Gaza? Birthday? What are you talking about Nora?

Update! $260 raised so far for The Gaza Fund at Dalia Association!

Thanks and hugs to Carolyn Quffa, Mary Onorato, Vicki Tamoush, and Pauline Solomon.

Time seems to accelerate as I approach my fiftieth birthday, intensifying my gratitude for a life with purpose but also highlighting all that is still undone in this sick, beautiful world. There is no shortage of causes to work for, but one that has stolen my heart is Gaza.

Over one-and-one-half million human beings are locked in the Gaza Strip, a majority of whom are children and youth. Like many other Palestinians, they are denied the right to earn a living, denied the right to enjoy their own water and other natural resources, denied the right to move around for educational or recreational opportunities, and denied the right to compete fairly with others to achieve their dreams.

For this reason, I’ve decided to celebrate my birthday on May 5, 2014 by asking friends, family, and folks of conscience “out there in the world” to help me make a small dent in the inhuman and wasteful siege on Gaza. More specifically, I am asking you to do three things:

1-Make a contribution of any size into a “Gaza Fund” that I am opening at Dalia Association, Palestine’s community foundation. (Even better if you make your contribution monthly, quarterly or annually.) Be sure to write “Earmarked for Gaza” at the top of the credit card form.

But because we know that money alone doesn’t solve anything, I ask that you ALSO…

2-Take at least one political action to help lift the siege on Gaza. I suggest a letter or email to a political representative asking him or her to bring the urgency of the siege into the governmental debate.

And because we know that one-time political actions aren’t enough and we really need a sustained effort, I ask that you ALSO…

3-Join an organization or sign up for a newsletter so that you will stay informed about developments relating to Gaza and Palestine in the long term, not just when there’s bad news that reaches the front pages.

I’m asking for a lot, but because I believe that birthdays (and everyday in between) are a time for giving, not just receiving, I want to give you a gift, too. I will release a short, video-taped interview with a person from Gaza every day in the weeks leading up to my birthday. You will enjoy hearing directly from Gazans about the issues they care about, about their daily lives, and about what they wish the world would understand.

Please give your own suggestions about political actions to take and organizations to join in the comments section.

Please sign up for my newsletter to be informed about new videos and other articles I write related to Gaza, Palestine, international aid, development, philanthropy, and occupation.

Please spread the word about my birthday campaign to your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers, and other networks.

Please check out Dalia Association and sign up for their newsletter to be kept informed about Palestinian-led development and the opening of the new Gaza Fund.

And please have a really happy 2014.


Being Gazan in Canada with Ghada Ageel

(I posted two gifts today, in celebration of Easter)

Dr. Ghada Ageel is a Visiting Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. She holds a PhD and MA in Middle East Politics from the University of Exeter (Britain) and a BA in Education from the Islamic University/Gaza. Her PhD dissertation examined the historic and contemporary role of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) in relation to the question of a durable solution for Palestinian refugees.

Dr. Ageel is the recipient of several awards and scholarships including The Phillips Grant (UK, 2013), The Jerusalem Studies’ Scholarship of the University of Exeter (2002 and 1999), the Higher Education Award of the Ministry of Education (Palestine, 1996) and the Hebrew Language and Literature Scholarship (Gaza, 1993).
Her research interests focus on rights-based approaches to forced migration, Palestinian refugees in comparative perspective, oral history, women’s studies, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the permanent status issues involved in the Middle East peace process. Dr. Ageel’s work has been widely published in several newspapers, magazines and journals worldwide, including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Hill, CNN, BBC, The Guardian, Journal for Palestine Studies, Palestine Chronicle, MATAN Magazine (Hebrew), Occupation Magazine and many Arabic newspapers throughout the Middle East.

In addition to her book with Dr. Ibrahim Abu Jaber, Wisam Afifi, Maisam Eid, et all “Jurh Al-Nakba: Part 1″ The Wound of Nakba, Part 1, Um Al-Fahem, Centre of Contemporary Studies, 2003; Dr. Ageel is currently working on a book project: The Palestinian Nakba and Israeli Apartheid : The Law and The Experience. She is also active in Faculty4Palestine—Alberta.


Gaza’s special place in Palestinians’ hearts

2:28 minutes (but I’m talking most of the time!)

Happy Easter to those to celebrate it — in Gaza, and all over the world.

Thoraya El-Rayyes is a writer and literary translator living in Amman, Jordan. She was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents and immigrated to Canada with her family at the age of six, although she has lived in Jordan for most of her life.

Thoraya’s English language translations of Arabic literature have appeared in various literary magazines, including World Literature Today, Cutbank, The Common, Banipal and Sukoon.


Gazans feel isolated

Four+ minutes. Straight to the heart.

A Muslim Palestinian originally from Gaza, Ms. Besisso, 44, currently lives in Ramallah. Her parents came from well-known families who became refugees after the 48-49 war. Her grandfather often remarked that he felt sorry his grandchildren were raised poor while he had land, home and a business before the war. She is an only child and, as such, it was her parents’ dream that she marry and have a family; so she married at 17 and raised 6 children. They range from 26 to 8 years old.

She believes it is important to work hard to improve herself and her society. Ms. Besisso has worked for several international and local organizations including: American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Save the Children USA, Defense for Children International, the Jerusalem Media Communication Center, and others. After earning diplomas from Al Azhar University and Kann’an Educational Development Institute in Gaza, she is working on a B.A. in Social Work from Al Quds Open University. She also earned a technical training certificate in Field Research and Project Coordination from the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.

Ms. Besisso has spoken to audiences in the U.S. and Europe through Peace x Peace and Joining Hands Against Hunger (a Presbyterian Church initiative). She currently works as Freelance Community Trainer and advocacy activist where her main task is to organize, carry out, train, and evaluate nonviolence training and other advocacy projects. She is also the founder of Women for Justice.


Electricity in Gaza

Absolutely fascinating 7 minutes. Coping with constant power outages living on the 9th floor…

Najla is from Gaza, she works for a humanitarian organization there. She can be followed on twitter at @whateveringaza.

She’s willing to answer questions! Amazing opportunity for us all to learn more.


The Job Skills Gap in Gaza with Nahedd Kayyali

3 minutes.

“My name is Nahedd Kayyali. I am from Gaza City. I am 26 years old. I have Bachelor’s Degree in Software Development, and I am continuing my higher education towards an MBA. I work as an ICT Program Coordinator in an international NGO that supports university graduates to become more competitive on the job market. My job makes me feel that I have a responsibility to raise my voice and say: Please World WAKE UP! Gazan youth have abilities and skills and they have the right to improve themselves like any youth in the World! We just need the opportunity!”