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Apr 11, 2013

Photos: 3 lovely new homes in Al Aqaba Village!

Just down the road from kindergarten, 2 new homes!
Just down the road from kindergarten, 2 new homes!

Dear Friend,

I am delighted to send photos of the first three Rebuilding to Remain homes, funded through your wonderful donation!  This past week, when architect Stephen Coyle spoke at a Rebuilding Alliance benefit dinner in Palo Alto California, he reminded me of the incredible work we did with the villagers, designing the affordable, expandable homes that would help them move back to Al Aqaba Village — and now those homes are taking shape (see photos below).

In my last email, I may have explained that Al Aqaba Village received a commitment from the Palestinian Authority to pay for the finishing of each home ($13,000 per unit).  That was before all salaries were frozen when Israel stopped forwarding tax revenues to the P.A. and the U.S. stopped all development funding too.   It seems funds may be flowing once again ... I hope our homes will receive their finishing grants soon.

Thank you for your patience.

Sincerely,

Donna

P.S.   There've been no demolition threats in Al Aqaba itself in the last 9 months.  The village continues to move forward in its rebuilding efforts with the brick factory, an exciting new Women's Building, big sales for the "Herbal Infusion" factory (herbal teas) and more. Meanwhile the UN is reporting an increase in demolitions in Area C, East Jerusalem and the E-1 corridor, so we are developing the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages drawing deeply on the Al Aqaba model.  Your support has made this all possible.

Sadeq and his family will move in when finished
Sadeq and his family will move in when finished
View from the front porch - sunny! spacious!
View from the front porch - sunny! spacious!
View from front door, open kitchen as requested!
View from front door, open kitchen as requested!
View from the kitchen window, to roof & back porch
View from the kitchen window, to roof & back porch
Imagine it in colors!  Soon, soon.
Imagine it in colors! Soon, soon.
Al Aqaba
Al Aqaba's busdriver will live across from teacher
Making every space count
Making every space count
Home for science teacher, wife - becoming teacher
Home for science teacher, wife - becoming teacher
Do you see our kindergarten, mosque w peace sign?
Do you see our kindergarten, mosque w peace sign?
Field of dreams
Field of dreams
Rebuilding to Remain: homes, hope, a future!
Rebuilding to Remain: homes, hope, a future!
Dec 10, 2012

Letter to Senator Feinstein

Just outside Senator Feinstein
Just outside Senator Feinstein's office, Hart Bldg

Dear Friend,

Thanks to your support, we're now very close to completing the fundraising to meet Rebuilding Alliance's commitment to construct the first three homes in the Rebuilding to Remain program.  More challenging is whether or not the Palestian National Authority will be able to meet their commitment.  I've been meeting with advisers and talking with Mayor Haj Sami to figure out a Plan B and so get the houses finished.   More on this soon.

In the meantime, I put all my frequent flier miles together and flew to Washington D.C. a week and a half ago to explore ways to move our rebuilding projects and our advocacy work forward.  I was joined by Morgan Bach, our second visiting teacher in Al Aqaba.  Together we met with sister organizations to invite them to join our Stay Human Conference Call series, visited with other NGO building companies to explore new projects, and also met with senior staffers to request their assistance with the State Department.  We visited old friends and made new friends too.  

An especially positive moment came when I joined Morgan for a Lutheran Service only to somehow find ourselves in the 40 year anniversary celebration for N Street Village, a remarkable residential shelter for homeless women.  Forty years ago it must have felt as bleak and hopeless as Israel/Palestine peace feels today, yet they persevered and now N Street Village is a beautiful place and a model for everyone.

With Israel announcing the E-1 punishment for Palestinian statehood and the U.S. Congress announcing various amendments to cut-back U.S. humanitarian aid to Palestine, Rebuilding Alliance's work is needed more than ever.   U.S.-back mortgage insurance for Palestinian families in Area C could change the game.   Below is a copy of my letter to Diane Feinstein, Senator from California. 

Sincerely,
Donna

P.S.  Morgan's speaking tour continues in December and January.  Please give me a call if you would like to hold a houseparty fundraiser or a speaking event.  My cellphone is 650 440 9667.

 

Dear Senator Feinstein,                                                                                                                  December 6, 2012
 

I am writing as your constituent to ask you to seek clarification on my behalf of U.S. policy regarding American investment in Palestinian housing in ‘Area C’.  Please forward my letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

I am the founder of Rebuilding Alliance, a U.S. nonprofit organization that offers mortgage loans to Palestinian families in Area C to help them build their homes on the land they own.  Rebuilding Alliance’s pilot project is called Rebuilding to Remain. We work with Israelis as advocates and use the Israeli legal system to pursue building permits and petition to freeze demolition orders.  Three homes are now in construction in Al Aqaba Village in the northern Jordan Valley near Tubas where in 2004, Rebuilding Alliance built a kindergarten that serves 160 children/year.

Here’s the challenge:  despite holding clear title to their land, 97% of the buildings in Al Aqaba Village — including the kindergarten — have been issued demolition orders by the Israeli Army.  When Rebuilding Alliance requested mortgage loan insurance, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) said U.S. government policy requires denial of mortgage insurance to Palestinian families in Area C.  This can’t be true.

Rebuilding Alliance works to help Palestinian families in Area C build their homes on the land they own, find employment, educate their children, and plan their future. I know the U.S. seeks to realize these goals as well through USAID programs to support Palestinian infrastructure development in Area C.

While OPIC insures Palestinian mortgages in Areas A and B, their mortgage loan insurance does not extend to Area C because the Israeli Army refuses to issue building permits to Palestinian families living there.  As you may know, the Israeli Army is denying Palestinian master plans and thus denying building permits to Palestinian families in Area C while the Government of Israel is simultaneously issuing building permits to illegally expand Israeli settlements on occupied land. The Israeli Army denied Al Aqaba’s 3rd master plan on June 21st 2012 for no good reason.

On Mar. 14, 2012, Al Aqaba Village became the first Palestinian village in Area C to issue building permits, realizing both the text and the spirit of the Oslo Accords.  On Apr. 14, 2012, Rebuilding Alliance became the first group to provide mortgage loans, including a clause stating that if the home is demolished, the family will not make payments until occupancy is restored.   I ask your help to make OPIC mortgage loan insurance available for Rebuilding Alliance’s Rebuilding to Remain mortgage loan program to fully develop this revolving mortgage loan program.

Please ask Secretary of State Clinton to issue a policy directive instructing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to guarantee Rebuilding Alliance’s mortgage loans in the Rebuilding to Remain program.  Please ask her to make U.S. policy clear:  starting with Al Aqaba, recognize the right of Palestinian villages in Area C to issue building permits in accordance with their master plans —just like towns throughout the U.S. — and support that right by providing U.S.-backed mortgage insurance.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Sincerely,
Donna Baranski-Walker
Founder & Executive Director

Morgan and I outside Sen. Feinstein
Morgan and I outside Sen. Feinstein's office
Morgan speaking in our Stay Human Conference Call
Morgan speaking in our Stay Human Conference Call
Hosting Stay Human Conf. Call from Nur Center, VA
Hosting Stay Human Conf. Call from Nur Center, VA
Our team, Nur Center for Art, Exercise, Enrichment
Our team, Nur Center for Art, Exercise, Enrichment
The Palestine Vote had just passed at the U.N. !
The Palestine Vote had just passed at the U.N. !
The founders of N Street Village, Luther Place DC
The founders of N Street Village, Luther Place DC
Rabbi Rosen will be hosting Morgan in Illinois!
Rabbi Rosen will be hosting Morgan in Illinois!
Sep 10, 2012

Rebuilding to Remain in Such a Critical Time

Inshallah, we will finish Shahad
Inshallah, we will finish Shahad's home soon

Dear Friends,

I hope you’ve had a wonderful summer!   You’ll be happy to know that construction of the first 3 homes in our Rebuilding to Remain program has reached beyond the halfway point. Everyone, especially the families, are eager to finish these homes and move in! 

Now the bad news:  I need to tell you that construction stopped just before Ramadan.  Even though Rebuilding to Remain placed 10th in the Global Giving Matching Grant Competition, we fell short of our fundraising goal.  In early July, we transferred all the funds we had raised.

Ours is not the only source of funding for the project.  The Palestinian National Authority has committed $13,000 per home and we had hoped they would transfer their share to keep construction moving forward.   Rebuilding Alliance Board Chair Carin Pacifico and I flew to meet with the Ministry of Finance and received assurances that these funds would be transferred as soon as they are able.

Perhaps you’ve read of the demonstrations and consumer riots in the West Bank because the Palestinian Authority cannot yet meet payroll.   According to the Maan News Agency, “The PA is waiting for the US Congress to approve a request by President Barack Obama's administration to pay $200 million to the Ramallah-based government. A hoped-for $1.1 billion in 2011 reached only $750 million, as pledges from Gulf states in particular fell short.”

What next?  

1)    We must meet our commitment:  $20,000 per home of which $5000 is grant and $15,000 is loan.  Please mark your calendar for October 17th, the next GlobalGiving Bonus Day!  Starting at 9pm Pacific time on Oct. 16th, every dollar donated will be matched by GlobalGiving by 30%.

2)    Can you join us as a Bonus Day Captain to ask 10 of your friends to donate too?  We’ll coach you by phone and email, and invite you a conference call with Mayor Haj Sami!  If you would like join us, please give me or Rudy a call at 650 325-4663.

3)    This is a critical time for Al Aqaba and all Palestinian Villages in Area C.
As the world turns to elections and the very real possibility of war with Iran, we’re one of the only groups watching and working to keep this vulnerable area safe.   Next week, Morgan Bach, the teacher who spent 6 months in Al Aqaba as a visiting English teacher is joining us at our shop to help launch our campaign for Al Aqaba in advance of the October 14th Israeli High Court review of demolition orders near the homes we are building.  We have designed a cool Ushahidi mapping system to help Contact Congress and Morgan will be setting-up a speaking tour too.  More soon!

Thank you again for your support, your patience, and your encouragement.   Thank you for being there.

Links:

 
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