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.
Apr 23, 2012

Really Big News!

Construction of our 3 homes in Al Aqaba
Construction of our 3 homes in Al Aqaba

Dear Friends

Last month, on March 14th 2012, the Al Aqaba Village Council issued building permits, a first in the West Bank's "Area C."  I am so proud to tell you that this month, on April 14th 2012, Rebuilding Alliance  and the Al Aqaba Cooperative Assembly for Housing Displaced signed a historic mortgage loan agreement to finance construction of the first three homes in our Rebuilding to Remain program. 

This may well be the first mortgage loan offered to Palestinian families in Area C, the 62% of the West Bank where the Israeli Army is not approving Palestinian town plans or issuing building permits.  Unlike any bank loan, our affordable mortgage loan suspends repayment if the home is demolished, until occupancy is restored.

Our goal, as stated in our loan agreement, is to "help families from Al Aqaba Village build affordable, expandable homes on the land they own, to affirm the right of the Village Council of Al Aqaba to issue building permits in accordance with the Al Aqaba Town Plan, and to keep these homes and this village standing.  97% of this Palestinian West Bank village is under demolition order by the Israeli Army. Together, Rebuilding Alliance  and Al Aqaba are asserting the villagers’ rights to build a home on the land they own and live there safely and securely, as good neighbors locally and throughout the region."

Will Al Aqaba's building permits and our mortgage loan be enough to keep this village standing?  It is a brave start.  It is not sufficient.  Just this morning, Israeli Army bulldozers destroyed Peace Street (for the 3rd time) and also a newly paved road.  Through the good work of the Jerusalem Legal Aid & Human Rights Center, this time, they did not destroy any homes.

So what IS required to make these new permits and mortgage loans solid?  Policy change — All of Us,  engaged at the grassroots, pressing our elected officials to intervene for good.

Remember, your support of our Rebuilding to Remain program makes all this possible!  From now until Mother's Day, when you donate $100 or more on GlobalGiving.org, we'll send a Thank You Gift of Organic Olive Oil and Za'atar, fair trade from Palestine!

Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq and the signatories
Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq and the signatories
My hand on the Agreement as I sign
My hand on the Agreement as I sign
Me with agreements& My husband, signing as witness
Me with agreements& My husband, signing as witness
Jan 25, 2012

Rebuilding to Remain invited as a model for villages in Area C

Hello Everyone,

I would like to inform you about several exciting developments for Rebuilding to Remain.

First, I am pleased to announce that UN's Displacement Working Group has asked Rebuilding Alliance to write a case study about our work in Al Aqaba. They want to know what it took to get the Brigadier General to visit.

Second, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) lawyers went to Al Aqaba on January 3rd and filed petitions in time to meet the January 5th deadline to freeze demolition orders for homes on the outskirts of the town.

Just to clarify, these new demolition orders are not for the homes we are building. Demolition orders were issued for homes on the outskirts of town but, surprisingly, new houses that were recently built in the center of town did not get demolition orders. This is positive news.  Since the houses being built in the Rebuilding to Remain program are in the center of town, it gives us hope that they will remain standing. Meanwhile, we’ll do our best to advocate to keep the whole village standing, along with all Palestinian homes in Area C.

Finally, we are excited to announce that a construction company has been chosen for this project.

Please keep your eyes peeled for more updates that we will be sending soon! As always, I would also like to thank you for contributing to Rebuilding to Remain and making this project possible.

Dec 30, 2011

Building Begins, Advocacy Underway - Requesting your call to Congress

Hello Everyone,

Due to your wonderful support, we successfully launched our program, Rebuild to Remain!   Before I say anything else, I want to thank you again for your donation — that made this program possible.  I am writing to you as founding donors to convey both good news and challenges... sometimes the good news leads, sometimes the dance begins with a challenge.   

  • Good news: We’ve transferred the first grant of $15,000 to start construction of three homes in our Rebuilding to Remain Program in the Village of Al Aqaba. 
    Bad News:
      As construction begins, the risks of demolition get higher.
  • Good news:   Brigadier General Moti Almoz came to meet with Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq (see Appendix below) in a remarkable meeting at Al Aqaba Village.
    Bad News:  Challenge Coming Up on Jan. 6th.
      New demolitions orders were issued for 3 homes plus five animal shelters in Al Aqaba Village (not the ones we’re constructing, but others at the outskirts of the village) stating petitions must be filed prior to Jan. 6th when demolitions will begin.
     
  • Really Bad News:  Al Aqaba is not the only one.   According to the U.N. OCHA-oPt, dozens of Palestinian homes in Area C (that 60% of the West Bank solely controlled by Israel) have been issued demolition orders, all with the dates of demolition set for Jan. 6, 2012.   In Al Aqaba, the demolition orders have scared 21 people, mostly children.   In the region, they impact hundreds of people throughout Area C, again mostly children. 
  • Good News:   Lawyers with both Palestinian and Israeli Non-Governmental Organizations are scrambling to file petitions in time to stop these demolitions.   UNOCHA and the Displacement Working Group has requested diplomatic assistance at many levels and are in direct contact with the Israeli Army to urge the demolition orders be frozen.  Rebuilding Alliance role in this first test under the Rebuilding to Remain Program is to ask our U.S. Senators and Representatives to intervene on our behalf as constituents. 

As one of the very first donors in our Rebuilding to Remain program, would you like to join us in making calls to your Senators and Representative this Tuesday, Jan. 3rd?  We'll have calling scripts and follow-up email templates ready by Sunday night  at http://rebuildingalliance.org/get-involved/how-to-call-congressPlease feel free to call me on my cell at 1 650 440-9667 if you have questions or would like encouragement. 

Here is what we have do so far:

We went to Washington DC in early December anticipating our homes would be at risk as building begins.  We needed to talk with sister organizations and friendly congressional staff to figure out next steps. At the same time that the Rebuilding Alliance team went to Washington D.C. to walk the halls of Congress and press for State Department assistance, UNOCHA brought embassy staff from the 17 embassies who invested in Al Aqaba to stay overnight to experience for themselves the challenges these villagers face.

Seeds are being planted – your call or email will help them take root and grow.

Here’s how your call helps: 

  • How your call helps the State Department:   The State Department needs to know Congress cares about this issue, making it easier for consular officials to raise this as an American priority.  Congress’ calls give them leverage in speaking with the Israeli government.  Congress calls, because you call Congress.
  • How your call helps You!  Congressional staffers really do call you back.  You’ll begin to establish or renew an important relationship with your congressional staffers.  Their feedback will help you in bringing about change. When we visited Washington DC in early December, we heard from staffers that “it would help us sign-on to a public letter if we knew constituents care about this.”
  • How it helps the Village.  That’s easy:  they get a better chance of survival.  Congresswoman Speier’s letter was on the desk of the Israeli Civil Administrator who issues demolition orders when we met with him this summer.  It got there because Atty. Katie Carlin and I asked, as constituents, for her help.
  • Israel and Palestine.   Both get good neighbors who believe in peace, an opportunity to build trust, and an opportunity to support moderate voices.

Thank you again for your support and confidence.   It makes a big difference.

________________________________

Appendix A:  Question of Authority — Israeli General Meets with Palestinian Mayor in Al Aqaba Village

It was nearly Christmas Eve. Families were gathered to celebrate the eight nights of Chanukah.  On this Friday morning my time, the mayor of the West Bank Palestinian village of Al Aqaba, Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq Sbaih, gave me permission “to write about what happened if you think it will do some good.”  In fact, the Mayor’s decision to bring this forward is itself an act of heroism.  As some have told him, if he were anyone else, he would be put into Palestinian prison for the letter he wrote on Sept. 17th to Israeli Brigadier General Moti Almoz.

Here’s what happened:

  • On Sunday, Dec. 18th, a high-ranking Israeli officer from the DCO office in Salem entered Al Aqaba village and met with Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq in the kindergarten building. That meeting, held in Arabic, was overall positive; 
  • The next morning, Monday, Dec. 19th, the same two Israeli Civil Administration officials who speak with pride of their job issuing demolition orders to Al Aqaba over the past 15 years, posted new demolition orders on eight structures, including 3 homes and 5 animal barracks, on the outskirts of the village. When I spoke to Mayor Haj Sami, he was resolute, calling both Israeli and Palestinian human rights lawyers to petition the Israeli High Court to freeze demolition orders before the Jan. 5th demolition date.  That night, Mayor Haj Sami notified Palestinian officials to tell Brigadier General Moti Almoz that he will no longer meet with soldiers who speak of peace only to issue demolition orders the next morning.
  • On Tuesday evening, Dec. 20st, the first night of Chanukah, Brigadier General Moti Almoz traveled to the West Bank Palestinian Village of Al Aqaba to meet Governor Marwan Toubassi of the Tubas Governorate, Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq, and the Al Aqaba Village Council.  The Brigadier General reportedly said he came in response to Mayor Haj Sami’s September 17th letter, and he came to find a way forward.

In that meeting, Governor Toubassi presented the urgent concerns of other Palestinian villages and hundreds of family groups in the Jordan Valley also facing imminent demolition much like Al Aqaba.  Over 12,500 demolition orders are pending on Palestinian structures built on their own land in Area C and the Israeli Army has issued a sudden rash of new demolition orders. Mayor Haj Sami, surrounded by the posters of Rebuilding to Remain home designs and village plans, described Al Aqaba Village’s efforts to remain on the land they own and assure its own right to issue building permits.

Mayor Haj Sami recounted:

Mayor: Why are you demolishing our homes?  Why are you demolishing Peace Street?

Brig. General: There is no Town Plan for Al Aqaba.

Mayor: But we gave you three Town Plans! In August, we filed Town Plan #3 — but no answer.  Now our village council has approved our building permits in accordance with our Town Plan. We are starting construction in the center of Al Aqaba village.  We call it “Rebuilding to Remain.”

Brig. General: Wait until we approve your Town Plan.

Mayor: You tell me to wait, but for more than 10 years we have worked tirelessly to petition for the fair application of law. How long must we wait to build our homes on our own land within our own community? We believe in peace and are determined to be good neighbors. Why do you send demolition orders to make our families abandon our homes and our own land?
[Note: the Mayor speaks from a wheelchair because he was the first victim when the Israeli Army used the village for unprovoked live-fire training exercises. Over 30 years, 12 villagers were killed and 36 wounded. This ended only in 2002 when the Israeli High Court ruled in favor of the village and the Israeli Army complied in 2003, destroyed its own training camp, and stopped using Al Aqaba Village for training. That's when Rebuilding Alliance helped build the kindergarten & families planned to return home.]

Brig. General: You must have a Town Plan.

Mayor: Each time you issue a demolition order to a family, they must pay 3000-4000 NIS to petition the court to freeze that order.

Brig. General: I know, I know.

Mayor: They are very poor families: they herd sheep to live. Do you know how hard it is for them to pay for the surveyor and to pay all the fees?

Brig. General: I know.

Mayor: Why do you block Israeli people from visiting Al Aqaba? This is Area C, yet your soldiers turn them back at the checkpoint next to the village when they can see our mosque up ahead. Why?

The Brigadier General promised to consider all this. He gave the mayor his cell phone number, but he did not reverse the demolition orders.  His staff said a report would be completed on Dec. 27th.  When I called the International Relations Department of the Israeli Civil Administration, they said the report is internal only and that the Brigadier General must raise Al Aqaba's future with "higher ups."  I asked who is higher than the Brig. General — sounds like the report will reach the Minister of Defense.

 
   

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