By Cathy Shields and Mona Halaby

Following a MECA delegation to Palestine/Israel in 2002, a small group of women in the Bay Area came together to support the economic self-help efforts in solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation; we call ourselves Joining Hands. Struck by the beautiful handicrafts in the souqs (marketplaces), we created the first Annual Palestinian Crafts Bazaar in 2003, featuring embroidery from Beit Jala, olive wood products from Bethlehem, pottery from Hebron, scarves and jewelry from Jerusalem, rugs from Samoa Village, olive oil from Ramallah, and more. All proceeds from the sale benefit Palestinian crafts people and workers’ co-operatives. and has become an annual event in Berkeley that people look forward to each year.

Joining Hands continues to explore new ways of supporting programs for the women and children in Palestine. Our most recent project was a series of cooking classes taught by Palestinian women, celebrating the delicious cuisine of the region. Proceeds from these classes went to MECA to support the ongoing work of mothers and grandmothers in Masara, a small village near Bethlehem. Several years ago, they decided to feed the children at their local school healthy food that they prepare each morning. For many children, this is the best meal of their day. Joining Hands welcomes the support and involvement of women who enjoy working together to raise money in solidarity with our sisters and the children in Palestine. We hope you’ll save the date for this year’s Palestinian Bazaar on December 3rd and 4th, and that you’ll look for our announcements of events on MECA’s website.