Home News “It’s very grim”: an update from MCC in Palestine-Israel

“It’s very grim”: an update from MCC in Palestine-Israel

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On October 17, 2023, Firas Hamlawi, right, a volunteer and Rifqah Hamlawi, center, a staff member, with Al-Najd Developmental Forum, helped distribute food packages to 35 families and bedding to 10 families* displaced by the current violence in the Gaza Strip.


“If something isn’t done quickly and aid is not let in, at the very bare minimum, you’re looking at … unacceptable growth in death toll,” says Seth Malone. Malone and his wife Sarah Funkhouser are MCC representatives for Jordan, Palestine and Israel. They gave an update on November 9, 2023 from Amman, Jordan. Prior to the invasion, they were in East Jerusalem in the neighbourhood of Beit Hanina (about 100 kilometers from Gaza).

Though MCC has significant material resources, Malone and Funkhouser state that if any relief kits were sent to Gaza, they would be picked apart and opened at the border under the guise of security. 

“They are not letting aid in. There’s nothing left in Gaza,” says Malone.

“The death toll as of today is around 10,500 in Gaza, primarily attributed to the bombing,” says Funkhouser. Because Israel controls all supplies coming into Gaza, she says, there are serious risks of starvation, extreme dehydration and spread of infection due to unclean drinking water and lack of medical supplies. Hospitals are not being provided with fuel or medications.

“When you think about all these other effects, the risk of that death toll skyrocketing because of all these other issues, it’s very grim.”

MCC continues to partner with other organizations to provide humanitarian relief in the region. One partner, Al-Najd Developmental Forum (NDF) offered food baskets as well as non-food items to 250 families in northern Gaza (approximately 3,000 people in total). 

NDF was also able to distribute bedding to affected families through a brand new building owned by the Orthodox Church. However this operation was short-lived. “We got the pictures of the distributions [on] one day and then the next day, we hear that the centre was bombed. We don’t think anyone was killed…. It’s really hard to see when you get the [before] pictures and then you get the after. It’s really hard,” says Malone.

Funkhouser and Malone are also in contact with Near East Council of Churches (NECC) and MCC has been a longtime supporter of its vocational training program. Many families were taking shelter in one of the three churches in Gaza, and NECC was able to provide food for people who were sheltering there. However the compound was significantly damaged by an Israeli missile strike on October 19. 

“Quite a number of people have died [as a result of the strike]. The Christian population in Palestine as a whole is extremely small, about one to two percent of the population…. It felt like just about everybody knew someone who was taking shelter in the church…. we have not been able to do any kind of response with NECC of course, after that happened,” Funkhouser says. 

Their third partner is Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA). MCC recently approved a plan to distribute cash transfers for 100 households (800 people) that are sheltering in Khan Younis. Because supplies are so limited, cash transfers can provide families with resources to be able to buy what is available, which hopefully sustains them until more aid is provided. Prior to the invasion, MCC supported CFTA’s trauma healing program for children and youth.

Malone and Funkhouser say the biggest need in Gaza is a ceasefire. “After a ceasefire, we must find a new, different, better way forward for peace,” says Funkhouser.

“The status quo was not good,” Malone says. “The status quo was that every few years Gaza would be bombed. And then every few years, we would rebuild Gaza. And then it would get bombed. The policy was called mowing down…. That is not peace—the absence of violence is not peace. When we talk about a just peace, this means that both peoples, whoever is living on the land, has the same rights. Everyone has the right to safety. Everyone has the right to self determination. Everyone has the right to live their lives at peace.”

For more information on MCC’s response in Palestine-Israel and how to support their work, visit:

Written with files from Mennonite Central Committee. Photo courtesy of Al-Najd Developmental Forum.

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