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Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities

by Rebuilding Alliance
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities
Movement to Safeguard Palestinian Communities

Dear Friend,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to you with some exciting updates! 

First off, I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Katie, and after two months of volunteering with Rebuilding Alliance, I have officially joined Rebuilding Alliance fulltime as an Advocacy Coordinator.

When I graduated from college with an Arabic and Islamic Studies degree at the start of the summer, I happened to stumble upon the incredible efforts of Rebuilding Alliance in a region I hold dear to my heart. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve this caring community from the nation’s capital, and work towards safeguarding Palestinian families.  I look forward to getting to know you better — if you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out at any time.

In other news, we have exciting updates regarding our work in Palestine revolving around the Sumarin family. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has finished circulating a Congressional letter asking for the Israeli PM to halt the eviction of the Sumarin family. The signed letter now goes to the House Ethics Committee for review. This is a critical step forward in our fight to protect the Sumarins; one which never would have happened without your kindness and persistency. On behalf of the Sumarin family and all of us here at Rebuilding Alliance, thank you! 

The Israeli Supreme Court will now be taking the Sumarin case in April. Although this may seem like plenty of time to relax, we have no plans to ease off the gas. Rebuilding Alliance will be keeping a close eye on the situation in Silwan because, as we have learned, plenty can happen when we turn the other way. We are also working on a short film to document the progress of the Sumarin coalition, which has been leading the fight to keep the Sumarin house standing. 

On a separate note, our advocacy team is preparing to take on a new and exciting challenge in the Palestinian villages of Madama and Burin. Stay tuned over the next few weeks for an announcement about the details of the case! 

As always, thank you for your steadfast support for Rebuilding Alliance and most importantly, for Palestinian communities who deserve peace.

Sincerely,

Katie                                                                                                                                

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The Sumarin home is in Jerusalem's Old City
The Sumarin home is in Jerusalem's Old City

The Sumarins are a family in East Jerusalem that have been fighting to keep their home for over 30 years. Rebuilding Alliance was invited to join the Sumarin Coalition in May 2020 because we would contact Congress, and 8 volunteers came from all over the country and Great Britain to help!

The Coalition is an international group of 20+ organizations that are advocating on behalf of the Sumarins. Constituents were urged to call their Representatives and Senators and ask for 2 specific interventions: to call the U.S. State Department and to call the Israeli embassy to express concern about the injustice of this eviction. 841 constituents sent 3018 letters. We held about thirty-eight 30 minute briefings with Congressional offices with speakers from Jerusalem on the line, often with constituents joining us.

As a result of a briefing, Congresswoman Jackie Speier is sponsoring a letter addressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu requesting to halt the eviction. The letter as of now has 23 co-signers and will close for signatures on Wednesday, September 2nd at 6 PM.

From an excerpt of Congresswoman Speier's letter, here's what happened: 

"Thirty years ago, JNF asked the Israeli government to seize the Sumarin family home based on Israel's Absentee Property Law, even though the family had the rightful title and were never absent. On May 23, 1991, without notification to the family, the property was purchased by JNF from the Development Authority in a land barter. In 1994, Judge Yehudit Tzur ruled that the declaration of the home as absentee property was unlawful and denied the claim for eviction, yet the land and the title to their home were never returned to the Sumarin family. The Israeli Government's Klugman Commission later noted "grave findings regarding the functioning of the Custodian of Absentee Properties," and pledged to end the use of the law but failed to apply the policy retroactively to past eviction cases."

In a separate project, Rebuilding Alliance helped raise funds so the family could take case to Israel's Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court agreed to take the case. With this case, Rebuilding Alliance has learned much about building a coalition. If the Supreme Court case is lost, this Congressional intervention is the best way to moderate government action to safeguard the Sumarin family and their Jerusalem home.

As stated by a rabbi who spoke to Congress on behalf of the family, "In the Abrahamic tradition shared by Muslims, Christians, and Jews who live in the holy city, the Temple Mount is the site of God's presence on earth. The prophets envisioned that from this place, a divine spirit of global justice and moral responsibility would descend upon the world." 

Thank you for believing in us and for your support. More soon. 

The Sumarin Grandchildren
The Sumarin Grandchildren
Old City (background) seen from the Sumarin home
Old City (background) seen from the Sumarin home

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Gazans joined us in DC re. Gaza aid and trade
Gazans joined us in DC re. Gaza aid and trade

Dear Friend,

This year Rebuilding Alliance's advocacy initiatives significantly expanded: we brought even more speakers to Washington; and we travelled to DC three times since January to walk the halls to ask Congressional offices to help ease an escalating crisis in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem.  (Because Congressional intervention had such immediate and positive results, one set of visits focused on thank you meetings.)

Rebuilding Alliance's overall strategy is case-by-case intervention, inspired by this quote by Oxford Professor Nabeel Hamdi, 'To do something big — to think globally and act globally — one starts with something small and one starts where it counts.'  As a result, Rebuilding Alliance's access to Congress is increasing — and that's remarkable.

Let me describe how calls from House, Senate, and local offices got the Israeli Army to change their mind. A woman engineer from Gaza, Majd Mashharawi, was receiving the Confidence Award from the Mohammed Ali Center in Louisville, KY, but the Israeli Army blocked Majd's parents from transiting Israel to Amman to fly to attend the ceremony. When I asked RA's list to email their elected officials to ask their help, hundreds responded. 

At their constituents’ request, local and D.C. officials and their staff called both me and their local Israeli Consulates.  When I called the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco they told me to call the Israeli Army (— I called the Israeli civil administration's hotline and spoke with an officer named Tom). Meanwhile the Israeli Embassy asked me for more information and, starting at 11pm until 6am Pacific time, we worked through a 3-way negotiation that caused COGAT officials to reverse their decision; unfortunately, this was an hour too late for her parents to make their flight for the award ceremony.  Nonetheless, Majd's mom made the trip and I met them both in DC to thank all the offices who helped. This gave Majd and her mom the opportunity to introduce themselves and speak about the challenges that businesses and families face in Gaza under blockade.

More Congressional offices than ever are scheduling with Rebuilding Alliance for briefing meetings, in person or by phone, with our speakers. In April we had a record 54 meetings in one 5-day week in Washington DC, with both Republicans and Democrats, when I brought Rebuilding Alliance's trade expert from Ramallah to walk the halls of Congress to describe one way to open the blockade to trade and food aid. We asked Congress' help to assure shipments of fresh herbs from Gaza greenhouses to New York City, as the trade expert currently does with West Bank herbs. That proposal continues to have legs far beyond our visit. 

Despite the harsh rhetoric in the Israeli election cycles, our visits to Congress continue to help keep the West Bank Area C villages of Susiya and Khan al Ahmar standing.  But that is not enough: on July 22nd, the Israeli Army destroyed more Palestinian homes in the Wadi Al Hummus neighborhood of the East Jerusalem district of Sur Baher since any time since 1967 —— this just 3.7 miles from the U.S. Embassy. In October we brought two of the Israeli advocates who acted as witnesses and served as peaceful presences in the homes of the Palestinian families during this destruction, to Washington DC. I was amazed when some 360 Congressional offices asked to meet with our guests. We continued to hold 30-minute briefings with as many offices as possible afterwards, for the next two weeks.  Later, when I went overseas, I met with the Wadi Al Hummus Village Council to explore what it will take to help them safely rebuild.

Rebuilding Alliance's board member, Betsy Valdes, joined me for part of our October trip to DC and summed it up well: "As a Rebuilding Alliance board member, volunteer, and citizen, I'm always impressed with the level of our exchange and dialogue when we meet with officials and representatives in Washington, and I am reminded of the power that constituents have to effect change when enough people participate."

Your support made all the difference.  In this time of crisis, there's so much more we need to do. Please give generously on Giving Tuesday when GlobalGiving will be matching all donations until 9pm Pacific Time. Please feel free to call me if you have any questions or suggestions: +1 (650) 651-7165.

Sincerely,

Donna

P.S.  Just to clarify, this advocacy does not influence legislation and is not lobbying.  This is all about what happens when constituents ask their members of Congress to intervene on their behalf with a U.S. agency.  To borrow from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, ours is a 'friends don't let friends drive drunk’ strategy. Elected officials, on behalf of constituents, make calls to the U.S. State Department and the Israeli Embassy to request permits, prevent demolitions, and de-escalate violence. 

Majd Mashharawi, Gaza entrepreneur at Rep Speier's
Majd Mashharawi, Gaza entrepreneur at Rep Speier's
Majd, her Mom, &  me w Rep. Eshoo's chief of staff
Majd, her Mom, & me w Rep. Eshoo's chief of staff
We seek to prevent demolition of Palestinian homes
We seek to prevent demolition of Palestinian homes
Apt bldg demolished in Wadi Hummus, E. Jerusalem
Apt bldg demolished in Wadi Hummus, E. Jerusalem
E. Jerusalem families asked them to come be w them
E. Jerusalem families asked them to come be w them
Explaining to Congressional staff
Explaining to Congressional staff
Explaining what's needed to de-escalate violence
Explaining what's needed to de-escalate violence

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Our team at Capitol Hill after the briefing!
Our team at Capitol Hill after the briefing!

Dear Friend, 

As RA's new Communications and Advocacy Manager, it is my pleasure to announce that the 4th #ICareAboutPeace Congressional Briefing, held on February 5th on Capitol Hill, was an absolute success! 

This year's briefing marked many firsts for Rebuilding Alliance. For the first time ever, the event was publicly sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein. In addition, we were granted an extra hour of briefing time which we used to host a teleconference with human rights experts  Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, Executive Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Ms. Tania Hary, Exec Director of Gisha, and Architect Alon Cohen Lifshitz, of Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights. They spoke about the situation faced by the people of Palestine and suggested tangible ways that Congress could intervene on behalf of Palestinians. 

Most importantly, Rebuilding Alliance was able, for the first time, to bring a teenager from Gaza City and her mother to speak about their experiences and what peace means to them before Congress in Washington D.C. Lama and her mother Amal were joined 16-year-old Aysar, 11-year old Ahmed, and Ahmed's mother Heyam from Susiya. These brave youth speakers and their mothers shared heart-wrenching stories about their life experiences and inspired our audience with their visions of peace. Children from Medina Montessori school also attended to present Congress with their Pinwheels for Peace. 

“I want Congress to keep my village safe and standing,” said Aysar, age 16, from the Palestinian Village of Susiya who has participated before.  Because Senator Feinstein took action, Susiya’s demolition orders were put on hold last year.  

This extraordinary event was attended by the staffers of nearly a dozen Congressional representatives, as well as constituents — and our Facebook Live broadcast, moderated by a wonderful team of English and Arabic speakers from We Are Not Numbers, received fantastic engagement.  Watch the link below to view an excerpt of 14-year-old Lama from Gaza City's speech.

Thanks to the hundreds of constituents who sent emails to invite their members of Congress, we're doing our best to arrange meetings with Senators and Representatives — and also looking forward to taking the children to see the sites. Soon, we'll begin our road trip, the #ICareAboutPeace speaking tour, all the way up to Boston. If you're in the DC area or on the East Coast and would like to host a house party or speaking event, or just want to join us for a visit to a museum or the zoo, please be in touch.

None of this would have been possible without your generous support. Your donation truly made a difference and on behalf of our delegation of speakers and Rebuilding Alliance, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

Sincerely, 

Katlyn Murray

Our team visits Capitol Hill before the briefing!
Our team visits Capitol Hill before the briefing!
Our brave Palestinian speakers!
Our brave Palestinian speakers!
Ahmed visits Senator Feinstein's office
Ahmed visits Senator Feinstein's office
Ahmed and Aysar get to see the cockpit!
Ahmed and Aysar get to see the cockpit!
Medina Montessori Students Pinwheels for Peace
Medina Montessori Students Pinwheels for Peace

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A quick selfie of our team.
A quick selfie of our team.

Dear Friend,

If you've ever wondered what it is like to 'walk the halls of Congress', here is Sara's report of our June visit to keep the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan Al Ahmar standing.  During our trip, we met with 29 offices in just 4 days' time.  Eid Jahalin, spokesperson for Khan al Ahmar, presented the village's own master zoning plan and that has made all the difference.  Just after our Washington DC visit, the village petitioned for approval of that plan — and the High Court agreed to reopen their case.  Their petition will be heard on August 1, 2018.

Our next step is to bring Palestinian children to present their Pinwheels for Peace to Congress, Sep. 23-29th, for International Peace Day.  Out of all our visits and briefings to Congress, bringing the children is by far the most effective advocacy to keep Palestinian villages standing.  This will be our 4th such briefing and we need your help to make it happen.

This Wednesday, GlobalGiving will be matching all donations to this project by 50%. 

Please give generously to support our work, and give early in the day.  The Bonus Day starts at 9am EDT and matching funds will go fast.

Sincerely,
Donna


From Sara, a new staff member at Rebuilding Alliance whose first day on the job was the day she joined us in Washington DC :

From June 25th-28, alongside Eid Jahalian and planners from the Israeli human rights group BIMKOM: Planners for Planning Rights, Rebuilding Alliance walked up the halls of Congress to assure a future for the Palestinian Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar.  We were there because on May 24th, the High Court of Israel ordered that at any given moment Khan al-Ahmar could legally be demolished, without any viable alternative for its people. Our trip to Washington D.C took shape the moment Eid received his U.S. visa, just two days before his arrival.  We were there to ask the Senators and Congresspeople of the United States of America to intervene.

Before I begin telling the story of our time in D.C, let me tell you more about why we were there. You see, any structure in Area C (where Khan al-Ahmar exists) is vulnerable to receiving a demolition order if it does not have an approved masterplan. Yet, there is a catch; Israel's Civil Administration, a branch of Israel's Army, is not approving Palestinian master plans.

The villagers have sent in several plans to avoid these demolition orders, which all have been either ignored or rejected. And on February 7, 2018 the High Courts of Israel executed demolition orders for 17,000 Bedouin structures. Following, on May 24, 2018 the Courts announced that the village of Khan al-Ahmar may be effectively demolished any day after June 1, 2018.

Khan al-Ahmar is home to 191 villagers as well as the home of the famous Tire School. In addition to the families that will be forced to leave, there are also 175 children that travel from nearby villages to attend the Tire School in Khan al-Ahmar. The humble school was made with tires, compressed earth, and falafel oil (really!), and was built with the help of an Italian non-governmental organization. 

The idea of demoliting a village is unsettling in its own right. Yet, to demolish a village that provides education to so many young children is especially horrid. And although all the children will nevertheless experience the ramifications of losing their school, the young ladies of the village-communities will be most affected. In Bedouin culture, girls are not able to travel far from their families for any reason. Thus, once it was created, the Tire School was the first time these girls were able to get an education and they absolutely love it.

Before I go any further, I ought to introduce myself; my name is Sara Azmoudeh, I am Donna’s personal assistant and my first day on the job was actually our first day in D.C. Before joining Rebuilding Alliance I was a student at UCLA, finishing my undergraduate degree in Philosophy. A week before graduation I accepted the position with Donna and before I knew it I was on a plane headed to D.C to learn about the chaos surrounding Khan al-Ahmar. It was some mild ‘on the job training’ to say the absolute least. Yet, it nevertheless turned to be one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life.

The second we landed, I could feel the energy of our team pulling together. Eid, Donna, Nava, Donna, Alon, and myself were all ready to convey our message to congressional members and allow for them to understand the severe condition of Khan al-Ahmar.

Our meetings began with Donna introducing the team and then Eid Jahalin, the spokesman from the village, telling his story. Eid speaks some English, but because he is fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Alon, who is also fluent in Hebrew, would translate his story. Following, Alon and Nava would pull out their maps to show Congressional Staff the logistics of the planning problem. And all throughout, Donna would articulate the seriousness of the matter.

It was extremely powerful to hear the story of Khan al-Ahmar be spokesman from the village itself. There were moments where my eyes would even fill with tears as I considered the devastating fate that Khan al-Ahmar could experience. Every once in a while I would lean back in my chair and feel ‘awed’ by the nature of our meetings. We would sit in rooms with Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians to discuss a very tangible peace; and what a beautiful thing that is.

On Monday, June 25 we met with exclusively Democrats from the House of Representatives. We met with staff from Representative Debbie Dingell’s office, Rep. Mark Pocan’s, and many more. The staff members were engaged, concerned, and willing to hear the story of Khan al-Ahmar unfold through eye-witnesses and experts on the matter. By just the second meeting our team was fluid and able to send the message that two calls from their office would really make a difference. 

On Tuesday, and Wednesday, we ran back and forth between Senate and the House of Representatives. One may assume that the two buildings would be fairly close to each other; yet, our team definitely got something along the lines of a cardio-workout jogging between the two. On this day, we also had the privilege of meeting with Republicans and were thrilled to get such positive feedback from them too.

In most cases, we were able to make the set of issues occuring in Khan al-Ahmar a non-partisan issue. And it was a really amazing thing to see how human beings are able to connect with each other on such a basic level. We all have families; we all come from somewhere, and having those values threatened was a concern to the staff members regardless of the nationality of these families.

Thursday, June 28th was our grand finale and the nature of our schedule proved that to be true. We were exclusively planned to meet in the Senate house on this day. Yet, we were not the only group fighting for a cause on this day.  The protesters from the Women's March fille the ground floor atrium of the Hart Senate building and as we watched, they were arrested to the applause of the supporters who lined the balconies.

Chief of staff Julie Tagen, after a great meeting!
Chief of staff Julie Tagen, after a great meeting!
Staff members eager to learn about Khan al-Ahmar.
Staff members eager to learn about Khan al-Ahmar.
It was great meeting Congressman Jackie Raskin!
It was great meeting Congressman Jackie Raskin!
It was a privilege speaking with Jackie Speier.
It was a privilege speaking with Jackie Speier.

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Organization Information

Rebuilding Alliance

Location: Redwood City, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @RebuildAll
Project Leader:
Donna Baranski-walker
Executive Director
Burlingame, CA United States
$117,497 raised of $150,000 goal
 
1,329 donations
$32,503 to go
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