Humanity Voice - Shutting down charity societies in Hebron, a plan to stop charity work

 

 

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  Shutting down charity societies in Hebron, a plan to stop charity work
Hebron, Mervit Sadiq, Exclusive report for Humanityvoice.net - 2008-06-28

Israeli soldiers looting the sewing shop

Nibal Shraiteh is a 17-year-old girl. She has a dream. She wanted to be a doctor. Perhaps to save a sick mother or a dying father. Exactly what had happened to her when she was four years old when her mother died after a long battle with a disease. Two years later, she would relive the same tragedy when her father died. There was no place for Nibal to go to except the Orphans Home for girls that gave her some of the love lost due to her tragic loss.

Nibal said that she came to the Orphans Home after her grandmother died, with whom Nibal was living after the death of her parents. The orphanage supervisors tried to give her some of the love lost and became her friend, too. In fact, Nibal continued, “I had more than one mother now, and holidays come now without tears..”

The scene was upturned.

That was the scene just three months ago before the Israeli occupation issued an order to shut down all facilities belonging to the Islamic Charity Association, Young Men Muslim Association, and all schools, orphanages, and facilities belonging to them.

It also ordered the complete shut down of the Young Men Muslim Association as well as confiscating and "transferring" all properties belonging to the said institutions claiming that these organizations "supported the infrastructure of terrorism, especially Hamas."

If the order is carried out, more than 4,000 orphans who receive social benefits, including schooling and boarding, will become homeless. 7,000 other poor students attend the schools for free will also have no where to go. 5,000 poor families that receive aid from the Society will lose their benefits, in addition to over 800 employees will be rendered jobless.

Forcing the Orphans to become homeless…

Despite the material losses suffered by the Society, the biggest loss remains the thousands of orphans and poor families that will become homeless or with nothing to feed their children.

Just like many of his friends, young Isa Hawamdeh, who lived at the boys orphanage and went to the school belonging to the society, now lives a state of apprehension not knowing whether the Israeli order will be carried out, especially after having been postponed a few times. Now the final date was set for October of this year.

Isa talked about his ordeal, he said: "My father died of a disease some years back. I did not have much of a family life until I came to the Orphans Home some five years ago. That was my home. I used to go to school and come back to the dorms. I had friends then." Isa added: "The only family left for me now is a dying mother of cancer whom I visit on the weekends. The last time I saw her was a few days a go and she was very sick. Doctors said that she needed a surgery."

Safe homes

About the conditions of the two orphans homes owned by the Society and on the fate of the inmates, we spoke to Ms. Sa'eda Bader, superintendant of the girls orphanage, one of the facilities under the threat of closure.

She said the Israeli decision of last February which ordered the closure of the Society and all its facilities is an unfair decision that, if implemented, will render over four-thousand orphans homeless, in addition to five-thousand poor families that receive monthly payments from the Society.
The Society provides the orphans with a schooling and a place to sleep in clean and safe quarters. In the living quarters, orphans are divided into "families" each having a name, like the "Honesty" family, and the "Bravery" family. Additionally, the orphans receive free meals, health care services, clothing, and a daily allowance and gifts on the holidays.

The Orphans Home provides for family visits where relatives of the students can periodically visit them and consultations usually take place between them and the supervising family. Students can attend starting at the First Grade through High School, and even college scholarships are granted to outstanding students.

Ibtihal Shraitih, one of the female students said the closure of the schools meant that those students will lose the opportunity to get an education since many of them come from poor families and many others did not have families to begin with.

Ms. Sa'da Bader added that the fate awaiting these students does not look bright at the moment. First they will lose a good opportunity to have an education. Many of these students come from distant places and losing the local residence will mean that they have to travel long distances to go to school. Their families are usually poor and cannot afford the expenses. This will lead to some tragic cases of destitution and other social problems.

Not only the schools are affected by this decision, but all facilities belonging to the Islamic Charitable Society such as the sewing workshop, the bakery, and the stores were subject to looting, burning or destruction by the Israeli army.

We started our investigation of the looting and destruction at the sewing workshop belonging to the Society. That was the scene of repeated looting and destruction by Israeli soldier where the losses were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each time. Such facilities were financed by a symposium of Islamic charities such as E'tilaf el Khair (Good Coalition) and Qatar Charitable Society and a few generous donors from the United Arab Emirates.

Sewing Shop for orphans and the needy..

Anyone visiting the sewing shop will be shocked at the place. It has been completely vacated. The invading Israeli soldiers looted everything from machinery to the smallest part.

According to Saeed Abu Snaineh, one of the managers, the sewing shop was opened in 1986 with a few workers. Soon, it was able to absorb 16 families and two employees. The shop initially aimed at fulfilling the clothing requirements of the orphaned and poor families in the area, especially for school uniforms and winter clothing.

This dream of clothing the orphans did not last for long. On the night of April 30th, 2008, the Israeli soldiers cordoned off the area and stormed into the shop. Accompanied by large trucks, they swept the place clean. Even the garbage was taken leaving a note on the door threatening anyone who enters the building with five years jail term.

Abu Snaineh estimated the loss at about 40,000 Shekels, or the equivalent of $15,000 US Dollars, in addition to making 16 poor or orphaned families jobless. Maysoon Aldaraweesh was one of the girls who lost her job. She worked at this shop for the past 15 years to support her 8 siblings. Until now she is unable to cope with the shock.

A bakery … just to kill the hunger

The tragedy is repeated at another neighborhood, where the Islamic Society had built the bakery in 2001. All equipment have been destroyed or burned at the two branches of the bakery. Seven years of hard work and feeding the orphans, poor, and hungry had gone to waste.

Amid the destruction, Nimmer Ghaith, manager of the bakery explained that the bakery served the orphans, poor, and hungry. Anything over that was sold in the local market where any profits garnered went to benefit the orphans.

The first encounter with Israeli soldiers took place in February where all equipment were confiscated. On March 1st, 2008, the Israeli soldiers notified the bakery management that all equipment at all branches belonged to the Israeli army. On April 1st, 2008, they returned, thoroughly photographing the place and on April 16th, 2008, they announced a curfew in the neighborhood, broke down the doors, and seized equipment. Any heavy equipment they could not carry were destroyed.

According to Mr. Ghaith, the total losses in equipment was about 300,000 Shekels or about $90,000 US Dollars at both branches. Additionally, 15 workers supporting 15 poor families were laid off. Like the other facilities, they left a note threatening anyone who enters with a jail sentence of five years.

According to Mr. Ghaith, even if the attorneys representing the Islamic Society succeeded in stopping the closure orders, the bakery needs about $150,000 to reopen both branches due to the extent of destruction left behind by the Israeli soldiers.

Alqasimi Building …

The second branch of the bakery was located at the Alqasimi Building which the Islamic Society built in 1991 and was financed by the Alsharqa governor Shiekh Sultan Alqasimi.

The structure is a residential building of seven floors containing 31 apartments housing some 145 people. The building has an underground garage and the street level houses the bakery, a travel agency, and supermarket. Revenues from rent went to support the orphans.

Because the building is owned by the Islamic Society and is covered by the Israeli order, most residents fled preferring to look for another place to stay rather than risking a sudden confiscation of their furniture or belongings and terrorizing their children in the middle of the night, as was the case with other facilities.

Alhuda Market… a ghost place

At yet another neighborhood of Hebron, the Islamic Society built Alhuda Market in 2002. The structure consists of four floors spanning some 700 squared meters each.

The building houses commercial stores for jewelry, clothing, and a gift shop. At one of these stores, ironically named Pretty Woman, the losses were in the millions since the owner invested over two million Shekels in decorating the store.

The building also houses Alquran and Hadith Society, clinics, engineering offices, in addition to a children's bookstore serving the orphans. The losses in that building were estimated in the hundreds of thousands of Dollars since many of the renters fled fearing confiscation of their inventories.

When the Israeli soldiers stormed the building back in March, store owners were individually served with an order that all properties were to be confiscated by April 1st, 2008. Now the building is completely vacant.

Heavy losses at the stores

At another area, between February 24th-26th, the Israeli soldiers had two assignments. The first was to shut down Alhuda New School. This was a four-floor structure that was being built as a secondary school for 1,200 orphaned students and was due to open in September. The main door was welded shut and an order to shut down for three years was placed on the main gate.

The second assignment took place a hundred meters away, where on February 26th, the soldiers came in with heavy trucks and confiscated all belongings within the stores of the Islamic Society. All food, refrigerators, blankets, clothes, books, shoes, and mattresses were confiscated. Similarly, an order was placed at the doors shutting down the facilities for three years.

A first look at the building tells the story of the Israeli incursion. The front door was blown open with explosives. Similarly, a new door was blown open in one of the walls where heavy refrigerators for meat, fish, and frozen vegetables were located. That was the food stores that provided the orphans and poor families their daily meals.

The cost to replace the refrigerators was put at 105,000 Shekels or about $30,000 US Dollars. The total loss at the stores was estimated around half a million Shekels, in addition to six workers losing their jobs.

Similarly, another boys school belonging to the Islamic Society and located at the old Orphans Home was ordered shut. This building has been ordered shut for a few years now. Next to it, a new administration building was being erected in 2004 but was completely shut down by the Israeli army shortly thereafter.

On the 26th of February, Israeli soldiers came and confiscated all belongings, including three busses and a car belonging to the schools.

In addition, the order included shutting down another boys school teaching from First Grade through the Sixth. This school was built in 2001 by the Islamic Society.

Yong Men Muslim Association… another face of the tragedy

In parallel to the order closing down The Islamic Society's properties, another order was issued closing down the Young Men Muslim Association which was responsible for running athletic facilities, schools, and kindergartens in Hebron.

On February 25th, 2008, Israeli soldiers stormed the building housing the YMMA's administrative offices and confiscated everything inside. Even desks and blinds were taken away.

Hajj Hjazi Alja'bari said that the Association was licensed to operate in 1984 by the Israeli Occupation and is subject to auditing under the Palestinian Authority. Alja'bari said more than 1,300 orphans benefit from the Association, in addition to some 700 other poor students. Additionally, about 1,100 other students use the facilities belonging to the Association as well as hundreds of other children in the kindergartens. More than 170 employees who worked at this facility become jobless.

General director Tariq Alja'bari said that the Association performs other relief efforts with support from a symposium of international charity organizations. In addition to the services above, the Association runs tens of relief projects to provide holiday and winter clothing, Ramadan meals, and monthly food parcels, in addition to a program to sponsor poor families with monthly allowances. The Association also employed volunteers in neighboring villages and neighborhoods looking for families in need of help.

Supporting Terrorism… false accusations

The attorney representing the Islamic Society Abdulkareem Farrah said that all accusation put forth by the Israeli state attorney and discussed by the Israeli courts did not produce a single proof or a single incident of wrongdoing. All such accusations were of the general nature that the Society "supported the infrastructure of terrorism."

Mr. Farrah added that the defense for the Society comes from its legal activities and status of the Society. He added that the Israeli side failed to produce as little as a single incident of wrongdoing to support their accusations.

Legally speaking, Mr. Farrah explained that according to the Oslo Agreement and the ensuing Wye River Plantation Agreement pertaining to Hebron, the Society and all its properties fall within Area "A", the area agreed to be under the administrative and security control of the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Farrah added that all revenues of the Society and the YMMA were subject to strict accounting and auditing regulations accepted internationally and adopted by the Palestinian Authority.

80% of the Society's revenues came from international donations from Arab countries and other regions, like the United States, Europe, and Africa. All such funds are transferred through the Ministry of Finance and are audited by the Israeli side. The Society received funds through the Ministry of Social Affairs using the highest standards of transparency by employees enjoying a high degree of credibility as they are dedicated to serving the poor and orphans.

Mr. Farrah explained that throughout the years, the Society has been subjected to arbitrary confiscations of documents and minutes of meetings in an effort to prove wrongdoing. No such proof was ever found.

The legal advisor explained that the order which the Israeli Occupation Authorities refused to rescind deals with a large body comprising schools, orphanages, libraries, workshops, farms, bakeries, and warehouses employing over 800 people and supporting some 7,000 orphans and poor families at a cost of about $750,000 monthly.

The truth is, the attorney said, lies in the fact that the Israeli Occupation authorities do not want any social efforts to take place, rather they want the Palestinians to live at the lowest levels of destitution and suffering without help from anyone.

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