When the siege prevented all building materials from reaching Gaza, we asked the Al Bahry family if they would consider unconventional building materials, such as shipping containers, as a way to build their home. They worried that unconventional materials might attract too much attention and asked that we find a way to build in the traditional way in Gaza.
A limited supply of cement and concrete is now reaching Gaza. Open market prices are prohibitively high -- but we've learned there is a way for families to register for cement at set prices. The Al Bahry family will be meeting with our project manager soon.
As soon as they select an engineer to draw-up plans for their home, the project moves into full gear, to a place where dreams are made real as they plan each room of their future home.
In August, the Jerusalem prosecutor dismissed Abir’s case without filing charges, supposedly for lack of evidence – despite 14 witnesses and an independent autopsy. On Oct. 1, 2007 Israeli attorney Michael Sfard, esq., and Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din appealed the Israeli prosecutor’s decision to close the investigation file on death of Abir Aramin.
On Oct. 23rd, the Rebuilding Alliance organized a Contact Congress Telecon with constituents and senior staffers from Senators Feinstein, Boxer, and Congresswoman Eshoo’s office. Bassam Aramin – Abir’s father and co-founder of Combatants for Peace, Zohar Shapira and Avishay Sharon – also of Combatants for Peace, and Cindy Corrie – board member of the Rebuilding Alliance presented Abir’s case. The staffers promised to raise this issue with the Senators and Congresswoman and make inquiries to the Israeli Embassy and U.S. State Department on our behalf. Our committee’s follow-up: a letter to the Senators and Congresswoman, and personal meetings at their local and DC offices, as we invoke the Leahy Law by forwarding case details to the Senate Appropriations Committee for review. We ask Human Rights Groups to report case details so that this becomes part of the Annual U.S. Report on Human Rights. We ask people around the country to work with us to schedule a "Contact Congress Teleconference" in their state to ask their senators and representatives to call the Israeli Embassy to find out what happened to Abir.
The blockade of Gaza is entering its third month now and the crisis there is overwhelming, (see www.ochaopt.org). The Rebuilding Alliance is doing all we can to organize an end to the blockade. We were just awarded a seed grant from Grassroots International to use our Contact Congress Teleconferences to launch an Open Gaza Campaign focused on ending the blockade with Gaza, and also topics related to the Leahy Law. We'll keep you posted as the Campaign takes shape.
This past week the Israeli Banks said they are cutting off all funds transfers to banks in Gaza, As far as we know, this does NOT impact Rebuilding Alliance funds transfers to our NGO partner in Gaza, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. We’ll test our bank-to-bank wire transfer system in the week ahead to confirm.
What does the blockade mean for our rebuilding project? Khaled Nasrallah who works with procurement requests at UNRWA, reports that everything in Gaza now cost 10 x more than it did last year. This is true in all sectors. When materials run out, they are not replaced because no raw materials are being allowed into Gaza at all.
We hoped to buy the last bags of cement for this project – but cement is now becoming bad, unsafe to build with. What about exploring alternative building materials?
Straw bale construction can be beautiful and long-lasting but such construction is not the norm in Gaza. People in Gaza want to build homes made of poured concrete and re-bar, homes that will last 100 years, best if the walls are thick. What do Gazans say about using local building materials? Khaled Nasrallah said, “We don't really have building materials now but we do have a lot of empty shipping containers. Perhaps building with materials like these could show that people are struggling to have homes even with no materials.”
A group of eco-builders called Bustan Shalom are rebuilding with Bedouin families in the Negev. Their speaking tour brings them to visit the SF Bay area in two weeks. The Rebuilding Alliance is inviting all the green builders in our area for a house party for Bustan, so we can learn more about this work to show examples to our partners and the families in Gaza.
It may be possible to build with local materials, even shipping containers, if engineers and architects can design to meet the family’s needs. Next step: touch base with the Al Bahry family to explore these ideas further.