Musings on chess and salt: Gaza’s first ever TEDx talk

Youth organisers stage TEDx event in Gaza City to “show the world that Palestinians have ideas worth spreading”.

Organisers said the event aimed to show the world that Palestinians have stories to tell and ideas to share [TEDxShujaiya via Facebook]
Organisers said the event aimed to show the world that Palestinians have stories to tell and ideas to share [TEDxShujaiya via Facebook]

Gaza City – As Israeli-Palestinian violence continues unabated, a group of young Palestinians have held a TEDx talk in Gaza City, using the power of words to ignite debate and and showcase intellectualism in the Palestinian enclave.

Organisers said Thursday’s TEDx Shujaiya event aimed to show “the world that Palestinians, and especially those from Gaza who suffered severely from wars and neglect, have stories worth telling and ideas worth spreading”.

The event, the first of its kind ever to be held in Gaza, featured 11 speeches in both Arabic and English from local residents.

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“Everything is being done by the community, mostly volunteers from local universities,” said Basel Almadoun, a member of the event’s social media team.

“We wanted to do something for us and by us, and [TEDx Shujaiya] is purely Palestinian.”

TED is a non-profit organisation committed to engaging communities in dialogue and stirring curiosity. The organisation was borne out of a four-day conference in California 30 years ago.

TEDx talks differ slightly in that they are local events, organised independently from the TED organisation. Though not directly involved, TED provided the guidelines and a license for the Gaza conference.

One of the speakers, Mazen al-Sayed, a leading expert in software development and project management, spoke on how lessons learned from playing chess – including self-assurance, patience and confidence – can be applied to the lives of Palestinians.

“If someone said to you, ‘your value is equal to the value of the chess piece I hold in my hand’, how would you feel?” he asked, showing a pawn, the lowliest piece in chess.

Sayed went on to explain that each piece plays an important role.

“Everyone in this room has a value,” and like the individual chess pieces, each “has an effect as long as it is on the board. If it remains in play on the chessboard, it can change the course of the game,” Sayed said during his presentation.

In keeping with TED tradition, the evening was lively, and featured artistic and musical performances.

But the dire situation in Gaza was also discussed. The effect of the Israeli siege, in place since 2007, factored into Almoataz-Billah Budwaan’s talk on “one-size fits all” solutions to problems.

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Budwaan, a civil engineer and reconstruction officer for al-Fakhoora, a global organisation that supports education in conflict areas, used the example of his family adding salt to soup after it was prepared.

Adding salt while cooking the dish meant that everyone would “have the same amount of salt” in their soup, regardless of their own wishes.

“I don’t like one-size-fits-all solutions,” Budwaan said. “It should be up to us to adapt our salt usage to our own needs and desires,” he continued.

Mohammed Abu Seif, a 22-year-old student of pharmacy at Al-Azhar university, told Al Jazeera that he was excited to be in attendance.

“In Gaza, we are disconnected from the outside world, but we watch TED videos just like everyone else. Being here makes me feel more connected to the rest of the world,” he said.

For Abu Seif, this was a great way to show the world that Gaza has a strong intellectual current.

“War isn’t the only thing that happens in Gaza. There is life and ideas here, too,” he said.

“I hope to have the chance to come to more events like this.”

Source: Al Jazeera


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