U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages

by Rebuilding Alliance
Vetted
Runners arrive at Apple, 9 miles from Google
Runners arrive at Apple, 9 miles from Google

Dear Friend,

This is our second update of three.  The highlight:  nearly 720,000 people viewed our Race to Recognize Palestinian Villages and now we ask your help to transform this energy into Here's My Village Community Mapathons as we continue to urge Google and Apple to Map Palestinian Villages. 

Please give on the GlobalGiving Bonus Day starting tonight at 9:01 Pacific, Tuesday Midnight:01 Eastern, and at Tuesday 7am Jerusalem time. 

#HeresMyVillage — what it will mean to see Palestinian Villages on Google, Apple Maps

Last spring, when we brought UN Habitat's expert to walk the halls of Congress, we saw there was something wrong with the base maps.   Somehow, Google and Apple had mapped all the Israeli settlements in the West Bank (and even the outposts), which are illegal under international law and violate official US policy, while erroneously depicting an empty Palestinian countryside! 

Rebuilding Alliance is in Silicon Valley.  We know and work in the villages, we know the mapping experts — if anyone could do this, it must be us.  We immediately began work through the summer, partnering with the Israeli human rights group, Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, to connect with Google and Apple.

The challenge for the Silicon Valley mapping community is to step back from mind-numbing politics and just show what is really there,” said Alon, the architect and urban planner who leads Bimkom’s analysis and assistance to Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

Together, we successfully transferred all the GPS data for the Palestinian villages in Area C to both companies in September including points and polygons in three languages. Strangely, Apple and Google would only communicate through Representative Eshoo and Representative Honda, with no word as to their implementation schedule.  So when Palestinian marathoners from the group Right to Movement asked if they could help, we jumped at the chance!

Rebuilding Alliance brought nine Palestinian marathoners on October 13th to run from Google headquarters in Mountain View to Apple headquarters in Cupertino in a "Race to Recognize Palestinian Villages".   They delivered letters addressed to the heads of the mapping departments requesting that the villages be added. The event was covered by the SF Chronicle. AJ+ made a short video about the race, which has been viewed over 715,000 times!  At our request, hundreds of constituents wrote to their members of Congress to ask for their help in delivering the message to Apple and Google leadership.  That prompted the U.S. State Department to get involved.

Good News: the State Department reported, “Both companies said there are no policy impediments to proceeding with adding the villages, only technical impediments. However, we have not received a  timeline."

Here’s where something remarkable happened: we were able to follow-up constituent messages to schedule meetings with Congress, especially valuable because Congress needs to see these maps too.   In a Washington that has changed dramatically since the election, Rebuilding Alliance brought the #HeresMyVillage Contact Congress tour to Washington DC on November 14th and 15th, with mapping experts from Bimkom and an artist advocate from Um Al Kheir, the West Bank village who has experienced repeated demolitions. We meet with 12 Congressional offices, both Senate and House, Democrat and Republican, visited the State Department and joined a mapathon to learn how Open Street Map works. While in DC, we joined in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in their march to press the White House to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“Thousands of children and families in Area C of the West Bank (the territories controlled entirely by Israel) can’t locate their homes on Apple or Google maps, or on Waze (Google’s subsidiary),” said Nava, a GIS mapping expert at Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights in her presentation at Congressional offices. “They are real locations – however, in the virtual mapped world of the Web, they simply can’t be found. In today’s online society, that’s as good as saying you don’t exist.”

When we reached Silicon Valley, Google and Apple declined to meet with us. Again, we delivered letters, this time hand-written by the distinguished artist who lives in the village of Umm al Kheir.

“We may never know why Google and Apple mapped illegal Israeli settlements while leaving off hundreds of Palestinian villages nearby,” said Eid, the artist from Umm Al Kheir whose exhibition in Berlin was recently sponsored by Chinese dissident artist, Ai WeiWei. “I hope community mapping will engage the world’s attention and help us hold on to our homes and neighborhoods on the land we own.”

And from this long path we found our next steps when we held our first #HeresMyVillage mapathon, working with the Students for Justice in Palestine @SJState to add five Palestinian villages to Open Street Maps, and put key points of interest in Eid’s village of Umm Al Kheir on the map.   Especially moving was putting the Community Center of Umm Al Kheir back on the map — it had been demolished, along with the home of a family of five, on Tuesday while Eid was with us in DC.  Just before their flights home, we held our second Here's My Village mapathon with the Palestinian American Coalition of the Bay Area and mapped six more villages!

Now, we ask your help to bring #HeresMyVillage Community Mapathons to your community and also to do mapping with the Palestinian villages themselves as we teach everyone how to call Congress and continue to press Google and Apple to correct their maps.

On Giving Tuesday starting at midnight, Eastern time for as long as bonus funds last, GlobalGiving is providing a bonus of 50% for each donation up to $1000 — This time GG is giving away a half a million dollars in Bonus matches!  Please give generously. Thank you for all that you do.
The runners visit Rep. Honda
The runners visit Rep. Honda's office
State Dept. meeting w Eid, Bimkom,RebuildingAll
State Dept. meeting w Eid, Bimkom,RebuildingAll
Showing Rep. Eshoo
Showing Rep. Eshoo's staff the maps
#Heres My Village Mapathon with SJP @SJState
#Heres My Village Mapathon with SJP @SJState
SJSU community mapathon
SJSU community mapathon
Here
Here's what Google and Apple show - settlements

Links:

Sadin speaks to the audience at Senate briefing
Sadin speaks to the audience at Senate briefing

Dear Friend,

We've done so much good work that over these next few days, I am sending you three separate updates: 

  1. #ICareAboutPeace — how bringing children to Congress is keeping Susiy Standing
  2. #HeresMyVillage — what it will mean to see Palestinian Villages on Google Maps and Apple Maps
  3. #Save_UmAlHiran coalition stops demolitions!  Reminder: Giving Tuesday starts Monday night 9pm Pacific

                           #ICareAboutPeace — how bringing children to Congress is keeping Susiy Standing

On Nov. 15th 2016, the Government of Israel filed a formal request to the High Court of Israel to delay comment on the fate of the Palestinian village of Susiya.   Noting the delay, on Nov. 18th,  Senator Diane Feinstein (my Senator) published her remarkable letters to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with his replies. 

"Following my letter of July 28, 2015, I was pleased and grateful for your letter of August 11, 2015, in which you stated your government’s commitment to a negotiated resolution with the residents of Susiya," wrote Senator Feinstein. "Since then, I have met with two families from the village, both with young children. The children directly conveyed what peace means to them. It was simple: that no one tear down their homes."

So much of what Senator Feinstein brought forward came through Rebuilding Alliance.  In May of 2015, when the High Court of Israel ruled they could be demolished even before their appeal was heard, Rebuilding Alliance jumped forward to bring religious historian Prof. Ophir Mintz Manor to Congress to press for intervention to keep Susiya standing.  Ophir is a friend of Palestinian Susiya and a member of Villages Group. To date, we've brought 4 more speaking groups and held 127 briefings and meetings with Congressional staff to keep Susiya, Um Al Kheir, Al Aqaba and Palestinian villages standing in Area C as a crisis in demolitions continues.

Today, there was breakthrough: bulldozers were expected in Umm Al Hiran in Israel -- and the bulldozers did not show up!  Rebuilding Alliance is part of the Four Villages Coalition to good effect -- all the tweets, the many visitors and officials who stayed over —  it worked!  Yet success is fleeting because they can come any time before Dec. 1st.   What's more, decisions are expected re. Susiya and Umm al Kheir in early December.  To sustain momentum in our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages, we ask your help.

Please mark your calendar for Monday night, Nov. 29th at 9:01pm Pacific time when GlobalGiving is providing a bonus of 50% for each donation up to $1000.   

How did Senator Feinstein's concern take root?   On September 21st, International Peace Day, and for the second year in a row, Rebuilding Alliance brought Palestinian children and parents to speak to Congress.  Once again, Senator Feinstein met with the chidren personally, put them in her chair, and promised to do all she can to keep their villages standing.  

Our delegation came from Susiya and Umm al Kheir, West Bank villages slated for demolition. They met with Congressional offices, held talks at American University, a gradeschool, and a kindergarten, sold handicrafts from Susiya — and held a Senate briefing!   They described daily life at constant risk of one's home being bulldozed. The children have been making Pinwheels for Peace as part of an international project, together with their classmates, writing what peace means to them and drawing what it looks like. Aysar, a 15-year-old from Susiya, wrote (and memorized!) a speech and bravely delivered it to the 80 people in attendance.

"This is what Peace means to me," said Aysar. "Peace is one of the names of God. Peace, Salaam, Shalom is the word we use to say hello. Peace means safety, freedom, liberty and justice. But the people of Susiya, my people, face real problems in this Occupation. People attack us and want to expel us from our land. When children go to school it is dangerous. We ask you to continue to help us."

In each of her letters, Senator Feinstein asks Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt demolitions and reevaluate the master planning process by which Palestinian villages are legalized and protected.  She has our deepest thanks, and we are honored to have her encouragement and her action to stop the nightmare of Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes. However, we must do more. The heartbreaking reality is that this year, 2016, has seen more demolitions of Palestinian homes than any year in the last 10 years.

Through your support, we have found a champion for the recognition of Palestinian villages in Senator Feinstein and her efforts are inspiring many more.  With your help, we will keep working to rally Congressional support for the human right to live in one's home, to assure the safety and very existence of the hundreds of Palestinian villages at risk of demolition. 

Please set your alarm for Monday night, Nov. 29th at 9:01pm Pacific Time and give generously.
Sadin grins after Sen. Feinstein gave her a book
Sadin grins after Sen. Feinstein gave her a book
Fatma on life of women in village vs. settlement
Fatma on life of women in village vs. settlement
Fatma would like to have a word with the President
Fatma would like to have a word with the President
Aysar
Aysar's presentation at the Senate Briefing
Sep. 21st 2016, International Peace Day Briefing
Sep. 21st 2016, International Peace Day Briefing
Senator Feinstein in a quiet moment in her office
Senator Feinstein in a quiet moment in her office
And then we went to the zoo!
And then we went to the zoo!

Links:

Dr. El-Atrash explains a map of the West Bank
Dr. El-Atrash explains a map of the West Bank

Dear Friend,

We are back in the office after a busy week of meetings on Capitol Hill. From May 23rd through 27th, we met with 25 Congressional offices, running back and forth across the Capitol between the Senate and House office buildings. We also met with a member of the National Security Council (an advisor to President Obama), the State Department, and more, speaking about Palestinian planning rights. We were joined by Dr. Ahmad El-Atrash, a Senior Planner at UN-Habitat in Ramallah. He is an expert in the master planning process for Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank, and all the complex legal proceedings that are involved in it.

We described the shocking and disturbing upswing in demolitions since the beginning of 2016, and why it is ocurring. Many of the Congressional staffers we met with shared our concern and assured us they would speak with their boss about how they could join us in advocating for Palestinian planning rights. 

There was a possibility that a senior Senator would sponsor a Dear Colleague letter that we drafted. The letter called for intervention to prevent the demolition of Al Aqaba Village's water network, to assure due process for Umm al Kheir, to press for recognition of Palestinian master plans and to recognize Palestine's regional planning committees in the master plan approval process.  As it stands, only three of 108 submitted master plans have been approved in the past six years. The plans are technically sound, and several have already passed the period of public comment. There is no reason why these plans should not be approved so that building permits can be issued and construction can begin in accordance with zoning. Israel's apparent plans to expand and establish new settlements on private land, and ultimately annex the West Bank, are blocking their approval of Palestinian master plans.

Representative Eshoo's senior staffer told us that one major problem is that many in Congress have forgotten that the Israeli settlements are illegal. These illegal settlements and outposts are pushing Palestinian families off the land that they rightfully own, and are doing so largely without reproach from members of Congress or the international community. She asked us to press President Obama to exert his leadership on this issue and so we did when we met with senior staff at the National Security Council the next day.  

We asked each Congressional office that we visited to call the Israeli Embassy and the State Department and urge them to do all they can to: 

1)    Assure Palestinian villages their right to critical services, especially water and electricity and express concern that ‘Stop Work Orders’ have been issued against the water main network that will connect Al Aqaba village, in Area C near Tubas, to the Palestinian water grid. Al Aqaba is a model of peace under the leadership of Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq Sbaih. They have been barred by the Israeli Army from digging their own wells and in January 2016, the High Court of Israel agreed to hear their petition to connect their village with water. 

2)   Restore due process to assure Palestinian families and villages the right to appeal demolition orders in Israeli courts instead of blocking their petitions from reaching the courts as recently occurred in the Palestinian village of Umm Al Kheir.

3)    Approve the 108 master zoning plans filed by Palestinian communities to date, starting with the eight master plans that have completed the period for public comment.

While in Washington, DC, we also spoke with OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation) and the World Bank's MIGA group (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) about the possibility of obtaining political risk insurance for Palestinian communities. We were happy to learn that crops can be insured- imagine, an insurance fund for Palestinian olive trees, and World Bank and OPIC insurers fully engaged to prevent destruction and demolition.  Remarkably, after years of being blocked, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation is now inviting Rebuilding Alliance to go ahead and complete full applications for construction projects in Area C, including water pipes.

Overall, it was a very successful (albeit exhausting) trip. A staffer told us that walking the halls of Congress is the most effective way to advocate. He said that his office is frequently visited by right-wing lobbyists who speak for the Israeli settler movement, but rarely by advocates for Palestinian rights. Nothing will change unless more of us speak up and show up so that Congress knows we care.

I am beginning work now to schedule our next two speaking tours this fall, and for that I ask your help. Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 15th, GlobalGiving is matching all donations to the U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages. They are matching donations by 50% up to $1,000!  

With your help, Rebuilding Alliance will bring Palestinian children to Congress for International Peace Day in September. We're asking President Obama to meet with them and use their visit bring his leadership forward to keep their villages standing. In addition, in October, we're bringing Palestinian planners on tour to speak at university architecture departments, and join peace groups for visits to local Congressional offices.

Thanks for staying tuned while we were running around Washington, and a special thanks to those who donated frequent flier miles. An extra special thanks to those who called their Senators and Representative to ask them to make those two calls! 

Best,

Tamsin

 

P.S. You'll see that we're increasing our engagement in the international "Pinwheels for Peace" project. Attached is our intern Lamia's report on her experience making Pinwheels for Peace with the girls at Al-Isawiya School. 

A "hallway meeting" with Congressional staff
A "hallway meeting" with Congressional staff
Donna and Dr. El-Atrash speak at a Senate briefing
Donna and Dr. El-Atrash speak at a Senate briefing
At Rep. Eshoo
At Rep. Eshoo's office w Hannah Murphy, Kyle FCNL
Great to have Amir Abu El-Hawa join us, MIGA mtg
Great to have Amir Abu El-Hawa join us, MIGA mtg
Selfie in Congress
Selfie in Congress
A silver lining, a US flag
A silver lining, a US flag
Only 3 master plans were approved in 6 year
Only 3 master plans were approved in 6 year's time

Links:


Attachments:
Aysar, at home with his new sister, in Susiya
Aysar, at home with his new sister, in Susiya

Dear Friend,

Good news: on March 10th, U.S. Consul General Donald Blome visited Umm al Kheir, Susiya, and several other villages slated for demolition in the South Hebron Hills. We have been pushing for this to happen, because it represents the start of significant U.S. engagement to mitigate the recent upsurge in the demolition of Palestinian homes and villages by the Israeli Army. 

The Consul General's visit was a step forward, but we must press for more. There is a way to keep Umm al Kheir, Susiya, al Aqaba and all the other Palestinian villages standing in Area C, but it requires bold advocacy from you as an American constituent.  

If you haven't registered already, please sign-in to join a half-hour Contact Congress Briefing with your Senators and Representative’s staff.

We started this week with a briefing with Sen. Marco Rubio's staff and we've scheduled almost 20 more so far.  We're working to book 100.  These calls are an advocacy breakthrough.  To see the schedule and join, go to www.RebuildingAlliance.org and just scroll down to the calendar.  Click Count Me In! to join the calls.

To each legislator, our ask is simple: on behalf of your constituents, please call the U.S. State Department and the Israeli Embassy to express concern about the Palestinian villages in Area C and to show support for their right to plan and live on the land they own. 

Congressional intervention already makes all the difference in keeping demolition bulldozers away from Susiya, Umm al Kheir, and Al Aqaba. These conference calls have proven to be a remarkable tool for influencing foreign policy. Please join us. Constituent by constituent, legislator by legislator, this is our best hope to keep Palestinian villages standing.

One more thing: this Wednesday, MARCH 16TH, GlobalGiving.org is matching all donations to our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages. Thanks to your support, our U.S. Movement to Save Palestinian Villages helped keep Susiya standing.  We're making real progress and we need your support again now to ramp-up.  Please set your alarm and give on Wednesday 



Sincerely,

Tamsin Avra

Contact Congress Coordinator, Rebuilding Alliance 


P.S.    Questions? Suggestions?  Please call me at 650 651-7165 or reply to this email.

P.P.S.  There are so many heartbreaking photos of demolitions ... instead we are sending you this photo that Donna took of Aysar, the 14-year-old who presented his Pinwheel for Peace to members of Congress in Washington, D.C. last year.   Aysar's U.S. visa states he may visit twice more in 'September with Rebuilding Alliance' — and so we begin planning to bring Aysar and other Susiya leaders on speaking tour for International Peace Day again this year and next.
 

Links:

Prof. Ophir Minz-Menor w us at Rep. Eshoo
Prof. Ophir Minz-Menor w us at Rep. Eshoo's Office

Dear Friends,

I know the world looks bleak and so much more that needs to be done.   Yet through your support, our US Movement to Save Palestinian Villages realized 10 very real breakthroughs.  We made a difference in so many lives, and we opened new ways forward — and this is only the 2nd year of this program!

  1. We brought Palestinians to the U.S. to speak for themselves, Israelis too.

    “We spoke for ourselves before members of Congress and audiences young and old.  Friends joined us, as we, in our own voices, representing our villages, pressed for recognition of our rights.  Describing the challenges we are facing, we gave American policy-makers and American people the opportunity to help.”  — Eid Suleiman Hathleen, representing the West Bank Bedouin Village of Um Al Kheir in the South Hebron Hills

  2. The village of Susiya is standing today because of our in-depth advocacy, Al Aqaba Village continues to thrive, and the State Department and the National Security Agency are now responding to first calls.
    Rebuilding Alliance rallied U.S. government intervention for Susiya when we held briefings for congressional staff and the State Department.  In Susiya, negotiations continue between the Israeli Army, the Susiya town council and their lawyers at Rabbis for Human Rights.  There's discussion of letting the villagers stay on the land they own and continuing the stay of demolition orders. 

    Last May, with the encouragement of Villages Group and Rabbis for Human Rights, Rebuilding Alliance sprung into action when Israel’s High Court refused to freeze demolition orders issued to the Village of Susiya until their petition (appeal) was heard — this put the Palestinian Village of Susiya at particularly high risk and also increased the risk to 12,000 other Palestinian structures, as it meant the fragile lifeline of freeze orders (injunctions against demolitions) could easily collapse.  Susiya’s work for justice through the years meant that Israelis and Europeans were staying in Susiya round-the-clock to keep the village standing.  European diplomats were publically engaged.  Rebuilding Alliance brought Congress in and pressed the State Department to take action, publically, in support of Susiya’s right to exist. Jewish Voice for Peace helped with a petition that we helped write — 30,000 people signed!  With negotiations still underway, Susiya’s future and the future of all 149 Palestinian villages in Area C, remain an important ongoing issue — we ask that everyone stay involved, ready to express concern to their members of Congress and press for the rights of Palestinian villages to plan and build on the land they own.

  3. We hit Congress on 3 fronts:
    —  We pioneered a new way to Contact Congress: 30 minute briefings with Constituents on the line.

    It started in June, when Rebuilding Alliance brought a member of Villages Group, Professor Ophir Minz Menor, to join us with Liz Mulford as we visited and briefed 27 congressional offices — sometimes we did 5 briefings a day. We continued to schedule meetings with another 33 offices, with constituents on the line for 30 min telephone calls  — and that really worked!   I'll do my best to get this program up and running again in the months ahead.

    —  We held TWO Congressional briefings (House and Senate) for Susiya. On September 21st, International Peace Day, Rebuilding Alliance boldly brought three children and their families from the Palestinian villages of Susiya and Umm al Kheir, along with friends from Villages Group in Israel, to the US to brief members of Congress and ask them to press for Palestinian planning and construction rights.  Aysar (14) thoughtfully delivered his speech while Hamoudy who is nearly 5, distributed pinwheels, one by one, to each member of the audience.   Sadin, who is only seven, held up her Pinwheel for Peace and explained, “Peace means being secure and safe.  Peace means your family stays all together and that your grandparents are okay, not hurt by settlers. Peace means ‘Hurriya’ — Freedom.”

    Senator Feinstein was deeply moved – and is personally advocating to keep Susiya standing. Senator Dianne Feinstein personally met with the delegation and had the children sit in her chair.  Afterwards she tweeted multiple times about the importance of keeping the Village of Susiya standing. Sen. Feinstein wrote her second letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu expressing concern, and she met with him personally on this issue when he visited Washington in November.   Mondoweiss and Agence France Press published stories, which were picked up by Yahoo News.

  4. A top software patent law firm filed a patent application for Rebuilding Alliance, pro bono, making a $38,000 investment in our good ideas.  In keeping Palestinian villages standing on the other side of the world, we’ve learned something very important about advocacy, something that can apply to nearly any cause:  local, regional or international ... and I hope to build our mobile app in the year ahead!

  5. Palestinian Children say, “I Care About Peace.” In July, all the children in Susiya and Um al Kheir made ‘Pinwheels for Peace,’ writing down what peace means and drawing what peace looks like — and it was a breath of fresh air for everyone, adults and children alike.  In 2008 Al Aqaba Village became the first in the Middle East to do this, when their case was coming before the Israeli High Court and demolition of their whole village was imminent ... something about this was so wonderfully grounding and positive that Susiya and Um al Kheir adopted it.   Al Aqaba's children are now doing this every Wednesday; Susiya and the South Hebron area are joining in -- and I've asked the State Department to pay close attention and find a way to make this gentle peacemaking initiative more than an empty gesture.  We're suggesting that the U.S. provide Political Risk Insurance against demolition of Palestinian homes, schools, barns, and shops in Area C.
     
  6. In late October, we spoke at 42 speaking events and a Congressional Briefing for our #OpenGaza: Trauma and Hope, First Hand speaking tour!
    As violence escalated in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza in October, Rebuilding Alliance brought Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, Executive Director of Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, and Ran Goldstein, Executive Director of Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, on speaking tour in the United States to press for positive peacemaking and call for the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.  They discussed their important work, the mental and physical health crisis facing children in Gaza and the impact of the blockade. Co-sponsored by the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Seattle Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Psychologists for Social Responsibility, they spoke at 42 venues, including the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Washington, UMass Boston, Smith College, three medical centers, Jewish Voice for Peace meetings, and numerous public gatherings. The tour concluded in Washington DC with a filled-to-capacity briefing in Cannon House Office Building on Thursday October 29th.

    “I am truly thrilled with the warm welcoming of the people on the speaking tour and their readiness to support the Palestinian people in so many and various ways.  We in GCMHP try to find areas of hope in people’s lives so to strengthen them and help them recover —  so if we are not losing hope, you must hold on to hope too.”   — Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei

    Ran Goldstein leads a staff of 30 and a membership of 2500 doctors and medical personnel in PHR-I, a Israeli non-governmental organization that stands at the forefront of the struggle for human rights — the right to health care particularly — in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

    “You give us energy to continue to do what we do, showing us that our goal is much bigger, held far beyond a small group of Israeli activists.  We speak for many people.  Your energy gives us fuel to continue.” — Ran Goldstein

  7. Visas.   Here are some amazing, and deeply frustrating, stories about working to get visas and leaving permits for friends in need and our delegations:

    —  When I heard that Dr. Mona Al Farra was prevented from leaving Gaza, I volunteered and joined the team at Middle East Children’s Alliance to press for diplomatic intervention. We were successfully, but it took 3 months… this was hardest visa problem I’ve ever negotiated.

    —  Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei got his U.S. Visa on the day of his interview, but his leaving permit was a challenge.   The day before our speaking tour, and just 30 minutes before Erez Crossing would close, the call came: his  permit to leave was ready.  Without time to go home to kiss his family goodbye or pick-up his luggage, he raced to the checkpoint, crossing Erez into Israel, and then Allenby into Jordan — once there, we bought his ticket.   Three hours later he was on his way to Seattle to start the #OpenGaza: Trauma and Hope Speaking Tour.

    —  Fatma’s interview at the U.S. Consulate, along with her son Hamoudy and nephew Aysar, was a small miracle! Amazing – I was ground support and encouraging everyone to keep going.   The U.S. Consulate’s decision to stay open after hours was deeply appreciated, and a remarkable coincidence allowed Fatma and the children to get to the Consulate, while their passports were delivered separately by friends carrying them across the Bethlehem checkpoint.   A surprise came when, after Aysar’s visa was denied, my appeal reversed the decision!   Aysar was given a 3 year visa stating that he can come in September with Rebuilding Alliance — and so we begin planning his next visit for International Peace Day 2016!

  8. I got into to Gaza— and so did our 3,888 backpack kits! 
    Only 2 weeks ago, I was in Gaza, my first visit in 10 years (and 5th overall).  Joy at seeing old friends, relief to see signs of recovery, thankfulness for all the help I had — the Gaza Community Mental Health team helped me successfully deliver 3,888 backpack kits to children in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, and we overcame very real constraints to make this happen. There was hope too — people also responded positively to the sample solar lights I brought with me.  Our goal with all this is to learn and engage allies at all levels to push open the blockade more and more.  I think we're close to an important breakthrough — Rebuilding Alliance and Gaza Community Mental Health Programme have found a way to send donations through the blockade directly to Gaza's NGOs, something no one knew was possible.  More on this soon.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.  Let's do more in 2016.

Sincerely,

Donna

P.S.  These past 3 months were an intense time of travel... also a challenging time for Rebuilding Alliance, because we lost our lease (rent doubled), so we moved to an office building in Burlingame.  Looking forward to holding an opening house party soon.

DC was surprising - Rep. Pelosi sent 2 staff
DC was surprising - Rep. Pelosi sent 2 staff
Writing down what Peace means in Susiya
Writing down what Peace means in Susiya
Gently rolling back each corner to form pinwheel
Gently rolling back each corner to form pinwheel
So that they turn in the wind - and help us all
So that they turn in the wind - and help us all
Writing and drawing what peace means
Writing and drawing what peace means
Picnic near the Capitol Bldg, w S. Hebron families
Picnic near the Capitol Bldg, w S. Hebron families
Eid and Naama, from Um Al Kheir
Eid and Naama, from Um Al Kheir
#OpenGaza Speaking Tour at State Department
#OpenGaza Speaking Tour at State Department
 

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Organization Information

Rebuilding Alliance

Location: Burlingame, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.rebuildingalliance.org
Project Leader:
Donna Baranski-walker
Executive Director
Burlingame, CA United States
$76,929 raised of $80,225 goal
 
668 donations
$3,296 to go
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