Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC)
By Jennifer Lemire
September 13th, 2006
Interview with Ahmed Sourani, PARC-Gaza
September 13, 2006
By Stephanie Sluka Brauer
May 11th, 2006
One of the best things about working at Grassroots International is the incredible circle of people we are able to connect with.
Many things have changed in the Gaza Strip since Hamas won the elections in January 2006 according to the public will. The E.U. and U.S.
PARC is one of the largest NGOs in Palestine concerned with sustainable rural development and social change.
The Gaza Strip is a difficult place to begin a trip. In Gaza, the full impact of the occupation hits you smack in the face the very second you reach Erez. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world...if not the most. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), one of GRI's partners, approximately 1.3 million people are living on 365 square kilometers of land. Nearly 900,000 residents are considered refugees, about half of whom are living in the 8 camps in Gaza. 61% of the population is under 19 years old and the average family size of 6.9. In a recent publication, B'tselem, an Israeli human rights group, reports that more than 77% of Gazans now live below the poverty line - almost double the number before the intifada -and that some 23 percent of Gazans are in "deep poverty," meaning that they do not reach the subsistence poverty line even after receiving aid from international agencies.
On the 24th of February I traveled to Gaza to meet with Grassroots International’s partners, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC). The entrance into Gaza was not easy.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to speak at a progressive Jewish congregation, Kahil B'raira-- Community of Choice -- Congregation for Humanistic Judaism (KB).
Some time ago, KB contacted Jennifer Lemire and I about possibly adopting a Grassroots International Palestine partner as a project of the congregation. After a painstaking two year assessment and dialogue, the congregation's Middle East Working Group decided to sponsor two projects - one in Israel and one in Palestine.
One project is Open House in Ramle, Israel, which supports the building of relationships and reconciliation between Israeli Jews and Arabs. The other is support for the Anin Kindergarten through Grassroots International, a project of the Anin Women's Club, located in the northern West Bank (The Anin Women's Club is a project of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees.)
Last Tuesday, following a three-week withdrawal from Gaza, Israeli forces invaded the northern section of the Gaza Strip. The ensuing week has been one of the deadliest periods in Gaza in years. (For an overview of the last four years of intifada--1,008 Israelis and 3,334 Palestinians dead-- read Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi's analysis on Electronic Intifada.)
Our partners in Gaza are doing their best to do their work and live their lives, but they are struggling. In addition to the 66 Palestinian deaths (including 19 children), there has been extensive damage to infrastructure, including the total destruction of water, power and sewage systems for more than 100,000 refugees.
The following is a note from Ahmed Sourani, director of External Relations for the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC). PARC is one of the most important players in the Palestinian agricultural sector focusing on rural development, environmental protection, and strengthening women's position in society in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the aftermath of the Likud Party's rejection of Ariel Sharon's plan for Israel to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, the IDF has stepped up its military actions in Gaza.