Project Open Gaza Connect Kicks Off May 9th, 2018

Gaza Youth and NGOS use CONFERENCE CALLS to overcome blockade

Using Light to Open Markets, Share Culture, Request Emergency Aid

May 7, 2018 Gaza City, Palestine — This Wednesday, May 9th, in a conference call with House and Senate, American non-profit Rebuilding Alliance kicks off a weekly non-governmental organization (NGO) forum called Project Open Gaza Connect. The forum links Palestinian NGOs in Gaza with the staff to Republican and Democratic Representatives and Senators and constituents. The inaugural forum starts at 9am Eastern time / 4pm Jerusalem time on Wednesday, May 9th with a half day of seminars. As the forum closes, families in Gaza will use solar lights or cellphone flashlights to share their messages using #ItsTimeforLight and #NurAlAmal (Light of Hope), inviting the world to reply.

Non-Governmental Organizations and youth in Gaza have something important to say, but the blockade silenced them. With Gaza’s economy collapsing in emergency, people throughout the U.S. and world would help if only they knew how. Please start by writing a message and shining your cellphone flashlight from 7:30-8:00 pm, each Wednesday.
— Donna Baranski-Walker, founder and Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance

Schedule for first Project Open Gaza Connect, Wed. May 9th - Located in Gaza City – call us

·       Leadership Forum: 16:00-16:45 Jerusalem time,   9:00-9:45 Eastern time,
A distinguished U.S. leader(s) in Atlanta or Washington DC to join audience of young writers and NGO leaders to hear what challenges they are facing;

·       We Are Not Numbers: 17:00-17:45 Jerusalem time,  10:00-10:45 Eastern time
Numbers are impersonal, and often numbing. What they don’t convey are the daily personal struggles and triumphs, the tears and the laughter, the aspirations that are so universal that they immediately resonate with virtually everyone. Seven young people will join this session to describe the challenges they are facing.

·      Emergency Appeal:  18:00-18:45 Jerusalem time, 11:00-11:45 Eastern time
The Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, calls for the protection of Palestinian demonstrators and for urgent funding to meet critical humanitarian needs generated by the massive rise in Palestinian casualties in Gaza since 30 March.

·       Nur al-Amal / Light of Hope Message to World:  19:30-20:00 Jerusalem time
7 Gaza families are holding up their poster message to the world, in Arabic and English, along with their solar lantern or their cellphone flashlight, sharing on social media, #ItsTimeforLight, #NurAlAmal

·       ‘Gaza We Hear You’ Message of Light in Reply:  20:30-21:00 progressively, around the world   In response to Gaza's Message of Light, we ask families to hold a light (cellphone flashlight, solar light, or any other light source) and write their own messages to share on social media using #ItsTimeForLight and #NurAlAmal

You’re truly giving a light to Gazans and we’re finding a way. I am overwhelmed by how many people are out there for Palestinians.
— Tarneem Hammad, a member of youth storytelling project in the Gaza, We Are Not Numbers

Project Open Gaza Connect launches this Wednesday, May 9th in advance of May 14th and 15th when the Palestinian Great March of Return reaches a peak.  For the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Palestinians have gathered nonviolently each Friday, and in response 49 people have been killed by Israeli sharpshooters and over 5000 wounded, leaving many permanently disabled. Five decades of occupation in the West Bank and Gaza by the Israeli military, eleven years of a blockade of necessary medical supplies, food, and goods, and the growing threat of economic collapse motivated Palestinians to begin nonviolent demonstrations.

These peaceful protests give Palestinians a platform to be heard and transition their feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and frustration into a powerful declaration of their need and longing for a peaceful and dignified life. My hope is that the international community hear their urgent message, take action, and lift the blockade.
— Dr. Yasser Abu-Jamei, Psychiatrist and Executive Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme

About Us:

Dr. Yasser Abu-Jamei MD, MSc, a psychiatrist, is the Executive Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.  In 2002 he joined Gaza Community Mental Health Programme as a student in the High Diploma Programme in Community Mental Health. From June 2004 to March 2009, he worked for the Training & Research Department as a Psychiatrist-Clinical Supervisor and from March 2009 he worked as the Director of the Training and Research Department. In January 2014, he became the Executive Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, and brings a special interest in neuropsychiatry, child and adolescents psychiatry, and advocacy and policy change.  On July 21, 2014 during the bombing of Gaza, twenty-eight members of Dr. Yasser’s extended family were breaking their Ramadan fast with their iftar dinner when their home was hit by an Israeli missile.  All were killed including the nineteen children and three pregnant women.  


Gaza Community Mental Health Program is a Palestinian non-governmental, non-profit organization established in 1990 to improve the psychosocial and mental status of the population of Gaza Strip under occupation and to assist in establishing a Palestinian civil society that comprehends and adopts proper human rights   practices.  Inspired by international conventions calling for the right to the highest attainable standard of health especially for vulnerable groups, GCMHP provides comprehensive mental health services for vulnerable groups in the society, especially women, children and torture survivors. GCMHP has three community mental health centers (in Gaza, Deir El-Balah, and Khan Younis) that reach all areas of the Gaza Strip.

GCMHP adopts a community based approach which not only offers clinical therapeutic services but also institutional capacity building, knowledge dissemination and public awareness to combat the stigma towards mental illness.


Tarneem Hammad, We Are Not Numbers.
Tarneem, 23, was born in Saudi Arabia, but now lives in Gaza and is a recent English literature graduate from Al-Azhar University. For part-time work, she has worked as an English trainer for Amideast and a translator for a private company. Tarneem loves languages and in addition to English and Arabic, knows a little French.  She says, "When I stop working, I start dying," so she is always on the lookout for opportunities to show her leadership and develop new skills. Tarneem is proud of being able to work under pressure and also loves reading, writing, talking and laughter! Her dream is to help develop a public library in Gaza that looks like it came from the Harry Potter stories, including books from all cultures that will "bring out the bookworm in everyone."

We Are Not NumbersWhen the world talks about Palestinians living under occupation and in refugee camps, it is usually in terms of politics and numbers – specifically, how many killed, injured, homeless and/or dependent on aid. But numbers are impersonal, and often numbing. What they don’t convey are the daily personal struggles and triumphs, the tears and the laughter, the aspirations that are so universal that if it weren’t for the context, they would immediately resonate with virtually everyone. That’s why established and aspiring “word artists” from around the world have joined with youth in Gaza, and now, Lebanon, to create "WE ARE NOT NUMBERS." Through this platform, we share and celebrate their stories, with experienced authors mentoring the youth.

Donna Baranski-Walker is the founder and Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance. and was awarded Special Congressional Recognition by Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Anna Eshoo, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez.  In April 2016, Donna was awarded Rotary District 5150’s Service Award and the Rachel Corrie Conscience and Courage Award from the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Orange County. In 2010, on the 30th ann. of the founding of the Polish Solidarity movement, Donna was awarded a Medal of Gratitude.  She is an MIT engineer.  Her work in the Middle East began in 1990 with a NYTimes op‐ed, “Small Lights in the Darkness,” translated into Arabic and received by the Iraqi Women’s Fed. just before the 1st Gulf War.

Rebuilding Alliance, is an US non-profit organization dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and bringing the world together to make them safe. Rebuilding Alliance opened 15 years ago with a life-affirming vision: a just and enduring peace in Palestine and Israel founded upon equal rights, equal security, and equal opportunity for all.  With Project Open Gaza Connect, Rebuilding Alliance is building upon now hundreds of briefings between Congressional staff and our office, many including speakers at NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza.