Greetings from Ramallah! Kelly Leilani Main, Rebuilding Alliance’s Assistant Project Manager, and I are here with Ayat and Niveen, our team in Palestine. We came to coordinate the installation of our Birthing Center in Ein Al Beida and our Prenatal Clinic in Al Aqaba — and we’re using this 6 week visit to move our projects forward.
Three weeks ago, I picked Kelly up at the Ben Gurion Airport, making it back to Ramallah just in time to attend the UN’s Shelter Cluster Meeting. That’s the meeting of all the international Non-Governmental Organizations who are working as best they can to provide shelter in the West Bank and in Gaza following the demolition of homes and schools. At that meeting, UN Habitat presented their report on Master Planning in Area C and cited the Palestinian Village of Al Aqaba's decision to issue its own building permits as a model for all villages in Area C.
Thanks to your support, we're seeing that a combination of (a) solid legal representation and (b) village master planning, coupled with (c) grassroots advocacy to press for (d) diplomatic engagement really works to keep Palestinian homes, schools, playgrounds, and villages standing in Al Aqaba. We've been learning a lot as we work to keep Al Aqaba Village standing -- so now we're working to expand this advocacy to other Palestinian Villages and to Gaza too.
This project, the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages, encompasses the "make them safe" part of Rebuilding Alliance's mission. It is key to all our rebuilding work and it is important that it extends far beyond Rebuilding Alliance’s own projects to address the safety of all Palestinian villages and neighborhoods at risk of destruction. On this trip, Israeli author activist Amos Gvirtz took us to visit the Israeli town of Al Araqib that was demolished 81 times before our visit, and one time more, afterwards. We also joined the Villages Group to visit Um Al Kheir, south of Hebron in the West Bank. I'll write more about these visits soon, on Rebuilding Alliance's Facebook page.
Here’s what Hamed Qawasmeh, area representative to UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right and a member of The Villages Group had to say about our Stay Human Conference Calls with Congress, "Working in coordination with Rebuilding Alliance is one of the corner stones of the community-based approach taken by Umm Al Khair to save itself from forced displacement. The community has found it very valuable to engage in the conference calls held by RA as it proved to be useful in providing the necessary pressure needed to stop the bulldozers in their tracks. The community WILL continue to engage with RA so that people worldwide will join in advocating for its own survival.”
We’ve spent this past year ramping-up the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages by developing education and advocacy events in parallel with the development of better communications technology to advance that advocacy. This was by necessity, not by choice — the crisis of home demolitions in Area C of the West Bank and last summer’s crisis of the massive bombing and destruction of Gaza's neighborhoods plus very real terror of rocket attacks and attacks on peacemakers in Israel required immediate and constant response.
We’ve held seven Stay Human Conference Calls with Congress — and each one generates remarkable response from Congress as well as new project opportunities. Senator Grassley is now following up on a constituent request about the village of Um Al Kheir, and so are Senators and Representatives in California, Michigan and New York. Senator Peters' staffer joined the line for the 2nd Stay Human Conference call with speakers that included a villager in Um Al Kheir and a representative of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
From April 3rd to May 4th, Rebuilding Alliance will be hosting Israeli Author and Activist Amos Gvirtz on his Don’t Say We Did Not Know speaking tour. We're brining him to speak with some 30 peace and justice groups in Toronto, NYC, NJ, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Olympia and Vancouver (wow).
In October, we’ll be hosting the Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme along with the Executive Director of the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement — both these peacemakers, Palestinian and Israeli, were on our Stay Human Conference Call with Congress last August, just a few weeks after 28 members of Dr. Yassir Abujamei’s family we’re killed by a missile as the broke their fast for Ramadan.
Lastly, about Technology Development, we're seeing that this very hard problem — keeping Palestinian villages standing on the other side of the world — is bringing forward a breakthrough idea that could apply to all hard problems. The law firm of KPPB.com is representing Rebuilding Alliance pro bono and has filed a preliminary patent application on our behalf. We call it “Contact Congress Countability” and we’ve entered the Knight News Challenge to bring our ideas forward. Please use the link below for more info.
Thank you again for all you are doing. We could not do this without you.
P.S. Today Kelly and I are heading to Jerusalem to meet with Adv. Dalia Qumsieh, L.L.M, Head of the Advocacy Department at the Society of St. Yves Catholic Center for Human Rights
Greetings from Jerusalem! Rebuilding Alliance’s Accountant and Assistant Project Manager, Thai Hien Ho, and I arrived yesterday to a rainy, blustery, thunder-stormy Jerusalem.
Tomorrow we’ll be meeting with the team at the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) who wrote the newly released, “Area C Vulnerability Profile”. As stated in the report, “An estimated 297,900 people live in 532 residential areas in Area C, comprising some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank in terms of humanitarian needs.” (see attached link). If you've been looking at the West Bank via GoogleMaps, Area C looks so very empty — the villages have already disappeared. That's a problem we should be able to fix. With the help of a friend at Google, Thai and I will be conveying UNOCHA’s data to the mapping team at Google so that those missing 532 residential areas including some 148 Palestinian towns will show up on Google’s maps of the West Bank.
When I think about all that Rebuilding Alliance does, I feel that this project, the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages, is one of our most important. I’m delighted to report that we’ve used project funding to purchase a GPS camera and also MapAnything Software to help build the software app that will make it easier to contact congress. Here’s what we plan to do on this trip:
1. We want the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages to build on our success in keeping one village, Al Aqaba, standing despite demolition orders issued on 97% of the village including nearly all the homes, the medical clinic and our kindergarten. What’s worked is our collective engagement with congressional staffers who call the U.S. State Department and the Israeli Embassy at their constituents’ request as soon as demolition bulldozers are on the move. We hope to meet with the American Consulate in Jerusalem to explore how to extend this to other at-risk villages;
2. We are in touch with Reverend Yoshii and the Friends of Wadi Foquin Village who are also visiting the area. Their congressional briefing was very successful but in January, the Israeli Army destroyed some 200 newly planted olive trees in Wadi Foquin. That’s the type of destruction we hope can be avoided by developing a contact congress “early warning system” approach, much like we’ve done in Al Aqaba.
3. We’re working with a group of UC Berkeley Computer Science Students who are part of a chapter called, “Code the Change” to develop better mapping tools for projects like this, both as a way to raise funds for construction and tree planting projects and also as a way to monitor progress over time and build advocacy to keep each project area safe too. Their prototype may be ready next month!
4. We look forward to meeting the legal team at Rabbis for Human Rights to hear about their lawsuit to assure villages in Area C to plan their future growth. Thai and I hope to meet with them to explore how we can focus U.S. attention on this important concept through our advocacy software.
Thank you again for your support of the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages and for your patience as we work through our software development phase. This is such a critical time — I hope our software app. will be ready soon, soon enough to keep the villages standing in Area C.
Thank you again for your support. When our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages won the Global Giving competition, we moved forward with care. Here is what our U.S. Movement has done so far:
Confirmed by our visit to Palestine, our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages is needed now more than ever. Our Contact Congress software could be of use to many villages and supporting organizations — we hope to have our software up and running by December or January as a team of students at UC Berkeley’s Code the Change Chapter want to help us. I am seeking a volunteer coder or techie who can help coordinate this in depth.
Thank you again for supporting our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages. I hope you are excited by the accomplishments we have achieved and I hope this gives you a sense of the challenges we face.
As always, please feel free to give me a call with any questions or suggestions: 650 440 9667 is my cellphone.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.