Rebuilding Alliance

Rebuilding Alliance is dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and bringing the world together to make them safe. Our vision is a just and enduring peace in Israel and Palestine with equal value, opportunity, and security for all.
Nov 28, 2016

#HeresMyVillage Mapathons to put Palestinian Villages on Open Street Map, Google, and Apple Maps

Runners arrive at Apple, 9 miles from Google
Runners arrive at Apple, 9 miles from Google

Dear Friend,

This is our second update of three.  The highlight:  nearly 720,000 people viewed our Race to Recognize Palestinian Villages and now we ask your help to transform this energy into Here's My Village Community Mapathons as we continue to urge Google and Apple to Map Palestinian Villages. 

Please give on the GlobalGiving Bonus Day starting tonight at 9:01 Pacific, Tuesday Midnight:01 Eastern, and at Tuesday 7am Jerusalem time. 

#HeresMyVillage — what it will mean to see Palestinian Villages on Google, Apple Maps

Last spring, when we brought UN Habitat's expert to walk the halls of Congress, we saw there was something wrong with the base maps.   Somehow, Google and Apple had mapped all the Israeli settlements in the West Bank (and even the outposts), which are illegal under international law and violate official US policy, while erroneously depicting an empty Palestinian countryside! 

Rebuilding Alliance is in Silicon Valley.  We know and work in the villages, we know the mapping experts — if anyone could do this, it must be us.  We immediately began work through the summer, partnering with the Israeli human rights group, Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, to connect with Google and Apple.

The challenge for the Silicon Valley mapping community is to step back from mind-numbing politics and just show what is really there,” said Alon, the architect and urban planner who leads Bimkom’s analysis and assistance to Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

Together, we successfully transferred all the GPS data for the Palestinian villages in Area C to both companies in September including points and polygons in three languages. Strangely, Apple and Google would only communicate through Representative Eshoo and Representative Honda, with no word as to their implementation schedule.  So when Palestinian marathoners from the group Right to Movement asked if they could help, we jumped at the chance!

Rebuilding Alliance brought nine Palestinian marathoners on October 13th to run from Google headquarters in Mountain View to Apple headquarters in Cupertino in a "Race to Recognize Palestinian Villages".   They delivered letters addressed to the heads of the mapping departments requesting that the villages be added. The event was covered by the SF Chronicle. AJ+ made a short video about the race, which has been viewed over 715,000 times!  At our request, hundreds of constituents wrote to their members of Congress to ask for their help in delivering the message to Apple and Google leadership.  That prompted the U.S. State Department to get involved.

Good News: the State Department reported, “Both companies said there are no policy impediments to proceeding with adding the villages, only technical impediments. However, we have not received a  timeline."

Here’s where something remarkable happened: we were able to follow-up constituent messages to schedule meetings with Congress, especially valuable because Congress needs to see these maps too.   In a Washington that has changed dramatically since the election, Rebuilding Alliance brought the #HeresMyVillage Contact Congress tour to Washington DC on November 14th and 15th, with mapping experts from Bimkom and an artist advocate from Um Al Kheir, the West Bank village who has experienced repeated demolitions. We meet with 12 Congressional offices, both Senate and House, Democrat and Republican, visited the State Department and joined a mapathon to learn how Open Street Map works. While in DC, we joined in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in their march to press the White House to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“Thousands of children and families in Area C of the West Bank (the territories controlled entirely by Israel) can’t locate their homes on Apple or Google maps, or on Waze (Google’s subsidiary),” said Nava, a GIS mapping expert at Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights in her presentation at Congressional offices. “They are real locations – however, in the virtual mapped world of the Web, they simply can’t be found. In today’s online society, that’s as good as saying you don’t exist.”

When we reached Silicon Valley, Google and Apple declined to meet with us. Again, we delivered letters, this time hand-written by the distinguished artist who lives in the village of Umm al Kheir.

“We may never know why Google and Apple mapped illegal Israeli settlements while leaving off hundreds of Palestinian villages nearby,” said Eid, the artist from Umm Al Kheir whose exhibition in Berlin was recently sponsored by Chinese dissident artist, Ai WeiWei. “I hope community mapping will engage the world’s attention and help us hold on to our homes and neighborhoods on the land we own.”

And from this long path we found our next steps when we held our first #HeresMyVillage mapathon, working with the Students for Justice in Palestine @SJState to add five Palestinian villages to Open Street Maps, and put key points of interest in Eid’s village of Umm Al Kheir on the map.   Especially moving was putting the Community Center of Umm Al Kheir back on the map — it had been demolished, along with the home of a family of five, on Tuesday while Eid was with us in DC.  Just before their flights home, we held our second Here's My Village mapathon with the Palestinian American Coalition of the Bay Area and mapped six more villages!

Now, we ask your help to bring #HeresMyVillage Community Mapathons to your community and also to do mapping with the Palestinian villages themselves as we teach everyone how to call Congress and continue to press Google and Apple to correct their maps.

On Giving Tuesday starting at midnight, Eastern time for as long as bonus funds last, GlobalGiving is providing a bonus of 50% for each donation up to $1000 — This time GG is giving away a half a million dollars in Bonus matches!  Please give generously. Thank you for all that you do.
The runners visit Rep. Honda
The runners visit Rep. Honda's office
State Dept. meeting w Eid, Bimkom,RebuildingAll
State Dept. meeting w Eid, Bimkom,RebuildingAll
Showing Rep. Eshoo
Showing Rep. Eshoo's staff the maps
#Heres My Village Mapathon with SJP @SJState
#Heres My Village Mapathon with SJP @SJState
SJSU community mapathon
SJSU community mapathon
Here
Here's what Google and Apple show - settlements

Links:

Nov 23, 2016

#ICareAboutPeace - how bringing children to Congress is keeping Susiy Standing

Sadin speaks to the audience at Senate briefing
Sadin speaks to the audience at Senate briefing

Dear Friend,

We've done so much good work that over these next few days, I am sending you three separate updates: 

  1. #ICareAboutPeace — how bringing children to Congress is keeping Susiy Standing
  2. #HeresMyVillage — what it will mean to see Palestinian Villages on Google Maps and Apple Maps
  3. #Save_UmAlHiran coalition stops demolitions!  Reminder: Giving Tuesday starts Monday night 9pm Pacific

                           #ICareAboutPeace — how bringing children to Congress is keeping Susiy Standing

On Nov. 15th 2016, the Government of Israel filed a formal request to the High Court of Israel to delay comment on the fate of the Palestinian village of Susiya.   Noting the delay, on Nov. 18th,  Senator Diane Feinstein (my Senator) published her remarkable letters to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with his replies. 

"Following my letter of July 28, 2015, I was pleased and grateful for your letter of August 11, 2015, in which you stated your government’s commitment to a negotiated resolution with the residents of Susiya," wrote Senator Feinstein. "Since then, I have met with two families from the village, both with young children. The children directly conveyed what peace means to them. It was simple: that no one tear down their homes."

So much of what Senator Feinstein brought forward came through Rebuilding Alliance.  In May of 2015, when the High Court of Israel ruled they could be demolished even before their appeal was heard, Rebuilding Alliance jumped forward to bring religious historian Prof. Ophir Mintz Manor to Congress to press for intervention to keep Susiya standing.  Ophir is a friend of Palestinian Susiya and a member of Villages Group. To date, we've brought 4 more speaking groups and held 127 briefings and meetings with Congressional staff to keep Susiya, Um Al Kheir, Al Aqaba and Palestinian villages standing in Area C as a crisis in demolitions continues.

Today, there was breakthrough: bulldozers were expected in Umm Al Hiran in Israel -- and the bulldozers did not show up!  Rebuilding Alliance is part of the Four Villages Coalition to good effect -- all the tweets, the many visitors and officials who stayed over —  it worked!  Yet success is fleeting because they can come any time before Dec. 1st.   What's more, decisions are expected re. Susiya and Umm al Kheir in early December.  To sustain momentum in our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages, we ask your help.

Please mark your calendar for Monday night, Nov. 29th at 9:01pm Pacific time when GlobalGiving is providing a bonus of 50% for each donation up to $1000.   

How did Senator Feinstein's concern take root?   On September 21st, International Peace Day, and for the second year in a row, Rebuilding Alliance brought Palestinian children and parents to speak to Congress.  Once again, Senator Feinstein met with the chidren personally, put them in her chair, and promised to do all she can to keep their villages standing.  

Our delegation came from Susiya and Umm al Kheir, West Bank villages slated for demolition. They met with Congressional offices, held talks at American University, a gradeschool, and a kindergarten, sold handicrafts from Susiya — and held a Senate briefing!   They described daily life at constant risk of one's home being bulldozed. The children have been making Pinwheels for Peace as part of an international project, together with their classmates, writing what peace means to them and drawing what it looks like. Aysar, a 15-year-old from Susiya, wrote (and memorized!) a speech and bravely delivered it to the 80 people in attendance.

"This is what Peace means to me," said Aysar. "Peace is one of the names of God. Peace, Salaam, Shalom is the word we use to say hello. Peace means safety, freedom, liberty and justice. But the people of Susiya, my people, face real problems in this Occupation. People attack us and want to expel us from our land. When children go to school it is dangerous. We ask you to continue to help us."

In each of her letters, Senator Feinstein asks Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt demolitions and reevaluate the master planning process by which Palestinian villages are legalized and protected.  She has our deepest thanks, and we are honored to have her encouragement and her action to stop the nightmare of Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes. However, we must do more. The heartbreaking reality is that this year, 2016, has seen more demolitions of Palestinian homes than any year in the last 10 years.

Through your support, we have found a champion for the recognition of Palestinian villages in Senator Feinstein and her efforts are inspiring many more.  With your help, we will keep working to rally Congressional support for the human right to live in one's home, to assure the safety and very existence of the hundreds of Palestinian villages at risk of demolition. 

Please set your alarm for Monday night, Nov. 29th at 9:01pm Pacific Time and give generously.
Sadin grins after Sen. Feinstein gave her a book
Sadin grins after Sen. Feinstein gave her a book
Fatma on life of women in village vs. settlement
Fatma on life of women in village vs. settlement
Fatma would like to have a word with the President
Fatma would like to have a word with the President
Aysar
Aysar's presentation at the Senate Briefing
Sep. 21st 2016, International Peace Day Briefing
Sep. 21st 2016, International Peace Day Briefing
Senator Feinstein in a quiet moment in her office
Senator Feinstein in a quiet moment in her office
And then we went to the zoo!
And then we went to the zoo!

Links:

Jul 7, 2016

It worked- again! Luci Lights reach children in Gaza.

Children play with their brand new Luci light
Children play with their brand new Luci light

Eid Mubarak!

It worked- again! Our second pallet of Luci solar-powered lanterns arrived in Gaza on Sunday! Though we already knew that donations of aid could be directly received by Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations, it was still such exciting and encouraging news to hear that the shipment had cleared the blockade and arrived successfully. This pallet was received by the Al Basma Club for the Disabled (ABCD), a Palestinian Non-Governmental Organization based in Gaza City. ABCD was established in early 2005 as a response to the physical and social needs of the disabled, especially youth and children.

Al Basma's team brought 300 Luci lights to 90 families whose homes were entirely demolished - they are staying in temporary homes called caravans.  We had asked ABCD to distribute there because when the social workers from Gaza Community Mental Health Programme brought Donna, Rebuilding Alliance's Executive Director there in April, we could only deliver solar lights to the five families in the care of the social workers. Now Al Basma's team brought light to the other families too.

During the holy month of Ramadan, the gift of light is especially meaningful. Parents give their children a fanoos, or lantern, as a reminder to be a light in the darkness. With as little as four hours of electricity a day, this little Luci light can be a big help during this special month, when families come together to celebrate. Al Basma Club also delivered solar powered Luci Lights to their 300 members who include deaf and physically disabled people as well as the able-bodied in Beit Layha in the north of Gaza.  Their team then distributed to the most needy children in the Jabalya refugee camp and they gave 250 lights to the children at the Al Amal Orphans Center in Gaza. Al Basma also shared the shipment with the Women's Project Center in Rafah, who is distributing them during the Eid celebration.

We look forward to bringing you a photo montage of Eid in Gaza, through the glow of solar-powered Luci Lights! Here is a link to a video made for us by the very talented Mohamed Monsour, who also took all the attached photos. 

A big thank you to everyone who donated to send this second pallet of solar lights! We just placed the order this past week to send the third pallet of solar Luci Lights. Thank you for your support and caring — thank you for being a light in the darkness, a light of the world!

Best,

Tamsin

A girl in Gaza poses with her Luci light
A girl in Gaza poses with her Luci light
At night, Luci lights the way on dark streets.
At night, Luci lights the way on dark streets.
Two friends show off the lights they
Two friends show off the lights they've received

Links:

 
   

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