Gazans open eco-friendly rest home on the beach

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — In an effort to protect the environment and take advantage of the resources available in the Gaza Strip, a group of artists on five dunums have built the first eco-friendly rest home on Gaza City’s beach. The rest home is called Al Bahr Elnan, which translates into ‘The sea is ours’.

The retirement home operates on a barter system, meaning visitors take their own leftover food and items they no longer use to enter and enjoy the complimentary services, including hot or cold drinks and beach views.

The retirement home also includes a library, theatre, recreational playgrounds and a popular seafood restaurant under construction.

Ali Muhanna, an actor and theater director who also leads the rest home’s team, told Al-Monitor: “The rest home is trying to get more artists in Gaza to spread awareness among Gazans about the need to preserve the beach. and keep it clean. all the time.”

He said they used about 300 tons of solid waste to build the retirement home, which they obtained in partnership with the Gaza City Council, financiers and citizens who appreciated the idea of ​​the retirement home and its importance in motivating people. to preserve the beach.

Muhanna said they recycle wooden containers, car tires, plastic baskets, paving stones, iron containers and doors from damaged refrigerators and washing machines, which they used in an artistic and attractive way to decorate the retirement home.

“The project also provided many young people with job opportunities,” he said.

Once inside the rest home you can see the walls decorated with plastic paintings, pieces of clothing and small wooden and stone pieces. The seats are made from used tires; others are made from boxes painted in bright colors.

Muhanna’s office is made of used wood with a door from an old refrigerator and washing machine doors used as windows. The ceiling is made of palm branches, with a water fountain made of large ship frames and some wood and war remnants.

Ornamental plants are placed in huge plastic pitchers that were previously filled with fuel, combustible materials and paint. One of the walls of the rest home is made of two waste containers that have been recycled and filled with various plants.

Muhanna said he was awarded a scholarship for culture, arts and community participation funded by the Ramallah-based al-Qattan Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

He said they also succeeded, in collaboration with the CIVITAS Institute, to get a scholarship as part of the majalat initiative with the support of the SOLIDAR Foundation funded by the European Union, emphasizing that he and his team strive to involve many community institutions to contribute to the retirement home.

Muhanna said the aim of the rest home is to increase individual social responsibility, noting that any change in society needs incentives.

“Through the retirement home, we’re trying to create a model for collaboration and teamwork among individuals,” he said.

“The rest home offers services almost free of charge. Holidaymakers can make a financial contribution through a fund at the retirement home that helps young people to continue doing their work. The rest home is open to all, provided the place is kept clean. Several institutions now hold their workshops and training courses with us,” he added.

The team also set up two libraries in the retirement home. The first is called the Green Library, an area filled with plants that bear their scientific and common names. The other library is dedicated to children’s short story books.

“We have managed to collect books and stories from personal and individual donations,” Muhanna said.

He said the rest home also has a dog, cat and chicken to create some sort of natural balance in the place, and the animals feed on visitors’ leftovers.

“We plan to open a restaurant to sell and cook fish at prices appropriate for the rest home’s customers,” he said.

Muhanna said he got tiles for the restaurant from one of the old ones? houses that were bombed in the latest round of escalation in the Gaza Strip on al-Wahda Street.

He said comedian Hana al-Ghoul is also a founding member of the team, in addition to several other artists who provide entertainment shows for visitors, including zajal (oral poetry) songs, stand-up comedy, hakawati (oral history) shows and national songs. that send awareness messages.

Speaking of hardships and obstacles the team faced in setting up the rest home, Ghoul told Al-Monitor: “Working on the beach under the blazing sun was extremely stressful. We also didn’t get a quick response from institutions and individuals to support and fund our project in the beginning.”

Ghoul said she tries to collect the stories of all the women who visit the retirement home to document them in a book, adding that young women open up to her when they are alone and pour out their hearts in amazing stories.

“Any young man or woman can volunteer at the retirement home as we try to develop and expand,” she said.

“We also stage theatrical performances that send awareness messages about the need to… keep the beach cleanGhoul added.

She pointed out that the deteriorating economic conditions in Gaza affected the artistic shows performed at the retirement home, as some artists struggled to afford transportation.

Wissam al-Shawa, coordinator of the Injaz Palestine Gaza organization, which provides training for several volunteers in educational institutions, said it decided to hold the organization’s events at the retirement home because she greatly admires the team and the project.

“Holding events in such a location is a contribution to the founders and the team that runs it. Usually we make people aware of the importance of recycling’, she says.

Rania Ibrahim has become a regular visitor to the retirement home, where she usually goes with her children.

“I really like it here. It doesn’t cost me much to get in. I usually take leftovers or items that I don’t need at home, such as plastic bags, empty bottles and cans, and old clothes,” she told Al-Monitor.

“It’s a place where I can go to have some free time with my family, and I help too conservation of the environment‘ added Ibrahim.

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