Abir's Garden Playgrounds for a Safe Place to Grow

by Rebuilding Alliance
Vetted
The freedom of the first swingset in Ein Yanoun
The freedom of the first swingset in Ein Yanoun

Dear Friends;

At the end of February, Combatants for Peace gathered in the tiny West Bank village of Ein Yanun to build Phase One of the Abir's Garden Playground. Located just east of Nablus, this is now the 3rd playground Combatants for Peace and Rebuilding Alliance have brought into reality in memory of Abir Aramin in the West Bank (more on Abir's story below). Fingers crossed for many more Abir's Gardens, many more Safe Places to Grow, in the years to come!

The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. The primary infrastructure for a playground includes a slide, swings, and monkey bars.  You have many questions, and we excitedly bring you answers. 

  • After a 2 year pause in the project, things are going forward.  This village, in an idyllic valley with olive trees and wheat fields, is surrounded by Israeli settlements on every hill.  The settlers are armed and very dangerous —  it was with the help of peace groups including Combatants for Peace and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Team that lives as witnesses in the village that the Ein Yanoun villagers were able to return home to live in their homes again.

  • Our playground is a community effort: children and adults, Palestinians and Israelis, villagers and former fighters now working for peace and justice, all gathered together recently to assemble the playsets in Yanoun. 
  • Abir's parents, Bassam and Salwa, Abir's brother and her little nephew were there for the opening!  Bassam wrote, “It was really amazing, very beautiful especially in [this] poor area…a place for kids to be kids…We have a lot to do to complete it.”
  • Maya, originally one of the project leads for Combatants for Peace, had a similar view, “It was a wonderful day yesterday in Yanun.  As you can see in the pics and video, the children really helped painting and we all had a great time.  We now try to plan forward the next step that will enable us to develop Abir's Garden playground a bit more.  Lets all think together of directions and ideas."

We want to take a moment to describe how and why this whole project began:

Abir was leaving a candy store just next to her school with her sister and two friends in the Jerusalem suburb of Anata on January 16th, 2007. She never made it home to her family. On this day a single shot was fired from the back of an Israeli Border Police jeep that was patrolling outside the gates of the Anata Girls’ School. Abir was hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet and critically wounded. She was taken off life support after 3 days of struggling for her life. She was only 10 years old.

In January 2007, news of Abir’s death created a wellspring of emotion worldwide, in part because Abir’s father, Bassam, is a founding member of Combatants for Peace. Responses to an online condolence letter written by Women of a Certain Age and addressed to her family, came from 58 countries.

“As I was signing it, I knew that we had to do more,” said Donna Baranski-Walker, founder of Rebuilding Alliance. “My board asked me to contact the Aramin family.  Her family wanted nothing for themselves — they wanted a way to help Abir’s friends, because her desk would now be empty at school.”  Rebuilding Alliance, working with Women of a Certain Age, partnered with Combatants for Peace with the hope that the world would help us build playgrounds to give the children and their families with a safe place to play and grow — and so you have.

We still have work to do at the Ein Yanoun site: Combatants for Peace plans to build some more benches and playing facilities from old tires, and they want to finish painting and planting the flowerbeds.  And then there's the community children's theatre ... these are important dreams to nurture, important plans to realize.

Tomorrow, Wednesday March 16th, is the next GlobalGiving Bonus Day. GlobalGiving will match your donation from 9 AM until 11:59 PM Eastern time (3pm Wed - 5:59am Thu Jerusalem time), all day, for donations up to $1000.  Global Giving is granting a total of $75,000 and this time, every donation will be matched until the competition closes.  

On Wednesday, please help Combatant for Peace finish the Abir's Garden Playground in Ein Yanun and build the next!  Please give during this Bonus Day and ask 10 of your friends to give too!

Teamwork - Combatants for Peace install slide
Teamwork - Combatants for Peace install slide
Painting elegance!
Painting elegance!
C4P group building the playground in Yanoun
C4P group building the playground in Yanoun
Teeter-totter play!
Teeter-totter play!
C4P group & Abir
C4P group & Abir's family presenting new sign!

Links:

Everyone will come to help with Construction
Everyone will come to help with Construction

This is just a short status report to bring you up to date.   Mohamad Oweda, Palestinian Coordinator for Combatants for Peace called yesterday to update me on the project status.  Combatants for Peace will be meeting this Saturday to set the schedule for the month ahead with completion expected by April, if all goes well.  

"This will be the biggest Abir's Garden of all," said Mohamad Oweda.  "The mayor gave us a full dunum."  A dunum is 1000 sq.meters, a quarter of an acre.

"We will decide together what the day will be for all the Combatants for Peace to be there.  We will be purchasing the semi-finished play equipment from a professional, then working with all the village and our CfP members to finish and install."

I am forwarding them a prospectus for a Palestinian landscape architecture group that would be fun to work with - they've done some very creative playgrounds!   Also, I'm inviting the Combatants for Peace to join in the Pinwheels for Peace program, with their own families and at their meetings in the villages.

Lastly, of note, the Israel side of Combatants for Peace is one of then non-governmental organizations being targeted in an anti-NGO bill designed by Israel's Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and other leaders of the settler Jewish Home and Likud parties.  According to colleagues, "While the pretext for this bill is greater "transparency," what it really does is create a series of new hoops that organizations that criticize Israeli government policy must now jump through or face huge fines."

Thank you again for your support of this project and through it, your support of the important voices of Combatants for Peace and the Villagers in Ein Yanoun.

Sincerely,

Donna

Links:

Ein Yanoun, with settlements on hillsides
Ein Yanoun, with settlements on hillsides

Dear Friends, 

Our Combatants for Peace partners sought to build this third Abir's Garden Playground in a village that is at such high risk of settler violence that internationals from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) moved in to the village to live there so that Palestinian families would be safe.  That's why Combatants for Peace are there too.  I thought that the Itamar settlement was only on one hilltop but as we drove there in April, Abu Mohammed, a coordinator for Combatants for Peace, pointed out the settlement buildings and outposts on all the hilltops around the village.  Afterwards, as we were driving out of the village, the settlement's private security car came down into Ein Yanoun to inspect the playground space we had visited.

I wish I could tell you that this third Abir's Garden project is up and running, with happy children and families enjoying their new playground in all safety.   However, this simple playground project is more difficult than the others in part because of the risks that the villagers face and in part because it is relatively challenging for Combatants for Peace volunteers to reach this site — only one road remains, the Israeli Army has closed the others. 

Combatants for Peace reports that they continue to hold their commitment to build the playground despite their delays. Yusri, a member of Combatants for Peace, who was the project leader for the Abir’s Garden playground they build in the south, has now joined the team in the north to help move this project forward. They will all be meeting soon after Ramadan to plan next steps and will soon be in touch with the town of Agraba regarding the town's promise to install the new road to the site of the playground.  

When my team and I visited in April, we drove along a road through the olive orchards some with red poppies growing in the grass.  I was with Ayat, Rebuilding Alliance's Communications and Outreach Officer, and also Sue, a member of my Rotary Club of Woodside Portola Valley who was visiting the Holy Land now that we finished our Rotary Birthing Center project.   We picked-up snacks in Ramallah then drove to Nablus to meet Abu Mohammed who was very clear about using his truck instead of rental car to get there.

We drove through the town of Agraba then past the center of the little Ein Yanoun village to the new playground site where we parked and walked through a beautiful waist-deep wheat field, planted beneath the olive trees.  Somehow, my camera battery failed in one of the most picturesque vistas in all of Palestine.

Some parts of the park and playground site were surrounded by a cement block wall, while in other parts the wall was made of tires stacked some 4ft high. There were tire walls in other areas of the village too. The playground walls will be painted with colors later as the playground takes shape.  Abu Mohammed also decribed their plans to make it a special playground garden and have an opening ceremony when it’s finished.

But why use tires? After all, there is no auto repair underway in the village. Abu Mohammed explained that there are wild pigs that damage crops and can be very dangerous. Rumor has it that they were released by settlers, but it is likely that the native wild boar population just grew as they now have no natural predators. See the article by Nora Lester Murad for more information about this.

Afterward our visit to the playground site, we went back to the center of the village to visit the members of the EAPPI who are staying there to protect the village.  Only one volunteer was home. She was really nervous about being outside with us. “I’ve got to put my yellow vest on so the settlers will see it,” she said.

The EAPPI volunteers walk around the village every morning and every evening in a team of two. They know the settlers are watching everything and they hope their walk will reinforce their important protective presence. It was good to connect them with Combatants for Peace (CFP) and our Abir’s Garden project.

Despite the challenges, we are all doing our best to make this Abir’s Garden take shape as truly a safe place to grow. Thank you again for your trust in Combatants for Peace and in Rebuilding Alliance. I’ll post CFP's construction schedule as soon as I receive it.

Sincerely,
Donna

Getting directions to reach the playground site
Getting directions to reach the playground site
Abu Mohammed from Combatants for Peace drove us
Abu Mohammed from Combatants for Peace drove us
Getting snacks in Ramallah for the long ride there
Getting snacks in Ramallah for the long ride there
The old olive trees with wheat growing beneath
The old olive trees with wheat growing beneath
Another view of Ein Yanoun
Another view of Ein Yanoun

Links:

All came together to plan the playground, at last
All came together to plan the playground, at last

Dear Friend,

I am delighted to bring this report to you.   Combatants for Peace and the villagers of Yanun have agreed on a new site for the Abir's Garden Playground, and work has begun at last.  

Muhanad is still the Palestinian coordinator of Combatants for Peace - Tel Aviv/Nablus group,  Maya was the Israeli Coordator when we began but now Michalo has taken that role.  I am getting reports from Michalo and Maya, with Muhanad copied.   Next, we plan to send Ayat, Rebuilding Alliance's Communications and Outereach Officer, to join them for their next building day in Yanun. 

One more thing you'll want to know about Yanun is that it faces very real attacks on people, homes, and crops by the nearby Israeli settler outpost called Givot Olam, a branch of the Itamar settlement.  The attacks were so dangerous that villager evacuated in 2002, to return with the help of Palestinian, Israeli, and International activists.  Now, the Ecumenical Accoumpaniment Program in Palestine and Israel has three or four people living in Yanun and Combatants for Peace continues their work with the village in solidarity to keep them safe.

As we reported in the spring, everyone looked forward to launching the project last June, only to learn that the landowner of the site in the center of the little town revoked permission to use that land.  

  • From Michalo,  "For really long time it didn't happen and we didn't understand why.  A few months ago, we understood that there is also a family from Yanun that rejects the building of the garden.  This family lives now in Jordan and the ground chosen for the playground is on their land.  We also planned an event with the families of Yanun and especially with the children but no one came except the head of the village, Rashed. He said that the families afraid from settlers and don't want a big events."

    Michalo continues: "I'm glad to inform you that the building of the playground finally started. The mayor of "Akraba" gave us another place in Yanun and two weeks ago they start to work on it. On Friday (December  12th) our group "Tel Aviv Nablus" went to meet the families of Yanun and the children, and we played together and imagined how the playground will be.  t was very exciting for all of us.  I'm attaching some photos from this event and from the building of the garden."

  • From Maya, "I am so sorry for the long months that have past until we could finally make our plan happen.  But I'm happy that finally, and not without difficulties, the building of Abir's playground has begun.  As Michal, the new Israeli coordinator wrote in a different mail, the location is different but lovely as well.   This week (Dec. 27th), the first step,of building a short wall around the garden has been finished. The next step is to create a mutual activity for CFP and the people of Yanun, and of course, continue with equipping the playground."
  • From Michalo, "We are planning a big event there soon open to the public, to plant some trees in the garden together and to do a workshop of kites for the children. i will update about the progress of the garden and our activities there."
Thank you again for your support of the Abir's Garden Playground project. Rebuilding Alliance's mission is to help rebuild war-torn communities and make them safe.  We are very proud to partner with Combatants for Peace in their support of the Village of Yanun.   I know you join me in wishing the people of Yanun and Combatants for Peace the very best as they continue this important project on behalf of the children of Yanun. 

Sincere best wishes for a Happy New Year,
Donna
What better way to plan a playground than to play
What better way to plan a playground than to play
The right spot for a playground
The right spot for a playground
This Abir
This Abir's garden will be a safe place to grow
Everything was ready for Phase 1:  the safety wall
Everything was ready for Phase 1: the safety wall
They worked together and finished Phase 1
They worked together and finished Phase 1
The wall is now built!
The wall is now built!
Great to have Phase 1 finished.  The wall is done.
Great to have Phase 1 finished. The wall is done.

Links:

CFP Tel Aviv-Nablus group & the people of Yanun
CFP Tel Aviv-Nablus group & the people of Yanun

Dear Friends,

When our Rebuilding Alliance team met with our partners, Combatants for Peace, and the playground designers in March we were planning the third Abir’s Garden Playground.  It was an amazing and productive meeting.   Remarkably, representatives of the Akraba Municipality, a large town nearby, promise to match all the funds we raised for this project!  Akraba Town will provide their staff and equipment to do the earthmoving to complete the first two phases of the project!  

It was remarkable to see the trust everyone placed in one another - Ein Yanun, Combatants for Peace, Akraba Municipatlity and Rebuilding Alliance representing all of you who have supported this work these many years.  Akraba's matching grant means that the cost of this 3rd Abir's Garden playground is fully covered!   Any additional funds we raise now will be for Combatants for Peace's children's theatre program.

Let's make it so.  Today Wednesday, June 25th in just a few hours time, a remarkable a bonus day kicks off with a dollar for dollar match for donations up to $1000.  Today Wednesday, June 25th, Microsoft Youth Spark is giving away $200,000 in matching funds via GlobalGiving — but please note, though the match will go in the first 5 minutes, there is also a bonus for most donors and most total donations.

Please set your alarm today for 9:01am Pacific, 10:01am Mountain, 11:01am Central, or Noon:01pm Eastern.   Please click Scholarships 4 Children, Stipends 4 Young Teachers to give.

As always, please call me if you have questions or suggestions. My phone number is 650 325-4663.

Sincerely,
Donna

Mohanad & Rashed looking at the plans
Mohanad & Rashed looking at the plans
The Combatants for Peace group on site in Yanun
The Combatants for Peace group on site in Yanun
 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Rebuilding Alliance

Location: Burlingame, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.rebuildingalliance.org
Project Leader:
Donna Baranski-walker
Executive Director
Burlingame, California United States

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Find out what happens next. Sign up for email updates from GlobalGiving and this project.