Bearing Witness

Week 13 in Gaza > Refurbishment > Endorsement > Documentary > Rafah

Well this week has been another productive week, though after the excitement of last week with the boat purchase and the second product release it almost seems mundane. Even though this week saw the start of the refurbishment process, we received another significant endorsement and we finalised the arrangements for a full length documentary to be filmed about the project.

The week started with the winch being removed from our fishing vessel, the first step in our vessel being transformed from a fishing trawler into a cargo vessel. This was an exciting day, as it was the start of turning what has for the last 12 months been a wonderful idea into a reality : ] We now have a work plan approved by the steering committee that should see most of the major tasks of the refurbishment being completed by the start of Ramadan, when things in Gaza will slow down dramatically > meaning we should be in a position to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza by the end of the year.

However this will only be achieved with your support, Gaza’s Ark is reliant on grass-roots donations to achieve our goals, so please consider supporting our project by buying a symbolic share in the Ark or raising awareness of the project to your friends and family and together we can help build the hope that Palestinians have for an independent economy.

When I came to Gaza my instruction on the civil society endorsement front, was to achieve a board spectrum of civil society support. This week  I went a long way to achieving this. I now have civil society endorsements from Islamic, secular and leftist civil society institutions and organisation of the Gaza’s Ark project. Keep an eye on the Gaza’s Ark website in the next couple of week for a major announcement of the all civil society organisations and institutions that have signed on to support the Gaza’s Ark project > http://www.gazaark.org/\

The other piece of major news out of this week is that when have found a journalist in Gaza who is willing to undertake the task of documenting the Gaza Ark project for a full length documentary. Yousef Al-Helou who works for The Real News Network [TRNN] has got on board with the project, excuse the pun, which we all very excited about. Yousef is a great journalist and has a long history covering the Gaza Strip, first for Press TV, before moving to the TRNN. Personally, apartment from the fact that this unique project is going to be documented for posterity, the best thing about having the documentary made is that post the sailing of the Ark if I am asked to do presentations on the project I won’t have to bore the peeps in Sydney with my limited public speaking skills. I can now show the documentary and then conduct a Q and A session with the audience > I can hear the Sydney solidarity communities sighs of relief from here.

This week also saw the closure of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt, the only route out of Gaza for the vast majority of Palestinians living in Gaza. The crossing was closed after militants in the Sinai kidnapped 7 Egyptian military personnel who worked at the crossing, even though there was never any link from the militants to the Gaza Strip. You could feel the tension building here in Gaza as the closure dragged on, almost like the pressure release valve had been turned off.

Finally this week saw the release of an interview I recently did about the Gaza’s Ark project on New Zealand radio station Plans FM > forgive the lack of clarity, I conducted the interview after spending the whole night out doing accompaniment work with fishermen off the coast of Gaza > http://plainsfm.org.nz/on-demand/earthwise20may13/ Note to self > do not do interviews the morning after spending the whole night out doing accompaniment work with fishermen !

Our nautical brains trust devising the refurbishment plan.

Our nautical brains trust devising the refurbishment plan.

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May 23, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Week 12 in Gaza > Boat > Products > Fishing > Jabalia

This has been a productive week for Gaza’s Ark, we were excited to announce  that we have finally purchased the fishing vessel that we will now converted into Gaza’s Ark, plus we had our second release of Palestinian products that will be exported aboard the Ark. While on the personal front I spent a night on the water doing some accompaniment work with Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza and also spent some time in the Jabalia Refugee Camp.

The moment we have been working towards for the last 12 months finally arrived this week and we are now the proud owners of a 24 meter fishing trawler that we will covert into a cargo vessel to export Palestinian products from the only port in the Mediterranean currently closed to shipping. Even though the size of our cargo vessel will only allow us to attempt to export a symbolic amount of products from Gaza. Our main aim is to raise awareness of Israel’s strangulation of the Gazan economy, that prior to the blockade was an export based economy. Exports are currently at just 2% of pre blockade levels, this has resulted in a youth unemployment rate of around 50% and this figure does not take into account the levels of under employment which are rampant in the Gaza Strip. You can find the official purchase announcement here >  http://www.gazaark.org/2013/05/14/breaking-we-have-purchased-gazas-ark/

This week also the second release of products that will be available for sale through the Gaza Ark project. The second release focused on Palestinian agricultural products and includes > Honey, Debes – which is a date molasses, Maftoul – Palestinian couscous, Za’atar and Dugga – which are herb mixes. For more details on the these products check out the products page on the Gaza Ark website > http://www.gazaark.org/products/

Tuesday night I finally got to do some accompaniment work with Palestinian fishermen in Gaza, fishermen in Gaza are on the front line of the blockade. As Israel has unilaterally, in violation of the Oslo accords, limited their fishing zone to three nautical miles from the coast of Gaza. This means that they are unable to access to majority of their fish stocks that inhabit the rocky bottom nine nautical miles from shore. In addition to this fishermen are often attacked by the Israeli Navy within the this three-mile limit, these attack have resulted in injury and even the deaths of Palestinian fishermen in Gaza. The reduced profitability caused by the three-mile limit and the risk of attack by the Israeli Navy have resulted in the number of fishermen in Gaza falling from over 10000 to just over 3500 who fish the waters off Gaza currently. After 12 hours work by 14 crew, they only had 15 barely half full creates of fish to show for their nights work and no fish over 10cm in length. Check out my photo’s from the night here > http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.478190475584236.1073741836.158095294260424&type=1

Finally this week I was taken on a guided tour of the Jabalia Refugee Camp in Gaza yesterday, at last count in 2002 the camp had a registered population of 103,646 inhabitants. The camp only covers an area of 1.4 km² making it one of the most densely populated places on earth. The camps proximity to the Israel boarder means in has been the scene of much Israeli violence, but despite all this, what struck me most on my tour was the joy that the children of the camp found in their impoverished surroundings. It was a real lesson in appreciating what you have and not concerning yourself with what you can’t attain > Thank you for this lesson in perspective Jabalia : ] Check out my photo’s from the tour here > http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.478705638866053.1073741839.158095294260424&type=1

The sun setting over the three mile buoy off the coast of Gaza.

The sun setting over the three-mile buoy off the coast of Gaza.

The kids of Jabalia Refugee Camp.

The kids of Jabalia Refugee Camp.

May 17, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Week 10 & 11 in Gaza > Illness > New Priorities > Farming

Well I have been back in the Gaza Strip for the past two weeks, although this is my first update since returning from my two weeks R&R in Paris because the day after I arrived back in the Strip I became violently ill. I got salmonella poisoning on my last night in Cairo and the night after I arrived back in Gaza the symptoms started to kick in diarrhea, a fever of 40+ degrees and sever abdominal cramps. Thinking it was just a bug I struggled with it at home for several days, before deciding I needed urgent medical treatment and was I rushed to Al Awada hospital. After 24 hours of fantastic care from the dedicated staff at Al Awada, whose work with limited resources is quite amazing, I was released with a course of four medications. I am almost back to being fighting fit thanks in large part to my peeps in Gaza, Sukran ictir Awni, Mona, Adie and the staff at Al Awada  for being there when I needed it : ]

Since recovering I have had my new priorities set by the Gaza Ark Steering committee. I have been tasked with finding a local news crew to cover the refurbishment process of the Ark for a documentray film, while also finding a independent film maker to prepare monthly video’s to show the progress of the build to our international supporters via our website > www.gazaark.org. In addition to this I need to find supporters in Gaza to continue my work in Gaza post my departure in mid June. While I am also continuing my work on civil society endorsements and Palestinian products to be exported aboard the Ark.

On Wednesday morning I managed to find some time that was not taken up with Gaza Ark tasks, to undertake some accompaniment work with farmers harvesting wheat in the buffer zone. The “buffer zone”is a strip of land on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip and is a military no-go area that extends along the entire northern and eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip adjacent to Israel, but inside Palestinian territory. It has at times stretched up to 1.5 kilomenters into Palestinian territory, however after the November cease-fire Palestinians were granted access to this land again, however like most agreements Israel reaches with the Palestinians what is written in the agreement does not often happen in reality. The buffer zones conitued enforcement has resulted in loss of Palestinian lives and land. For more on the buffer zone and it’s effects check out his article on the Diakonia website > http://www.diakonia.se/sa/node.asp?node=4090 . I hope to continue this work for the last month that I am in the Strip, here are some photos from the morning.

Harvest season in the buffer zone.

Harvest season in the buffer zone.

The boarder with Israel.

The boarder with Israel.

Adie responding to the IOF, that had just sent several live rounds over our heads.

Adie responding to the IOF, that had just sent several live rounds over our heads.

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment