Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine

by Rebuilding Alliance Vetted since 2008 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit
The Mosque
The Mosque's double minarets signify peace

Dear Friend,

If you’ve been following Rebuilding Alliance and our work for a while, you know that our dream is to rebuild Palestinian communities in the West Bank so-called Area C.  We started with the remarkable village of Al Aqaba where, with your help, we completed 3 homes. Families then finished four more and now there are sixteen more in construction. 

I brought a board member and an expert in affordable housing with me in February and we had remarkable meetings in the West Bank in February.  Rebuilding Alliance is truly the only group doing this work.

Here's the proposal we're presented in our discussions.  Thank you again for all that you do.

Sincerely,

Donna

 

REBUILDING TO REMAIN OVERVIEW

A Proposal

Rebuilding to Remain (RTR) is a precedent-setting joint venture between Rebuilding Alliance (RA), a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation headquartered in Burlingame, California and the Al Aqaba Cooperative Assembly for Housing the Displaced (Housing Cooperative), a Palestinian cooperative organized by the villagers of Al Aqaba in Tubas Governorate.

RTR will be focused on two activities:

  1. Providing the Housing Cooperative with the funding needed to provide long-term affordable financing for the construction and/or completion of homes in Al Aqaba Village in the so-called Area C of the West Bank; and

  2. Continuing and expanding RA’s advocacy program in the United States to further develop the grassroots, elected official, and diplomatic engagement needed to keep Al Aqaba Village safe from demolition and ultimately to secure Palestinian planning and building rights. 

The purpose of RTR is promoting peace in the so-called Area C of the West Bank through economic development and civil rights for Palestinians living there. When people have basic rights to own land, build homes, educate their children, invest in factories, plan their communities and issue building permits, in other words, are afforded the basic rights of people in civil society, they have a reason to be hopeful and with hope, peace may follow.

Our methods are: (i) financing construction that will support economic development and stability for Palestinian communities in so-called Area C; and (ii) advocacy in the US to keep the construction standing by informing American politicians and people of the facts of the conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank and engaging politicians through constituent requests for intervention.

We request the amount of $180,000 USD to provide financing for the completion of the construction of homes in the village of Al Aqaba and to support political advocacy in the U.S. As described in more detail in the remainder of this paper, $120,00 will be used by the Housing Cooperative for ten (10) loans to complete ten (10) homes in the center of Al Aqaba and $60,000 will be used to continue and increase RA’s advocacy work on behalf of planning and building rights in Al Aqaba and other villages in the West Bank.

The Village.  The village of Al Aqaba is a remarkable model of peace and stability in a troubled part of the world.  Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq Sbaih is a dedicated leader who believes in the right of his village to exist, deeply believes in peace, and welcomes all who wish to help to come to Al Aqaba – this, despite the Mayor becoming a paraplegic victim 45 years ago of Israeli live fire military training in the village.

   The Israeli military agreed in 2002 to end its 30 years of live-fire training in Al Aqaba.  In 2003 - 2004 RA helped Al Aqaba build a state-of-the art kindergarten that served as a catalyst for investment by some 20 countries, which has led to the establishment of a goat cheese and yogurt factory, a tea factory, elementary and secondary schools, a guesthouse for 30 guests, a new park, and a small store.

   Award-winning Palestinian architect Hani Hassan designed plans for homes in Al Aqaba during an eight-day architectural design charrette with the residents of Al Aqaba sponsored by RA.   In 2014 three (3) of the Hani Hassan designed homes were completed with 90% financial support provided by RA through loans from the Housing Cooperative.  To date, twenty (20) other families commenced construction on homes without RA financing, some using the Hani Hassan design. Four (4) of those families have completed construction and moved into their homes, while sixteen (16) are currently under construction in the finishing stage.  Of note, even now, nearly three years after construction, no demolition orders have been issued to any of these twenty-three (23) homes, however stop work orders have been issued to three of the sixteen still under construction. These three homes are located outside the center of the village (see Appendix A for map). The owners of the homes that were issued stop orders are challenging them in the Israeli court system.

Phase 1. The initial project of theRTR joint venture (Phase 1) is an offering of sixteen (16) loans for an average of $10,000 USD each for the completion of construction of 16 homes in Al Aqaba (Completion Loan Program) plus the advocacy to keep them all safe and standing. [For a table of the historical costs for finishing construction in Al Aqaba please see, Appendix B] Of these sixteen homes:

  • Ten (10) are located within the perimeter designated as within the center of the village as noted by the High Court of Israel on April 17, 2008, an area which the court said, “would remain standing for the time being.”

  • Six (6) are just outside the arbitrary village center defined by the court, and therefore may face more risk of demolition. They are however within the village’s master plan, hold village-issued, building permits, and clear title to their land..

   Within the framework of Phase 1, RA is independently raising funds for the completion loans for the six “riskier” homes outside the village center plus funds to cover U.S. advocacy. In support of this fundraising effort and the overall advocacy effort, RA will hold a U.S. speaking tour with Mayor Haj Sami beginning in October 2017 to raise the funds needed. RA has utilized speaking tours in the past for advocacy, in order to build U.S. political understanding and support for the right of Al Aqaba and all villages in Area C to plan, permit, and build (among other advocacy issues). Additional information about RA advocacy initiatives and successes is included below.

  1.    Phase 1 is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2017. Upon completion of construction of the 16 homes, RTR will provide financing, through the Housing Cooperative, for the construction of fifteen (15) new homes (Phase 2) in Al Aqaba (New Construction Loan Program) at a cost of approximately $38,000 per unit. In Phase 3, RTR project will add two more villages in so-called Area C and build a further five (5) units in each of these villages & in Al Aqaba; thus totaling fifteen (15) units for Phase 3.

The Homes and the Families.  All seven (7) completed homes, as well as the sixteen (16) still under construction, received Village Council-issued building permits prior to the start of construction.  All construction completed to date has been done and inspected in conformance with Palestinian building codes.  

   The three (3) homes financed by RA were completed in 2014. The three families who built these homes signed loan agreements pursuant to which they have been making monthly repayments to the Housing Cooperative. To date, the default rate on these three home loans is zero.

   The completion of construction for the ten (10) homes to be completed with the grant requested will be provided to the families in a form that requires repayment of the amounts advanced by the Housing Cooperative to each family for construction costs. The families have requested Islamic-compliant financing. This type of financing will be accomplished with either a sale/leaseback or loan structure. In either case, the cost to each family will be the cost of the construction plus reimbursement of fees incurred by the Housing Cooperative in administering the loan program. The repayment term is expected to be 240 months in Phases 3 and 4 but may be fewer months in Phase 1. It is expected that credit support in the form of personal guarantees from families who are members of the Housing Cooperative will be provided for each loan.

     From each loan payment made by a borrowing family the portion of the payment representing construction costs advanced by the Housing Cooperative will be returned to the pool for re-lending by the Housing Cooperative to other families in Phase 2 and Phase 3, creating a multiplicative impact over time. In this way, RTR will achieve a level of sustainability in the long-term.

   The village identified the families who started construction on the 16 homes to be finished in Phase 1 with the Completion Loan Program and those who will be first in line to apply to build/purchase the 15 homes of Phase 2, the New Construction Loan Program.  To pre-qualify for either the Phase 1 or Phase 2 housing program, these families have completed income surveys and they have also each contributed 2,000 – 3,000 JD ($2800 - $4200 USD) to the Housing Cooperative to fund the infrastructure needed for the 31 homes.  With these funds, the Housing Cooperative has completed the subdivision of the land into individual lots, wired electricity to each lot, installed underground water cisterns for water storage for each lot and connected each lot to the municipal water system. The Palestinian National Authority and the UN Development Program have built roads.

   Advocacy. Rebuilding Alliance’s advocacy for Al Aqaba has demonstrated that advocacy in the U.S .is key in ensuring the safety of Palestinian villages. RA learned how to walk the halls of the U.S. Congress in 2008 when the High Court of Israel was set to hear Al Aqaba’s petition to freeze demolition orders against its kindergarten and homes. Our efforts succeeded and Al Aqaba not only avoided demolition but continued to grow and thrive. Now is the time to increase this vital constituent ‘Contact Congress’ effort.

Many are surprised to learn that even conservative members of the U.S. Congress will make calls on their constituents’ behalf in support of Al Aqaba and other Palestinian villages to speak up for what is right. We give constituents all the tools they need to enlist the aid of their members of Congress, whose job description includes assisting constituents in resolving any urgent issue that involves a U.S. Agency. At the request of constituents, Congressional senior staff for foreign policy makes calls or writes letters to the U.S. State Department and to the Israeli Embassy in the U.S. to express concern on behalf of their constituency. Now is the time to increase this vital constituent ‘Contact Congress’ effort. Unless constituents learn to tell their members of Congress about the facts of occupation in the West Bank and ask for help, nothing will change. Advocacy to promote the efforts of peace through economic development in so-called Area C is something all supporters of human rights can be proud of. The goals of economic development are fair, just, and resolutely non-violent.

Rebuilding Alliance’s advocacy usually begins with an action alert that is sent out to supporters via state of the art online advocacy tools. This consists of accurate information about a crisis, such as a Palestinian village in danger of demolition, as well as prewritten email that is sent directly to the supporter’s members of Congress after they input their information. After these emails have gone out, the Rebuilding Alliance advocacy team analyzes which offices have received requests for action. Using this analysis, 30-minute conference call briefings are scheduled with the senior foreign policy staff at these offices. The constituents that sent letters to that office are asked to join the call. This is why offices that do not represent the district or state in which the Rebuilding Alliance office is located are willing to schedule a call. Also included on the call are residents of the village(s) concerned, as well as experts and lawyers. Designed to work in tandem with this process, Rebuilding Alliance has filed a patent for our mobile app, “Evincible” (available on Android and coming soon to iPhone). We are designing Evincible to make citizen advocacy and Congressional engagement easy and accessible. Featuring monthly advocacy challenges designed to keep Palestinian villages standing, each challenge include a pre-written email and a calling script, and shows a sum of the number of constituents taking action on a map of their Congressional district.

During 2015-2017 alone, RA held over 192 individual briefings, as well as twice-annual Congressional briefings each year since 2003. In September 2017, RA conducted our third annual Congressional briefing featuring a Palestinian child from Susiya in Washington, DC for International Peace Day, sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders. In our experience, many members of the US Congress are hungry for this information and cannot easily get it from other sources. The perspective of children on this issue is particularly compelling, and these briefings are highly effective in prompting action.

Over the years, RA has witnessed several successes in our advocacy efforts, including:

-       Pressed Google to add 236 previously omitted Palestinian Villages in so-called Area C to their maps, by staging a run from Apple to Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, with Palestinian running club, Right to Movement and by advocating directly with representatives from Google;

-       In 2016, a senior Senator published five letters of correspondence between herself and PM Netanyahu, urging him to protect the Palestinian village of Susiya from demolition. In 2017, four Senators signed a letter to the U.S. State Department seeking intervention for Susiya, and a Congresswoman has notified Rebuilding Alliance that she will soon ask colleagues to join her in signing a similar ‘Dear Colleague’ letter from the House of Representatives;

-       The kindergarten built by RA in Al Aqaba is still standing and growing after 15+ years, despite demolition orders, due to the inspiring leadership of Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq and RA’s frequent communication with Congress, lawyers, human rights defenders, and ICA.

As this project with the Housing Cooperative unfolds, RA will continue to advocate for Israel’s approval of the master plans filed by 121 Palestinian communities in so-called Area C, the recognition of building permits issued by village councils in accordance with those master plans, and for the lifting of the demolition orders. Al Aqaba’s experience provides an important model for the region. RA’s experience in using citizen engagement to request Congressional intervention to keep Al Aqaba standing provides a vital way to secure Palestinian planning and building rights in this challenging time.

    The Future.  There are other villages in so-called Area C like Al Aqaba.  With continued success in Al Aqaba RA will scale this program to other Palestinian communities and in this way support fair housing, justice, and peace by supporting economic opportunity and security.

   In Summary. Sixteen more of Al Aqaba’s villagers are already taking the brave step of investing their life savings to build their new homes on their land and move back to live in their remarkable village. Phase 1 of Rebuilding to Remain will help all sixteen families finish their homes and ramp-up the advocacy so necessary to keep them safe and standing. Rebuilding Alliance is already raising funds to help the six homes just outside the center finish. Rebuilding Alliance and the Al Aqaba Village Housing Cooperative are seeking a commitment of grant funds in the amount of $180,000 to fund the completion of 10 homes in Al Aqaba’s center, and to continue the U.S. advocacy that will keep them safe and help secure planning and building rights.

The kindergarten is the center of the village
The kindergarten is the center of the village
The entrance to Al Aqaba village
The entrance to Al Aqaba village
An almost-completed home
An almost-completed home
Another lovely home in construction
Another lovely home in construction
A family chats outside their near-finished home
A family chats outside their near-finished home

Dear Friend,

First, I thank you for your wonderful support through these many years.

I am writing to celebrate the progression of Rebuilding to Remain from pilot project to program.  As such, with this report, I am  closing Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine and opening its sequel, Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine’s Area C.  Please help  Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine’s Area C reach our Phase 1 goal to provide affordable revolving loans to the fifteen families in Al Aqaba Village who are building their new homes.

Please use this link to make a donation on Wednesday, GlobalGiving’s next Bonus Day, July 12th.  GlobalGiving is matching all donations by 50% while their funds last, and your gift will help this program reach an extra bonus by the end of the day.

Our new program, Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine's Area C, is so positive that after nearly 15 years of good work, Rebuilding Alliance is formally opening a branch office in Palestine!  Below is a recap of how we got here and where we're going.

Early History: Building the Kindergarten in Al Aqaba
It all started in 2002 with a $10,000 donation from a family foundation that asked us to build a school with the caveat: don’t let it get demolished! The mayor of Jenin asked me to consider a village called Al Aqaba that needed help building their kindergarten – but no outsider could travel there. In 2003,  I presented my paper, “Rebuilding Homes: A Social Venture Plan to Finance and Rebuild Palestinian Neighborhoods”, at a UN conference in Geneva.  That paper laid the foundations of what we seek to do now, 15 years later, including a revolving loan program and insurance.   Also I met the UNRWA team who said they would get me to Al Aqaba — and they did.

When I first met Al Aqaba’s mayor, Haj Sami Sadeq that summer, he conveyed his clear and gentle vision: bring his village home (— they were driven out by the danger posed by Israeli live-fire training exercises), first by building a kindergarten and then by launching enterprises that offer jobs, so families could build their homes as soon as possible. When Rebuilding Alliance started, we were simply adding a roof to the existing building. Just a month later, when I brought Cindy and Craig Corrie to visit, Mayor Haj Sami was digging a new foundation! I quietly (and nervously) reminded him that the small grant was just enough for a new roof, but he explained that because the roof would be poured concrete, a new foundation would be required. He was right.  He said, “Don’t worry, just keep asking for donations, and we’ll keep building.” And that’s what we did!

When an international director from Habitat for Humanity flew in to say we might be the most important peace project in the Middle East, we dotted the i's and crossed the t's to register as a nonprofit organization. Cindy and Craig Corrie were among our founding board members.

Rebuilding Alliance helped Al Aqaba build their state-of-the-art kindergarten — but the building includes so much more! The three-story(!) building also houses the mayor’s small office, the conference center, the Ibn Rush’d Library, part of the Al Aqaba Tea Factory, and the Women’s Sewing Cooperative. As a result of our international exposure, some 20 countries invested in Al Aqaba, bringing 20 diplomatic corps, including the U.S., to advocate for this village.

Demolition Orders — and learning how to ask Congress to help
In 2004, while we were building that kindergarten, the whole village came under demolition orders. I had briefed a U.S. Consulate official and few weeks later, that consular official stopped the bulldozers in Al Aqaba as we rushed forward to help the village hire a lawyer. As their case went to the Israeli High Court in 2008, a remarkable Rotary past district governor from Baltimore taught us how to walk the halls of Congress to get members of Congress to make private calls to Israel to keep the village standing — and it worked! Later that year Mayor Haj Sami and the Rural Women’s Association Director Raheya, along with a founding board member of Bimkom: Planners for Planning Rights, visited Congress. This Contact Congress initiative became the basis for Rebuilding Alliance’s Contact Congress efforts that extend to the villages of Susiya, Umm Al Kheir, and Khan al Ahmar so far. We also took everything we learned and codified it into our patent-pending mobile app, Evincible. Although our Contact Congress actions continue to keep those villages safe, we must do more to stop the ongoing crisis of demolitions.

Political Risk Insurance Recap — when will they let us apply?

I first asked to apply for Political Risk Insurance (PRI) in 2006 to protect against the risk of demolition, while Mayor Haj Sami organized the village credit union. The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC, a U.S. agency under the purview of the State Department), offers this program to small American companies to encourage U.S. business overseas by protecting against loss from acts of politically-motivated violence or expropriation.  Seemed applicable.

Here's a recap of why they said our building projects would not qualify:

  • 2006: OPIC phase 1. "No building permits" 

  • 2012: Al Aqaba issued their own building permits

  • 2013:  OPIC phase 2. “Against (unwritten) U.S. policy”

  • 2015: Members of Congress advised us to learn more about that unwritten U.S. policy. 
    As a result of our inquiry, The State Department sent me a letter encouraging me to ask OPIC again. 

  • 2016: OPIC phase 3: "Clear to apply for any West Bank Area C project no matter the size"
    Our application was nearly ready in Jan, 2017 but then,

  • 2017 OPIC phase 3. “First we need to partner with Palestinian bank to offer loans.”
    This seemed like a Catch-22, as the banks had all said they needed risk insurance before they would join us.  Then a breakthrough: the Palestinian Islamic Bank, signed an Letter of Intent with Rebuilding Alliance in April, 2017.   OPIC asked us to provide an executive summary of Phase 1 (finish 15 homes) and Phase 2 (build 15 new homes) of our Rebuildin to Remain revolving affordable home construction loan program. They got back to us in June.

  • 2017: OPIC phase 4. “Too political and too risky.”  Isn’t what they offer called “Political Risk Insurance?”
    We did our best to prepare with the PRI team and anticipate the screening committee's every inquiry and concern but someone at the State Department told OPIC this is not a priority right now, and the PRI team felt there is a conflict of jurisdiction.   One wonders when International law will prevail.

Fifteen Homes in Al Aqaba
The good news is that when I brought the Palestine Islamic Bank to meet with Mayor Haj Sami, fifteen families in Al Aqaba were already constructing new homes!  They all need are small loans to finish and move in. PIB was impressed by the mayor, the village's credit union, and the whole village (Al Aqaba welcomes all who come in peace) and by Rebuilding Alliance's advocacy and commitment.  They signed a letter of intent with Rebuilding Alliance, pledging to manage the affordable revolving loans and to match our investment by co-investing in a strategic partnership! 

Now things are moving fast:

  1. We need a branch office to legally sign the agreement with the PIB so after nearly 15 years as a grant-maker in Palestine and Israel and an advocate for peace and justice, Rebuilding Alliance is opening a branch office in the West Bank!   Our paperwork was validaed with the State of California in accordance with Palestinian National Authority procedures, and soon we will file with the relevant Palestinian ministries;

  2. In late May,  consultant Jamal joined an RA Board Member Emeritus and me in Washington DC to meet with key members of Congress, visit the Palestinian Ambassador’s office, and meet with the Political Risk Insurance Director at OPIC.

  3. This week, our team is negotiating the agreement that will define the roles and responsibilities of the bank and Rebuilding Alliance as we move forward in the Rebuilding to Remain program;

  4. We have raised $33,000 toward our $120,000 Phase 1 goal to finish 15 homes. We want to get those families moved in soon. Please mark your calendar for Wednesday morning July 12th, if possible at 6am Pacific, and and give to Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine's Area C. That’s GlobalGiving’s next Bonus Day, and your donation will be matched by 50% while funds last!

  5. This weekend, I’ll be on the road to Los Angeles to meet with friends who would like the opportunity to help.  If you would like me to visit, please call me at 650 440-9667. I’ll join you!

  6. Our board member emeritus is a lawyer and an expert in affordable housing finance.  We'll be flying out to Palestine at the end of this month, to hopefully sign the joint verture agreement with PIB and launch our fundraising for Phase 2:  to finance construction of the next 15 new homes.

  7. We are ramping-up our advocacy program.  The Village of Al Aqaba is taking brave steps.  It is up to us — all of us — to press our members of Congress to intervene on their behalf. 

Thank you for believing in us and for holding on to hope. I look forward to updating you soon, as our new Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine’s Area C program takes shape and gets wings.

Sincerely,

Donna

P.S. Did you know that you can now find Al Aqaba Village on Google Maps? In April, in response to Rebuilding Alliance’s repeated and ever-more-creative requests, Google added the 236 Palestinian villages in Area C to Google Maps! Type Al Aqaba, Palestine into Google Maps to see =)

Shady & father at their R2R home + 2 construction
Shady & father at their R2R home + 2 construction
Alia
Alia's home is one of 15 under construction

Links:

Yes, at the State Department ... under their wing?
Yes, at the State Department ... under their wing?

Dear Friend,

After years of asking, Rebuilding Alliance is being granted permission to file full applications for Political Risk Insurance (PRI) to finance Palestinian construction, water delivery, and agricultural projects in the West Bank's Area C.  Despite the very real political risks facing Palestinian construction and agriculture in the 62% of the West Bank administered by Israel called 'Area C', until now, everyone has been blocked from applying for PRI.  However, following our meeting in May with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, we now have a green light to proceed.

According to OPIC, their insurance - combined with their financing options - allows U.S. businesses (including nonprofit organizations) to take advantage of opportunities in emerging markets, mitigating risk and helping them compete in a global marketplace. OPIC insurance provides innovative, comprehensive, and cost-effective risk-mitigation products to cover losses to tangible assets, investment value, and earnings that result from political perils including political violence and expropriation.  

With PRI, Rebuilding Alliance hopes to attract investment and donations at a much higher scale so to offer revolving loans to Palestinian villages,  women's associations, farmers' cooperatives, and Non-Governmental Organizations — including international NGOs — for their building of affordable housing and women's centers, their establishment of water delivery and irrigation systems, and maybe even for harvesting their olive trees and thereby cover their losses due to settler violence or failure of legal due process. 

Here's the go-ahead we received Mr. Steven L. Johnston, Managing Director, Political & Sovereign Risk in OPIC's Structured Finance & Insurance Department:

     Dear Donna, I have approved the registration for the water pipe project. You should have received a separate
     email this morning to this effect. That email also directs you to OPIC’s online portal for completing the application
     (Form 52). You will need to log in and complete and submit the application. 

Mr. Johnston goes on to write that they are allowing Rebuilding Alliance to file the full application for our Rebuiding to Remain affordable housing finance program in Al Aqaba Village and he encourages RA to resubmit our preliminary application for the Rural Women's Restaurant project too.

Each application is something similar to a business plan so there's lots of work ahead. I would like to complete 3-4 applications by the end of this month, so to have review, feedback and yes, approval, before September 21st.  That's International Peace Day, the day when our delegation of Palestinian children will be addressing Congress with their Pinwheels for Peace.  If the U.S. is to keep their villages standing, let's have the Political Risk Insurance in place for key projects in each of their villages so to offer these children tangible evidence that the U.S. government cares.

Thank you again for your support for our Rebuilding to Remain affordable housing finance program in Al Aqaba Village.  You believed in us from the start and that support, along with persistence and good advice along the way, opened doors. 

I'll keep you posted as we move forward.

Sincerely,

Donna

P.S.  There's a lot of work ahead and no guarantee of success.  However, with the Peace Process in shambles, this tangible effort to help Palestinian families hold on to their homes and land by enlisting insurance companies in their recovery feels worth the effort.  As James Thurber once said, "Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness."

Corridors of Power: we held 27 meetings in WashDC
Corridors of Power: we held 27 meetings in WashDC
Our hands-on Congressional briefing at the Senate
Our hands-on Congressional briefing at the Senate
World Bank
World Bank's Multilateral Investmt. Guaran. Agency

Links:

Mayor Haj Sami, minaret in the shape of peace sign
Mayor Haj Sami, minaret in the shape of peace sign

The best thing I heard all year is what's happening in Al Aqaba Village. 

"Donna, three more families moved into their new homes," said Mayor Haj Sami as we traversed the street.  "Look, they painted with gold and cream, just like the first three.  Someday my whole village will be painted gold and cream, and everyone will know us a a beautiful village of Peace." 

As we finished the first three homes in the Rebuilding to Remain program, and the families moved in, some nine other families applied for building permits to the Al Aqaba Village Council.  With village-issued permits in hand, they started building their homes with their own money, with their own designs, and at their own pace.  As they neared completion, Mayor Haj Sami asked the Future for Palestine Foundation (Dr. Salam Fayyad's NGO) to help by providing finishing grants — and so three more families moved into their home!

As you may remember, we used the funds provided in this project to crowdfund construction loans to build the first three homes in the Rebuilding to Remain Program, using designs developed by award-winning architect Hani Hassan.  Our commitment was $20,000 per home but the total cost of each home was $33,000.  In the end, Rebuilding Alliance was one of the groups that helped finish the homes as well. 

Our three Rebuilding to Remain families continue to pay back their rotating construction loans, not to Rebuilding Alliance (we're not yet able to meet the PA Government's requirements to offer loans), but to the Al Aqaba Cooperative Credit Union.  Now, completion of these three new homes comes about through funding from the Future for Palestine Foundation. 

We currently have $4500 in the Rebuilding to Remain account and we would like to offer one or two finishing loans to the other houses where work is underway.  To do this Rebuilding Alliance must register a branch office in Palestine and partner with a loan-making institution who can meet the significant threshold requirements of the Palestinian Monetary Authority.  We're almost there.

Working with our law team at Ittqan Law in Ramallah, we've ready to open our branch office in Palestine as soon as we hire a general manager.  Local banks have offered to help us administer construction loans in accordance with the threshold lending requirements.  We need to raise the funds that form the basis for these loans and I believe this would be much easier if Rebuilding Alliance's construction financing qualified for Political Risk Insurance (PRI).   That way, we could give you, our donors, the sound assurance that if these lovely homes were to be demolished, there would be a way to help the families rebuild.

Rebuilding Alliance's request for PRI is going up to very high levels at the US State Department, the National Security Council and also to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (the quasi-US governmental agency that provides PRI in all other parts of the world).   If it gets stuck again (I've been working on this for more than 3 years),  our next step could be in the form of a petition asking people to sign if they are willing to commit U.S. taxpayer money to help Palestinian families rebuild their homes if their neighborhoods are demolished.

No matter what, as you can see, Mayor Haj Sami is moving forward.   His new Park for Families, just outside the Kindergarten and next door to the mosque, is attracting hundreds of people each night!   Delegations from European and Asian countries stop by daily.   He knows that the only way to save a village is to build something worthy of saving, and the only real protection against demolition is our collective ability to get policy-makers worldwide to help. What a remarkable model Al Aqaba has become!

Thank you again for supporting the construction of those first three homes and for making dreams real.

Sincerely,

Donna

Here
Here's the first of three new homes!
Here
Here's the second - and another nearing completion
Just across from Sadeq
Just across from Sadeq's House!
And here
And here's the third house!
Al Aqaba
Al Aqaba's remarkable park
Panorama of the Kindergarten Bldg & Park at night
Panorama of the Kindergarten Bldg & Park at night

Dear Friends, 

We are very proud that due to your help, Al Aqaba Village completed construction of the first three affordable homes in our signature project, Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine.   Sadeq and his bride moved-in on the night of their wedding in April.  Othman and Sara and their children moved-in just before Ramadan in June.   Teachers Nabil and Safa delayed their move to also allow Safa to finish her teaching degree program in Hebron.  They hope to move-in soon.

I'm writing now to discuss the direction of this important project.

Our next goal is bold yet simple: Help 10 more families build and move in to affordable homes on the land they own.  We want to use the revolving construction loan model Rebuilding Alliance piloted with Al Aqaba's community credit union in building these first three homes.  Revolving means that as each family repays its loans to Rebuilding Alliance's office in Ramallah, those funds become available to fund more new home construction. The first three families are already repaying their loans.

Ten is a realizeable construction goal that offers both a big opportunity as well as real challenges.  The opportunity is this:  last summer, as the families were moving in to their new homes, Rebuilding Alliance was invited to apply for something called Political Risk Insurance.   The Managing Director, Insurance and Reinsurance at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) conveyed the invitation.  It was surprising because I've been asking OPIC for many years to give us and Al Aqaba this insurance for construction in Area C.

By August, all OPIC applications re. Palestine were put on hold.  In January, when I asked them to re-open our application, they were  happy to hear from us - but sadly, over the weekend I was informed that Palestinian construction in Area C is still too risky for OPIC to provide us with Political Risk Insurance.

Their questions however opened the possibility of forming a political risk insurance consortium instead of simply relying on OPIC as the sole insurer.  I leave for Palestine on March 9th to meet with the Development Finance Institutions (DFI’s) of other some six other countries, and also the World Bank, to explore the possibility of their insuring the Rebuilding to Remain Revolving Construction Loan program that would be administered by Rebuilding Alliance or Al Aqaba Villagers themselves.

Now the details:  If we stay with the original plan to qualify Rebuilding Alliance as the loan-maker,  Rebuilding Alliance must formally register our branch office in Ramallah and raise a significant reserve as required by the Palestinian Monetary Authority.  We'll will have time to reach the reserve requirement — and it will be especially reachable if Rebuilding Alliance secures Political Risk Insurance.

What is Political Risk Insurance (PRI)?  
Because Israeli Knesset members openly discuss demolition of Palestinian homes as a way to move them out of Area C, demolitions must now be viewed unabiguously as an act of political violence. As such, one can insure against this (if you are a government with a policy against it).   Basically, if countries join our consortium and share the risk, the DFI's would insure our construction for at least 90% of loss due to any political act.    So if Rebuilding Alliance has PRI, and  if bulldozers threatened to demolish our homes, the consortium governments (and let's hope OPIC joins in downstream) would pay to rebuild them and also seek reparations from the Government of Israel. 

PRI could a game-changer for Palestinain families in Area C.  This guarantee against demolitions would certainly make it easier for us to raise funds to build the next 10 houses.  My challenge in these upcoming discussions is to show why Al Aqaba is a good risk and why the are within their legal and moral rights per the Oslo Accords and International Law to issue their own building permits.

Rebuilding Alliance's request to you:
When you donated to this project, Rebuilding Alliance promised to use your donation for construction -- and we did, succeeding in a remarkable pilot project.  Now I ask your permission to use your donation to take the administrative steps necessary to build more affordable homes.   In the next few days, I will send you an email asking your permission to use Rebuilding to Remain funds to allow Rebuilding Alliance to seek Political Risk Insurance and also register Rebuilding Alliance in Palestine as a loan-maker so that we can raise funds and build the next 10 homes and more. 

There's no guarantee of success but if we succeed, this will be the very first time that Palestinian construction in Area C is guaranteed to remain.   Rebuilding Alliance Board Member, Paula Crow esq. is an expert in affordable housing and real estate law.  When discussing next steps with OPIC, Paula said, "If Al Aqaba Village does not deserve Political Risk Insurance, I don't know who does."  Thank you for supporting Rebuilding to Remain and for believing in Al Aqaba and in us.

Sincerely,

Donna

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Organization Information

Rebuilding Alliance

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

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