AKRON, Pa. – Two Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) partners in the Gaza Strip used $10,000 grants from MCC to respond to needs of Gazans who were displaced or whose families were injured during Israeli airstrikes into Gaza in November 2012.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 165 Palestinians in Gaza died and about 1,400 were injured during November. It was a fearful time for Israelis as well, as rockets fired from Gaza killed six Israelis and injured 224, according to OCHA. Human Rights Watch reported that three groups are known to have fired rockets from Gaza, including Hamas, the ruling Palestinian party in Gaza.
The airstrikes and rockets were some of the most recent manifestations of the Israeli occupation, since 1967, of Gaza and the West Bank and Palestinian efforts to resist that occupation. The conflict also reaches back to the 1948 founding of the state of Israel, and earlier.
MCC partner Al Najd Development Forum acquired blankets, pillows, mattresses, kitchen utensils and canisters of cooking gas for families who left their damaged homes and for those who fled their homes in fear and took shelter elsewhere. Al Najd is a community-based organization begun by women to provide programs and services for women and their families.
“If we die, we’ll die together” was the mindset of people who didn’t know when the next rocket would fall from the sky, said Bassem Thabet, partner relations director for MCC Palestine and Israel. Thus, large extended families tended to stay together in one family’s home. Thabet heard this sentiment frequently during a visit he and MCC colleagues made to Gaza in December. They also visited Gaza in February.
Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA), whose partnership with MCC is part of MCC’s Global Family education program, bought similar supplies with its grant, giving them to people who needed them after the shelling had stopped.
Families in the far northern Gaza strip who were raising rabbits for food and income through an MCC-supported Al Najd program lost many rabbits in the shelling, said Joanna Hiebert Bergen, representative for MCC Palestine and Israel with her husband Dan Bergen. They are from Winnipeg, Man.
Some families fled their homes and couldn’t take the rabbits with them, Hiebert Bergen said. Other rabbits were killed by the airstrikes or died because of rabbit susceptibility to fear-induced trauma.
In the coming months, MCC funds will be used to replace at least some of the rabbits in partnership with Al Najd, she said.
To support MCC’s Global Family programs in Gaza or elsewhere, including CFTA’s summer camps and Child-to-Child program offering leadership training and self-expression opportunities for children, visit globalfamily.mcc.org.
To see how MCC joins the efforts of Palestinian and Israeli partners to address a variety of issues, and how you can be involved, go to middleeast.mcc.org/palestine-israel and washington.mcc.org/issues/middleeast/israelpalestine.
Ed Nyce is public education coordinator for MCC U.S.