There’s no end in sight for even the latest round of war and death in Gaza, part of a longstanding conflict between occupied Palestinians and Israel, but a local organization is part of the effort to ease the immediate suffering.
The Mennonite Central Committee Ontario has worked toward peace-building in the Middle East for the past 60 years. Executive director Rick Cober Bauman saw firsthand how their organization is helping the victims of this conflict when he visited Israel in 2011.
“We actually met with the director of a partner, the Al Najd Development Forum, she talked about how MCC had been involved in that case getting canned meat into a number of Gaza communities during the war that happened between Israel and Hamas in 2008 and 2009.”
Cober Bauman said he wondered how well received the canned meat was because it very clearly says ‘in the name of Christ’ on the side, like all of MCC relief supplies. The organization has sometimes been concerned that that’s not fair or wise for MCC to include that when a gift is going to a Muslim country. The director of the forum said that’s not the case, however.
“In fact it was a very strong message to them they were not hated by but in fact were remembered by people in North America,” Cober Bauman said. “This was a very important message to them to see that the Christian community wasn’t turning its back on what was happening to the Palestinians in Gaza.”
A United Nations report from July estimates that 1,370 homes in Gaza have been destroyed or severely damaged in the conflict, displacing some 8,200 people.
MCC has been providing $25,000 worth of food every month to displaced people in Gaza since the second week of the conflict.
“While this is a relief response, MCC is committed to relief, development, and peace,” Cober Bauman said. “Alongside this work in responding to the very urgent needs during a war we have development responses, we’re involved in Gaza in some education projects through our global family work where we support community based schools.”
He said they’re not focused on just a “band-aid” fix, but really working on the root causes with Palestinians and Israelis.
Their food donations are highly useful in a region that’s been blockaded, causing some real nutrition issues. The people helped by their efforts have a deep appreciation for the food and the notion they haven’t been forgotten by the outside world.
“We didn’t just arrive yesterday and discover the pain and horror of war in that region,” Cober Bauman said. “We know that we have to focus our resources, but we’ve built relationships there and so to abandon to pull away in a time of really dire need would just not respect those relationships.”
He noted this is a long, drawn-out conflict in real need of closure, so that people who are third generation who know nothing but the unstable setting of conflict between Palestine and Israel can see a peaceful resolution.
MCC is looking for monetary donations, along with relief and hygiene supplies to make kits. Anyone looking to donate supplies or assemble the supplies and drop them off as a kit can do so at to the MCC Thrift Shop in Elmira, for instance.
The items needed for hygiene kits are adult-size toothbrushes, bar bath soap, fingernail clippers, and dark coloured hand towels. The items needed for relief kits are bar bath soap, plastic bottled shampoo, bar laundry soap, adult-size toothbrushes, dark or brightly coloured bath towels, wide-tooth combs, fingernail clippers, boxes of adhesive bandages, and packages of sanitary pads. All items must be new and in their original packaging.
“Our gifts are a small encouragement to people that have enormous cleanup and rebuilding ahead of them.”