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Jul 7, 2015

#I Care About Peace, I Care about Susiya - Rebuildling Alliance travels to Washington, DC

Our SaveSusiya Team at Rep. Anna Eshoo
Our SaveSusiya Team at Rep. Anna Eshoo's office

Dear Friend,

Of all our work at Rebuilding Alliance, this program is key because our advocacy keeps Palestinian homes, schools, playgrounds, and villages standing.  There has been such hard news since the Israeli elections this spring, especially about  the human rights of Bedouin communities living inside Israel, Palestinian communities inside Area C of the West Bank, and the people of Gaza facing continuing restrictions on rebuilding and personal travel.  To respond to what is a worsening crisis, Rebuildling Alliance has been working to develop a stronger advocacy program.  Your support of the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages is deeply appreciated.

Over the last six months, we have expanded our advocacy work tremendously, with the following projects and campaigns:

1. Stay Human Conference Calls, putting Peace-makers on the line with Constituents and Congressional Staff

  • Stop the Forced Relocation of 46 Bedouin Communities from E1 (12/17/14)
  • Umm Al-Khayr Villager's Assert Their Right to Remain (1/14/15 and 3/3/14)
  • I Care About Susiya (Planned for Wednesday June 8th - register now)
  • A wonderful new intern, Tabina Haider, from UC San Diego has joined us to coordinate a phenomenal series of conference calls for the rest of the summer. We'll post the entire schedule soon.  To register, click here

2. "Don't Say We Did Not Know" Speaking tour with Amos Gvirtz

  • Israeli peace activist, founder of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) and author Amos Gvirtz toured North America from April 3 - May 4 to discuss his new book, “Don’t Say We Did Not Know,” published in Hebrew in April. He toured at the invitation of Rebuilding Alliance who coordinated his visit to thirty peace and justice groups in the United States and Canada, to raise money for the Human Rights Defenders Fund for the village of Al Araqeeb, a Bedouin village in the Israeli Negev (Naqab) desert.  Their village had been demolished 81 times when Kelly and I visited in April — since then it has been demolish two more times.  This speaking tour was the first time Rebuildling Alliance has worked to prevent home demolitions inside of Israel. 

3.  Dr. Mona is free now, and with her family

  • When I heard that Dr. Mona El-Farra, the Palestinian pediatrician and British national who works with Middle East Children's Alliance was denied a "Leaving Permit" from Gaza, I knew I might be able to help because I've learned how to work with the diplomatic corps overseas.  I called MECA to ask if they would like my help.  I became part of the MECA strategy team and I worked through the night to appeal to all the various diplomatic and advocacy channels for Dr. Mona's Leaving Permit.   She was finally able to be reunited with her family in Great Britain on June 15th, three months after she applied.  Dr. Mona was one of 15,000 people applyng to leave Gaza.

4. Walking the Halls of Congress to Save Susiya

  • When Senator Carl Levin wrote a public letter to keep Al Aqaba standing, he asked Rebuildling Alliance to call our campaign "I Care About Peace, I Care About Israel, I Care About Al Aqaba." This hopeful message has inspired many to action to successfully keep Al Aqaba standing — and Rebuilding Alliance has just received notice that our work in Al Aqaba is a semi-finalist for the World Habitat Awards for our continuing work there.  We have taken what we've learned in Al Aqaba and used it to advocate on behalf of many at-risk communities on both sides of the Green Line. Most recently, we launched a new campaign: I Care About Peace, I Care About Susiya.
  • After hearing about the May 4, 2015 high court ruling refusing to issue a freeze against demolition orders of Susiya, affecting 350 people in the South Hebron Hills, Rebuildling Alliance put out an Urgent Action Alert. We were thrilled to see supporters across the country write letters to their represntatives and make phone calls asking to stop the demolition of this peaceful town.
  • From June 22 - 26, 2015, Rebuildling Alliance walked the halls of Congress and met with staffers from across the country to ask for their help to follow up on your calls and save Susiya from this unjust threat. We brought with us Liz Mulford, a long-time volunteer in Palestine and co-coordinator of the South Bay Jewish Voice for Peace Chapter, as well as Ophir Mintz-Manor, an Israeli professor and member of the Villages Group, to discuss the issue and ask for congressional intervention.
  • As we walked the halls of Congress, the children of Susiya made Pinwheels for Peace, writing down what peace means and drawing what peace looks like.   Here is what they wrote on their pinwheels:

    Justice, safety, no attacks (from settlers nearby), playing with our friends happily and freely, reconciliation, happiness, love, no occupation, birds, freedom

    Could these images of the children and their hope for their future be the images we see instead of the demolition of their homes and village?

  • We met with 27 staffers in one week, in addition to the State Department, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and the Faith Forum. Responses were overwhelmingly positive, and many have followed up and made their calls to the State Department and Israeli Embassy. So far, we remain positive and expect that Congressional interest is finally increasing the visability of this important town, threatened by nearby settlement expansion as well as a hardened High Court in a new Israeli government that is openly expansionist.

  • We engaged the U.S. diplomatic corps (as did many others) when bulldozers were delivered near Susiya on the night of July 2nd.  Mondoweiss.net printed my article about it — and thankfully, the demolitions did not occur.

Recently, Amos Gvirtz asked us to plan our next visit to meet with Congressional staff.  He reviewed four cases recently decided by the High Court of Israel and said, "In a short time we lost everywhere."  Asking your Senators and Representatives to call the Israeli Embassy may be one of the only ways left to keep the Palestinian Village of Susiya standing.   If you haven't called your elected representatives yet, its not too late - you can learn more on how to contact Congress by clicking here. 

For me, our recent trip to Washington DC really brought home the need for our creation of a Contact Congress mobile app. The patent has now been filed and I look foward to raising the funds needed to launch our advocacy mapping ideas very soon.  Thank you again for making this work possible.

Sincerely,
Donna

P.S.  Our next Stay Human Conference Call takes place on Wednesday July 8th at 10am Pacific Time.  Please click here to register.

P.P.S.  Please mark your calendar for Wednesday July 15th when our next GlobalGiving Bonus Day will take place.  GG is providing a 40% match that day.   We ask your help to send our next team to walk the halls of Congress at the end of July, this time to keep Al Araqib, and the other Bedouin Villages in Israel, standing.

Israeli Author Amos Gvirtz speaking in Palo Alto
Israeli Author Amos Gvirtz speaking in Palo Alto
Sheik Sayah of Al Araqib is determined to stay
Sheik Sayah of Al Araqib is determined to stay
Gov. of Israel plants forest over their homes,land
Gov. of Israel plants forest over their homes,land
Amos Gvirtz and Michael Nagler, expert nonviolence
Amos Gvirtz and Michael Nagler, expert nonviolence
Meeting at Senator Pelosi
Meeting at Senator Pelosi's Office re. Susiya
Our SaveSusiya Team at the Capital
Our SaveSusiya Team at the Capital
Mike Honda is Liz Mulford
Mike Honda is Liz Mulford's representative

Links:

Mar 31, 2015

Grassroots 'insurance' at its best

Stay Human Conference Calls with Congress
Stay Human Conference Calls with Congress

Dear Friend,

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.

Sincerely,
Donna

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

Links:

Mar 17, 2015

The Little Kindergarten that Could

The children in one of the classes
The children in one of the classes

I visited Al Aqaba village on Sunday 14th of March. When you come to this tiny village, it’s very quiet until reaching the center when you start to hear the children voices all around you. Their lively voices and laughter bring life and energy to this place, even as the sounds of heavy weapons and machine gun training at nearby Israeli military camps would overwhelm the human voice of existence.  

The children are happy and active. They sing songs to me and let me into their world.

"I like coming to the Kindergarten to play with my friends and have fun"
"I like learning the alphabets and singing songs here"
"I like to draw plans"
It was clear how the kindergarten offers an important space for these children to live and grow.

Kindergarten principal Noha said, "The kindergarten is the energy dynamo of Al Aqaba village and the essential element of life here.    It's like the minaret in the middle of the sea.   Even when parents come to pick their children they like to stay around for a while and hang out in the playground.  It's the only outlet for everyone here and the source of good feelings for everyone around."

I want to say we’ve got to do better at raising funds for scholarships. 

The kindergarten, like all early childhood education in Palestine is private and it depends upon tuition to pay staff and expenses.  Sadly Noha, the principal told me that ten children dropped out since January this year. And almost all students have not paid their fees for January and February. This might result in more students quitting as it embarrasses parents when they cannot pay tuition. It certainly puts financial pressure on the administration. Many students haven't paid for many months from last year and tens can't even join the kindergarten.

“We want to give all children the opportunity to come to school, and we want to hold on to our students and give them the best learning experiences, however it’s hard with the limited resources and difficulties we face,” said Principal Noha.

It is not just the kindergarten building that keeps the whole village standing — it's the wonder and hope of all these children. I hope you will continue to support Kindergarten Scholarships for Palestine – especially the Kindergarten in Al Aqaba.

P.S On Wednesday, March 18th you can stretch your donation to Kindergarten Scholarships further! It's a Global Giving match day and all donations up to $1,000 will be matched by 30% starting at 9 a.m. EST. Set your alarms!

creative teaching
creative teaching
Happy children having good time
Happy children having good time
Proudly showing the first alphabet of his name !
Proudly showing the first alphabet of his name !
 
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