To Palestine

To my Palestine, send my salutes,

to the beaten drums and the played flutes,

to its rivers and seas that I missed,

and its golden shores that I kissed,

to Its stunning skies that were always blue,

and to the green forests that I played through.

Send my warm-hearted regards,

to its lands and the green yards,

to the very ancient olive trees,

to the preserved old keys,

to the high hills and mountains,

and the its springs and fountains,

Send my embraces and salam,

to my granny, and kiss her palm,

to my father, and his wrinkled face,

and to his farm, and his old place,

to my mom’s pure big heart,

where her love will never apart,

Mohammed Arafat

02-07-2018

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Gaza, Where My Heart Belongs

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Among its green trees I was born.

On their branches my dad hung my swing.

From its fruit, I ate, and from its corn.

Walking in its fields, I used to sing…

 

I stopped hearing singing birds

but clashes and bullets.

I stopped seeing flying doves

but warplanes and buzzing drones.

 

Gaza was, then, besieged…

No life.

No light

but strife, and fight.

 

I got scared, but my dad taught me this;

“Be a man, be a man, and never less!”

I knew Gaza was always like this,

yet it’s the city we will miss.

 

I love it, and will always do.

Its soil, its sea, its oil will be free.

Rebirthed it will be and new.

Neither for him nor her, it’s we.

 

Gaza is not what media tells.

It’s not about battles or fight.

It’s not about bombs or shells.

It’s about asking for my right!

 

Mohammed Arafat

28-06-2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emigration: New Phenomena Gaza Youth Face

 

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Guess what? After the Raffah crossing is open since the beginning of the Holy Month of Ramadan for the first time, Gaza people, especially youths, found their way to ‘emigrate’ outside the enclave. The decade-long siege, the unemployment, which increased to more than 80%, and poverty are among the most important reasons that led some of the unemployed, even the employed, youth in the Gaza Strip to emigrate abroad to secure their future.

Recent reports stated that more than 13,000 of youths with mature minds and dreamed sights from Gaza have left the Strip during last month, which is a shocking number, while Facebook unofficial pages posted names of famous talented doctors from Gaza who also emigrated outside!

Gaza has an exceptional high education rate and young population; one-fifth of the population has a bachelor’s or associate degree, and 64 percent are under 25 years old. The literacy rate is 96.9 %, which could be the highest compared to other advanced countries! This means Gaza can be as advanced as other spots of the world IF situations get better.

Despite the fact that most Arab youths try to leave their countries due to the lack of work and stability, Palestinians are the most seekers to emigrate as they live in the largest open prison. As the youths finished their university, their goal turns to find a safer place than Gaza, especially after local and international organizations warned that Gaza will be unlivable in 2020!

‘Silent Immigration’ of Palestinians youths from Gaza to other countries sounded the alarm already, and real social catastrophes would begin ending up Gaza social ladder, which would need international efforts to be done in order to be stopped.

If the Palestinian and the Israeli decision makers, however, don’t try to solve the catastrophic economical and humanitarian situations of the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, Gaza will be empty of youths, who are the power and the soul of the besieged Strip.

Mohammed Arafat

23-06-2018

Trump’s Deal: A Solution or a Curse?

After meeting with Egyptian President and Jordanian King, US Kushner met today with the Israeli Prime Minister discussing President Trump’s ‘Century Deal’ or ‘Peace Deal’. After then end of the three-hour long meeting, the Israeli Haaretz daily reported on Friday that the plan is due to be proposed by the US administratoin, and will reportedly include offering Abu Dis town (East of Jerusalem) to become the capital of a future shrunk Palestinian state instead of Jerusalem, in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

According to the American vision of the peace plan, Israel will have to separate from four neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem, Shu’fat, Jabal al-Mukaber, Isawiya and Abu Dis, and transfer it to the Palestinian Authority and separate it from Jerusalem. Israeli on the other hand will not be asked to withdraw from Israeli settlements in Aghwar.

Responding to the leaks, the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) on Friday said that the American moves in the region, which come under the title of “improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza” constitute a great contradiction with the recent US positions which included reducing its contributions to UNRWA and cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority.

At the same time, reports from Gaza states that Hamas would be ready to reach a long ceasefire with Israel in exchange of having an airport and a seaport in addition to improving Gaza humanitarian situations.

What’s going to happen, in my point of view, is that politicians will try to convince Palestinian leadership and the Arab leaders to make a Palestinian State in the Gaza Strip and in some parts of the West Bank, a step Palestinians will compete refuse. However, Palestinians of Gaza have been waiting for any solution that can end their decade-long siege imposed on the enclave in 2007. So will Trump’s Deal be the breeze they have been waiting for, or it will be a curse that would worsen the Palestinian case and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

Mohammed Arafat

22-06-2018

Making do with Second-hand Clothes for Eid

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First publish at We Are Not Numbers

You know it’s hard times in Gaza when the best families can do as they shop for holiday clothes is to buy secondhand Israeli goods. And that is the situation this year as the 2 million residents prepare for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.

Unemployment has soared to 44 percent overall and 60 percent among youth in the wake of the Palestinian Authority’s salary restrictions and U.S. cuts in aid to UNRWA, the UN refugee agency. About half of the population lives in extreme poverty.

During the Eid holiday, a typically joyful time like the Christian Christmas and Jewish Hanukkah, parents buy new clothes for children, women buy cakes and cookies, and families visit their relatives with gifts. When you have no money however, it’s difficult to honor the traditions.

One recent day, I encountered Mohammed Abu Safi, 18, and his mother in Gaza’s Omer Mukhtar market, looking for inexpensive clothes. It was two days before Eid. He said he knew his mom would not be able to afford to buy what he really wanted, but he still hoped to find something decent.

Gaza men shopping for Eid clothes

“Two weeks ago, I came to this market to buy clothes for Eid, but everything was too expensive,” he explained. “So, I asked Mom to come just before the holiday, in the hope that the salesmen would sell their goods at cheaper prices.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t find anything that day. One shirt alone cost 60 shekels (about US$18) and a pair of pants costs the same or a bit more. Good shoes cost even more—120 shekels (US$35), so the total cost of an outfit would be about $70, which most Gazans can’t easily afford.

Maher Tabba`, an economic analyst in Gaza, says that more than 255,000 residents are jobless, many of whom are university graduates.

“The level of food insecurity has risen to more than 72 percent,” he adds.

Ahmed Baraka, a clothing merchant in the same market, sat in a chair, looking bored and furious. His shop, stocked with shirts and trousers, was empty of customers.

“What do you want me to say? These goods are borrowed from another merchant, and I will sell them at lower prices so I can pay him back, which means I will be broke,” he said.

Baraka and other merchants are very pessimistic this Eid.

“Today I didn’t sell what I expected to sell. Eid is the day after tomorrow; in previous years, my shop was never empty during this time of year,” Baraka added.

Othman Abu Rokba, 45 and a father of seven, said he came to the market with his kids only to look at the clothes in the stores, a tradition for him. He creates the feeling for his kids that they are shopping for new clothes, then “sneaks” to another market for second-hand clothes.

“My kids need new clothes but I can’t afford them, since I’ve been jobless since 2007,” Abu Rokba said. “At the same time, I don’t want them to feel different from other kids who have new Eid clothes. So, I take them to Firas Market, which sells used Israeli-imported clothes.”

Firas Market, located in central Gaza City, is full of shops with second-hand clothes imported from Israel. They are cheap and a lot of them are international brands. How does he feel about buying clothes supplied by his occupier?

“For 50 shekels (US$15), I can buy clothes for my seven children, which is way more affordable than buying new ones,” he shrugged.

Mohammed Arafat

14-06-2018

Youths harness Gaza sea to generate electricity

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First publish at We Are Not Numbers 

The electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip pervades every aspect of life for the 2 million residents—the food we are able to eat, the medical care we can receive, our ability to keep up with school, the extent to which we can stay connected to the outside world. And relief doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon, so the next generation in Gaza is setting out to find immediate solutions. Some have turned to solar power, but four newly graduated engineers think harnessing the sea could fill a big part of the gap.

The 26-year-old inventors are Haitham Mushtaha and Mahmoud Murad, from the Islamic University of Gaza’s mechanical engineering department, and Sani Subaih and Mahmoud Abu Zayed, electrical engineering. Each of them found their way to IUG’s engineering school because of their knack for taking things—and problems—apart so they could discover how to fix them. And, of course, all Gazan parents dream of their kids growing up to be engineers or doctors.

The young men found each other during their senior year of university when they happened to be in the same structural engineering class. Each had a tendency to sit in the back row to escape the prying eyes of the teachers, and soon they started chatting during every break. When it came time to choose a graduation project, it seemed natural to join forces. Mushtaha suggested they focus on hydraulic power as one solution to the aspect of Gaza life that was the source of so many of their complaints: the constant search for electricity and a Wi-Fi connection.

“I have always wanted to try do something to help our situation here, so I said why we can’t we use our own sea, our greatest asset, to generate power?” recalls Murad.

Water from the sea being fed into the converter

The fruit of their collaboration is the Wave Energy Converter (WEC). This is how it works: A large buoy is anchored in the Mediterranean Sea, which is in turn connected to a mechanical device that converts the power of the waves into electrical energy that can be shared and distributed.

“The system absorbs the stored energy of waves and transforms it into hydraulic power,” explains Mushtaha. “A set of controls regulates the converter to protect against surges during storms and other causes of high waves that might overwhelm it.”

Recognizing the potential importance of the project, the Gaza government has secured land near the Gaza seaport for the necessary infrastructure, which otherwise would have been difficult to procure. However, more resources are needed to scale up to meet demand.

“Our financial resources are limited, so the WEC needs to be sponsored by other organizations,” says Sobeih.

Abu Zayed adds, “We also suffer from a lack of scientific and practical experience in the field of wave energy and related disciplines. And we don’t have some of the equipment necessary to improve the efficiency of the converter.”

Banner saying Gaza Wave Energy Converter

 Still, so far, the project is on track to produce 10-15 kilowatts of electricity, which the team projects will be enough to light the 1,800-meter wharf on the Gaza seaport.

“This project took a long time and great effort from the Engineering Department to develop, but it is vital,” says Nasser Farahat, head of IUG. “We hope we can see wave power plants in the Gaza Strip soon.”

The WEC is just one example of the successful projects that have emerged from the Islamic University of Gaza, which runs a Business and Technology Incubator (BTI). Another such project is Green Cake, an innovative construction material developed by fellow engineer Majd Mashhrawi, and a 3D printer developed by Mohammed Abu Matar.

“Since its formation in 2006, BTI has supported the implementation of 129 projects developed by Gaza youths so they can be applied on the ground both inside and outside of Palestine,” says Basil Qnadeel, head of BTI. “I am so happy that despite the bad economic situation here, we have young entrepreneurs who still dream.”

Mohammed Arafat

11-06-2018