WordPress - therevdjohnhoward - Occasionally living here in the West Bank you come across a sign of hope, something which makes you think perhaps there is a better future for Palestinians. Rawabi was that for me when I visited it for the first time recently. Not everyone likes it, there are criticisms about but I want to say how impressed I am – a vision of something new that might well meet the needs of young Palestinians and perhaps provide an alternative from emigration. Rawabi is a new community being build on a series of hill tops north of Ramallah. At present there are 3,500 people living there though the numbers are going up all the time with the plan to have 40,000 people living there by the end of the present phase. When this is complete there are dreams of still more!
Not only does Rawabi offer housing for thousands of Palestinians it also has a leisure complex, an outdoor Roman style theatre/come stage, a shopping mall and it is hoped an industrial area. Some did criticise its concept as being a “Palestinian Settlement” and at first sight it appears to have some things in common with settlements – but as you look into it there is a huge contrast between Rawabi and settlements. Settlements are built upon stollen Palestinian land, Rawabi is built upon land bought for the purpose with the Palestinian Authority enabling the compulsory purchase of the small fraction of the land not sold willingly to the project. Settlements offer accommodation to Israeli citizens on land occupied by Israel. The deliberate policy of populating an occupied land by the citizens of the occupying country is contrary to International Law. Rawabi offers homes to Palestinians in the land of Palestine. Rawabi is firmly Palestinian. The largest Palestinian flag I have ever seen flies proudly above the city!
Rawabi faces many of the problems faced by other residents of Palestine area C (Oslo accords created three areas in the West Bank, area A Palestinian Controlled, area C Israeli controlled, and area B shared control. 65% of the West Bank land is area C). A community as large as Rawabi would usually have four or five access roads, but Rawabi has one only and that has only a one year approval, every year permission has to be sought for its continued use – why…. because the access road goes through area C. Much of Rawabi is in area B and that makes planning easier, but the projected location of the Industrial Zone is in area C – and guess what – after huge amounts of paper work there is still no permission for it to be built. The Water supply bias held the project up for many months. Though there was adequate water available it took years of effort to get permission to connect to it, and even now the amount of water supply is only enough for the early phases of the project.
The project also holds to ethical practice in its adherence to the principal that none of the goods supplied for the construction of the city comes from illegal settlements. Each company supplying Rawabi has to sign to say that none of thier suppliers come from Settlements – and Israeli companies have agreed to this.
Amongst the community buildings there has already opened a school and the plans are there for four others. The Mosque is well on the way to completion and a church is projected to be built very soon. A medical centre is already open and in time there will be a hospital in Rawabi. We met with Bashar Maori who is the man behind the vision. He said to us that if he only looses 100M$ on this project he will be happy! He has the financial asset of partnering the State of Qatar in this project – and when you see the scale of it you see why its needed! It doesn’t meet all Palestinian needs, but Rawabi does demonstrate the possibility of a a very different future for Palestinians. It won’t serve all Palestinians – some say its only for the rich, but the sale prices of the units of accommodation seem very small to western eyes. I’m not paid as a salesman for Rawabi I’m a Christian Mission Partner but it is refreshing to see something so bold and so visionary in Palestine – prospering despite the occupation.
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