Tag Archives: Gaza

Parting the brown sea: Sewage crisis threatens Gaza’s access to water

Please take a moment to read my most recent piece, up today at Al Jazeera America.

Please also take a moment to circulate. This crisis is urgent, and under-reported.

Parting the brown sea: Sewage crisis threatens Gaza’s access to water

by Jen Marlowe

GAZA CITY — Until very recently, Salameh Abu Kash earned his living as farmer. Abu Kash, a heavyset man with thick eyebrows and a clipped beard, lives in Wadi Gaza, a valley in the central Gaza Strip. The wetland here was known for its biodiversity, but after construction of a sewage treatment plant was delayed in 2011, excrement from nearby refugee camps and towns began to be diverted through the valley en route to the Mediterranean Sea.

“They brought sewage for us and for our children, and we can’t sleep anymore,” said Abu Kash in Arabic the following year. “Farming is ruined. The plants are diseased. There are flies, worms, and it is spreading.” Animals and birds were soon replaced by swamps of sewage, swarming flies and thriving bacteria. Residents began to suffer from an increase in allergies, inflammation, fevers and weakened immunity, Abu Kash said. Disease-ridden mosquitoes feasted on the community at night. The stench was overpowering.

Wadi Gaza is but one illustration of the full-blown water and sanitation crisis that is facing the Gaza Strip…

(To read the rest, please click here.)

Photo credit: Fadi Abu Shammala

Photo credit: Fadi Abu Shammala

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Amer Shurrab joining the “Saddle!”

Dear friends,

It is with great excitement that I welcome Amer Shurrab as the new Project Manager for donkeysaddle projects.

Amer’s first official day was Monday–and he has already jumped in with both feet, taking on the many-pronged responsibility of maximizing our projects’ impact and reach.

Amer brings to this work expertise from his recently completed MA degree in International Policy Studies and his MBA in International Management from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.  He brings his passion when he speaks publicly about the devastation his family experienced (two of his brothers were killed during the 2008/9 attack on Gaza, and four of his cousins during the 2014 Gaza war) and about the ongoing violations caused by occupation and siege.

Most importantly, Amer brings to donkeysaddle projects his deep commitment to human rights, to social justice, and to the principles of equality and human dignity. These principles are at the core of why we do our work, how we do our work, and the world that donkeysaddle projects is trying to build.

Will you join me in welcoming Amer to donkeysaddle projects by making an online $10 monthly donation in his honor, or, a one-time $25 donation? (Or, to send a check, click here.)

Your gift will enable Amer to start his work knowing that his vision of a world where everyone’s dignity and everyone’s rights are accorded equal importance is a vision that we all share.

Welcome aboard the saddle, Amer!  

With excitement,

Jen Marlowe
Photo: Jen Marlowe & Amer Shurrab on a ferry heading to Whidbey Island, WA to show a film and speak about Gaza in July, 2014.

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Maram. Karam. Kareem.

I don’t think I will ever forget what I saw and what I heard in Shejaiya, an eastern neighborhood of Gaza city that was reduced to rubble during the 2014 attack on Gaza. I will be posting here–all still in raw form–some of what I saw there, and some of the painful stories I heard.

sumud in shejaiya3boy in shejaiya2

Below: the site of a destroyed clinic. I was photographing Sabrina Ibrahem from PCHR, my colleague Fadi Abu Shammalah and a few people who were working on clearing out the rubble. As I was photographing them, Fadi photographed me.

Sabrina had just finished telling Fadi and me the devastating story of a mother pregnant with twins who was killed by a bomb, which ripped open her womb. Sabrina got on the scene to document right after it happened–she saw the killed mother and fetuses. She broke down crying as she recounted it to us…but yet here she is minutes later: strong, resilient, smiling. Sumoud.

shej crewshejaiya jen2I saw no reconstruction at the site of this destroyed clinic. What I did see was ongoing clearing of rubble. The system: Men and boys loaded the rubble onto carts drawn by donkey or horse. Then, the cart was pulled onto the main road, and the rubble was transferred onto a giant truck. When full, the truck drove somewhere. To do something with the mountains upon mountains of rubble collected:

clearing rubble from hospital

clearing rubbleThe only time I have ever broken down and cried during an interview was when speaking with Talal and Leila Al Helo. 12 members of their family killed in an airstrike on their home. Here is Talal, on the rubble of the home in which 12 of his family members were killed:

shej father on home 16b

Those killed included Talal and Leila’s 26 year old daughter:

mother of karam and kareem

And their three grandchildren: 2 year old Maram, and twin six month old boys, Karam and Kareem.

I promised Talal and Leila that I would do all I could to make sure that their story was known and that people remembered those babies, and knew their names. Maram. Karam. Kareem.

Karam Kareem Maram2

Leila showed me a video of Karam and Kareem, talking to each other in that special twin baby talk, filmed the day before they were murdered. Watching that video– Fadi and I both lost it.
Look at the pictures, and, please, say aloud those babies’ names:

Maram. Karam. Kareem.
video twin5 video twins3 video twins6

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Khuza’a: homes and lives destroyed

On July 23, 2014 the Israeli military launched a ground invasion in Khuza’a, in the eastern part of Khan Younis. Dozens of civilians were killed, including a paramedic trying to evacuate the wounded. Destruction in Khuza’a–of homes, of lives, of hope for the future–was overwhelming. I went to Khuza’a with Yasser Abd A-Ghafour, a human rights defender from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, who had been on the ground documenting the atrocities in real-time. He showed us around and narrated for us the horrors that took place during the war.
My colleague and friend Fadi Abu Shammala took the following photos as I filmed at the entrance of Khuza’a, trying to take in the scope and scale of devastation and human suffering in front of my camera–and my eyes:

khuzaa jen6 khuzaa jen1 khuzaa jen7

Yasser showed us some of the worst hit areas and told us what happened as we drove through the main street, including a disabled girl being killed from an airstrike while, wheelchair-bound, she was unable to flee:

khuzaa car tour1

Notice the pain in Yasser’s eyes as he tells us what we are seeing outside the car window:

khuzaa car tour2

A destroyed mosque:

khuzaa mosque

We were there during a wind and sand storm; as you can see in the billowing of the tent:

khuzaa tent in the rubble

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Two doors, Daddy.

Many of you met the Awajah family through my film “One Family in Gaza,” telling their story from the 2009 attack on Gaza, in which their home was destroyed (the destruction began while they were still in their home) and their 9-year old son, Ibrahim, was shot at close range and killed.
When the family started rebuilding their home in 2012, the kids wanted the new home to be built with two doors.
“Two doors, Daddy,” the kids insisted, “So that when the Israelis destroy the home again, we can run away.”
Here is the Awajah family’s new home after the 2014 attack on Gaza. Complete with the escape door:

two doors, daddy

Below, are Kamal and Wafaa Awajah on the rubble of their twice-destroyed home. (Wafaa told me she had not cried at this second destruction of her home. Until this day, when I asked her to tell me about what happened.) :

kamal on rubble11wafaa on rubble9

And–hanging laundry on the ruins–a reminder of the resilience of Gaza:

laundry in the rubble1

laundry in the rubble2

This is 3 year old Ibrahim Awajah. He was named after his brother who was killed at age 9 in the 2009 assault on Gaza. Little Ibrahim has lived in tents and amidst rubble most of his young life. His family’s home was destroyed before he was born (the same day his brother was killed) and their newly rebuilt home was destroyed this past summer.

At breakfast one morning, he said (out of the blue): “The Israelis shot me.”
When he saw my startled look, he repeated it: “The Israelis shot me.”
“You’re the 2nd Ibrahim,” his father Kamal quickly corrected him. “It was your brother that the Israelis shot, not you.”
In this tiny child’s self-narrative, he heard his family talking about how Ibrahim was shot, and, since he is Ibrahim, he believed it must have happened to him…

ibrahim at night smilingwafaa and ibrahim by firelight

At night, Kamal made a bonfire outside the caravans that the family received just the week before I arrived, next to the rubble of their home:

feeding the fire Jen and Awajah kids betw rubble and moon there is light

The young children fell asleep by the firelight, and were then transferred into the caravans. (Kamal called me a few days after I left Gaza to tell me that the caravans were destroyed in last week’s storm. They are back in the tent.)

Here is 17-year old Omsiyat rocking her little brother to sleep, while 5 year old Lulu tries to fall asleep:

omsiyat rockig ibrahim to sleep lulu going to sleep

Nothing signifies “boyhood” so much as boy chasing puppy in play. But this 9-year old boy (Diyaa) is chasing his puppy past the giant crater left by an F16 bomb behind the tent where the family is now living:

diyaa chasing dog, F16 crater background

Kamal and Lulu walk down into the crater, demonstrating its depth:inside f16 crater

We had a birthday party for Diyaa, who turned 9 years old. The kids made seesaws out of the rubble and lumber:

see saw in rubble1 seesaw3 seesaw4

And, in the midst of trauma and heartache, there is love. Kamal gives little Ibrahim a kiss, from the rubble of their home:

kamal kissing ibrahim on rubble

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Building towers from rubble in Gaza

My second-to-last morning in Gaza, I visited a kindergarten that had been destroyed. The kids were provided with a different building for most of the day, but many of the kids still gather in the destroyed kindergarten, as it is a more convenient location for the parents to drop off, and then together they walk to the new school. While waiting? They build towers out of the rubble.

building towers2 building towers3 building towers4 The kids are walking from the old kindergarten (destroyed) to the new one.walking to new school1 And this. Their faces. These signs. RightToPlay1LiveInPeace1

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Gaza: Photos, reflections

Just got back to the U.S. day before yesterday after 2.5 months in Palestine/Israel, including 9 very intense days in Gaza. Didn’t post much while there…but now that I’m back, will be sharing many photos, many reflections; here, on Twitter and on my Facebook. More polished/produced pieces of writing and filming will come later. For now, the raw stuff:

Below: This photo of me was taken in Shejaiya, east Gaza City, on the rubble of what used to be a clinic. I have seen a lot of devastation in my life, but I have never seen anything like what I saw in Shejaiya. My camera (much less my brain) could not hold the scope and scale of the destruction:

shejaiya jen2

 Below: I met these kids as they were climbing in the ruins of their destroyed home, in Beit Lahiya, Gaza–very close to the border with Israel. Most amazing: they wanted to play and clown and have fun. Like all kids.

little boy climbing

kids scramblingkids beit lahiya2 boys climbing the walls boys beit lahiya1  boys with rubble and tents

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