my friend.

Smoke rises after an Israeli forces strike in Gaza City by Bernat Armangue

Smoke rises after an Israeli forces strike in Gaza CityThis air strike (pictured above) was at around 6 in the morning. It’s just in front of our office building, which is why I had this close view. But due to the proximity of the explosion, it was complicated to shoot: we strongly felt the air-expansion caused by the blast, the extremely loud sound and obviously your heart accelerates a little.

A Palestinian man kisses the hand of a dead relative in the morgue of Shifa Hospital in Gaza City

A Palestinian man kisses the hand of a dead relative in the morgue of Shifa hospitalThis was the last picture I took that day. I spent most of the day taking photographs of Palestinian rescue workers recovering people under the rubble of homes – some of them alive, some of them dead. That day 11 members of the al-Dallu family were killed when an Israeli missile struck the two-storey home of the family in a residential area of Gaza City. Some bodies were recovered and brought to the morgue, so I went there to take some pictures. While I was there, another family came to check if it was true that one of their relatives had been killed. They cried, held his body and one of them kissed his hand while saying goodbye. It was a rare tender moment there.

A Palestinian woman is helped after being injured during an Israeli forces strike

A Palestinian woman is helped after being injured during an Israeli forces strike next to her houseIt was early in the morning and we heard an explosion nearby. We arrived at the scene (pictured above) and saw a woman injured by shrapnel. She was being helped to safety.

Palestinian mourners cry during the funeral of Salem Paul Sweliem during his funeral in Gaza City

Palestinian mourners cry during the funeral of Salem Paul SweliemMost of the population in Gaza are Muslim, but there is also a Christian community. A member of the family pictured above died of shrapnel wounds after an air strike. The photograph shows the family members leaving their house to attend the funeral mass.

A Palestinian man rides past a destroyed area after an Israeli airstrike

A Palestinian man rides past a destroyed area after an Israeli airstrikeThis building (pictured above) was destroyed during the night. It was aHamas government complex known as Abu Khadra. It is less than 100m from our office, so we literally jumped from our beds during the air strike due to the loud noise and the shaking of our building. I arrived at the scene at first light and started to take pictures. Donkeys are used a lot as transport in Gaza, and I guess this man was probably on his way to work.

Osama Abdel Aal is rescued after his family house collapsed during an Israeli strike in Tufah, Gaza

Osama Abdel Aal is rescued after his family house collapsed during an Israeli forces strike in the Tufah neighbourhoodThis picture shows Osama Abdel Aal moments after being rescued. His family house collapsed during an Israeli forces strike in the Tufah neighbourhood. The first thing he did was point and tell the rescue team that there were other family members buried beneath the rubble.

This article appeared in The Guardian Photography Blog

Gaza 2012: Palestine’s Long Walk to Freedom

By: Haidar Eid

Published Wednesday, December 12, 2012

AlAkhabar English

 

The long walk to South Africa’s freedom is marked by two immensely tragic events: the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the Soweto Uprising in 1976, both of which led to the galvanizing of internal and international resistance against the apartheid regime. Ultimately, these events would lead to the long-called for release of Nelson Mandela and to the end of one of the most inhumane systems the world has ever seen.

Without Sharpeville and Soweto, among other landmarks towards victory over settler colonialism, South Africa would still be ruled by a minority of fanatic, white settlers claiming to fulfill the word of (their) God.

Palestine’s long walk to freedom has gone through similar harrowing events, beginning with the 1948 Nakba to the latest eight-day onslaught on Gaza.

In order to understand Gaza in 2012, one ought to trace its origin back to 1948. Two thirds of the Palestinians of Gaza are refugees who were kicked out of their cities, towns, and villages in 1948. In After the Last Sky, the late Palestinian thinker Edward Said argues that every Palestinian knows perfectly well that what has happened to us over the last six decades is “a direct consequence of Israel’s destruction of our society in 1948…”

The problem, he argues, is that a clear, direct line from our misfortunes in 1948 to our misfortunes in the present cannot be drawn, thanks to “the complexity of our experience.”

At 139 square miles, Gaza is the largest refugee camp on earth, a reminder of the ongoing Nakba. The inhabitants of Gaza have become the most unwanted Palestinians, the black heart that no one wants to see, the “Negroes” of the American south, the black natives of South Africa, the surplus population that the powerful, macho, white Ashkenazi cannot coexist with.

Hence the calls to “flatten” Gaza and “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

In 2008-9, Gaza was bombed by Apache helicopters and F-16 jets for 22 days, killing more than 1400 civilians. As if that was not enough, Israel decided to return to Gaza in 2012 and repeat the same crimes in eight days, this time killing more than 175 civilians and injuring 1399. These are massive losses for a population of just over 1.5 million people.

Israel’s airstrikes, which damage essential infrastructure and terrify the civilian population, are a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Even more, they are war crimes forbidden under international humanitarian law, specifically the Geneva Conventions.

Yet Israel consistently gets away with war crimes. The official, government-based “international community” does not seem interested in the suffering of the native Palestinians. The much-admired, “better than Bush” American president, Obama, thinks that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” The same right does not apparently apply to Palestinians.

Likewise, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague believes that Hamas is “principally responsible” for the current crisis, as well as the ability to bring it most swiftly to an end. This is in spite of the deadly siege imposed on Gaza for more than five years, so much so that Israel even used calorie counting to limit the amount of food that entered Gaza during the blockade.

The fact that Palestinians in Gaza are not born to Jewish mothers is enough reason to deprive them of their right to live equally with the citizens of the state of Israel. Hence, like the black natives of South Africa, they should be isolated in a Bantustan, in accordance with the Oslo terms. If they show any resistance to this plan, they must be punished by turning the entire Strip into an open-air prison.

Both the US and the UK display deliberate and unconscionable ignorance in the face of the brutal reality caused by Israel to Gaza. As a result of Israel’s blockade on most imports and exports and other policies designed to punish Palestinians, about 70 percent of Gaza’s workforce is now unemployed or without pay, according to the UN, and about 80 percent of its residents live in grinding poverty.

But don’t Obama and Hague know this?!

As Hamid Dabashi put it:

Obama is fond of saying Israelis are entitled to defend themselves. But are they entitled to steal even more of Palestine, terrorise its inhabitants and continue to consolidate a racist apartheid state…? Was South Africa also entitled to be a racist apartheid state, was the American south entitled to slavery, India to Hindu fundamentalism?

The only option for Palestinians is to follow the same route as the South African struggle. The South African internal campaign aimed to mobilize the masses on the ground rather than indifferent governments around the world. What hope could they have gotten from the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Helmut Kohl? It was left to ordinary South Africans and global citizens to show their moral rejection of crimes committed by the ugly apartheid system.

In South Africa’s long walk to freedom, there was no compromise on respect for basic human rights. Apartheid’s attempts to point fingers at “black violence” and “intrinsic hatred” toward Western civilization and democracy, did not hold water.

Similarly, international civil society, and some governments, have seen through Israel’s propaganda campaign where the aggressor is turned into the victim. Across the years, Palestinians have been completely dehumanized. Instead of Reagan and Thatcher, we have Obama and Hague, blaming the victim and condemning resistance to occupation, colonization, and apartheid.

But South Africans did not wait for the American administration to “change its mind.” The global BDS campaign, steered by South African anti-apartheid activists, coupled with internal mass mobilization on the ground, was the prescription for liberation, away from the façade of “independence” based on ethnic identities. Similarly, the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions has been gathering momentum since 2005. Gaza 2012, like Soweto 1976, cannot be ignored: it demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity.

Gaza 2012 has, undeniably, given a huge impetus to this process by making all Palestinians inside and outside of historic Palestine realize that “Yes, We Can!” We are no longer the weaker party, the passive victim who does not dare bang on the walls of Ghassan Kanafani’s trunk in Men in the Sun, but rather Hamid in All That is Left To You, the Palestinian hero who decides to act.

Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University and a policy advisor withAl-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.

Original article appeared here https://talesofacitybytheseadotcom.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php

 

As people dig out of the rubble, a Palestinian doctor says civilians were targeted by Israeli attack

Published on Nov 27, 2012 by 

Press Release: A new Gaza Massacre!

Press Release: A new Gaza Massacre!

14.November.2012

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine–The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel, University Teachers’ Association and The One Democratic State Group condemn in the strongest possible terms the criminal Israeli attack against innocent Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. More than 7 people have been killed within the last 6 hours, including 7-year-old child Ranan Arafat. Charred bodies of injured children are pouring in to Al Shifa hospital and the other depleted hospitals around the Gaza Strip. This heinous crime also comes one week after the re-election of Barak Obama for a second term. Tel Aviv claims to have been given the green light to annihilate as many Palestinians in Gaza as possible.

Gaza has been enduring Israeli policies of extermination and vandalism since 2006. We reiterate our condemnation of the international conspiracy of silence and Arab impotence in the face of these continuous Israeli crimes. We note that not a single action against Israel has been taken by any Arab country. Will the Arab Spring stand aside and watch while we are being butchered? Empty rhetoric will no longer be accepted. Words of condemnation have to be translated into action!

We also reiterate our call on all civil society organizations and political parties to boycott Israeli embassies and compel their governments to sever their diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel.  This time, Apartheid Israel must not get away with its crimes against the innocent civilians of Gaza.  All students and academics should stand in solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues and peers. We ask, what more does the international community need to see to be convinced to act than the dozens of dead corpses of children in Gaza? It is left to civil society and people of conscience to stop the ongoing massacre in Gaza.

Inaction has led us to this point.

 ACT NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!

One Democratic State Group

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

University Teachers’ Association

One Democratic State Group
odsg.org/co

A Message from Young Palestinians in Gaza to the World!

Gazans produce fish and vegetables in tiny rooftop spaces

by Sara Hussein

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories, Oct 29, 2012 (AFP) – Abu Ahmed looks out over a sea of grey, empty Gaza rooftops, and smiles as he looks back at the lush greenery sprouting in tubs and pipes on top of his apartment building.

He is part of a United Nations agency project to introduce cutting-edge urban agriculture to Gaza City, teaching Palestinians to farm without soil in the space available to them in one of the world’s most densely populated places.

Most of his rooftop is given over to an aquaponic system, which produces food by linking fish tanks of tilapia with gravel-filled planters.

The integrated system feeds the water from the fish tanks into the plant beds, where Abu Ahmed’s crops — lettuce, peppers, broccoli, celery and herbs — are fertilised by waste produced by the tilapia.

As the water trickles through the gravel, the plants absorb nutrients from the fish waste, cleaning the water, which then replenishes the tanks.

“The idea really was to help the poorest people in Gaza be able to grow some of their own food, and healthy food, grown without pesticides,” explains Mohammed El Shatali, the project’s deputy manager.

For Abu Ahmed, the project has been a major success.

Not only is he using the integrated aquaponic system, he had also set up his own subsidiary hydroponic system, growing additional crops in plastic pipes that are fed by the same water that runs through the aquaponic system.

“I had a bit of experience with agriculture and farming before, but nothing like this,” he says, examining the leaves of a celery plant.

Thanks to the project, the 51-year-old has been able to feed his 13-member family fresh vegetables and fish throughout the summer.

“The fish taste great, although I’m trying not to eat too many of them because I’m breeding new ones so I won’t have to buy more.”

There have also been other benefits from the system, he says, explaining that it cools the apartments below by providing shade.

“It’s great for the children. Nowadays they don’t see farming, they barely see trees or plants. It’s great for them to see this because it gets them interested in growing and planting things.”

Gaza’s 1.6 million residents live on just 360 square kilometres (140 square miles) of land, and much of that is off limits because Israel maintains a 300-metre (yard) deep exclusion zone along the length of the border fence.

Power cuts threaten fish

In Gaza’s main towns and cities, empty land is being eaten up by the construction of multi-storey apartment buildings, leaving little space for agriculture.

The challenges prompted the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to look for new ways to maximise crop production in tiny spaces.

In Gaza City’s Zeitun neighbourhood, 34-year-old Eman Nofal tends crops in a small yard next to her apartment. Peppers have been her biggest success this year, and both sweet and spicy red peppers dot the greenery in her planters.

Nofal’s husband was killed in fighting between rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas in 2006, leaving her the sole provider for their four children.

When she heard about the project, she thought it could ease the cost of feeding her family.

“It’s been great. It’s really easy, the children even help me maintain the plants,” she says, acknowledging that the concept was somewhat alien at first.

“All our lives, we learnt that farming meant growing things in the ground, in soil, so it was strange to hear it was possible to grow in water and gravel, but I love the idea.”

Nofal says the project also gives her pleasure.

“Just the way it looks is really nice. Sometimes I come out here just to enjoy the greenery and to watch the fish play with each other. It relaxes me.”

The project has faced setbacks, including the Gaza-specific challenge of power cuts of up to 12 hours a day, which shut down the pumps that transfer water between the fish tanks and plant beds.

“Electricity has been one of the most difficult challenges,” says Chris Somerville, an urban agriculture consultant with the FAO.

“At 30 degrees centigrade (86 Fahrenheit), the capacity of the water to hold oxygen reduces, and during the summer many of the beneficiaries had fish die.”

New participants will receive a battery-powered pump to tide them over during power cuts, and the FAO is experimenting with fibres that could be used in hydroponic systems to retain moisture when power cuts stop the water flow.

Initially, the project also had to overcome a certain level of scepticism, Somerville says.

“To tell agrarian societies that you’re going to grow plants without soil can sometimes be a bit of a jump,” he laughs.

But the project has been so successful that the next cycle will expand from 15 aquaponic participants to around 80, with another 80 homes operating hydroponic systems.

It will be the first time the FAO has implemented aquaponics on this scale, and the agency is now looking at implementing the project elsewhere in the world.

“To be able to take this Gaza model and bring it to other countries would really be a massive achievement,” Somerville says.

This article appeared in http://www.mysinchew.com/node/79207?tid=10

A circus comes to Gaza _ minus lions and ladies

By DIAA HADID, Associated Press – 7 hours ago

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The circus came to Gaza on Friday, accompanied by blaring music, juggling clowns and fire blowers — but getting it there required its own high-wire act.

No women performers were included for fear of offending conservative Palestinians and the Gaza Strip’s militant Hamas rulers, and the circus’ lone lion and tiger were left behind because of the high cost of transporting them legally into Gaza.

The Egyptian National Circus put on its first show of a month-long visit to the impoverished coastal territory on Friday, a sign of warmer relations between Hamas and post-revolution Egypt, which is governed by the Islamic group’s ideological parent, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Although it’s not state-sponsored, the Egyptian circus could only come because the country’s government loosened restrictions on the flow of passengers in and out of Gaza. More foreigners now enter Gaza, including the ruler of the resource-rich Gulf state Qatar earlier this week.

Once in Gaza, the Egyptians’ faced an unusual situation — most Palestinians here don’t know what a circus is.

“I think it’s going to be really surprising for most people,” said Riwa Awwad, 19, ahead of the opening night.

“Gazans are famous for not liking anything and I think they’ll do the impossible to entertain us,” said Awwad, who came with her extended family to the fairground on Friday.

In an ironic twist, the cheery circus with its flashing lights was held on the grounds of a notorious security prison that was destroyed during an Israeli offensive four years ago.

For the Gazans fortunate enough to see the opening show, it was a welcome relief from conflict and despair. The fairgrounds were packed with excited children in new cloths, women in glittery headscarves, others in black face veils, and men in suits and freshly pressed shirts. Families snacked on pumpkin seeds.

They hollered and cheered as a tight-rope walker wiggled his hips and belly-danced on a thread suspended above the ground. A performer hurled silver knives around volunteers. A red-clad fire blower shot whooshing, yellow licks of flame out of his mouth. Two clowns dressed in yellow-and-blue bumbled and fumbled as they tried to juggle, delighting children.

It took months to arrange the visit to the impoverished territory, where 1.6 million people live in a 25 mile-long sliver wedged between Israel and Egypt and face a punishing blockade imposed after Hamas seized control in 2007.

Aside from a circus’ brief visit in the 1990s, there’s never been anything like it since Israel captured the strip from Egypt in 1967. Israeli forces and settlers withdrew in 2005.

Businessman Mohammed Faris said he remembered seeing the circus under Egyptian rule in the 1950s, when Gaza was still a liberal place with casinos and bars. He said he recalled as a child seeing men walking on nails and female acrobats flying across stage.

“It was men and women – pretty women,” he said.

Not this time around.

Organizer Mohammed Silmi said female performers had to stay behind because the circus was worried that leaping ladies in tights would offend Gazans.

He said Hamas didn’t explicitly ban women but he was asked to abide by Gaza’s “traditions” when he petitioned to get the circus to come.

In practice, the circus wiggled a little around the no-women rule. At one point a man in drag, sporting a brown wig and red dress, sang and danced with Bunduk the clown.

After Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade that aimed to weaken the militants who seek Israel’s destruction.

Under international pressure, it was loosened after Israel raided a blockade-defying boat and killing nine Turkish activists aboard in 2009. Key restrictions still remain on exports and importing raw materials.

All the circus equipment came through the Rafah border crossing, but expensive fees and cumbersome paperwork kept the circus from bringing lions, tigers and horses across the border.

Gaza’s makeshift zoos and other merchants often bypass that problem by hauling animals through smuggling tunnels linking the territory to Egypt. In one famous scene captured on film, Gazans used a crane to lift a camel over the border fence as the animal twitched in the air in agony.

Animal welfare aside, Gaza’s main zoo recently turned to improvised taxidermy to keep its deceased animals on exhibit.

The area also continues to be violent. As circus technicians were setting up their tent earlier this week, Palestinian militants were fighting Israeli forces in tit-for-tat rounds of rocket fire and retaliatory airstrikes.

Egyptian technician Khalil Gomaa, 55, jolted upon every crashing boom. He told his children he was in Jordan so they wouldn’t be worried. “But I’m worried,” he said.

But the circus’ biggest challenge may be packing the 1,000-seater tent for the month-long visit.

A series of Palestinians interviewed didn’t know what a circus was, and the tickets — ranging from $5-$10 seats — are too expensive for most of Gaza’s traditionally large families.

Some 40 percent of Gazans live on less than $2 a day, a third are unemployed and most need U.N. donated food.

They include the mother of eight, Sabrine Baoud, and her unemployed husband. After the circus was explained to her, Baoud, 35, said she was glad her children didn’t know anything about it.

They’d never be able to afford to go.

Getting ready for Eid: Palestinians smuggle sheep to Gaza through tunnel

Palestinians smuggled sheep to Gaza in a tunnel under Egypt’s border for the Muslim celebration of Eid Al-Adha, where goats, sheep and camels are slaughtered commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God’s command.  For more incredible pics go to http://www.demotix.com/news/1544458/palestinians-smuggle-sheep-gaza-through-tunnel-under-egypt-border/all-media

 

 

Ship to Gaza Sweden

We are sailing!

Publiceringsdatum:
2012-10-01

The port authorities in La Spezia in northern Italy finally decided to not give in to Israeli  pressure. Just minutes ago Ship to Gaza and its vessel Estelle got final clearance to depart from port. Credit to the responsible officials who showed integrity and a sense of justice!

We were beginning to recognise the pattern from last years Flotilla all too well, when a Greek government under pressure took the decision to detain all Flotilla boats in Greek ports.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has already confirmed that it is pressuring those countries whose citizens are on board to prevent them from “approaching” Gaza. If “approaching” Gaza includes sailing from La Spezia to Napoli, that would have been a serious violation of one of the EU’s basic principles: freedom of movement.

It would be unacceptable for the EU to cave in to such pressure, turning against its own citizens and vessels. It is especially serious when such actions are taken against a peaceful, humanitarian action which enjoys wide public and political support. That support is currently being demonstrated in our petition to end the illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza, which has been signed by thousands of people from all over the world in the last few days .

Ship to Gaza and our partners in the Freedom Flotilla Coalition urge each one of our supporters to follow S/V Estelles journey, and if necessary act in their respective roles and areas: sympathizers, local activists, support organizations, union organizations, EU parliamentarians and national parliamentarians.

Use any resources available to you to protest the Israeli government’s attempt to expand its blockade to ports in northern Italy. Ask your respective foreign ministers questions, and do the same to the EU through the EU Parliament. Conduct support actions to demand that Estelle stays free to sail.

End the blockade of Gaza!

Contacts onboard Estelle:

Victoria Strand + 46 727356564

Mikael Löfgren: +46 707983643

Ship to Gaza-Sweden

www.shiptogaza.se

Spokespersons:

Dror Feiler: +46 702855777

Mattias Gardell: +46 703036666

Ann Ighe: +46 709740739

Victoria Strand + 46 727356564

Media coordinator:

Mikael Löfgren: +46 707983643

Staffan Granér: +46703549687

media@shiptogaza.se

Website:  http://shiptogaza.se/en/Pressrum/Pressmeddelanden/we-are-sailing

EI: Canadians stand in solidarity with Gaza’s besieged farmers, fishermen Eva Bartlett The Electronic Intifada Gaza City 1 October 2012

GAZA CITY (IPS) – “From the coast to eight miles out, the sea is like a desert: it’s sandy and there are no fish,” said Mohammed al-Bakri, tracing a thick line on the wall map before him.

As the general manager of Gaza’s Union of Agricultural Work Committees, al-Bakri is well-versed in the woes of Gaza’s fishermen and farmers. “The Israeli navy attacks the fishermen, arrests them and takes their boats, even within three miles,” he said, referring to the limit the Israeli authorities have unilaterally imposed on Palestinian fishermen.

Under the Oslo accords, Palestinian fishermen are authorized to fish 20 nautical miles into Gaza’s sea. The Israeli authorities have illegally downsized Palestinian fishing waters, using lethal violence to enforce new restrictions on fishing. Palestinian fishermen are routinely attacked by the Israeli navy, using machine guns, water cannons and shells. Abductions of fishermen also occur.  Read more

Journey through the Gaza tunnels

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Inshallah: a virtual tour of the Gaza Strip