Thanks to your support, we're now very close to completing the fundraising to meet Rebuilding Alliance's commitment to construct the first three homes in the Rebuilding to Remain program. More challenging is whether or not the Palestian National Authority will be able to meet their commitment. I've been meeting with advisers and talking with Mayor Haj Sami to figure out a Plan B and so get the houses finished. More on this soon.
In the meantime, I put all my frequent flier miles together and flew to Washington D.C. a week and a half ago to explore ways to move our rebuilding projects and our advocacy work forward. I was joined by Morgan Bach, our second visiting teacher in Al Aqaba. Together we met with sister organizations to invite them to join our Stay Human Conference Call series, visited with other NGO building companies to explore new projects, and also met with senior staffers to request their assistance with the State Department. We visited old friends and made new friends too.
An especially positive moment came when I joined Morgan for a Lutheran Service only to somehow find ourselves in the 40 year anniversary celebration for N Street Village, a remarkable residential shelter for homeless women. Forty years ago it must have felt as bleak and hopeless as Israel/Palestine peace feels today, yet they persevered and now N Street Village is a beautiful place and a model for everyone.
With Israel announcing the E-1 punishment for Palestinian statehood and the U.S. Congress announcing various amendments to cut-back U.S. humanitarian aid to Palestine, Rebuilding Alliance's work is needed more than ever. U.S.-back mortgage insurance for Palestinian families in Area C could change the game. Below is a copy of my letter to Diane Feinstein, Senator from California.
P.S. Morgan's speaking tour continues in December and January. Please give me a call if you would like to hold a houseparty fundraiser or a speaking event. My cellphone is 650 440 9667.
Dear Senator Feinstein, December 6, 2012
I am writing as your constituent to ask you to seek clarification on my behalf of U.S. policy regarding American investment in Palestinian housing in ‘Area C’. Please forward my letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
I am the founder of Rebuilding Alliance, a U.S. nonprofit organization that offers mortgage loans to Palestinian families in Area C to help them build their homes on the land they own. Rebuilding Alliance’s pilot project is called Rebuilding to Remain. We work with Israelis as advocates and use the Israeli legal system to pursue building permits and petition to freeze demolition orders. Three homes are now in construction in Al Aqaba Village in the northern Jordan Valley near Tubas where in 2004, Rebuilding Alliance built a kindergarten that serves 160 children/year.
Here’s the challenge: despite holding clear title to their land, 97% of the buildings in Al Aqaba Village — including the kindergarten — have been issued demolition orders by the Israeli Army. When Rebuilding Alliance requested mortgage loan insurance, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) said U.S. government policy requires denial of mortgage insurance to Palestinian families in Area C. This can’t be true.
Rebuilding Alliance works to help Palestinian families in Area C build their homes on the land they own, find employment, educate their children, and plan their future. I know the U.S. seeks to realize these goals as well through USAID programs to support Palestinian infrastructure development in Area C.
While OPIC insures Palestinian mortgages in Areas A and B, their mortgage loan insurance does not extend to Area C because the Israeli Army refuses to issue building permits to Palestinian families living there. As you may know, the Israeli Army is denying Palestinian master plans and thus denying building permits to Palestinian families in Area C while the Government of Israel is simultaneously issuing building permits to illegally expand Israeli settlements on occupied land. The Israeli Army denied Al Aqaba’s 3rd master plan on June 21st 2012 for no good reason.
On Mar. 14, 2012, Al Aqaba Village became the first Palestinian village in Area C to issue building permits, realizing both the text and the spirit of the Oslo Accords. On Apr. 14, 2012, Rebuilding Alliance became the first group to provide mortgage loans, including a clause stating that if the home is demolished, the family will not make payments until occupancy is restored. I ask your help to make OPIC mortgage loan insurance available for Rebuilding Alliance’s Rebuilding to Remain mortgage loan program to fully develop this revolving mortgage loan program.
Please ask Secretary of State Clinton to issue a policy directive instructing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to guarantee Rebuilding Alliance’s mortgage loans in the Rebuilding to Remain program. Please ask her to make U.S. policy clear: starting with Al Aqaba, recognize the right of Palestinian villages in Area C to issue building permits in accordance with their master plans —just like towns throughout the U.S. — and support that right by providing U.S.-backed mortgage insurance.
I look forward to your prompt reply.
Founder & Executive Director
I hope you’ve had a wonderful summer! You’ll be happy to know that construction of the first 3 homes in our Rebuilding to Remain program has reached beyond the halfway point. Everyone, especially the families, are eager to finish these homes and move in!
Now the bad news: I need to tell you that construction stopped just before Ramadan. Even though Rebuilding to Remain placed 10th in the Global Giving Matching Grant Competition, we fell short of our fundraising goal. In early July, we transferred all the funds we had raised.
Ours is not the only source of funding for the project. The Palestinian National Authority has committed $13,000 per home and we had hoped they would transfer their share to keep construction moving forward. Rebuilding Alliance Board Chair Carin Pacifico and I flew to meet with the Ministry of Finance and received assurances that these funds would be transferred as soon as they are able.
Perhaps you’ve read of the demonstrations and consumer riots in the West Bank because the Palestinian Authority cannot yet meet payroll. According to the Maan News Agency, “The PA is waiting for the US Congress to approve a request by President Barack Obama's administration to pay $200 million to the Ramallah-based government. A hoped-for $1.1 billion in 2011 reached only $750 million, as pledges from Gulf states in particular fell short.”
1) We must meet our commitment: $20,000 per home of which $5000 is grant and $15,000 is loan. Please mark your calendar for October 17th, the next GlobalGiving Bonus Day! Starting at 9pm Pacific time on Oct. 16th, every dollar donated will be matched by GlobalGiving by 30%.
2) Can you join us as a Bonus Day Captain to ask 10 of your friends to donate too? We’ll coach you by phone and email, and invite you a conference call with Mayor Haj Sami! If you would like join us, please give me or Rudy a call at 650 325-4663.
3) This is a critical time for Al Aqaba and all Palestinian Villages in Area C.
As the world turns to elections and the very real possibility of war with Iran, we’re one of the only groups watching and working to keep this vulnerable area safe. Next week, Morgan Bach, the teacher who spent 6 months in Al Aqaba as a visiting English teacher is joining us at our shop to help launch our campaign for Al Aqaba in advance of the October 14th Israeli High Court review of demolition orders near the homes we are building. We have designed a cool Ushahidi mapping system to help Contact Congress and Morgan will be setting-up a speaking tour too. More soon!
Thank you again for your support, your patience, and your encouragement. Thank you for being there.
So exciting! The roofs are poured and set on the first three homes in our Rebuilding to Remain program! Rebuilding Alliance Board Chair Carin Pacifico and I were just in Al Aqaba Village meeting with Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq, and walking through the first three homes in construction! (see great photos below)
In just a few days, Rebuilding Alliance has the opportunity to significantly increase our funding and expand our global impact through the GlobalGiving Matching Day competition. Please celebrate our successes and make a donation between 9:01pm and Midnight, Pacific Time, on June 13th, by going to Rebuilding to Remain. Please extend this invitation to everyone you know. All donations made before noon will be increased by 50%, because GlobalGiving has awarded us Superstar status!
The Palestinian villagers of Al Aqaba, a little town in the Jordan Valley of the West Bank, are standing up as gently and courageously as they can, to build their homes on the land they own. Building a new home should not be a time of fear, but in Area “C” of the West Bank the villagers know that the bulldozers many come at any time. They are building anyway, pooling their savings and “Rebuilding to Remain.” We stand with them, funding construction of the first 3 homes and working to overturn the “demolition orders” which make planning and building, pumping clean water, providing safe transportation and good education a constant challenge.
Our goal: to raise $30,000 in the first 3 hours of the competition. If we win the competition, we can finish the homes before Ramadan. I ask your help to raise the $17,000 to finish construction of all three homes, plus $8000 to coordinate worldwide advocacy to keep that village standing. With the rest, we'll finish the film that will bring their story to the New York City Peace Film Festival.
During GlobalGiving’s Bonus Day competition, they will match all donations up to $1000, for just 24 hours or until their funds run out. To donate, please go to http://tinyurl.com/Rebuild2Remain. Please give generously and please ask your friends to give too. Please call me if you have any questions or suggestions: U.S. cellphone 1-650-440-9667.
Last month, on March 14th 2012, the Al Aqaba Village Council issued building permits, a first in the West Bank's "Area C." I am so proud to tell you that this month, on April 14th 2012, Rebuilding Alliance and the Al Aqaba Cooperative Assembly for Housing Displaced signed a historic mortgage loan agreement to finance construction of the first three homes in our Rebuilding to Remain program.
This may well be the first mortgage loan offered to Palestinian families in Area C, the 62% of the West Bank where the Israeli Army is not approving Palestinian town plans or issuing building permits. Unlike any bank loan, our affordable mortgage loan suspends repayment if the home is demolished, until occupancy is restored.
Our goal, as stated in our loan agreement, is to "help families from Al Aqaba Village build affordable, expandable homes on the land they own, to affirm the right of the Village Council of Al Aqaba to issue building permits in accordance with the Al Aqaba Town Plan, and to keep these homes and this village standing. 97% of this Palestinian West Bank village is under demolition order by the Israeli Army. Together, Rebuilding Alliance and Al Aqaba are asserting the villagers’ rights to build a home on the land they own and live there safely and securely, as good neighbors locally and throughout the region."
Will Al Aqaba's building permits and our mortgage loan be enough to keep this village standing? It is a brave start. It is not sufficient. Just this morning, Israeli Army bulldozers destroyed Peace Street (for the 3rd time) and also a newly paved road. Through the good work of the Jerusalem Legal Aid & Human Rights Center, this time, they did not destroy any homes.
So what IS required to make these new permits and mortgage loans solid? Policy change — All of Us, engaged at the grassroots, pressing our elected officials to intervene for good.
Remember, your support of our Rebuilding to Remain program makes all this possible! From now until Mother's Day, when you donate $100 or more on GlobalGiving.org, we'll send a Thank You Gift of Organic Olive Oil and Za'atar, fair trade from Palestine!
I would like to inform you about several exciting developments for Rebuilding to Remain.
First, I am pleased to announce that UN's Displacement Working Group has asked Rebuilding Alliance to write a case study about our work in Al Aqaba. They want to know what it took to get the Brigadier General to visit.
Second, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) lawyers went to Al Aqaba on January 3rd and filed petitions in time to meet the January 5th deadline to freeze demolition orders for homes on the outskirts of the town.
Just to clarify, these new demolition orders are not for the homes we are building. Demolition orders were issued for homes on the outskirts of town but, surprisingly, new houses that were recently built in the center of town did not get demolition orders. This is positive news. Since the houses being built in the Rebuilding to Remain program are in the center of town, it gives us hope that they will remain standing. Meanwhile, we’ll do our best to advocate to keep the whole village standing, along with all Palestinian homes in Area C.
Finally, we are excited to announce that a construction company has been chosen for this project.
Please keep your eyes peeled for more updates that we will be sending soon! As always, I would also like to thank you for contributing to Rebuilding to Remain and making this project possible.
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