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Volume 7, No. 2FALL 2004

Rural areas of West Bank transformed
By Nora Kort, IOCC-Jerusalem

Children from the West Bank village of Beit Sira celebrate the opening of a new kindergarten built by IOCC. The children are holding Arabic signs that read “Beit Sira Kindergarten,” “Welcome,” and “Education lifts and builds; ignorance destroys even the home of the generous and giving.” Since 2002, IOCC has built six kindergartens in rural areas of the West Bank. Photo: Dr. George Malki-IOCC

Jerusalem (IOCC) — The children of Beit Sira mimic the violence they see around them every day. Their toys are sling-shots and wooden guns. Life in a rural West Bank town is filled with fear and uncertainty. But slowly, one village at a time, that is changing.

In places like Beit Sira, IOCC is bringing new hope and opportunity through the construction and/or repair of schools, roads, kindergartens, clinics and women’s centers.

The village leaders of Beit Sira grew tired of seeing their children with no safe places to learn and play. “Our village kindergarten was in two damp rooms at the local mosque,” said Mohammad Abdul-Aziz, a member of the Beit Sira Village Council. “We did not have the means to change, but our children were changing as a result of what they see and watch. The only thing they experience and live is violence. Children need proper places to learn, play and grow.”

Through a partnership with the village, IOCC provided Beit Sira with a new kindergarten — one of six that IOCC has built in the West Bank over the past two years. The building’s dedication was “like a wedding.

Infrastructure projects completed* by IOCC in the West Bank since 2002:
  • Twelve community centers
  • Eight health clinics
  • Six kindergartens
  • 20 classrooms
  • Two school multi-purpose halls
  • One school library
  • One school lab
  • 22 bathroom units
  • 33 classrooms
  • Two school playgrounds
  • 27 miles of agricultural access roads
  • 143,286 square yards of retaining walls/hedging
*constructed or renovated

The entire village showed up,” said Ma’zouzeh, a teacher at the school. “With the new kindergarten, the children will have space to play, and sand and toys to play with.”

Throughout the West Bank, IOCC has undertaken dozens of similar infrastructure projects that have brought basic services to isolated, underserved villages. (See box.) Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, these services come at a time of increasing hardship for the people of the Holy Land, said Nora Kort, head of IOCC’s Jerusalem office.

Elsewhere, IOCC-built schools have helped villages cope with the high Palestinian birthrate on one hand, and cash-strapped local governments on the other. “We need more classrooms every year,” said Fouzi Radi, head of the Saffa Village Council. “IOCC helped us realize our dream of having an adequate school building. The school’s inauguration was like a festival for the whole village.”

In Az-Zawiya, village leaders asked IOCC to assist in the development of a hospital after several women gave birth at Israeli army checkpoints. The women were waiting for an ambulance, but bureaucratic delays kept them from crossing the checkpoint in time to get to a hospital, Ms. Kort said.

“It is humiliating and unsafe for any woman to deliver at a checkpoint,” said Reem, coordinator of the village Women’s Committee. “We have been begging the village council to build a small hospital here in the village. Now we have the building, and the council is in the process of furnishing it to become a maternity hospital.”

With 4,000 residents who rely mainly on agriculture for their sustenance, the village of Tell has suffered from military closure and inaccessibility for almost a year. The multi-purpose Village Council building built with IOCC’s help has become a favorite destination for many local women, who go there seeking health care, skills training and workshops.

“Having a place of our own helped us leave our isolation and see the light. We are more confident about our role and better respected in our society now,” said Faizeh, the local Women’s Committee coordinator. “The construction of the center and the initiation of the Women’s Committee made us feel united. It also strengthened our sense of belonging to the community and Tell particularly. We are proud of this center.”

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