Dear Friend, We set out to open Gaza with compassion and so we begin. Good news: our first shipping container is now cleared for entry. It wasn’t easy. With your help, what we learned will guide the next containers.
Our container was rejected when it first arrived at Israel's Port of Ashdod on December 10th. Israel has rules against accepting anything used and that included our 727 boxes of gently worn clothing for Gaza. We appealed and just a few days ago, approval arrived to begin customs clearance.
The shocker: the process took too long — our container was racking-up port, storage, and demurrage fees. When our U.S. shipping agent could not stop the clock, I spent my nights negotiating, fee by fee, with the Port of Ashdod and the shipping line, guided by our Palestinian shipping agent in Ramallah. With most of the U.S. embassy and consular staff away for the holidays, each time I got stuck, the Acting Staff Aide to the U.S. Ambassador in Tel Aviv responded with suggestions.
And it worked. We talked the costs down. Best of all, Rebuilding Alliance set a precedent for sending gently used, donated clothing to Gaza. Funds are transferred and if all goes well, we'll see our 727 boxes reach the Palestine Red Crescent by Jan. 16th. Next week, we'll pre-apply for customs clearance for our 2nd container.
Our bold goal -- opening the blockade of Gaza with compassion – came from Khaled Nasrallah in Rafah, Gaza just after the bombing stopped in August. He is part of the Gaza family whom the late Rachel Corrie stood to protect and he is a social worker at one of the UN schools sheltering families. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, thousands donated, hundreds came to pack. Please take a moment to watch the video we made.
Your support in the Microsoft YouthSpark program made it possible to hire a Gaza Campaign Coordinator and Project Development Assistant, Kelly Leilani Main. Kelly Leilani has been volunteering with Rebuilding Alliance for the past 2 months. She completed her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from U.C. Berkeley receiving High Honors with a Thesis Topic: The Politics and Aesthetics of Public Space. Kelly is an intermediate Arabic speaker who is keenly interested in Urban Planning and International Development with an emphasis on housing and community and economic development. She has visited Palestine and Israel with the Olive Tree Initative, a student led educational initiative which travels to Washington D.C., Israel, Palestine and Jordan to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict first-hand and went on to become OTI's Director of Internal Relations, Programming and Education while at UC Berkeley. Great to have Kelly Leilani on our team!
Thank you again for making this important project happen. We'll keep you posted as our container arrives, and let you know how the new plans are taking shape.
Best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year,
I am delighted to bring this report to you. Combatants for Peace and the villagers of Yanun have agreed on a new site for the Abir's Garden Playground, and work has begun at last.
Muhanad is still the Palestinian coordinator of Combatants for Peace - Tel Aviv/Nablus group, Maya was the Israeli Coordator when we began but now Michalo has taken that role. I am getting reports from Michalo and Maya, with Muhanad copied. Next, we plan to send Ayat, Rebuilding Alliance's Communications and Outereach Officer, to join them for their next building day in Yanun.
One more thing you'll want to know about Yanun is that it faces very real attacks on people, homes, and crops by the nearby Israeli settler outpost called Givot Olam, a branch of the Itamar settlement. The attacks were so dangerous that villager evacuated in 2002, to return with the help of Palestinian, Israeli, and International activists. Now, the Ecumenical Accoumpaniment Program in Palestine and Israel has three or four people living in Yanun and Combatants for Peace continues their work with the village in solidarity to keep them safe.
As we reported in the spring, everyone looked forward to launching the project last June, only to learn that the landowner of the site in the center of the little town revoked permission to use that land.
Dear Friend, When I last wrote, the library had expanded and we were excited to bring business plan development advisers to work with the Ibn Rush'd Youth Entrepreneurs. Introductions have been made and first visits have happened — but we're not quite sure this is a good fit, so we are interviewing a second group of advisers as well. Do you know that our Ibn Rush'd Library and Youth Entrepreneurship program qualifies for the Microsoft Youth Spark Matching Grant? If you can make a donation today, please do.
Microsoft YouthSpark will match your donation today — Dollar for Dollar — starting at 6am Pacific / 9am Eastern and again at noon Pacific time / 3pm Eastern. They are giving away $350,000 today but the match will go very quickly, maybe in 5 min so please set your alarm for the exact hour in your time zone. Note: Microsoft will match up to $500 per project.Thank you again for giving wings to the wonderful Ibn Rush'd Library and Entrepreneurship Program. Sincerely,