IT has been hard to know where to direct my energy as events have unfolded in the Middle East. Death, destruction and misery have overtaken my social media feeds and, for those of us with a conscience, it is impossible to continue as normal, unaffected by the horrors unfolding before us. 

More than 2000 Palestinian children are dead, a further 3000+ adults dead with them, 47 entire Palestinian bloodlines have been wiped from existence – root, branch, tree. Gone. Obliterated. 

I will reiterate for what feels like the 100th time: this is not Israel’s right to self-defence. This is the massacre of defenceless, innocent people. This is not war or conflict – one side has a military and one side does not. This is the indiscriminate killing of civilians. This is war crime – the purposeful disregard for international law.

And yet, the powers that be are not only resourcing it but expressly cheering it on.

It wasn’t long ago that those same powers exerted the full force of international condemnation on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, which arrives us at the only possible conclusion there is, the ugly beast of colonial racism is alive and well.

Any leader, celebrity, or person of any influence whatsoever that stands unequivocally behind Israel at this point in the devastation, when Israel’s barbarism is on full display, has blood on their hands. I may sound like a broken record, but I will be resolute in my opposition, with the small influence I have, for as long as is necessary.

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That being said, in my search for something meaningful to do besides writing, speaking, or posting online, all of which feels somewhat hollow but also important, I came across a charity called Palcrafts.

Their aim is to provide a sustainable source of income and support for Palestinian craftspeople and artisans in the West Bank, Gaza, Galilee and the Negev as well as Palestinian communities within Lebanon and Israel. Most of their suppliers are grassroots social enterprises and have a wonderful and heartening story to tell. 

I walked into Hadeel on Edinburgh’s George Street in the first couple of days into the bombardment of Gaza, desperately looking for an outlet, a way to help materially, and to lend my support to the Palestinian people.

Hadeel is Palcrafts’ non-profit fair-trade shop. Serendipitously, as I walked through the door, the store manager was explaining to another customer about their felt crafts that took pride of place in the far left side of the store. They were made by a social enterprise based in Palestine, that supports autistic and learning-disabled Palestinians. 

Ma’an lil-Hayat, or “together for life” in Arabic, was founded in August 2009 as a project of the International Federation of L’Arche Communities and brings together autistic people, people with learning disabilities and neurotypical people to share life, purpose and friendship through work and craft.

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Ma’an Lil Hayat provides daily social activities, food, and craft workshops for forty autistic and learning-disabled Palestinians struggling to cope with the realities of bombardment and occupation. 

Immediately, I knew I was supposed to find this enterprise. As an autistic person wrapped in the privilege of being from a Western country, without a minute of experience of war or persecution, I cannot begin to imagine how unbearable the realities of this situation must be for those like me, caught up in the throes of bombardment. 

The sheer sensory hell of having bombs rained down on you and your loved ones, the lack of water and sustenance, the inability to regulate even your most basic of bodily functions. The loss of those who care for you and understand you outwith the realm of the way everyone else perceives you.

The inability to regulate the power of your emotions. All of it means something even more harrowing for the autistic people caught up in this nightmare. 

When I think of how the most basic of sensory disturbances disable me, their plight cuts through to my soul. Disability injustice is often at the heart of violence yet disabled voices are often drowned out by the gravity and desperation of the wider picture. Disproportionately disadvantaged and left behind even in the gravest of circumstances. 

Ma’an Lil-Hayat produce primarily felt crafts using natural sheep’s wool that they purchase from local shepherdesses, another intentional choice. They see the process out from start to finish – cleaning, carding, dyeing, felting and drying.

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The process of the felting is often a soothing sensory stim for autistic crafters, providing basic comfort and regulation in a momentary escape from the dysregulation and distress that defines their existence. Every item they make is unique and handmade in their workshops, based in Bethlehem.

In a nod to their local community and heritage, based in one of the holiest sites of the Christian faith, they often make Christmas decorations.

My home will be decorated with some of them come December, and if unique and original Christmas decorations are your thing, you can find them on both the Hadeel website and their physical store in the heart of Edinburgh.

This particular social enterprise struck a personal chord with me, but it is just one of a whole host that Hadeel and Palcrafts carry.

In another part of the store, the colourful creations of an artist from Gaza take centre stage.

The store manager later told me that his factory was levelled in the recent bombardment, and the supplies in the store are likely to be the last she will receive.

Hadeel and Palcrafts touched my soul. While I resent the need for the charity, it represents the resolve of the Palestinian people and reminds us all of the human experience at the centre of this atrocity.

As we are encouraged to dehumanise Palestinians and value their lives as lesser, I encourage you to take the time to visit Hadeel, or to research Palcrafts online.

Every inch of each creation tells a story of resolve and determination. To see Palestine, not just through the lens of destruction that we are fed but through the eyes of the proud, resilient, opinionated, creative, funny, loud human beings that truly define it. 

They will not be lost.