Apply to Join
Nov 26, 2018

Feras' report

Al Aqaba
Al Aqaba's kindergarten: a safe place to grow

Dear Friends, 

First, let me introduce myself.  My name is Feras Alnabulsi and I am the Country Representative for Rebuilding Alliance in the West Bank.  I attend the various UN Cluster meetings and the Association for International Development Agencies (AIDA) meetings, and best of all, I visit the project sites.  I am proud to send you this report.

Al Aqaba village-Tubas Governorate, West Bank, Palestine:

Al Haq Kindergarten offers very important care and relief for the children of Al Aqaba village and the surrounding area.  Located in a marginalized community at the north eastern part of the West Bank's Area C, 150 child from Al Aqaba and from two nearby towns and villages attend the Al Haq Kindergarten. Al Haq means truth in Arabic.  This wonderful place offers boys and girls the opportunity to discover, learn, and play -- all great ways to build communication skills and learn how to get along with peers and adults.

Together, the teachers, bus drivers, and the Director and even the cleaning crew of the kindergarten  do more than simply bring kids to the classrooms. In every aspect of this job, they ensure the children's  safety and provide a nurturing environment that helps them release their fears.  You remember, this is Area C and Al Aqaba village is very near one of two Israeli military training centers.  The rat-ta-tat sound of machine guns is audible, and sometimes the army launches missiles too. That's really scary for kids. What's more, the Israeli Army has redoubled efforts to demolish homes nearly, though outside the periphery of the village.   Whenever anyone's home is demolished, everyone is impacted. 

‘’We give love, care, safe spaces and playing areas for children, helping them enjoy their time here as they develop their skills,’’ said Mrs. Noha - the Kindergarten's Director.  “The children spend around six hours everyday in kindergarten, looking to live their childhood as other children in the world.  We take this responsibility very seriously.  With the help of the donations we receive, we are all determined to assure them a wonderful kindergarten experience — the best start for their life ahead."  

Mrs. Noha continued, "The kindergarten is equipped with early reading tools, there's a great library upstairs, and we also have a playroom filled with tools and constumes to help them explore life skills and even career paths.  Our aim is to prepare these children to look forward for education, to have hope for a better future, to grow into adults with ambition, ready to care for others and have a voice in their community."

The Al Aqaba families I met with are very grateful to have this kindergarten.  One mom, Mrs. Haya, said “ I wake up everyday, prepare my kids to go the kindergarten, feeling happy, comfortable, and grateful for having such a place in or village.  We didn’t have kindergarten when we were kids, and we can see the smile on our children’s faces.”  She has twins in the kindergarten!

“Many thanks to anyone who gave even a small help in keeping this place running, it is a symbol of happiness and children rights “ added Mrs. Haya.

Mayor Haj Sami, talked about the hard times that the kindergarten is facing, and how they are able to get through it.   “Sometimes we don’t pay salaries for months because of lack of funds, but teachers keep working because of their belief in the value that this kindergarten holds.” 

“The support from donors was a major, major support for us until now.   Many thanks to everyone who donates for our children.  It is a support for the simplest rights of humanity, the right to education.”  said Mayor Haj Sami.

Al Aqaba's decision to build this kindergarten and Rebuilding Alliance's help to make that happen have made all the difference in the world for these children and this village. 

Thank you again for your incredible support for this wonderful project.  Please mark your calendar for Giving Tuesday Nov. 29th when GlobalGiving will be matching all donations all day starting at midnight until 11:50pm Eastern time!  

Sincerely,

Feras

I loved visiting these children!
I loved visiting these children!
Really fun to share their happiness
Really fun to share their happiness
Here
Here's two classes combined - there are 7 total
Front door of the Al Haj (Truth) Kindergarten
Front door of the Al Haj (Truth) Kindergarten
A teacher said, "The smile of a child is a gift."
A teacher said, "The smile of a child is a gift."
Jul 18, 2018

It Takes a World to Save a Village

A quick selfie of our team.
A quick selfie of our team.

Dear Friend,

If you've ever wondered what it is like to 'walk the halls of Congress', here is Sara's report of our June visit to keep the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan Al Ahmar standing.  During our trip, we met with 29 offices in just 4 days' time.  Eid Jahalin, spokesperson for Khan al Ahmar, presented the village's own master zoning plan and that has made all the difference.  Just after our Washington DC visit, the village petitioned for approval of that plan — and the High Court agreed to reopen their case.  Their petition will be heard on August 1, 2018.

Our next step is to bring Palestinian children to present their Pinwheels for Peace to Congress, Sep. 23-29th, for International Peace Day.  Out of all our visits and briefings to Congress, bringing the children is by far the most effective advocacy to keep Palestinian villages standing.  This will be our 4th such briefing and we need your help to make it happen.

This Wednesday, GlobalGiving will be matching all donations to this project by 50%. 

Please give generously to support our work, and give early in the day.  The Bonus Day starts at 9am EDT and matching funds will go fast.

Sincerely,
Donna


From Sara, a new staff member at Rebuilding Alliance whose first day on the job was the day she joined us in Washington DC :

From June 25th-28, alongside Eid Jahalian and planners from the Israeli human rights group BIMKOM: Planners for Planning Rights, Rebuilding Alliance walked up the halls of Congress to assure a future for the Palestinian Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar.  We were there because on May 24th, the High Court of Israel ordered that at any given moment Khan al-Ahmar could legally be demolished, without any viable alternative for its people. Our trip to Washington D.C took shape the moment Eid received his U.S. visa, just two days before his arrival.  We were there to ask the Senators and Congresspeople of the United States of America to intervene.

Before I begin telling the story of our time in D.C, let me tell you more about why we were there. You see, any structure in Area C (where Khan al-Ahmar exists) is vulnerable to receiving a demolition order if it does not have an approved masterplan. Yet, there is a catch; Israel's Civil Administration, a branch of Israel's Army, is not approving Palestinian master plans.

The villagers have sent in several plans to avoid these demolition orders, which all have been either ignored or rejected. And on February 7, 2018 the High Courts of Israel executed demolition orders for 17,000 Bedouin structures. Following, on May 24, 2018 the Courts announced that the village of Khan al-Ahmar may be effectively demolished any day after June 1, 2018.

Khan al-Ahmar is home to 191 villagers as well as the home of the famous Tire School. In addition to the families that will be forced to leave, there are also 175 children that travel from nearby villages to attend the Tire School in Khan al-Ahmar. The humble school was made with tires, compressed earth, and falafel oil (really!), and was built with the help of an Italian non-governmental organization. 

The idea of demoliting a village is unsettling in its own right. Yet, to demolish a village that provides education to so many young children is especially horrid. And although all the children will nevertheless experience the ramifications of losing their school, the young ladies of the village-communities will be most affected. In Bedouin culture, girls are not able to travel far from their families for any reason. Thus, once it was created, the Tire School was the first time these girls were able to get an education and they absolutely love it.

Before I go any further, I ought to introduce myself; my name is Sara Azmoudeh, I am Donna’s personal assistant and my first day on the job was actually our first day in D.C. Before joining Rebuilding Alliance I was a student at UCLA, finishing my undergraduate degree in Philosophy. A week before graduation I accepted the position with Donna and before I knew it I was on a plane headed to D.C to learn about the chaos surrounding Khan al-Ahmar. It was some mild ‘on the job training’ to say the absolute least. Yet, it nevertheless turned to be one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life.

The second we landed, I could feel the energy of our team pulling together. Eid, Donna, Nava, Donna, Alon, and myself were all ready to convey our message to congressional members and allow for them to understand the severe condition of Khan al-Ahmar.

Our meetings began with Donna introducing the team and then Eid Jahalin, the spokesman from the village, telling his story. Eid speaks some English, but because he is fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Alon, who is also fluent in Hebrew, would translate his story. Following, Alon and Nava would pull out their maps to show Congressional Staff the logistics of the planning problem. And all throughout, Donna would articulate the seriousness of the matter.

It was extremely powerful to hear the story of Khan al-Ahmar be spokesman from the village itself. There were moments where my eyes would even fill with tears as I considered the devastating fate that Khan al-Ahmar could experience. Every once in a while I would lean back in my chair and feel ‘awed’ by the nature of our meetings. We would sit in rooms with Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians to discuss a very tangible peace; and what a beautiful thing that is.

On Monday, June 25 we met with exclusively Democrats from the House of Representatives. We met with staff from Representative Debbie Dingell’s office, Rep. Mark Pocan’s, and many more. The staff members were engaged, concerned, and willing to hear the story of Khan al-Ahmar unfold through eye-witnesses and experts on the matter. By just the second meeting our team was fluid and able to send the message that two calls from their office would really make a difference. 

On Tuesday, and Wednesday, we ran back and forth between Senate and the House of Representatives. One may assume that the two buildings would be fairly close to each other; yet, our team definitely got something along the lines of a cardio-workout jogging between the two. On this day, we also had the privilege of meeting with Republicans and were thrilled to get such positive feedback from them too.

In most cases, we were able to make the set of issues occuring in Khan al-Ahmar a non-partisan issue. And it was a really amazing thing to see how human beings are able to connect with each other on such a basic level. We all have families; we all come from somewhere, and having those values threatened was a concern to the staff members regardless of the nationality of these families.

Thursday, June 28th was our grand finale and the nature of our schedule proved that to be true. We were exclusively planned to meet in the Senate house on this day. Yet, we were not the only group fighting for a cause on this day.  The protesters from the Women's March fille the ground floor atrium of the Hart Senate building and as we watched, they were arrested to the applause of the supporters who lined the balconies.

Chief of staff Julie Tagen, after a great meeting!
Chief of staff Julie Tagen, after a great meeting!
Staff members eager to learn about Khan al-Ahmar.
Staff members eager to learn about Khan al-Ahmar.
It was great meeting Congressman Jackie Raskin!
It was great meeting Congressman Jackie Raskin!
It was a privilege speaking with Jackie Speier.
It was a privilege speaking with Jackie Speier.

Links:

Jul 10, 2018

A transformational experience: RA's first Congressional Leadership Learning Mission

Itamar and Zach talk in the Old City
Itamar and Zach talk in the Old City

Dear Friend,

Our first-ever Congressional Leadership Learning Mission was more incredible and fruitful than we could’ve imagined. For six days, Rebuilding Alliance led a delegation of seven Congressional staffers and concerned constituents throughout the West Bank and Israel, learning about the Occupation and gaining valuable firsthand perspectives and experiences. Our delegation included six Democrats and one Republican. Our trip also included eight constituents who came to accompany their Congressional offices. It was a great chance to build a network of influential partners on Capitol Hill and in each district, and give them the opportunity to see, feel, and hear for themselves why it is so important that our leaders must support Palestinian rights.

Most of the group got in late in the evening on Saturday, April 28, though some of us arrived in the wee hours of Sunday morning. We wasted no time and headed to the Ofer Israeli military prison complex at around 10am on Sunday, after lots of coffee and an engaging orientation by Gerard Horton and Salwa Duaibis, founders of the human rights organization Military Court Watch. We then met with parents in the waiting area and joined several hearings of boys arrested for allegedly throwing stones. The trial process can take months or even years while the children are held in detention. This would be one of the only times the parents could see their child. Court proceedings are in Hebrew with translation into Arabic so that the accused can hear what is being discussed. Remarkably, one of the judges was from New Jersey. The conviction rate in the Israeli military court system is 95%. Several members of our group thought this first visit to the military court to be the most impactful.

Following this, we ate a delicious lunch in Ein Karem and explored the Old City of Jerusalem, led by our fantastic tour guide, Itamar, who is part of the Green Olive Collective, our tour company.

The next day we toured the greater Jerusalem area, drove through the huge nearby Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and its elite suburb, Kfar Adumim, and then went to Khan al Ahmar, a Palestinian village for which Rebuilding Alliance advocates. There, we heard from Eid, the spokesperson for the village, as well as Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom who has worked with the village for a very long time,  and Ezra Korman who is an Israeli settler living in Kfar Adumim and is part of a settler group who supports Khan al Ahmar’s rights.

On Tuesday we met with the American Consulate in Jerusalem. This was the most disappointing activity of the whole trip for much of the group. While it was good to chat with consular staff, they talked a lot but didn’t say much, so to speak. Fortunately, we were able to spend some time later in the day with the very compelling mayor of Al Aqaba village, where Rebuilding Alliance built a kindergarten in 2008 and continues to support construction of homes, the library, and the kindergarten scholarship program. This place is a wonderful example of how a village can thrive when it is not demolished. Later in the afternoon, we swung by Jaba’ village to learn about an antiquities restoration project by RIWAQ. We were guided through ancient homes by architect Ranad Shqeirat, and then had a lovely dinner at Darna Restaurant in Ramallah where we were joined by special friends of Rebuilding Alliance and also the local Rotaract club (Rotaract is a Rotary membership program for young professionals).

Wednesday was another busy day. We visited Banksy’s Walled-Off Hotel in Bethlehem, and then toured the AIDA refugee camp in Bethlehem, led by UNRWA's Director of West Bank Operations, Scott Anderson. Bethlehem, of course, carries a lot of cultural significance for many religions, so some members of the group visited the Church of the Nativity. We then traveled to the village of Susiya for an incredible homemade lunch. Aysar, the young man who addressed Congress last September, took everyone on a wonderful tour to see all the birds he is raising!

Somewhere in the midst of all this, we spent an evening with Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan of the Parents Circle.  Both had lost their daughters, one murdered by a soldier's rubber bullet, the other killed by a suicide bomber.  Their lives were never the same. We were all deeply moved by their stories and their profound friendship with each other. 

We spent the following morning at the UNRWA headquarters, listening to speakers from Gaza tell us about their organizations. We heard from Dr. Yasser Abu-Jamei of Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Anas Jenna from We Are Not Numbers, and UNRWA Gaza Operations Director Matthias Schmale. Then, the most amazing surprise: the door opened and in walked Tarneem Hammad, also from We Are Not Numbers, and Mrs. Najah Ayash from the Women’s Project Center in Rafah. Their permits to leave Gaza and travel to Jerusalem had been approved the day before! This was Tarneem's first trip out of Gaza. They shared their stories with us over a delicious vegan lunch, and then everyone parted ways for the afternoon. They visited Jerusalem before returning home to Gaza in time to satisfy the requirements of their day-long permit. 

Friday, we toured Hebron. This was a difficult experience for several people, as Hebron is a hotbed of Israeli settlement. There are frequent clashes in the city and the tension in the air was palpable. Though we were fortunate to not encounter any violence, the experience was unsettling. To decompress, we spent the rest of the afternoon in Jaffa – swimming in the Mediterranean and smoking hookah with the locals. The group gathered for one last delicious dinner together before the staffers headed off to the airport and Rebuilding Alliance's team went to Ramallah for a few days, with Donna, our Exec. Director, heading off to Gaza.

Since the trip, we’ve maintained great working relationships with the staffers that joined us. They have all said how impactful their experience was; one even called it "a life-changing experience." They are motivated to promote Palestinian human rights at the US government level and all are already working with us to open doors and strategize about how to bring Congress around on this issue. We're planning our next Congressional Leadership Learning Mission for August 9-15th! Click the the link below to ask your members of Congress to join the trip. If you yourself would like to come along, there's another link where you can apply.

This trip was my first to the region, and I truly can't imagine a more impactful experience. It was really meaningful to see for myself the place that I have been advocating for over the past several years. I'm so glad I was able to participate in this trip before I head off to graduate school at the University of Chicago in the fall - it left a lasting mark on me and I know that no matter where I go, I'll continue my activism to the best of my ability. That said, this will probably be the last report from me! Thank you all for your support of our work and for giving me the opportunity to work with you.

Peace,

Tamsin

 

***All photos included in this report were taken by Joshua Grossman.

The group walks into Khan al Ahmar
The group walks into Khan al Ahmar
Tamsin & Donna walk w Mayor Haj Sami in Al Aqaba
Tamsin & Donna walk w Mayor Haj Sami in Al Aqaba
The group gets up close and personal with the wall
The group gets up close and personal with the wall
The group after talking w boys at the AIDA school
The group after talking w boys at the AIDA school
A delicious lunch made by the women of Susiya
A delicious lunch made by the women of Susiya
Dr. Yasser of GCMHP speaks via conference call
Dr. Yasser of GCMHP speaks via conference call
Nawaid and Tarneem chat after lunch
Nawaid and Tarneem chat after lunch
We visited the Tyre school in Khan al Ahmar
We visited the Tyre school in Khan al Ahmar
Here we are with our speakers from Gaza
Here we are with our speakers from Gaza

Links:


Attachments:
 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.