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Jun-23-2011 14:52printcomments

Resistance - The First and Only Fisherwoman of Gaza

(This article was originally published at Vittorio Arrigoni’s blog Guerrilla Radio). Translation by Daniela Loffreda.

16-year-old Madeleine Kulab
16-year-old Madeleine Kulab (L) fishes off the coast of Gaza City, in order to support her family after her father was struck with palsy 10 years ago. Gaza's unemployment rate hovers around 40 percent, with 80 percent of the population, including the Kulab family, relying on foreign aid. (AFP/File/Mahmud Hams)

(GAZA CITY) - Her eyes are as deep as unexplored oceans and her movements are done with the grace of waterfowl, as when a marine creature submerges itself below the surface of the water.

Even the heavy weight of her clothing and veil seem to vanish, because by tradition, she must wear them while she swims.

Her name is Madeleine Kulab, she’s 16 years old, and she is the first and only female fisherwoman in the recent history of Gaza.

Her father Momahed became paralyzed ten years earlier and therefore was forced to hang up his fishing nets and now, it is his daughter who has taken his place at sea. “We come from a family of fisherman, for whom the passion for fishing has been passed down from generation to generation. Fishing was our livelihood before we were forced to leave, in 1948, what is known today as the port city Ashkelon” explains the father.

Today this livelihood barely allows us to survive, since the siege and the sailing limit imposed by Israel (not beyond 3 nautical miles from the coast) has significantly impoverished the Gaza fisherman. According to a recent Red Cross report, 90 percent of the 4000 or so fisherman in the Gaza Strip are living below the poverty level and their situation continues to deteriorate.

Few have ever been as alive as Vittorio Arrigoni. The Israelis once
attacked the fishing boat he was an observer aboard. He tried to swim
to shore and the Israelis trailed him until just before he drowned,
then they pulled Vittorio out of the water and beat him.

The usual UN aid offered to the Kulab family was just no longer sufficient, and so for the last three years. Madeleine has been waking up at 6am, one hour before the start of her school lessons, pushing the oars of her tiny boat out into the waters to a place where can throw in her nets. The ritual repeats itself in the afternoon shortly after the end of the school day. Madeleine not only has books in her knapsack, but also a change of clothing so that she can get wet again.

Here, human needs must prevail over tradition and courage has created a new profession for survival. This is a paradigm to the region and to Madeleine. However, her new role has earned her the respect from other Gazawi women and even notoriety beyond the open air prison which is Gaza.

The daily catch never goes beyond the weight of 3 chilos, and most of it is made up of sardines and crab, a gain which is not comparable to the daily risks which she faces. The last fisherman killed by Israeli machine guns was last September 24 2010 and it was exactly in the same area where Madeleine goes, opposite Sudaniya beach.

When I went to meet her at the beach, there were two Arab TV broadcasters filming her while she prepared to embark on her fishing, but Madeleine doesn’t let this go to her head, she remains the down to earth girl that she always has been. Her dreams are the same as any other teenage girl.

“I will never leave the sea, it’s my natural element, but I want to become as fashion designer one day” Madeleine says. Who knows, maybe in the future these same hands, so skilled at unraveling nets and freeing small, insignificant shellfish that end up in a pan, will one day embroider fine cloth that will embody the memories and tell the stories of a life and a sea under siege.

Restiamo Umani – Stay Human

Vittorio Arrigoni From Gaza city

(Translation by Daniela Loffreda)

Editor's note: It does our hearts good to see this item today. Vittorio had dispatched the story to Daniella prior to his death and it is now being released by and other world Websites for the first time. We believe Vittorio's loss will somehow lead to a better day for the people of Gaza that he loved so much. For background, the Gaza fishermen might have been Vik's strongest passion in this prison country. Special thanks to Daniela Loffreda for her awesome translation skills.


Vittorio Arrigoni, (1975-2011) will always be remembered as the Italian human rights activist willing to sacrifice everything he had for the people of Gaza. He is one of a number of activists who arrived with the Free Gaza movement. Vittorio (Vik) blogged at Guerrilla Radio [it], and also wrote for the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto. His posts vividly describe what the people of Gaza are experiencing right now. In one, a doctor describes the effects of the white phosphorus shells Israel is accused of using: “He said that what was totally inexplicable was the total absence of eyeballs, which even in the case of trauma of that magnitude should stay in place, at least traces of them.”

Americans for a Stronger Israel

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COLLI June 24, 2011 5:53 am (Pacific time)

What type of government takes an active part in stealing childhood from children? This young girl has bravely picked-up the reins from her ailing father to provide for her family and Israel exerts a control over a land they do not own, which relegates her and her family to near-starvation wages. Just one of many childhoods stolen by a government that practices Apartide policies and obviously feels no shame!

JohnWV June 24, 2011 4:39 am (Pacific time)

Israel has reduced Gaza to an open air prison and collectively tortures and kills its inmates by merely denying necessities. The Jewish State's cruel abuse of their goyim inferiors is on vivid display to the whole world. Peaceful flotillas, diplomacy or violence, anything, ANYTHING that can be done to extricate the Jewish occupiers from the Palestinian homeland is justified and commendable. May the Palestinian State be established and thrive on punitive reparations so massive that Israel's very existence is justly threatened.

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