With all that is happening in the Middle East and North Africa, let us not forget Palestine.
The saying goes like this: "When Israelis sneeze, Gazans get the flu." Now we can add "when Egypt experiences a fever, a blockade of Gaza ensues."
Since 2006, the story has remained the same - all of Gaza is on lockdown. Very little can get in, very little can get out; be it humans, food, or supplies. Our children remain malnourished. Allow me to paint you this picture: You are a visitor in Gaza, and you meet some locals, and the mother says, “Here is my 15-year-old son Omar, and here is my 11-year-old daughter Sawsan.” And you look at Sawsan in astonishment and say to yourself, "Sawsan looks smaller than my 8-year-old back in Baltimore!" That is malnourishment.
Then you learn of their daily struggles: not enough water, 2 hours of electricity per day (or less), very little meat, very little medicine, very little of everything. So you feel bad, and sad, and everything in between.
But when you get back to Arlington or Philadelphia you say to yourself, "I can't believe how kind those Gazans were, what generous hosts they were, and every poor child had a huge smile on his or her face the whole time I was there!" The same is true for those in the West Bank and those in the refugee camps (now towns and cities in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan). Their daily struggles are the same, and their beautiful hearts are the same.
Everything happens for a reason. Allah's wisdom (hikmah) and His actions are connected. If you are a Muslim, then we surrender and submit to Allah, that is the literal meaning of "Muslim." And we believe in His qadar (preordainment). But a Muslim also keeps working and keeps moving forward. In any situation, we make duaa' (supplicate) and then we work to fix and solve problems. The larger the catastrophe, the quicker and harder we work. And that is why the scholars say we push one qadar with another qadar.
Pray for your children in Palestine and help them as best you can. Remember and teach your children that the issue of Al Aqsa and its surroundings is not a Palestinian issue, nor is it an Arab issue, indeed it is an Islamic issue. As the Prophet Muhammad taught us in an authentic hadith (and here is the gist of it): The believers are like one body, when one part of the body aches, the rest of the body reacts.
Kinder USA (http://www.kinderusa.org/) continues to offer help to the needy in Palestine. Be it fresh food baskets, jobs or education, we are doing our part. Everything we do is legal, and we are a 501 c3 charity in good standing with the Treasury Department of the United States and registered as an AISBL in the European Union. Most of our activities fall under zakat ul maal; Muslim scholars (ulamaa') say that we can give our zakaat ul maal in advance if needed, and Muslims in America can take advantage of the tax deductions for any zakaah or sadaqah they give. Of course we accept support from Islamic centers and appreciate that support even if we cannot visit in person.
In an effort to help the needy and local economies, we have begun training female heads of household in Gaza in sheep husbandry and pigeon farming, providing them with impregnated sheep, a 9-month supply of fodder, and dairy goods production/sales training (all for $1,000). We are also providing some households with 10 pairs of pigeons, fodder, appropriate equipment, and proper training (all for $800) so they may prepare 20 pairs within 6 months for the marketplace. These great projects will provide revenue to the families on one end, and a good source of protein for those consuming it on the other end. We have also begun distributing rechargeable lamps ($25 each) to address the power shortages.
One final thought: Many non-Muslims in America and around the world have donated generously to help the needy in Palestine. The list is too long at Kinder USA, and includes Christians, Jews, and others, individuals and churches, and more.
Allow me to give you a few specific examples: the Coptic Christian from Egypt whom I met at a Connecticut gas station one night and insisted that he take Kinder USA brochures to his church. The Christian family from Indiana that gave and has been giving every month for years. And perhaps the bravest of all, Jews inside and outside the United States who are standing up for justice and for the children of Palestine. How generous and brave are they? Once upon a time, not too long ago, two Palestinian children needed immediate medical attention and had to leave Gaza. After Israeli border agents refused to let them cross the Eastern border of Gaza, two Israeli physicians stepped up and agreed to take full responsibility for these two children's entry, stay, and exit; only if you are from that region would you understand how brave and generous these Jewish physicians' "guarantee" was. Thank you, one and all.
Ibrahim Amin Abusway, Development Coordinator, Kinder USA . Donations to Kinder USA may be made at http://www.kinderusa.org/ or 1-888-451-8908 or mailed to Kinder USA, PO Box 224846, Dallas, TX 75222-9785. You may contact the writer at Ibrahim@kinderusa.org