Over the past month, the Festival of Alternative Arts has hosted a series of cultural and artistic events that have shed new light on life in Gaza.
On 25 January, UNRWA’s deputy director in Gaza, Christer Nordahl took part in a media seminar with Gazan journalist Sami Abu Salem and journalist photographer Mia Gröndahl at Al Balad Theatre in Amman.
The panel engaged in a variety of topics, touching on issues that were both expected and surprising.
The occupation. The frequent blackouts. The constant fear. The underlying flicker of hope.
Refuge and respite
Christer Nordahl, who has worked with UNRWA in Gaza for the past decade, singled out the importance of women's centres in providing much-needed refuge and respite. He also highlighted the value of UNRWA's Summer Games in allowing children to take part in recreational activities, offering them some semblance of normality amid the inhumane conditions which occupy every aspect of their lives.
Mia Gröndahl, the author of Gaza Graffiti: Message of Love and Politics, said: "These are children like any other children in any part of the world and they have the right to depend on us, on humanity, to ensure that they enjoy their childhood."
As an internationally renowned freelance journalist, Sami Abu Salem is able to travel the world outside of Gaza, but lamented the frustrating inability to cook falafel in his home due to the import restrictions placed on key ingredients.
Limits to everyday life
Under the shadow of occupation, Gazans face limitations in all aspects of everyday life, with Mia Gröndahl suggesting that many young people use graffiti to channel and express their feelings and frustrations.
The debate was one of many events under the Festival's programme, which also included photographic exhibitions, film screenings, theatre, and musical performances. The Festival was initiated by the Embassy of Sweden in Jordan, with a range of partners including UNRWA.
UNRWA also co-organised a "Street Labs" evening in partnership with Philadelphia Skateboards and 962Street, focusing on young people and street culture. The evening incorporated live music production, hip hop poetry, skateboarding and a debate on the significance of street culture. Participants from UNRWA's community development centre in Zarka attended, actively engaging in the topics discussed and emphasising the impact that participation in the centre has had on their lives.
UNRWA works with 104 refugee-run community-based organisations throughout all five fields of operation. Operated by members of the refugee community, the organisations provide a wide variety of activities, ranging from skills training and community-based rehabilitation to awareness-raising workshops for women, children and young people, and people with disabilities.