I’m the moderator for two book clubs at Alif Institute here in Atlanta. To see all they have to offer go to www.alifinstitute.org The evening group is reading Sharon and My Mother-in-Law, about living under Occupation while caring for her mother-in-law during curfews that lasted 42 or more days at a time. One of you is bound to lose it from time to time! I lived with my mother-in-law for six years. I empathize. Did you know that Palestinian families living in the West Bank and Gaza are kept inside their houses for as long as six months at a time? And that only one member of the family is allowed to leave once a week for two hours to buy groceries? Because houses are bulldozed down regularly, the family might have many relatives living with them. How would you cope with 10 or 12 people living with you, several with children, all unable to go outside for months at a time? I’d be emotionally distraught. How about you? Our previous book was House of Stone by Anthony Shadid. A quote from him appeared in the convention booklet. “I was an ADC intern many years ago and it’s an experience I doubt I’ll ever forget. I learned a lesson that has guided me and my journalism since then, and is that being right is a relative term, and most importantly that no voice should be silenced.”
Dear Readers, sometimes while in the middle of social justice issues it's refreshing to have a change of scene and thought. I'll be sharing some reactions to all I'm seeing. I spent my birthday in Russia at the Hermitage Museum and was told by the guide that if I stopped at each painting for less than a minute it would still take me three years to see all the artworks in its 1057 rooms. It's like Versailles but not as flashy. That evening I attended the ballet Cinderella brought up to the 1920s, with incorporated modern dance. It was stunning. The costumer selected for the dresses the same color in different intensities. The dancers, when in a line, shimmered like reflections on a lake. I was captivated. The streets were abustle with activity, the citizens looked happy or focused, the shops were inviting and the architecture preserved.
This is from the January 3 ANERA newsletter.
More than half of the residents in Wadi Khaled live under the poverty line, with a large portion of them being Syrian refugees.Back home in Syria, Nadia Al Hammoud had a house and a little farm. Now the mother of four is a refugee, living in a cattle barn in Lebanon. She fled Al Qusayr, Homs with her husband and four children in 2012, as the war took away all they had. The family of six ran away to save their lives, leaving behind any legal documents. Paperless, they settled in Wadi Khaled, a rural region on the Syrian-Lebanese border. “There are about 10,000 families residing in Wadi Khaled, equally divided between original Lebanese residents and refugee families who fled the civil war in Syria,” said Ali Al Badawi, the Mayor of Al Rama village in the Wadi Khaled area.
Poor Living Conditions for Syrian Refugees in WinterNadia and her family live in a single shoddy room in the cowshed. It has a cement floor that becomes frigid in the winter, walls that leak rainwater, and a roof rusted with asbestos. There are no glass windows in the shed, only open holes that let in the cold despite Nadia’s best efforts to seal them with nylon bags. But at 600 meters above sea level, the region is cold and windy. Winters see heavy snows. This winter, ANERA distributed winter protection kits to 1,500 Syrian refugee families like Nadia’s. The families reside in Wadi Khaled and Berkayel, both in northern Lebanon. The UN reports that the area is one of Lebanon’s “most deprived regions.” Of the 1.1 million residents, roughly 65% are under the poverty line. The crisis in Syria greatly affected the region, as 300,000 refugees have settled there after fleeing war.
Winter Boots and Battery Rechargeable Lights Support Moms Like Nadia
The winter kits include warm clothing, boots and battery rechargeable lights to address the lack of reliable electricity. On average, there are three to six hours of electricity per day, and many Syrian families cannot afford to buy generators.
I'll be telling you more about ANERA as we visit. A farm in Gaza is one of 120 farmers participating in ANERA's farm restoration project, which is helping bring war-damaged farms back to life. This is the first full harvest since the 2014 war. Though living very humbly themselves, they are sharing what they have with those even less fortunate. One farmer visited a compound of tiny, prefab units serving as shelters for hundreds of displaced families. He gave them a box of freshly picked produce from his farm. So far the farmers have distributed more than 300 boxes of fresh vegetables from their fields. It's a win-win project. What projects are helping people in your community?