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2022 BuildPalestine Summit Provides Tangible Learning About Unity

Dear BuildPalestine Community,

Over 6 years ago, BuildPalestine was established as a place for Palestinians, wherever they may be, to come together to solve problems facing our community. In the process, we hoped to work towards building a liberated Palestine that can be an example to others struggling for freedom, justice, equality and democratic values. 

We know that one of the biggest challenges we face as a community is unity. How can we unify to achieve our objectives – big and small – when our people remain divided by geography, politics, and socioeconomic circumstance? And how can we do so while embracing our diversity and differences? This year, BuildPalestine’s annual summit took up these very questions. We aimed to provide a safe, welcoming and open space for this conversation. Thanks to all of the summit’s participants and presenters, we believe we were able to achieve this during the two-day online gathering.  

It is in this spirit, we would like to clarify an event that occurred the eve of the summit, when a speaker raised concerns about the participation of Amjad Iraqi, an editor for +972 Magazine, on the opening panel. The BuildPalestine team invited Amjad to the conversation on unity as a well-respected Palestinian writer, based in Haifa, who recently published an article in the Nation titled: Palestinian Resistance Tore Down the Green Line Long Ago.

The speaker decided to withdraw from the summit, posting later on Facebook that it contradicts his personal principles to engage with anyone who “cooperates with the colonizer”. Following that post, and with only hours before the summit was due to start, two other speakers indicated privately that they would also withdraw on the basis of Amjad’s participation. It was then that Amjad decided to withdraw from the opening panel so as not to jeopardize the success of the gathering.  

The BuildPalestine team was deeply conflicted by Amjad’s withdrawal. Given the theme of the summit and to ensure Amjad’s voice was heard, we asked him to provide a statement to share during the opening panel.  Below is that statement, and the full conversation can be viewed here

Dear friends and colleagues, in light of some recent discontent among several speakers regarding my affiliation with +972 Magazine, I decided to withdraw my participation from today’s panel so as not to cause further trouble to the organizers or to put any fellow Palestinian speakers in discomfort.

I sincerely understand the critical views raised and deeply empathize with the reasons behind them. It is still unfortunate that a summit about unity should have to witness a live demonstration of disunity, based on what I fear are simplistic and mistaken assumptions about who I am, what my site represents, and what counts as legitimate Palestinian movement work. We are a diverse and complex society with many grey zones and contradictions, and any attempt to pretend otherwise — or to enforce a singular view of what we should be and how we should struggle — is a misrepresentation of who we are and a hindrance to our cause.

All the same, I do not wish to be a source of tension at this event, and hope the summit moves forward in good spirits. I’m grateful to the organizers for their support and hard work, and look forward to watching the summit as a fellow Palestinian.

Palestinian civil society, through much consensus-building over the years, has developed guidelines and a compass to assist the movement in determining what is or is not normalization. Such assessments must be done with care so that they do not become a weapon that divides our community or are used to attack individuals who have been working tirelessly within our civil society spaces against settler colonialism.

As Palestinians, we do not stand for any form of oppression. We must allow our shared values to lead our movement, and find intentional ground for us to co-resist alongside allies inside and outside Palestine. 

Nonetheless, the BuildPalestine team believes that the episode turned out to be an important opportunity to engage in this much-needed conversation in an appropriately nuanced way, and a tangible learning experience for us all about the meaning of unity. 
Unity is not only about how we overcome our differences during moments like the Unity Intifada in 2021: it is about how we engage with each other day in and day out, and the grace and love we show each other so that we can successfully strategize and build for the long haul of this struggle. More than one hundred years have passed now with us resisting colonization and many more years of resistance await us. The only way we can do this is together. So let’s build.

How this Palestinian Business Forced out the Israeli Mushrooms of Gaza’s Markets

Being fed up with the Israeli occupation’s policies impacting Gaza’s economy, this is the story of Ahmad Al-Hajin, who became a part of the economic growth in his Gazan community by designing a complex system that controls temperature and humidity fully and automatically to grow sensitive mushrooms.

The economy in Gaza mostly depends on agriculture and small industries. As Gaza is besieged, it is hard to start a business or boost local production because of the Israeli restrictions on imports, especially on the raw materials needed to grow white mushrooms. As a result, the market in Gaza is dominated by what they call “the competitor product”, as in the Israeli products, because they have no other option.

Kindy Farm’s Journey

They say that the third time is a charm, but it was the seventh one for Ahmad!

Ahmad faced many challenges while trying to bring in an initial mushroom shipment from abroad, but he was determined to reproduce these mushrooms locally. Finally, and after being able to receive a shipment from Italy, Ahmad was focused on making the cultivation process self-sufficient; he wanted to make the soil and the seeds in Gaza rather than keep facing the tyranny of the enemy.

Ahmad worked on reproducing the champignon in the Islamic University of Gaza laboratories. Even though Ahmad and his team failed 6 times, he was persistent to keep trying, and the seventh trial did not betray him. Consequently, Ahmad built the first mushroom farm in Gaza. Currently, the farm produces around one ton of champignon each month, and it is well prepared and automated to provide the perfect level of temperature and humidity to guarantee a smooth production process for the mushrooms. Kindy’s mushrooms replaced the Israeli mushrooms in the Gazan market in no time as they were better quality and a more affordable alternative.

Why Mushrooms?

Approximately, around 64.4% of Gaza’s population suffers from food insecurity as a result of the severe poverty caused by the blockade. White mushrooms are an excellent option for the Gazan market as they are considered a healthy alternative to the protein in meat. Mushrooms contain vitamin D and vitamin B12, they are low in sugar and calories. Mushrooms improve the gut’s health, protect from breast cancer, boost the immune system, and even do more wonders to the human body. Ahmad aims to add mushrooms to the Palestinian table so it contributes to minimizing the effect of food insecurity.

Obstacles Along the Way

The farm had to be self-sufficient due to the most prominent challenge in Palestine; the occupation. Since Gaza is besieged, electricity remains a notable barrier for the residents of the strip. Since the planting system mostly relies on electricity in powering technology used for heat and humidity, it requires electricity to keep the process going. Kindy started using alternative generators to solve electricity issues and power outages. However, the team is still working towards finding another source of energy, such as a solar one or an environmental one that consumes agricultural remnants. 

As a Palestinian entrepreneur, Ahmad believes the occupation and the financial support remain the top two obstacles for any entrepreneurial idea in Palestine.

Kindy Farm’s Ambitions

Kindy started as a small farm but produced the most selling mushrooms in Gaza. The team believes that they are going to expand to the West Bank by the end of 2022, by which they aim to create more job opportunities. The team is looking forward to bringing new agricultural technologies to Palestine and producing crops other than mushrooms. Thus, Kindy Farm’s ambition lies in boosting the local economy and fighting food insecurity along the way in Gaza and Palestine.

“It is impossible for traditional mentalities to get us out of the dilemma we are living in, we need creative entrepreneurial brains.”

Ahmad Al-Hajin

How Did BuidPalestine’s Fellowship Help Kindy Grow?

“Every information I have received through this program has built on my capabilities.  Through the fellowship, I was able to identify as a social entrepreneur and understand what “Impact” means. I was also able to connect with volunteers who are helping me with marketing and outreach.”

Ahmad Al-Hajin

BuidPalestine’s fellowship program provides weekly check-ins and monthly training sessions and coordinates shadowing opportunities for skill building and mentorship. Fellows have the opportunity to learn from a professional community of expert organizers focused on social entrepreneurship, business modeling,  financial planning, and storytelling. In addition, BuildPalestine’s fellowship allows the matching of skilled volunteers with fellows from BuildPalestine’s network.

Who’s Ahmad Al-Hajin?

Ahmad Al Hajin is the Founder and CEO of Kindy, an agricultural technology company. He graduated from Al-Azhar University with a BE in Mechatronics, Robotics, and Automation Engineering. Ahmad is passionate about issues of change and making a positive impact on the lives of others. 
Naviatx: a Palestinian Startup Helping Drivers Get Home Safely

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Traffic accidents are as much of an issue in Palestine as they are elsewhere around the world. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there were over 8,600 casualties in road traffic accidents in 2020, 110 of which were fatal. Meanwhile, traffic...

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