Ma’an News – Fluctuating prices, poverty and border restrictions mean growing numbers of Palestinians are facing food insecurity this year — one of the key priorities in the humanitarian community’s annual appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory.
This year’s Consolidated Appeal Process is for $401.6 million, a slight decrease on last year’s $416.7 million, only 68 percent of which was financed.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which helped coordinate the CAP, estimates that 1.3 million Palestinians do not have enough food.
The latest figures show the number of households without sufficient access to food has risen by 7 percent since 2011, a trend which — if continued — would have left an estimated 41 percent of Palestinians without the necessary resources to get sufficient, safe and nutritious food at the end of 2012.
“Palestinian wages have not kept pace with inflation … Many poor Palestinians have exhausted their coping mechanisms (taking on loans, cutting back consumption) and are now much more vulnerable to small price increases than they were,” said a recent World Food Program bulletin.
According to the CAP, the situation is further worsened by restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which have resulted in higher prices of basic food commodities and reduced the purchasing power of many vulnerable families.
Humanitarian agencies hope to carry out 157 projects in 2013 — 58 implemented by UN agencies, 82 by international NGOs and 17 by local NGOs.
But doing this type of work is becoming increasingly difficult, according to aid workers who say getting access to vulnerable communities became tougher in 2012 because of lengthy Israeli planning procedures and restrictions on mobility and authorization.
In 2011, UN reconstruction projects had to wait an average of eight months for approval from Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in Territories, a unit in the Israeli Ministry of Defense that engages in coordinating civilian issues between the government of Israel, the army, international organizations, diplomats, and the Palestinian Authority). By the end of 2012, the average waiting time more than doubled to 20 months, according to the CAP report.
In addition, aid workers lost some 1,959 working hours due to 535 access incidents while attempting to pass Israeli checkpoints in 2012, Maria José Torres, OCHA deputy head of office in OPT, told IRIN.
This trend is expected to worsen once the Israeli Crossing Points Administration, a civilian department linked to the Defense Ministry, begins to operate all checkpoints.
The CPA requires regular searches of UN vehicles, unless the driver is an international staff member, and national UN staff are subject to body searches and required to walk through the crossings the CPA operates. It remains unclear, however, when exactly CPA will take over.
Impact of recent political events
The recent escalation in violence in Gaza at the end of 2012 only increased humanitarian needs and added an extra $26 million to the CAP as communities try to rebuild: this year’s appeal has a tighter focus on strictly humanitarian projects that would immediately tackle suffering, said Torres.
The indebted Palestinian government in the West Bank is also struggling to provide basic services due to a shortfall in revenue provoked by declining donor support, and also the holding back of tax revenues by Israel, which objected to the State of Palestine being given the status of a non-member observer state at the UN.
A man-made crisis?
These incidents highlight the close correlation between politics and humanitarian needs in oPt.
At the CAP presentation in Ramallah, several speakers on the podium criticized Israel for provoking what they said was a man-made humanitarian crisis in oPt.
“The UN has repeatedly called upon the State of Israel to meet its obligations as an occupying power, including halting demolitions and addressing humanitarian needs. Unfortunately, these have not been met,” said the resident humanitarian coordinator in oPt, James Rawley.
“The international community tries to fill the gap, and this humanitarian action is essential. But it is no substitute to political action.”
Many of the Palestinian officials and humanitarian staff present told IRIN they had become frustrated by the man-made and largely unchanged humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“After 20 years of a useless peace process with Israel, the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. The status quo is not working,” said Estephan Salameh, an adviser to the Palestinian Ministry of Planning in the West Bank.
Mansaf is a traditional meal in the central West Bank and Naqab region in the southern West Bank, having its roots from the Bedouin population of ancient Arabia. It is mostly cooked on occasions such as, during holidays, weddings or a large gathering. Mansaf is cooked as a lamb leg or large pieces of lamb on top of a taboon bread that has usually been smothered with yellow rice. A type of thick and dried cheesecloth yogurt from goat’s milk, called jameed, is poured on top of the lamb and rice to give it its distinct flavor and taste. The dish is also garnished with cooked pine nuts and almonds. The classic form of eating mansaf is using the right hand as a utensil. For politeness, participants in the feast tear pieces of meat to hand to the person next to them
Maqluba, which literally means upside-down in Arabic, is an upside-down rice and baked eggplant casserole mixed with cooked cauliflowers, carrots and chicken or lamb. It dates back to the 13th century.
Musakhan is a common main dish that originated in the Jenin and Tulkarm area in the northern West Bank. It consists of a roasted chicken over a taboon bread that has been topped with pieces of fried sweet onions, sumac, allspice and pine nuts.
Kubbeh made of bulghur, minced onions and ground red meat, usually beef, lamb, or goat. The best known variety is a torpedo-shaped fried croquette stuffed with minced beef or lamb. Other types of kibbeh may be shaped into balls or patties, and baked or cooked in broth.
Waraq al-‘ainib (stuffed grape leaves), is a mahshi(stuffed) meal. The grape leaves are normally wrapped around minced meat, white rice and diced tomatoes, however meat is not always used. Each piece being tightly wrapped, although some families differ in their structure. It is then cooked and served as dozens of rolls on a large plate usually accompanied by boiled potato slices, carrots and lamb pieces. Kousa mahshi are zucchinis stuffed with the same ingredients as waraq al-‘ainib and usually served alongside it.
Labneh is a common breakfast food typically eaten with Arabic flat bread, olive oil and oftentimes mint. It is usually lightly salted and eaten in a fashion similar to Hummus in the region; being spread on a plate with thicker edges and a more shallow center, drizzled in olive oil. It is often served with an assortment of pickled vegetables, olives, Hummus and cheeses as part of a meal. Armenians who historically lived in Palestine have adopted the food as well as the name and mode of consumption. Like the Bedouin Arabs, Palestinians also press and dry strained cheese as a mode of preservation and flavor enhancement.
Tabbouleh is a type of salad made from parsley pieces, bulgur, diced tomatoes, cucumbers and is sautéed with lemon juice and vinegar. In 2006, the largest bowl of tabbouleh in the world was prepared by Palestinian cooks in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Kanafeh, a well-known dessert in the Arab World and Turkey, originated in the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank in the early 15th century. Made of several fine shreds of pastry noodles with honey-sweetened cheese in the center, the top layer of the pastry is usually dyed orange with food coloring and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Nablus, to the present day is famed for its kanafeh, partly due to its use of a white-brined cheese called Nabulsi after the city. Boiled sugar is used as a syrup for kanafeh.
Maryam had nine children and at least 600 descendants
Ramallah: The head scarf was the only hindrance in the way for the oldest woman in the world to enter the Guinness World Records. 124-year-old Palestinian Maryam Hamdan Ammash, her sons and grandsons refused to meet the condition of the Guinness team for the aged woman to take off her head scarf and appear on TV.
Maryam’s family members said that their grandmother who has performed the Haj (Pilgrimage) five times in her life and performed Umrah ten times refused to commit a sinful act even for getting eternal with entering the Guinness World Records.
“There have been serious discussions about Maryam entering the Guinness World Records breaking the record of the French Jeanne Louise Calment who lived 122 and a half years. A team of the Guinness team visited Maryam and her family last March to this end,” said Mahdi Helmi Ammash, a grandson of Maryam in an interview with Gulf News.
“Armed with official documents including her birth certificate, identity card and other documents, we will not give up our grandmother’s right to enter the Guinness World Records for the longest human lifespan even after her death,” he said.
Maryam died last Saturday after she lived for 124 years and scores of people from around the world are attending her ongoing condolence session held in her home village of Jisr Al Zarqa’a, near Haifa of the 1948 areas.
Maryam who held a Turkish birth certificate and an identity card which clearly stated that the woman was born in 1888, became undoubtedly the oldest woman in the world. “This fact is beyond doubt and that all officials who paid visits to my grandmother have confirmed it and this is documented with the family,” said Mahdi. Maryam had ten children, the youngest of whom died a long while ago. With four sons and five daughters who survived, she had hundreds of descendants, estimated at 600.
“Maryam’s grandsons were grandfathers when she died as the grandmother of four generations,” he said.
“Maryam’s relationship with her children, grandchildren and their children and grandchildren was astonishing, knowing them one by one and following their lives in details,” he said.
“The wise Maryam, despite her old age, was the spiritual leader to all her family members who trusted her views and followed them almost blindly,” he stressed.
The woman was known in her village to be totally focused and balanced and she acted as a paediatrician who provided medical treatment for the newly born and infants. “We keep instruments which Maryam carefully kept since the Turkish rule in Palestine to treat the little ones,” he said, adding that visitors from around the 1948 areas visited Maryam seeking treatment which she provided for free.
The aged Maryam was an active woman despite her years and known to be a social entity who visited people on all their occasions. “She used to walk to the people in their houses and refuse to get car drives,” he said. “Maryam never believed in technology and lived a simple and natural life.”
The aged Maryam strictly depended on natural food, with food made of fresh vegetables her main dish. “She was an expert in herbs which she collected from even the far away farms, chasing certain types of them in their seasons,” he said. “None of the family members has any memory of Maryam consuming ready made food from the markets,” he said.
“Maryam used to boil the water and drink it only after it cooled down after she left it in an open area,” he said. “Maryam was an expert in telling ways people can protect their health and expand their lifespan.”
Mahdi said that his grandmother was an encyclopedia on Turkish rule in Palestine and the British mandate. “Till the time of her death, she used to tell us thousands of stories about the life the Palestinians lived under the Turkish and the Ottoman rule in Palestine, the British time and the wars waged in the area,” he said.
“We feel sorry now after we lost her that we had not documented her stories as she was an eye witness for such a long period of time,” said Mahdi, promising to pass Maryam’s stories to the coming generations.
No specific date of birth was recorded for Maryam. Rather, her family members used to mark her birthday some day by the beginning of each year. “It was a major celebration where she insisted to have all her children and their siblings under her roof for the occasion,” she said.
Ma’an News – Israeli prison authorities renewed the administrative detention of a Palestinian detainee for the sixth time on Monday, a prisoners’ rights group said.
Israeli officials from Ofer prison called relatives of Omar Barghouti to inform them that his administrative detention would be extended by another four months, Addameer prisoners group told Ma’an.
Barghouti was arrested in the village of Kobar, near Ramallah, on Oct. 24, 2010. Since his arrest, Israeli prison authorities have held him without charge for two six-month administrative detention terms and three four-month periods of detention, Addameer said.
Barghouti’s son Assam is also imprisoned in Ofer’s military jail, serving an 11-year sentence.
Omar’s brother, Nael Barghouti, was the longest serving prisoner in Israeli jails before his release in Nov. 2011 as part of a swap deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Over 200 Palestinians are held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons.
Ma’an News – Israeli forces raided three civil society organizations in Ramallah early Tuesday, a Ma’an correspondent said.Soldiers raided the offices of the Agricultural Work Committees, prisoners group Addameer, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, located in Qaddura refugee camp.
Four laptops, one hard disk and a video camera were taken from Addameer’s office, a statement from the group said. It is the first time the prisoners group has been raided since 2002, during the height of the second Palestinian intifada.
Israeli forces confiscated files and computer hardware from the women’s committee before ransacking the office, witnesses said. During the raid, clashes broke out with local youths and Israeli soldiers, who responded by firing tear gas. Military forces also raided the offices of the Palestinian NGO Network, Ma’an’s reporter said.
“This comes in the context of the UN’s decision,” Allam Jarrar of the Palestinian NGO Network told reporters on Tuesday morning. “This a message by the Israelis to the Palestinians, saying that when they take decisions or form patriotic organizations to seek their freedom, the occupation will use aggression to try and stop us,” he said.
Palestinian National Initiative chief Mustafa Barghouti said the Israeli raids were “piracy,” adding that targeting civil society organizations that serve the Palestinian public is unacceptable. An Israeli army spokesman said that “overnight IDF soldiers searched several offices in Ramallah which are affiliated with the Popular Front terrorist organization.”
In February, Israeli forces raided two Palestinian television networks in Ramallah and briefly detained four employees, journalists said.
NGO: Non-Governmental Organization