ISTANBUL — It seems like everyone is dumping ice water on their head these days for a cause. The ice bucket challenge to raise awareness for ALS has gone viral, raising nearly $80 million and attracting participants from Steven Spielberg to George W. Bush).
But this week a new trend, this one in support of Gaza, emerged on social media. Instead of filling buckets with water — a scarcity in the Gaza Strip — people are dumping sand and rocks on their heads, in reference to the rubble of thousands of Gazan homes razed by Israeli airstrikes. Videos of the challenge aren’t meant to raise funds, but instead awareness of the living conditions for Palestinians in Gaza.
The Facebook page for the challenge says Maysam Yusef, a university student in Gaza, started the campaign. It has gained traction in the last few days after Palestinian journalist Ayman al Aloul posted a video on YouTube of himself dumping a bucket of rubble over his head from what appears to be a blast site in Gaza.
In the video, he says in Arabic that a bucket of water would be hard to waste, since it would be enough water for one family to use for a day. He adds that even if water had been available, freezing it would have been difficult without electricity.
Gaza is currently facing a devastating water shortage due to the conflict. Even during peacetime, the tap water in most homes is undrinkable. The tiny strip of land also suffers from frequent power cuts, which make things like refrigerating water -- or bodies in overcrowded morgues -- impossible.
More than 2,100 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more wounded in the past seven weeks of cross-border hostilities between Hamas and Israel. In Israel, 68 people have been killed, nearly all of them Israeli soldiers. According to UNRWA, the U.N. agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, at least 17,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged in Gaza, leaving 100,000 people homeless.
Israel maintains it only strikes Hamas targets, not civilians, in its efforts to protect Israelis from the thousands of rockets Hamas is lobbing from Gaza. But Palestinian civilians in Gaza say they are being indiscriminately shelled by Israel as a form of collective punishment, often with inadequate warning and nowhere safe to go.
WATCH the full video here: