Shatha Al Azzeh is only in her mid-twenties, but she has already experienced much struggle in her life. The descendant of Palestinians who were forced from their home in 1948, Al Azzeh grew up in the ‘Azza Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. Like many Palestinians, she has lived all her life under Israeli occupation.
Only a month after her wedding and her move to Aida Refugee Camp, Israeli soldiers arrested her husband Khaled and imprisoned him. The three month imprisonment felt like two years, she said, and contributed to ongoing health problems for Al Azzeh.
Ever since she was a young teenager, Al Azzeh was fascinated with biodiversity and environmental science, especially related to water. After attending university and graduating with a bachelor of science degree, she was hired by the Lajee Center in Aida Camp to run its environmental unit. As part of her work, she conducts tests on water safety and consumption, leads training workshops on water use, and encourages rooftop gardening.
Water is “not just a local problem,” Al Azzeh emphasizes. “It’s a political issue.” During the hot Palestinian summers, access to clean water is severely limited, and not just for residents of refugee camps. Israel controls access to Palestine’s aquifers, redirecting almost 90 per cent to Israeli West Bank settlements and towns inside Israel. Israeli water companies sell the remaining 10 per cent back to Palestinian residents.
Despite the ongoing challenges of living under military occupation, Al Azzeh maintains her positive attitude and focuses on building holistic peace in her community. She sees peace as something needed not just between Palestinians and Israelis, but between Palestinians and each other, between husband and wife, between humans and their natural environment. She insists, “Without peace you cannot live.”
MCC has gathered stories of Women Peacebuilders as part of our annual Peace Sunday Packet. The complete 2016 Peace Sunday Packet can be viewed here.