Author(s): Marilyn Garson
Four years, two wars and one most unlikely social enterprise. Marilyn Garson was an experienced aid professional who created jobs at the edge of war. In 2011, she was invited to move to the Gaza Strip. Friends warned her that nothing worked behind the Gaza blockade. Unable to resist that challenge, Marilyn became the Economic Director of a large NGO programme, leading an ambitious young Palestinian team. Gaza's business owners, technology graduates, and job-seekers (facing the highest unemployment on earth) overturned Marilyn's understanding of aid and justice. Then she volunteered to join the United Nations' emergency team that would remain inside Gaza through the 2014 war. Marilyn witnessed first-hand the impact of Israel's urban assault and massive civilian displacement. The UN was prepared to shelter 35,000 displaced Gazans, but 293,000 arrived. Locked in beneath the bombs, they had nowhere safer to go, and nothing but the United Nations flag and international law to protect them. Neither Marilyn's team nor Gaza itself was the same after fifty days of bombardment. But the team was still determined to launch their social enterprise. On her last day, Marilyn's final task was to tell her Gazan colleagues that she is a Jew.