Doing Something to Help Palestine

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In 2009, I got interested in a work camp opportunity with a group called Volunteers for Peace. I saw that the International Palestinian Youth League had a camp in the West Bank and I jumped at the chance, since I had long wanted to visit Palestine.

I spent two weeks there in the Bethlehem area, specifically in the Beit Jibrin and Aida refugee camps. We were a large group of Americans and Europeans. We spent some time working on a youth center in Aida camp, clearing out a crowded third floor and making it usable. We also worked on nearby terraced farms  –  an ancient way to manage agricultural lands in Palestine. I got to know farmers, kids, their parents, and so many other wonderful people.

Janah Szewczyk helping to clear weeds in the front garden of a women's center in Bethlehem, Palestine.
Janah Szewczyk helping to clear weeds in the front garden of a women’s center in Bethlehem, Palestine.

Hebron was the most impactful thing I saw and experienced. The old city is strangled by an Israeli settlement that controls everything. Businesses are barely surviving and, if not for mesh wires overhead, settlers would succeed in their efforts to throw garbage down onto the Palestinians below. 

When we were walking out of the old city of Hebron, there was a group of teens and 20-something Palestinian boys coming toward us. They went out of their way to stop us and to thank us for visiting their city. I’m from Philadelphia, where we have tourists all over the place. I can’t remember ever wanting to thank them for their visit  –  mostly they’re kind of an annoyance. But here were these young guys making a special point of it!

I was advised by one of my Palestinian friends to make a point of visiting one of gates through the ‘security wall’ between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. He told me to be there by 4:00 AM, as that’s when it opened and the action really got started. It was mayhem! There were SO many people chaotically trying to get through to go to jobs, schools, farms. All of their papers had to be slowly checked by the IDF. In the meantime, they scanned the crowd for any European or foreign-looking types and immediately summoned them to the front of the line.

I thought I was prepared for what I’d experience in Palestine, but there was a lot that was hard to bear witness to. Though the experience was fun and fruitful, it also gave me nightmares.

When I came back to the US, I was talking to a colleague of mine about my time in Palestine. And she told me that I should talk to her sister, who worked at a wonderful organization called Anera. She even arranged a meeting with her sister and two of Anera’s program staff from Ramallah and Gaza. That was when I started my donations to Anera. 

Janah Szewczyk in profile
Photo of the author

My husband and I like to give to humanitarian organizations and groups that support immigrants in the US. Anera fit perfectly into our giving plans. A few years ago, I discovered that there was such a thing as discounted stock purchases for employees at my company and that I could give donations to organizations from my purchased stock. This way I can give significantly more than I could have if I were giving cash.  After some initial paperwork and a little planning, it’s now a simple process and we’re able to help four non-profits doing meaningful work, including Anera.  

Frankly, it feels good to be using stocks to do something noble in the world!


Donating appreciated stocks directly to a charity is an efficient way to contribute that can provide you with significant tax benefits. Your gift of appreciated securities will allow you to deduct the full fair-market value of the donated assets up to the amount allowable by law while avoiding capital gains tax, maximizing your impact on the Middle East’s most vulnerable communities.

Please email Elizabeth Obeidat at eobeidat@anera.org or call her at 202-266-9711 for more information about making a stock gift.

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