Palestinians campaign to shelter freezing Syrian refugees
Campaign aims to build homes for refugees struggling to survive in harsh winter conditions.
Scenes of Syrian refugees struggling to survive in freezing temperatures have left Ibraheem Khalil with a heavy heart.
Seeking to provide a helping hand, the 34-year-old Palestinian launched an online campaign to raise funds to build homes for Syrian refugees living in harsh winter conditions.
Khalil, a social activist, said the campaign originally aimed to buy radiators for Syrians displaced from their homes by the 11-year conflict in their country.
“The idea then developed to find sustainable solutions for the refugees until they can return back to their country,” he said.
Since the campaign started, Khalil receives every day hundreds of messages on his Facebook page from Palestinians in Israel donating for Syrian refugees.
So far, the campaign has collected more than 10 million shekels (around $3,145,297) from Palestinians in Arab cities in Israel.
Last week, the activists expanded the fund-raising campaign for Syrian refugees to the West Bank and Jerusalem.
“This campaign shows that the Palestinians and Syrians are one nation,” Khalil, who is also a horse trainer, said.
In Syria, over 6.7 million people have been internally displaced by the country’s civil war, triggered by the Bashar al-Assad regime’s harsh crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011. Another 6.8 million Syrians live as refugees in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkiye.
Most displaced people found shelter in tents, unfinished buildings, leaving them particularly vulnerable to harsh winter conditions.
Jabr Hijaz, a friend of Khalil, joined the fund-raising campaign to ease the misery of Syrian refugees.
Khalil and Hijazi are both coordinating with relief organizations to build hundreds of houses for Syrian refugees north of Syria, north of Jordan and south of Turkiye.
Hijazi said the campaign for Syrian refugees reflects the true face of the Arab community in Israel.
“The (Israeli) occupation wanted us to see our community as a criminal community, but this campaign makes us very proud of ourselves,” added Hijazi, who lost his brother by Israeli fire during protests against organized crime in Israel.
“A few members who work in organized crime aren’t reflecting the reality of us,” he said.
Palestinians who managed to stay in their homes during the Nakba -- forced exodus -- of 1948 are known as Arab Israelis. They make up around 20% of Israel's population.
They are centered in a group of Arab towns in central Israel known as the "Little Triangle," along with the Galilee (north) and Negev regions (south).
Numerous human rights groups decry Israeli policies against Arabs as a form of modern-day apartheid, with Arabs suffering racial discrimination in education, work, and health care.
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