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‘A Night for Palestine’ raises funds for humanitarian projects

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Posted: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 10:30 am

On Saturday evening, Crete Hall at Hutchins Street Square filled with people united by one cause: to help those in need in Gaza and beyond.

With several courses of Palestinian food, dancers from Samos Dabke, music by oud player Ihab Hamadi, guest speakers, raffles and more, a couple hundred people spent the evening being entertained, learning about the work done by Islamic Relief USA from Mendocino to Myanmar, and raising money to help provide schools, food and clean water to Palestinians in need.

“We are here together because we are representing one idea, and that is that we are human first,” said Oula Miqbel, who emceed the evening.

IRUSA is a Virginia-based nonprofit that works with the United Nations, the Red Cross and other major disaster relief organizations throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the United States.

During the Northern California wildfires last October, the group sent a disaster response team to help with recovery efforts. On Feb. 1, the Marysville Appeal-Democrat reported that the group would provide $500 to each family in Yuba County who lost a home in the fires.

Saturday’s event, however, was about helping people in Gaza. IRUSA has been working with the U.N. to help orphans and families who lost their homes during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, as well as investing in water and sanitation, agriculture, job training for youths and mental health care for children.

Mohammad Jamal Deen, a nurse and an anesthesiologist in training who also goes by Mohammad JD, shared his experiences working in a refugee camp in Greece for three months. While he stayed in the camp, he ate the same things the residents did — mostly dry bread and rice — and lived in a tent.

One night, residents told him there was a medical emergency, but when he got to the tent, they had laid out dinner from their meager rations. They wanted to surprise him with a meal.

“The people who have very little give the most,” Deen said.

He also worked with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and was impressed that despite their hardships, they still found the time to study engineering, nursing and other fields. One man told him that he would happily forego food and water to ensure his children got an education.

“These are people in really tough situations, but they still want to strive,” Deen said.

After Deen’s talk, Munir Iqtish took the floor, raising funds auctioneer-style while sharing tidbits about Levantine geography, details about how IRUSA uses the funds it raises, and a few jokes.

Iqtish compared the efforts to the Dead Sea, which receives plenty of fresh water from the Jordan River, but is so full of salt nothing much can live in its waters. People don’t want to be like the Dead Sea, only taking and not giving back, he said.

“We want to be good on the outside and the inside,” he said.

For more information about Islamic Relief USA, visit www.irusa.org.

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