Bringing hope in Gaza

Cash transfers in Gaza provide essential lifeline for basic needs

man holding sign "Hope is the only thing stronger than fear" in front of bookshelf

Nestled on a high shelf between stacks of books in Nader Abuamsha’s office, there’s a small sign that reads, “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.” In other times and places, this sign could read as a simple platitude. But over the last few months, Abuamsha’s capacity for hope (and fear) has certainly been tested.

Though he’s based in Jerusalem at the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR), Abuamsha is working to provide cash transfers to vulnerable people in Gaza through a project funded by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). As the central office of long-time MCC partner Near East Council of Churches (NECC), DSPR has been supporting Palestinian refugees since shortly after the Nakba — the violent displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the War of 1948 and formation of the State of Israel.

Since the October 2023 attacks by Hamas and the significant response from the Israeli military, more than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed and around 90% of the total population has been forcibly displaced. Abuamsha says because so many people fled under rocket and artillery fire, many have little more than the clothes on their back.

“The conditions that people are living under are horrible,” he says. “Most of the people are living under plastic sheets. It can't protect them from rain, the cold and wind.” 

Attempts to send emergency relief, food and medical supplies into Gaza have been heavily restricted by Israeli military forces. As a result, finding food, even basics like flour, salt and oil, has become nearly impossible for most Palestinians in Gaza. For the food that is left, prices have skyrocketed.

“One kilogram of salt used to be two shekels, around half a U.S. dollar. Now, if you can find it, you won’t pay less than $8 [USD]. You don't talk about meat and eggs — it's not there,” says Abuamsha.

Using a secure payment method through an app called PalPay (not to be confused with PayPal), NECC/DSPR staff on the ground connect with refugees whose needs could be addressed, at least in part, with a cash transfer. Once accepted, the recipients can take the money out as cash or as in-kind goods at the stores, pharmacies or suppliers that are still operational. Despite the immense strain on supplies in Gaza, there are some items that can be obtained by those who have the money.

“One woman spoke to our social worker, asking about getting menstrual pads,” says Abuamsha. “She said to our social worker, ‘I’m living in a small classroom with 22 people, living with my family and my neighbors.’ She should go and be able to find those with dignity.

“What is the most beneficial for someone?” he asks. “They know better than us. They know their pain, their needs.” 

The conditions in Gaza are incredibly dire. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are competing for a mouthful of food; some have resorted to drinking water from unsafe sources, like toilets or the sea, all while Israeli military strikes continue to destroy their homes and kill their neighbors, including three NECC staff who were killed while carrying out their work.  

Referencing the sign behind him, Abuamsha acknowledges both the grim reality of the threat of genocide in Gaza and the nature of hope in times that feel hopeless.

“It's not easy to continue life with such a situation. There are limited alternatives in front of us. If you don’t keep hope alive, you will die. But the mission of goodness, the mission of serving God, the mission of reducing pain and suffering of others — this mission makes it a bit less difficult for you to continue.

“We see good brothers and sisters around us. We see the solidarity of the world with us. We see some organizations like MCC, supporting and caring about what we are doing. ... This is really encouraging and bringing hope for us that life will be different, life will be better.” 

You can donate to support MCC’s Gaza response and learn more about ways to advocate for peace here.

Top photo caption: Nader Abuamsha is the director of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR), which helps administer MCC’s partner Near East Council of Churches (NECC). On a video call, he shows a sign that sits on his bookshelf that says, “Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.” (MCC photo)