Bearing Witness

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 8 in Gaza > Photo recap of my first 2 months in Gaza

Well today marks the end of my first two months in Gaza, it has been at times wonderful and inspiring and at others frustrating, emotional and even heart breaking. So as I struggle with the written word at the best of times, I have decided to let my photo’s do the talking this week – by posting some of my favourite photo’s of the last two months. However one thing I have learnt over the years, its people who make somewhere special. So in that spirit I have not just selected photo’s of the  cool things I have done, but also photo’s of some of the people who made them special. Sukran ictir my Gaza peeps, this blog is dedicated to you.

What it is journey is all about, Gaza's Ark > the anchor from the Ark, insharalla one day soon it will be dropped in a European port.

Insharalla one day soon Gaza’s Ark will be dropping anchor in a foreign port.

Meeting the inspirational Dr Mona El Farra to hand over some medicine donated by Gaza's Ark to the Red Crescent Society in Gaza.

Meeting the inspirational Dr Mona El Farra to hand over some medicine donated by Gaza’s Ark to the Red Crescent Society in Gaza.

In the buffer zone, the sign say's it all > BDS now yella !

In the buffer zone, the sign say’s it all > BDS Israeli Apartheid now yella !

In the buffer zone, where existence truly is resistance.

In the buffer zone, where existence truly is resistance.

Hanging with the Gaza Ark Youth Committee

Hanging with the Gaza Ark Youth Committee

Getting ready to speak at a PPP protest in support of Palestinian prisoners

Getting ready to speak at a PPP protest in support of Palestinian prisoners

The optimism of youth

The optimism of youth

Filming a fundraising video for Gaza's Ark > that's a wrap !

Filming a fundraising video for Gaza’s Ark > that’s a wrap !

Sunset over Gaza

Sunset over Gaza

Kevin Neish inspecting the Ark

Kevin Neish inspecting one of the possible Ark’s

Heading out to sea with my peeps from the PPP

Heading out to sea with my peeps from the PPP

Translator extraordinaire Awni

Translator extraordinaire Awni

Palestinian fishermen > who have seen there numbers halved in the last decade due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas.

Palestinian fishermen > who have seen there numbers halved in the last decade due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas

Rally in Rafah to commemorate the10th anniversary of Rachel Corries murder by the IOF.

Rally in Rafah to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Rachel Corries murder by the IOF

Gaza Ark's nautical brains trust

Gaza Ark’s nautical brains trust Mahfouz and Nizar in their element at the port

Norma from PSC and Laila from Snad Charitable Society at the Gaza Women's Trade Fair

Norma from PSC, Laila from Snad Charitable Society and myself at the Gaza Women’s Trade Fair

Sunset over the Mediterranean

Sunset over the Mediterranean

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Week Five in Gaza > Boat > Mulit-Tasking > Fishermen

This week has been a busy one, the Gaza’s Ark [GA] project has identified the fishing vessel that we will purchase and refurbish to be made suitable to sail from Palestine against the blockade, loaded with Palestinian products for trade with the outside world > drawing attention to Israel’s brutal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip. So between inspections of the vessel, negotiations and contract translations the GA team have been well busy.
We are also preparing for the first announcements of products to be sold through the GA project, we have some wonderful arts and crafts from the Atfaluna Deaf Children’s Association and the Union of Palestinian Women, both in Gaza City and we have Ajwa and Makhtom from Al-Ahlyia Association for the Development of Palms & Dates in Deir El Ballah > Ajwa are a type of dates and Makhtom is a delicious date preserve.
Since arriving in Gaza I have found/developed skills I never knew I had or could develop, since arriving I have done public relations, sales, script writing, directing, been a spokesperson, photographer, social media consultant, fundraiser and now estimator : ] The many faces of an activist ! However a friend in Sydney recently reminded me that “the first role of an activist: reach as many people as possible and convince them to do their part” > wise words from a good friend, thanks Raul : ]
The highlight of the week however was the launch of “Israel: Return the stolen boats” campaign. Fishermen from all over the Gaza Strip took their boats and formed a flotilla demonstration at the Gaza port. They demanded their rights to fish the Gaza sea without the threat of attack from Israeli Gunships and that Israel return their stolen 36 boats. The Palestinian fishermen have  seen there numbers go from over 10 000 at the turn of the century to just 3 500 today, due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas. In addition to 36 boats Israel has stolen, another 39 boats in Khan Younis and 48 in Deir El Ballah were destroyed by Israeli bombardments during the 8 day sea and air bombings and shelling last November.

Mohammed Bakr, 25, describes how he, his cousin and his two teenage brothers were abducted while fishing on the 10th February during which their fourth and last boat was attacked and stolen: “We were fishing at 5am and inside 3 miles we saw the navy coming. The Israelis on the gunship ordered us to stop and they shot seven bullets to destroy our engine. At gunpoint they ordered us to take off our clothes and swim to their boat. We were cuffed and covered with a blanket with a hole for our mouths. We were freezing. While detained they shouted insults to us. They asked about our relatives and friends in good Arabic, showed us our house in Gaza on a satellite photo and offered us money to spy for them. That was our last boat, after one had been shelled and two others were taken at sea. Now electricity for our home has been cut because we can’t afford to pay it. We were released but the last boat has gone, our livelihoods are finished.”

Here are some photo’s I took on the day > http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.451282564941694.1073741825.158095294260424&type=3 Is it too much to ask that Palestinian fishermen be allowed to fish Palestinian waters without the threat of losing their livelihoods, their freedom or their lives  ???

I would like to finish this entry by paying tribute to amazing women of Palestine, as I write this entry on International Women’s Day when many of the world’s women are fighting for workplace equality and an end to domestic violence, the majority of Palestinian women fight for the most basic right > Freedom !

Palestinian fishermen > who have seen there numbers halved in the last decade due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas.

Palestinian fishermen > who have seen there numbers halved in the last decade due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas.

March 8, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments