As the rest of the world continues to dump buckets of cold water over their heads in support of ALS research, some Palestinians have created their own version of the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness about the ongoing crisis in Gaza. Known as the Rubble Bucket Challenge, the campaign invites social media users to douse themselves in sand, gravel, and other materials from buildings that have been destroyed during Israel's seven-week military offensive. The choice of materials was both deliberate and necessary: they couldn't use ice water, participants say, due to deteriorating conditions on the ground.
"In Gaza we don't have water and when we have water, we can't make ice since the electricity is off most of the time," writes Gaza resident Abu Yazan, alongside a video he uploaded to Facebook Tuesday morning. "So my cousin Hafiz, [my] nephew Khalid and I used remains of a destroyed house to participate in this challenge."
The campaign launched on Saturday, and has picked up steam on Facebook and Twitter. At the time of this writing, the Rubble Bucket Challenge Facebook page has more than 4,200 "likes," and many have posted videos of themselves completing the feat under the hashtag #RubbleBucketChallenge. (Others have appeared under the tags #DustBucketChallenge and #RemainsBucketChallenge.) The campaign received an extra boost today, with the support of Palestinian singer Mohammad Assaf, and has been heavily promoted by Palestinian journalist Ayman al-Aloul, who posted the video embedded above.
Unlike the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, this campaign doesn't ask users for monetary donations. Instead, it relies on social media to simply raise awareness about a humanitarian crisis that its Facebook page describes as "ethnic cleansing."
"Money will not bring the so many innocent souls back to life and we cannot begin to rebuild Gaza unless the Israeli attacks stop," Maysam Yusef, the Gaza university student who launched the Rubble Bucket Challenge, said in an email. "So our campaign is more of a social media revolution, where people show their solidarity with Gaza and publicly reject the killing of civilians. We are trying to form a worldwide movement to pressure Israel to stop this genocidal act against Palestinians of Gaza."
Israel launched an air and ground offensive in Gaza on July 8th, with the aim of halting Hamas rocket fire and destroying the organization's network of tunnels. Since then, the operation has killed 2,133 people — mostly civilians — and injured more than 10,000 others. Sixty-eight Israelis have been killed over that span, including four civilians. The situation has escalated since a ceasefire agreement collapsed on August 19th, with Israeli forces targeting high-rise buildings and shopping complexes. Israeli officials have accused Hamas operatives of using Gazans as human shields, while others have suggested that Israel's massive operation could amount to war crimes.
Some media outlets have cited al-Aloul, the journalist, as the founder of the Rubble Bucket Challenge; others have pointed to Jordanian comedian Mohammed Darwaza, who uploaded a video of himself completing the challenge on Friday. But Yusef says she launched the campaign after seeing Darwaza's video, and worked with the comedian to launch her Facebook page on Friday, before announcing it in a video posted Saturday. (al-Aloul posted his video, under the hashtag #RemainsBucketChallenge, on Saturday.) Attribution aside, Yusef says she's pleased with the movement's spread, and hopes it will pressure politicians and policymakers to bring about change.
"Our challenge is not exclusive to a race or a religion," Yusef says. "All people are invited to take the challenge. Killing civilians is not acceptable in any sense."
An earlier version of this article described Mohammed Darwaza as a Palestinian comedian, when he is in fact Jordanian. It has been corrected.