It’s finally here! After weeks of drumming up excitement, and after wondering whether we’d even be able to put on the event amidst the current security situation in Palestine, we launched Startup Weekend Gaza!
We were quite worried this past week and came up with a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C… or, as some people like to call it, a Plan Gaza. As most of you know, three Israelis disappeared in the West Bank last week. Many suspect they were kidnapped. Since then, houses have been raided in the West Bank and Jerusalem, clashes have broken out, rockets have flown out of Gaza towards Israel, targeted missile strikes have been sent from Israel to Gaza… and many restrictions have been placed on movement.
So how does one put on a Startup Weekend in this context?
- Plan A: The situation calms down and we move ahead precisely according to our original plan.
- Plan B: The situation continues being tense, but with no threat to the safety of our participants. The border closes and the international mentors can’t come. The participants in Gaza move forward with the event anyway. We’re used to having rockets and missiles 5 miles away anyway… this is Gaza. Missiles sound dangerous to the outside world, but here they are a bit like background noise that we’ve gotten accustomed to. They’re usually on the periphery and don’t *usually* hurt people who aren’t directly involved in them.
- Plan C: The situation escalates and we postpone the event. If the security situation worsens, we wouldn’t want to put our participants at risk. In fact, we might not be able to put on the event. Our rain date is the following week because typically escalations de-escalate in under a week.
We ended up going with a mix of Plan A and Plan B. Until the last minute, we didn’t know if the international mentors would be allowed into Gaza. Would the border be open? Would we be concerned about their safety?
The border closed for Gazans, but it remained open for internationals. They arrived on Wednesday just in time for “Meet the Gazans.” They’ll have to leave early because they haven’t received permission to stay over the weekend. We’re glad they were able to join us for the launch.
And talking about the launch… it was spectacular. Many people came up to us to say “This is the best Startup Weekend ever!” “This is so well organized!” “There are more people and more energy here than at any previous Startup Weekend!”
Now all 150 of you have to show us what you’ve got!
– by Iliana Montauk for the Startup Weekend Organizing Commitee