Our Combatants for Peace partners sought to build this third Abir's Garden Playground in a village that is at such high risk of settler violence that internationals from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) moved in to the village to live there so that Palestinian families would be safe. That's why Combatants for Peace are there too. I thought that the Itamar settlement was only on one hilltop but as we drove there in April, Abu Mohammed, a coordinator for Combatants for Peace, pointed out the settlement buildings and outposts on all the hilltops around the village. Afterwards, as we were driving out of the village, the settlement's private security car came down into Ein Yanoun to inspect the playground space we had visited.
I wish I could tell you that this third Abir's Garden project is up and running, with happy children and families enjoying their new playground in all safety. However, this simple playground project is more difficult than the others in part because of the risks that the villagers face and in part because it is relatively challenging for Combatants for Peace volunteers to reach this site — only one road remains, the Israeli Army has closed the others.
Combatants for Peace reports that they continue to hold their commitment to build the playground despite their delays. Yusri, a member of Combatants for Peace, who was the project leader for the Abir’s Garden playground they build in the south, has now joined the team in the north to help move this project forward. They will all be meeting soon after Ramadan to plan next steps and will soon be in touch with the town of Agraba regarding the town's promise to install the new road to the site of the playground.
When my team and I visited in April, we drove along a road through the olive orchards some with red poppies growing in the grass. I was with Ayat, Rebuilding Alliance's Communications and Outreach Officer, and also Sue, a member of my Rotary Club of Woodside Portola Valley who was visiting the Holy Land now that we finished our Rotary Birthing Center project. We picked-up snacks in Ramallah then drove to Nablus to meet Abu Mohammed who was very clear about using his truck instead of rental car to get there.
We drove through the town of Agraba then past the center of the little Ein Yanoun village to the new playground site where we parked and walked through a beautiful waist-deep wheat field, planted beneath the olive trees. Somehow, my camera battery failed in one of the most picturesque vistas in all of Palestine. Some parts of the park and playground site were surrounded by a cement block wall, while in other parts the wall was made of tires stacked some 4ft high. There were tire walls in other areas of the village too. The playground walls will be painted with colors later as the playground takes shape. Abu Mohammed also decribed their plans to make it a special playground garden and have an opening ceremony when it’s finished.
But why use tires? After all, there is no auto repair underway in the village. Abu Mohammed explained that there are wild pigs that damage crops and can be very dangerous. Rumor has it that they were released by settlers, but it is likely that the native wild boar population just grew as they now have no natural predators. See the article by Nora Lester Murad for more information about this. Afterward our visit to the playground site, we went back to the center of the village to visit the members of the EAPPI who are staying there to protect the village. Only one volunteer was home. She was really nervous about being outside with us. “I’ve got to put my yellow vest on so the settlers will see it,” she said.
The EAPPI volunteers walk around the village every morning and every evening in a team of two. They know the settlers are watching everything and they hope their walk will reinforce their important protective presence. It was good to connect them with Combatants for Peace (CFP) and our Abir’s Garden project. Despite the challenges, we are all doing our best to make this Abir’s Garden take shape as truly a safe place to grow. Thank you again for your trust in Combatants for Peace and in Rebuilding Alliance. I’ll post CFP's construction schedule as soon as I receive it.
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.
When our Rebuilding Alliance team met with our partners, Combatants for Peace, and the playground designers in March we were planning the third Abir’s Garden Playground. It was an amazing and productive meeting. Remarkably, representatives of the Akraba Municipality, a large town nearby, promise to match all the funds we raised for this project! Akraba Town will provide their staff and equipment to do the earthmoving to complete the first two phases of the project!
It was remarkable to see the trust everyone placed in one another - Ein Yanun, Combatants for Peace, Akraba Municipatlity and Rebuilding Alliance representing all of you who have supported this work these many years. Akraba's matching grant means that the cost of this 3rd Abir's Garden playground is fully covered! Any additional funds we raise now will be for Combatants for Peace's children's theatre program.
Let's make it so. Today Wednesday, June 25th in just a few hours time, a remarkable a bonus day kicks off with a dollar for dollar match for donations up to $1000. Today Wednesday, June 25th, Microsoft Youth Spark is giving away $200,000 in matching funds via GlobalGiving — but please note, though the match will go in the first 5 minutes, there is also a bonus for most donors and most total donations.
Please set your alarm today for 9:01am Pacific, 10:01am Mountain, 11:01am Central, or Noon:01pm Eastern. Please click Scholarships 4 Children, Stipends 4 Young Teachers to give.
As always, please call me if you have questions or suggestions. My phone number is 650 325-4663.
Greetings from the West Bank, Palestine! A week ago Friday, Rebuilding Alliance's Accountant, Thai Hien Ho, and I were part of a remarkable meeting near Ein Yanoun at the home of the architect who designed this our third Abir's Garden playground. An engineer was also there to meet with us and quite a contingent of Combatants for Peace members, including both Israel and Palestinian members and Combatants for Peace board members. The meeting was gracefully conducted in three languages with Tel Aviv / Tulkarem Team Leaders Maya and Mohanad translating Hebrew and Arabic into English and back.
Our goal was to approve the plans for the third Abir’s Garden Playground and Youth Theater Program. I asked for the meeting because I was concerned that the playground plan presented to Rebuilding Alliance was too expensive at $24K. With the added cost, we would not be able to also fund the youth theater program. Remarkably by the end of the meeting a solution was found.
The Palestinian landscape architect, trained in Spain, stood by his design for the playground. He explained that the steep rocky grade requires extra work for leveling and to build the retaining walls, both for the lower playground and upper picnic area level. Combatants for Peace and Rebuilding Alliance were both impressed with his design and satisfied with his explanation.
Then magic happened: When I raised my concern about also being able to fund the Youth Theater program, a phone call was made to the mayor of Agraba. On behalf of the municipality of Agraba, the mayor agreed to match our grant, dollar for dollar! Project co-leader, Maya Katz, explained, "We have great cooperation with the Agraba Municipality. They provided a matching grant for our last project and our teams finished the parking lot and installed a garden at the new school for the village of Kirbet Twir."
So far we have transferred $12K to CfP so the mayor of Agraba confirmed that they will put in the starter $12K so that we'll complete the playground according to spec and launch the theater program! Combatant for Peace Bilal said, "We are really pleased to begin Phase 1 of the Abir's Garden playground construction in a few days time!"
If you would like to support our project again, one great day to do this will be on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 starting at 12:00:01 PM (noon) EDT when Microsoft's Youth Spark will provide a 50% match to donations (up to $1,000 per donor). The bonus competition will end April 17th, 2014, at 11:59:59 AM EDT.
NOTE: The project that has the most unique donors on Microsoft YouthSpark's Bonus Day will receive an additional $10,000 from Microsoft. We CAN DO this: Abir's Garden reached the most donors in the last YouthSpark bonus!
Please mark your calendar for noon, Wednesday April 16th through noon Thursday April 17th!
Please call me or send email as questions arise and I'll do my best to connect you with the Combatants for Peace team! My email is Contact@RebuildingAlliance.org and my phone here is 1-970-599-331-2811.
Thank you again for all that you've done to make this remarkable project a reality.
P.S. After the meeting, one of the Combatants for Peace took us to visit Ein Yanoun so that Thai and I could take pictures at the empty site of the playground. One of the villagers introduced us to the three internationals who are living in the village and working with the villagers to keep everyone safe. It is a real challenge and very scary — this village is surrounded by 5 settlements with very threatening settlers. We want to help everyone there to stay in touch with all of you, our Abir's Garden Playground donors, so that in any future moment of need we can all relay their call to our elected officials to rouse the diplomatic corps. Thank you again.
"I think the first sense I had in experiencing the work with Theater of the Oppressed was surprise. It was surprising to feel so many feelings at the same time: excitement, sadness and joy. It was surprising to feel so close to people that only an hour ago where strangers or enemies. For me, TO is a bridge, a surprising bridge.”
Below, I've attached a more detailed description of the theater rationale and also how CfP will extend this to youth, starting with a launch event in Al Aqaba Village and Ein Yanoun soon after.
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