Bearing Witness

Week 14 in Gaza > Palfest > Products > Refurbishment

This week in Gaza was great, Pal Fest came to town, the refurbishment process is now moving along well and my last couple of product tasks are progressing nicely : ]

Palfest in Gaza was fantastic, Susan Abulhawa of “Mornings in Jenin” fame, Lina Attalah former Egyptian Independent journalist and fellow Tahririan, Nora Younis producer of “Reporting a revolution” and Ali Abunimah co-founder of the Electronic Intifada all came to town to do presentations, run workshops, present documentaries and help inspire the already inspirational Palestinian youth activists. Everything from BDS to hasbara to humanizing the Palestinian cause was discussed, debated and argued about. I attended workshops with Ali Abunimah and Susan Abulhawa on the first day of the festival, saw a presentation by Lina Attalah, Susan Abulhawa and Ali Abunimah at al-Aqsa University on the second day and also checked out Nora Younis presenting her film “Reporting a revolution” on the third day. Unfortunately Gaza Ark commitments meant I could not attend the closing concert, which celebrated Palestinian culture old and new, with performances of Dabke through to hip hop. Thank you to all who organised Palfest in Gaza, it helped me get my focus back on the big picture and away from the daily struggles of being part of a rather large international solidarity project.

On the Gaza Ark product front we have commissioned the production of two small solidarity items that will soon be available through Gaza’s Ark. These items will be instantly recognisable as Palestinian and have a price point around the $5 mark. They will be targeted at international solidarity groups, who will hopefully buy them in bulk to sell at information stalls and protest rallies, we have already had some expressions of interest in these items from groups in South Africa, Canada and Australia. We have also started the production of English labels for our agricultural products. We now have 7 agricultural products for sale through the Gaza’s Ark project, including Dugga, Za’atar,Maftoul, Debes, Honey, Ajwa and  Makhtom. Plus soon to be announced Olive Oil from the Olive Tree Protection Society > so what are you waiting for, go forth and buy into the hope Palestinians have for an independent economy > http://www.gazaark.org/products/

The refurbishment process of the Ark is also moving along nicely, this week has seen sanding of the boat in preparation for the fiberglassing to begin and the removal of the last parts of the winch structure. We are also preparing for the boat to be removed from the water so the major structural work can begin. The removal of the boat from the water will also hopefully see the start of filming for the Gaza’s Ark documentary. Everything seems to be starting to come together and while it has been a long difficult process to get to this point, as no one has ever tried to sail from Gaza against the blockade, I am now feeling more confident every day about the success of the Gaza Ark project. Not to mention I now have an even greater appreciation of what the those pioneers in the Free Gaza Movement went through when they attempted to do what no one else had done. I just hope we have the same result as they did back in 2008, but that will not be possible without your support. Go to http://www.gazaark.org and donate and spread the word, Palestinians don’t want hands out they want their freedom !

The Ark refurbishment continuing at pace

The Ark refurbishment continuing at pace.

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June 1, 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