The Milwaukee Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends held the 47th Annual International Gift Shop at their Meetinghouse in the Riverwest neighborhood on November 30 and December 1, attracting hundreds of shoppers who supported global causes with their local purchases.
Commonly referred to as Quakers, the organization’s craft fair has been a regular attraction for hand-made gifts from Wisconsin and around the world. Part of the collection of products for sale again this year included items from Palestine.
“These products from Palestine are brought to America by an organization that has programs in Palestine, and advocates for Palestinian rights in the United States. ShopPalestine.org is run by the Middle East Children’s Alliance,” said Samir Moukaddam, who volunteered for the second year to sell the organization’s products at the craft fair.
The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) works to protect the rights and improve the lives of children in the Middle East through aid, empowerment, and education. In the Middle East, MECA provides humanitarian aid, partners with community organizations to run projects for children, and supports income-generation projects. In the U.S. and internationally, MECA raises awareness about the lives of children in the region and encourages meaningful action.
Since 1988, the organization has sent more that $21 million in aid to children in Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon. Direct aid includes food, medicine, medical supplies, and clothes as well as books, toys and school supplies. Financial support and professional assistance to community organizations in the West Bank and Gaza that help meet Palestinian children’s needs, including clinics, kindergartens, counseling centers, libraries, accessible parks and playgrounds, sports teams, and dance, music and art programs, and University scholarships.
“Of course, this helps the economic conditions of Palestinians, in support of their ‘existence as resistance.’ And importantly, people who use these products or gift them are also contributing to keeping in people’s minds the great Palestinian struggle for liberation and equality,” added Moukaddam. “For example, everyone who tries it loves the olive oil. I can imagine that for months they’d be using it and thinking and telling their friends how it’s from Palestine.”
The crafts are produced by Palestinian artisans, who sustain their way of life and cultural traditions through the sales. Most live in refugee camps, towns, and villages across the West Bank and Gaza.
Moukaddam’s table at the annual gift shop began last year as his idea to help raise funds and awareness. Through a former employer, he was familiar with the Quaker event and their supporting organizations, which have been involved in Palestine issues for decades.
The Quaker’s Meetinghouse, where the gift shop was held, was built in 1984 along the Milwaukee River, on the Koenen Land Preserve. Proceeds from the International Gift Shop support two nonprofit Quaker organizations, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). Both support different aspects of advocating for social and economic justice, peace, and good government around the world.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal