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The search for U.S. charities that support projects in Gaza

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Photo from the MECA "Let Them Play and Heal" project. (Photo: MECA)

Photo from the MECA “Let Them Play and Heal” project. (Photo: MECA)

While searching the internet for ways a private citizen in the U.S. could support humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza through charities based in the U.S., I was not surprised to find that it takes some digging to find opportunities, especially in Gaza.

In 2008, the U.S. government convicted five Palestinian-Americans associated with the Holy Land Foundation (HLF).  The HLF, a Muslim charity based in Texas until it was shut down by President Bush in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks, was accused of sending funds for Palestinian charities–funds that somehow benefitted Hamas (Hamas has governed Gaza since 2007 and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government).  If this sounds vague and inconclusive, so was just about everything connected with the prosecution of the “Holy Land Five”, including secret evidence and testimony from an anonymous Israeli “expert” witness.  The five humanitarians are serving sentences ranging from 15 to 65 years.

In other parts of the world, Gaza is often seen for what it is: a densely-populated prison where Palestinians live with the constant threat of Israeli incursions and deadly attacks from a highly-sophisticated, U.S.-supported military.  Yes, there is Palestinian resistance and yes, crude rockets are launched from Gaza into Israel, but the power and control belong to Israel.  Many will remember Israel’s interception of the 2010 Gaza aid flotilla in international waters.  The passenger ship Mavi Marmara was boarded by Israeli commandos and nine passengers were killed, including a U.S. citizen.  Israel, with U.S. support, has been ruthless in its efforts to maintain the blockade and total control of Gaza.

Check out this poster (“Help children in Gaza”) photographed at an airport in Spain. Scott Roth, the photographer, asks “Would you ever see this in an airport in the U.S.?”  The answer has long been no, although courageous organizations including Electronic Intifada, If Americans Knew, Jewish Voice for Peace, and U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation are working overtime to educate the American public beyond the mainstream media spin that almost exclusively supports Israel and minimizes or ignores the suffering of the Palestinians.

One of the sites I found for charities supporting the occupied Palestinian territories is  In the left column, under “projects by region”, I clicked on “Middle East” and found a number of opportunities.  Support for Gaza includes The Rachel Corrie Children’s Center, named for the young U.S. citizen who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to protect a Palestinian home from being destroyed, and Maia Project: Clean Water for Children in Gaza.  Donations for both projects go through MECA, the Middle East Children’s Alliance in Berkeley, California.  An additional project in Gaza, “Let the Children Play and Heal”, is listed on MECA’s website.  The project began after Israel’s 2008/2009 assault on Gaza.  During the three weeks of attacks, over 300 Palestinian children were killed.

Another good option is PCRF, The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, with headquarters in Kent, Ohio.  Part of the organization’s mission is “to improve the quality of medical care in the Middle East by sending medical equipment and supplies to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as training local Palestinian medical personnel to improve the quality of care and services within the public sector.”

ANERA, American Near East Refugee Aid, is “one of the largest American non-profits working solely in the Middle East”.  ANERA’s Gaza page includes a long and wide-ranging list of projects.  ANERA’s staff in Gaza “are from the communities they serve and includes engineers, pharmacists, educators and agricultural specialists. They know the problems Gaza faces because they often face them too.”

For those who want to do their own digging, there is more to be found.  Some of the larger charities, including Mercy Corps and Save the Children, are doing important work in the West Bank and Gaza and accept non-region-specific donations to support their work around the world.

I encourage anyone who finds a project and wishes to help to not be discouraged by the urgency or funding needs of the project versus whatever amount one chooses to give.  There is a well-known story, originally by Loren Eiseley, about a young person on a stretch of beach covered with countless starfish, beyond the reach of the tide and slowly dying.  An adult out for a walk sees the young person returning one starfish at a time to the ocean and asks what difference it can possibly make when there are miles of beach with stranded starfish.  The young person, returning another starfish to the ocean, replies “It made a difference for that one.”

Jerry Merriman

Jerry Merriman lives in the U.S. and has lived, worked and traveled in the Middle East.

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12 Responses

  1. Kate on January 16, 2014, 1:35 pm

    I very much endorse the recommendation of ANERA and PCRF.

    I was surprised not to see Islamic Relief mentioned. This is a huge charity operating all over the world – including the U.S. They have worked in the West Bank and Gaza for a long time. Currently they are also involved in getting humanitarian aid across the borders into Syria, a place many charities have given up on.

    I sponsored orphans in Gaza for years, until the US govt declined to renew IR-USA’s license to do this – I think we can all imagine who is likely to be behind that decision. I shouldn’t have to say that there are no credible accusations of connections between IR and terrorism.

    IR is not only for Muslim donors or Muslim recipients – the recipients are those in need, period. All donors welcome. (Non-Muslim donors can just ignore the references to zakah, the charity donation obligatory for Muslims.)

  2. DICKERSON3870 on January 16, 2014, 2:04 pm

    The Gaza Mental Health Foundation Inc. was formed in the USA in 2001 to support the critically important work of providing mental health services for the people of the Gaza Strip, especially the children who are its future. A 2003 survey by the GCMHP reveals that only two percent of children in the Gaza Strip displayed no symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

    The Gaza Mental Health Foundation Inc. has also made it a priority to raise funds for the Rachel Corrie Women’s Empowerment Project. The Project, which was founded in 1995, was re-named in memory of the 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death in Rafah in March 2003 as she tried to prevent an armored Caterpillar bulldozer from destroying Palestinian homes. Employing a staff of 75 women in its four centers, it aims to improve the quality of life of women victims of domestic, social and political violence.

    It is difficult to imagine a future in which Palestinians and Israelis can one day live peacefully together without the work of the GCMHP. What it is doing to break the cycle of violence engendered by occupation needs our support.

    Bill Slaughter, President
    Donald McInnes, Treasurer
    Hilary Rantisi, Clerk
    Constance Cutter
    J. Timothy Davis
    Marwan el Masri
    Nancy Murray
    Alice Rothchild
    Sara Roy
    Ahmad Tahaha

    Cindy & Craig Corrie
    Jess Ghannam
    Ellis Goldberg
    Elaine Hagopian
    David Hall
    John Pirroni
    Yale Rabin
    Ted Rynearson
    Therese Saliba
    Tom Suarez
    David Trimble


    Please make a tax-deductible donation payable to The Gaza Mental Health Foundation Inc.
    Your gift will be sent to The Gaza Community Mental Health Program, which is providing vital mental health support to the traumatized families of the Gaza Strip.
    Your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
    To donate, please print out brochure or send a check with your name, address, telephone number, and email address to:

    Gaza Mental Health Foundation
    PO Box 380273
    Cambridge MA 02238

    SOURCE: Gaza Mental Health Foundation –

  3. joecatron on January 16, 2014, 2:15 pm

    When I’m asked, I always suggest that donors bypass foreign intermediaries and give directly to Palestinian organizations (who are the ones that usually get the practical share of their money, sans overhead, anyway). One excellent option is the Palestinian Red Crescent Society:

    Contributing to them, or most Palestinian organizations, will take a little more effort, mainly arranging a money transfer through a bank. But the work they do here is indispensable, comparable only to Civil Defense (to which I cannot legally encourage anyone to donate, of course). Here’s PRCS in action during the recent storm:–palestine-red-crescent-society-responds-to-snow-and-floods

    Plus, any organization in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is – I hope – pretty untouchable for “War on Terror” purposes. And they tend to have excellent bookkeeping, although I haven’t examined PRCS’s in particular.

    I’d probably annoy some people people if I started ranting about how much international NGOs, including some of those mentioned here, spend on foreign staff, particularly their dumb, pointless security protocols. (Absent war, Gaza’s far safer for foreigners than the cities from which many of us came.) So I shan’t. :-D

  4. W.Jones on January 16, 2014, 2:26 pm

    Don’t forget the International Orthodox Christian Charities. A big majority of Christians in Gaza are Orthodox Christian, the native Church in the Holy Land, and the IOCC has a project working there. You can specify in your donation to the IOCC that you want it to go to Gaza.

    It is a significant charity.

    Thank you!

  5. Susan Johnson on January 16, 2014, 3:41 pm

    The United Palestinian Appeal aids Gaza, the West Bank and Palestinian Refugee Camps in other countries. They offer regular programs and crisis situations. Actually Life is Gaza, the West Bank and refugee is a life of crisis.

  6. ritzl on January 16, 2014, 3:50 pm

    Thanks so much to everyone for this info.

  7. pmb1414 on January 16, 2014, 9:43 pm

    Catholic Charities has been a presence in the Middle East for over a half century, aiding Palestinian Muslims and Christians in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank:

  8. Citizen on January 17, 2014, 5:44 am

    Any government official ever go after the myriad of charitable NGOs here in the USA that fund illegal Israeli settlements?

  9. phylliprezzel on January 17, 2014, 6:33 am

    I support MECA ( with financial contributions as well as shop at their Shop Palestine store. I order olive oil (alas, they sell it only by the 6-bottle case) and give several as a present or sell them at cost to other members of my Friends (Quaker) meeting. I am pleased with their bar soaps; I have also purchased some olive wood kitchen utensils and hand towels.

    ANERA ( and American Friends of UNRWA ( are also on my list. I used to support UNRWA directly, but my small contribution seemed to be more trouble that it was worth; they directed me to the American Friends group.

    Ramallah Friends School ( is another organization worthy of support. Mondoweiss covered the story of Nour Joudah, the teacher there who Israeli authorities refused re-entry after her holiday outside the country.

    Mar Elias Educational Institutions offer learning opportunities in the village of Ibillin in the Galilee region. It was started by Archbishop Elias Chacour of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and it is open to all residents regardless of ethnicity or faith. I heartily recommend his two books, Blood Brothers and We Belong to the Land. Financial contributions can be made through their U.S. support group, Pilgrims of Ibillin (www. The organization also sponsors speaking tours, and I had the pleasure of hearing the Archbishop in person.

    Another group worthy of support is Oasis of Peace (Wahat al Sal-aam / Neve Shalom, an intentional community jointly established by Jewish and Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. The village is located midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffa. For information:

    Thank you for asking for this information. I hope more Americans (as well as other Westerners) open their hearts, minds, and wallets to the Palestinians.

  10. Karin on January 17, 2014, 9:04 am

    The American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers) work in Gaza, as well as the West Bank.

  11. PeaceThroughJustice on January 18, 2014, 12:44 pm

    Don’t forget Susan Abulhawa’s Playgrounds for Palestine, which works both in Gaza and the West Bank.

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