December 2010, Pages 62-63

Waging Peace

ANERA Tells an Important Story to Americans and Palestinians Alike

(L-r) U.S. Ambassador and ANERA board vice chair Skip Gnehm, Ambassador Ali Bin Fahad Al-Hajri of Qatar, Curtis Brand, ANERA board chair, and Bill Corcoran, ANERA president. (Photo Michael Keating)

Guests at American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA)'s 42nd annual dinner at the Capital Hilton Hotel on Oct. 1 enjoyed an evening of inspirational Hakawati, the Arabic world for storytelling, to focus attention on ANERA's agricultural projects benefitting Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon. ANERA used the traditional method of storytelling to share oral histories that highlight the importance of farming and land to Palestinian people.

ANERA was launched in 1968 to help ease the suffering of Palestinian refugees following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. In fiscal year 2009, it delivered $48.5 million for programs in the Middle East.

ANERA honored Qatar and Kuwait for their generous contributions and support for its Milk for Preschoolers program that provides fortified milk and biscuits to some 20,000 preschoolers every day of the school term. For two years in a row Qatar has contributed $1 million, and Kuwait added $1 million this year to help sustain the program. Kuwait's Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah and Ambassador Ali Bin Fahad Al-Hajri of Qatar accepted hand-painted gifts of calligraphy by artist Nawaf Soliman which read "Generosity. Giving. On behalf of the children of Gaza, ANERA extends our gratitude for your generous support..."

ANERA president Bill Corcoran thanks Sabah Al-Moghrabi, who has managed the organization’s Gaza office since it opened in 1985. (Photo Michael Keating)

In presenting the awards to the two ambassadors, ANERA Board Vice Chair Ambassador Skip Gnehm pointed to their countries' concern for Gaza's most vulnerable children. "It is a testament to their trust in ANERA and their commitment to investing in Gaza's children, who deserve a better future," said Ambassador Gnehm.

ANERA staff remembered Dr. Peter Gubser, who as president of ANERA committed 29 years of his career to improving the lives of Palestinians. Peter Gubser died Sept. 2, after battling cancer (see "In Memoriam" on p. 74). ANERA, which has been working in Gaza for 25 years, also lauded the American firm Firedoll for supporting agricultural projects aimed at making Gazan families more self-sufficient.

Naser Qadous, ANERA's chief agronomist in the West Bank, was interviewed on stage by National Public Radio journalist Deborah Amos, who asked him about the challenges facing West Bank and Gaza farmers. He spoke of the challenges farmers face because of water scarcity, limitations on export of produce, and other issues.

ANERA's current president, Bill Corcoran, reminded donors that ANERA touches the lives of many in need in the region. Israel's 2006 war on Lebanon destroyed much of the agricultural land there, he noted. This year ANERA planted more than 6,000 trees in Upper Baalbeck and Hasbaya. ANERA also has built greenhouses in Gaza that will extend the growing seasons and produce more food. In the West Bank, ANERA is helping farming families connect to irrigation systems and creating agriculture cooperatives to provide employment opportunities and markets for farmers to sell produce.

This year's event broke all previous records for table sponsorships, attendance and dollars raised. Some 460 guests enjoyed the evening and raised $300,000 to help fund this year's agricultural and water projects.

Delinda C. Hanley

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