Do you remember our program to help Combatants for Peace build playgrounds in memory of the child, Abir Aramin? Our work is moving forward. Donna Baranski-Walker, Founder of Rebuilding Alliance, and Souzan Jaber, Board Member with Rebuilding Alliance, recently visited the Abir’s Garden playground under construction in Al Samoa Simya! I've asked Donna to tell you more about their trip below.
Also, this past Sunday, Abir Aramin's case was in the news. Judge Orit Efal-Gabai from the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the Israeli state was responsible for the death of Abir Aramin and must pay her family compensation: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/26/israel-pay-family-compensation-palestinian-girl In the trial, one of the first questions the Judge had asked of her family is why they choose to build playgrounds in memory of their child, Abir. Our playgrounds provide a beautiful and living memorial, a commitment to justice, tolerance, and understanding, and a venue to bring Combatants for Peace to meet with children.
Thank you once again for your generous contribution! None of this would be possible without your donations.
Rudolfo San Miguel
Social Media Coordinator
Dear Global Giving Donor,
Souzan Jaber, Rebuilding Alliance Board Member and I recently visited the Palestinian village of Al Samoa Simya where Combatants for Peace is now in stage 3 of constructing the playground, Abir’s Garden: a Safe Place to Grow.
Al Samoa Simya is near the southern-most tip of the West Bank. To get there from Ramallah, one must go around Jerusalem, adding another hour to a 2 hour trip. We were lucky to travel with Khalil Saadeh in his pick-up truck on a very hot day, up and down steep back-roads. We were traveling on Sep. 8th, just after Ramadan, crossing through areas A, B, and C. Sometime the roads were closed by Israeli soldiers. We were often passing armored jeeps. Later we learned that the Israeli Army demolished a group of homes near Al Samoa that day.
Yusri, our primary Palestinian coordinator from Combatants for Peace (C4P) was away in England with Israeli coodinator Yaniv, both part of a 16 member team of C4P members invited to participate in a conflict resolution program and speaking tour. Mohamed Amer, a C4P member and teacher at a nearby school, joined us at the playground and introduced us to the staff and children.
It was great to see the new playground equipment in use! Your donations have paid for the landscaping and will pay for the materials and installation of shade awnings and small fountain in Stages 3 and 4 of this project. The playground equipment in Stage 2 was provided by an extra grant from Playgrounds for Palestine. Very exciting and sincerely appreciated!
The Combatants for Peace teams (both Palestinians and Israelis) will be meeting at the Al Samoa Simya kindergarten for a team meeting, then to help complete playground installation, and lastly to hold a formal opening ceremony. Soon, we will ask you to invite your Senators and Representative to join them for the big day.
Please do feel free to give me a call if you have suggestions or questions.
Founder and Executive Director
650 325 4663
My name is Rudolfo San Miguel. I have been volunteering with Rebuilding Alliance for close to a year now, and I am proud of the work we have done. I am delighted to be invited to join the staff part-time to provide monthly status reports for each of our projects on GlobalGiving. My background is in Technical and Professional Writing. When deciding on a career path, I felt the need to focus my work in support of important nonprofits like the Rebuilding Alliance.
Rebuilding Alliance would like to inform everyone that a new Abir’s Garden Playground has broken ground in Al Samoa-Simia, and Phase 1 is completed! The land was leveled. The brick, concrete, and marble stone was delivered. Walkways have been laid and small walls now frame the garden area, please see the photos attached including the plans for the whole garden. Phase 2 focuses on construction of a pool (this is our first Abir's Garden that is planning a pool!) Phase 3 will install the seating area for Moms and Dads and the play area for the little ones, with toys for imagination and active play to be used throughout the garden.
We have great news! When Rebuilding Alliance asked Susan Abulhawa, founder of “Playgrounds for Palestine,” for advice about our project, we connected Susan to Yusri from Combatants for Peace. As a result, "Playgrounds for Palestine" will be contributing the playground equipment for this project, matching our donation with one of their own!!! Everyone is thrilled!
Yusri and Combatants for Peace will get back to us soon with dates for the opening ceremony in June!
Soon we will turn our fund raising towards the next Abir's Garden project. I am in the process of making changes to our project scope on Global Giving and will increase our financial goal to reflect this purpose. These playgrounds help us send a message of hope to children and families, showing an at-risk community that Combatants for Peace cares, and so do we.
Thank you again for helping to build peace through deeds as well as words. Please feel free to send me your comments or questions by replying to this message.
Global GIving Project Coordinator
PS: The "Combatants for Peace" team promised they will include pictures of people along with the construction work.
There is good news in the civil case of Abir Aramin, a little girl killed in 2007 by an Israeli soldier’s rubber-coated steel bullet just outside her school. On Monday, Aug. 16th, Judge Irit Efal-Gabai issued her ruling on behalf of Israel’s Civil Court. Her decision holds the State of Israel responsible for killing Abir Aramin and orders the State to pay compensation. At the end of this month, by order of the Israeli High Court, the Jerusalem Prosecutor’s Office must present the results of its criminal investigation. Indictments may follow. We thank Judge Efal-Gabai, Attorney Leah Tsemel, and the Aramin family for their wisdom and strength.
It was late night in Anata, East Jerusalem when I reached Bassam Aramin, Abir’s father, by phone. “From the beginning, as you know, I believed in justice,” he said. “What the judge decided is very strong.”
Justice, worth believing in, has been long in coming. A few months after Abir Aramin was killed, the Jerusalem Prosecutor’s Office closed the investigation without indictments, citing lack of evidence and denying appeal. In contrast, Judge Efal-Gabai found the 14 eye-witnesses and the independent autopsy compelling and decided, "There is no debate over the conclusion that Abir was injured by a rubber bullet shot by border guards, which in turn leads to the conclusion that the shooting of Abir occurred out of negligence, or in violation of the rules of engagement."
Judge Efal-Gabai continued, "We are not talking about injury by shots fired at a crowd of rioters and rock-throwers, near which a little girl just happened to be standing. The girls were walking down a street where there were no rock-throwers and therefore, no reason to shoot in their direction.”
How did she know? In January, Judge Efal-Gabai, escorted by 100 Israeli soldiers, went to Anata, East Jerusalem to see for herself. She interviewed the soldiers and witnesses on the site where Abir was shot three years earlier. “This was the first time that an Israeli judge visited the scene of the crime against a Palestinian victim,” said Mr. Aramin. “Our lawyers say that not even in Tel Aviv, not even in Jerusalem has this ever happened before.”
Remarkably, at the start of the civil court proceedings, Judge Efal-Gabai asked Abir’s parents why they chose to build playgrounds in memory of their daughter. She also asked, “Who is this Rebuilding Alliance group that helped raise funds for Combatants for Peace to build the playground?” On-site, she asked to enter the gate of the Anata Girls School to see the playground called, “Abir’s Garden: a Safe Place to Grow.”
Policy change is required to make this playground safe. To achieve this important goal, the Rebuilding Alliance brought Bassam and Salwa Aramin with their elder daughter Areen (an eye witness) to the U.S. to tell their story on a speaking tour, joined by two Israeli former soldiers who, with Bassam Aramin, were among the co-founders of Combatants for Peace. We brought them to testify at the State Department to enter Abir Aramin’s case into the State Department’s Annual Report on Human Rights.
Later that year, when the Jerusalem Attorney ignored the evidence and closed the investigation, the Rebuilding Alliance translated all the court documents, petitions, and the independent investigation presented by Israel’s Channel 2 News from Hebrew to English and presented the transcripts to the State Department and to Senate staffers. Because U.S. human rights law can and does save lives, the Rebuilding Alliance formally requested that the State Department invoke the Leahy Amendment on behalf of Abir Aramin’s family. This law requires the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Defense Department to stop providing aid or training to any foreign military unit that commits a gross violation of human rights -- as did the West Bank unit of the Israeli Border Police when they shot 10-year-old Abir in the back of her head.
Given the strength of Judge Efal-Gabai’s decision, the Jerusalem Prosecutor should seek criminal indictments against the soldier and his commander. This too would be a first. As stated by the Israeli Human Rights group, Yesh Din, “Throughout the years of the Israeli occupation of the territories, and especially during recent years, the law enforcement agencies have been under severe criticism…Figures provided to Yesh Din show that during the years of the second intifada, 90% of the Military Police Criminal Investigation Department investigations ended with the files being closed and without indictments being filed.”
Abir Aramin struggled for her life for 3 days before life support was removed. Hadassah Hospital is in West Jerusalem; her extended family was not allowed to cross the checkpoint to be there to offer solace. Instead, Israeli co-founders of Combatants for Peace joined Abir’s parents at her bedside. In the grief of these gruff former Israeli soldiers, Bassam and Salwa realized that their daughter Abir was not only their child – she was all their children.
In the criminal trial to come, may justice be served, precedent set, and policies revised to assure that justice becomes accessible to all families. May laws be changed to keep soldiers far from schoolyards and to ban the use of rubber-coated steel bullets. May justice strengthen those who work to bring the Occupation to an end so that all children – Israeli and Palestinian both – can be safe.
In Rebuilding Peace, Donna Baranski-Walker 650 325-4663
I am delighted to let you know that we are nearly ready to begin construction of this, the 2nd Abir’s Garden Playground. During my January visit to the West Bank and Israel, I met with both the Israeli and Palestinian Combatants for Peace coordinators to finalize our plans.
You may remember that when we began raising funds for this project in 2008, we planned to build the new playground at the Si’ir School for Girls, near Hebron. During my visit, I learned that the Si’ir Girls School had installed an outdoor stage instead of waiting for our promised playground. Bassam Aramin, co-founder of Combatants for Peace and Palestinian Coordinator, helped find a new site at another school, also near Hebron, that is in need of a playground. The landscape engineers will soon be meeting with the parents to select playground equipment and finalize the plans for the project.
“Combatants for Peace have decided to start the project in the Hebron area, in the West Bank village of Samoah – Simya. We have the perfect location, protected by a wall, and with more land. Combatants for Peace, both Palestinian and Israeli -- and internationals too -- can reach the area easily to help with construction. There are no playgrounds, no gardens in this area, so it’ll be great to build one in this village!” – Bassam Aramin, Palestinian Coordinator, Combatants for Peace
As soon as they order the playground equipment, Combatants for Peace will set the schedule for construction and bring together Israeli and Palestinian members to build. We hope you will join us there for the opening ceremony and encourage you to invite your elected officials!
Sincere thanks for all your help, Donna
P.S Site photos coming soon, followed by schedule.
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