The female fisher of Gaza

Story Written by: Nisreen Al-Khatib

Image of the Port of Gaza, from wearenotnumbers.org

"The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore."— Vincent Van Gogh

I believe, if Van Gogh was alive and to say that today, he'd be describing Gazan fishermen.

If you visit the Gaza seaport, you will see a variety of young and old, black and white, and injured and disabled fishermen who come from all areas of the Strip, forming a large and lively community despite an Israeli blockade that limits how far boats may sail. And you'd probably be surprised to see a lone female fisher among the roughly 2,000 men, because in Gaza it’s a male-dominated profession.

This is Madline Kullab, the 21-year-old female fisher from Gaza. Because we are the same age, and since life on the sea interests me intensely, I interviewed her recently to find out more about life as a female fisher in Gaza. Madline took me to her favorite place on the seaport to talk—the rocks by the shore. Colorful walls and blocks, decorated with graffiti by painters from some youth initiatives, were behind us and the tranquil sea was in front. A group of fishermen were chatting with each other to our left.

Madeline fishing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madline, fishing

"Fishing is an inherited job,” explained Madline. “My involvement started with my father. When I was a kid, he used to take me with him to the sea to help him. He was suffering from a disease since 1990, and it intensified when I was 13. He had to stop working, and because I am the eldest, and the one with some experience in fishing, I took his place."

When she first started, she said, “I faced some difficulties with people who didn't know me when I was a kid. Most of the young fishermen, policemen and others didn't accept me, since I was the first, and only, girl to occupy such a job. I had to prove myself and hold on until I earned respect. With the flow of time, they came to know me and things got easier. Nowadays, the relationship between me and my co-workers is very fraternal. We're one strong and loving family."

Madline pointed at a man sitting next to her. He had sharp eyes, a dark tanand black hair, and he looked to be in his 40s. She said, "Mr. Zakariyya is one of the people who helped me the most to endure all the hardships I faced." I looked at him curiously so he smiled and said, "I'm a father more than a friend of hers."

Zakariyya, or Abu Ayed, as everyone he knows calls him, is the coordinator of the fishermen's committees, a member of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and a friend of Madline’s father. He stood by her side during all of the hardships and taught her the fishing process step by step. "I used to take her with me when I went fishing to teach her how to be a professional fisher,” he recalled. “We mostly depend on the fishing nets in this job. We first prepare the nets and make sure of their quality before throwing them into the sea, often with the help of other fishermen. The steps seem pretty simple, yet the process is difficult. It takes as long as 48 hours to collect a good catch, and it requires patience and physical strength."

Gaza fishermen work with nets

Abu Ayed added that although Israel’s blockade on the Strip allows fishing only six nautical miles offshore, when the best fish are 12 or more miles out, the fishermen still manage to catchsardines, shrimp and different types of mullet. And they add a unique touch to the fishing process with their folk songs and chants, often invented by the fishermen themselves. When they throw their nets into the sea, or when the harvest is large, they start cheering or singing songs like, "Wele'dda? Bedhasardeen. Weldar? Walamalleen. WeljebaBedhadananeer" (What about equipment? It lacks sardines. And the house? It lacks money. And the pocket? It lacks pocks].Another goes like this: "Sallisalli, 'ala el-nabi, salli w soom, el-rezqydoom…" [Say peace be upon the prophet, pray and fast, so that the profit may forever last.]

Abu Ayed looked at Madline and said, "Madline herself is a story of struggle. From the beginning of the job she was one of the most professional in using a rowboat. She was just 8 years old when she tried it the first time."

Of all the difficulties with which Madline dealt , whether on her own or with the help of her family and Abu Ayed, there was one she could not solve: the Israeli occupation. "I can't recall all the dangerous situations I've been through while fishing,” she recounted.“Every fisherman [who] gets close to the border region [will] have his fishing nets or boat confiscated, and be shot or even detained by the Israeli naval forces. Personally, I had my fishing nets confiscated once and I have been fired at many times. So I try to avoid sailing near the six-mile mark."

Abu Ayed continued, saying, “During the last war, all the fishermen collected their boats and other materials on the shore and hid them in their rooms [a group of rooms built beside each other in a building, where each fisherman keeps his fishing equipment and other personal belongings]. But the Israeli navy targeted the rooms and caused great losses to all the fishermen. Madline lost her two boats."

There's a lot about Madline people don't know. Behind her tough and stubborn personality, there is a girl who likes to embroider, design clothes and swim. In fact, she was chosen as the representative of Palestine for a swimming championship held in South Africa. However, the blockade of Gaza prevented her from travelling to participate in the contest. Madline also is an activist who has met with a number of national and international notables who have visited the Strip.

As I got ready to leave, I asked Madline how she sees her relationship with the sea. Both she and Abu Ayed agreed that, "a true fisherman is like a fish. If you take him away from the sea, you're taking his life out of his body." As for the future, she said, " I wish I can stay here with the sea. No matter how much I have endured, and how much I will, I'm always ready for more."

Mentor: Harry Giles
Originaly Posted December 11, 2015 , 
on: http://wearenotnumbers.org//home/Contributor/85

Women’s Boat to Gaza buys 1st boat & sets departure

Amal-Hope to sail from Barcelona on September 14
for immediate release                                          donate now

The Women's Boat to Gaza, a project of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, has acquired its first vessel. Amal-Hope will set sail from Barcelona on September 14, carrying women who plan to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza.

picture of US boat to Gaza, 2011, Greece

In Barcelona, members of the community who support our mission will welcome the Amal-Hope. In 1998, Barcelona was 'twinned' with Gaza, with the goal of fostering international support. In 2005, the Barcelona Peace Park was inaugurated in Gaza but destroyed by the Israeli military in 2009. The park was rebuilt in 2010. As her name suggests, Amal-Hope will send a message of hope that the Peace Park and the whole of Gaza must never be bombed again.

Schedule of Events in Barcelona:
Monday 12 September – Music and festival at the port
Tuesday 13 September – Non-violent resistance workshops, local speakers and a tour of the boats
Wednesday 14 September – Local ceremony and departure

The Women's Boat to Gaza, with prominent women on board including Mairead Macguire, Naomi Wallace, Marama Davidson and Gerd von der Lippe, will visit ports in the Western Mediterranean before reaching the shores of Gaza on 1 October. 

Women’s Boat to Gaza initiative:
The Women’s Boat to Gaza is a Freedom Flotilla Coalition initiative. By launching a women’s flotilla, women from all over the world aim to highlight the undeniable contributions and indomitable spirit of Palestinian women who have been central within the Palestinian struggle in Gaza, the West Bank, inside the Green Line and in the diaspora.

Gaza has been under Israeli blockade for the past decade, during which time Israel has also launched countless attacks against the besieged population, turning their life into a nightmare and a continuous struggle. Through Freedom Flotillas and other maritime missions, we have brought international attention to their suffering and their resistance.

The Women’s Boat to Gaza seeks not only to challenge the Israeli blockade, but to also show solidarity and bring a message of hope to the Palestinian people. With the support of women, men, non-governmental organizations, civil society groups and from women’s collectives and events around the world, we will make this happen.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is composed of civil society organizations and initiatives from many countries. We have been challenging the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza for years and are committed to continue the struggle until the blockade is unconditionally lifted and the Palestinian people everywhere regain their full rights.


You can support the Women's Boat to Gaza by donating online:  
http://canadaboatgaza.org/donate/

Those who can benefit from a U.S. tax receipt can contribute online at
https://womensboatgaza-nonviolenceinternational.nationbuilder.com/contribute

To find and support other campaigns that are part of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, please see: https://wbg.freedomflotilla.org/donations

Other ways to get involved:
Follow us at www.canadaboatgaza.org and www.womensboattogaza.org
www.facebook.com/FreedomFlotillaCoalition/ and www.facebook.com/CanadaBoatGaza/
Twitter @GazaFFlotilla  @CanadaBoatGaza

Thank you for your support. Together we can end the blockade of Gaza!

In Solidarity 
the Canadian Boat to Gaza team

   

Invitation to Journalists: Sail aboard the Women’s Boat to Gaza


Photo by: Joran Fagerlund

Dear journalists:

The women's Boat to Gaza (WBG) is a Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) initiative that will sail this September to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza.  For more info about WBG please visit:
https://wbg.freedomflotilla.org/faq and see our latest press statement (https://wbg.freedomflotilla.org/news/womens-boat-to-gaza-presented-at-the-european-parliament), released after our meeting with and receiving support from many Members of European Parliament in Brussels last month.

The Women's Boat to Gaza is an all-women mission where the boats will have only women on board: the crew, activists and prominent people sailing in support of the Palestinians of Gaza, as well as the journalists covering the voyage.

On board there will be a Nobel Laureate, Members of Parliament from different countries, Members of European Parliament, other eminent women and activists from over a dozen countries. This is an opportunity to share the stories and wisdom of Palestinian women in Gaza and the women of the world who support them. We aim not only to break the physical barriers of the blockade, but also to break the media silence and help the voices of Palestinian women in Gaza be heard.  

We are inviting interested women journalists (visual, audio, written) from various media organizations worldwide to join the mission. If you are interested please send your CV to delegates.wbg@gmail.com, specifying what support you can count on from your media organization, if any. If you have any questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at the same address.

Please note that space is limited so you are urged to contact us without delay if you are interested.  Deadline to receive applications is July 30, 2016.

WBG Steering Committee