Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday, 30 March Day of Prayer for Hebron orphans

Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams

Hebron prayer concern
29 March 2008

Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron is calling for Christians around the world to make Sunday, 30 March a day of prayer for the orphans of Hebron. On 25 February 2008 the Israeli army raided all of the buildings and institutions funded by Islamic Charities and gave orphanages and boarding schools until April 1 to evacuate students. On 6 March 2008 the Israeli army again stormed storage buildings of Islamic Charities, confiscating food, children's clothing and kitchen appliances used to prepare meals for the orphans. 6000 children in Hebron are housed, fed, and educated in these centers.

Christian Peacemaker Teams will visit the orphanages and will resist the forced expulsion of children if the Israeli army carries out the order.

Pray for the children of Hebron and for all of those affected by the actions of the Israeli army. Pray that the Israeli civil administration will rescind the order.

CPT's prayer request comes after several updates in the past few weeks about the IDF's actions against several organizations and properties in Hebron connected to Islamic Charities, including orphanages and schools:

Hebron Special Update
February 25, midnight – Invasion and confiscation in Hebron

At midnight 25 February Israeli Special Forces in ten jeeps and two armed personnel carriers (APC) invaded the Palestinian-controlled area of Hebron (H1) and confiscated properties of the Islamic Charitable Society as well as adjacent properties. 3000 children attending schools funded by the society will be forced out of school The Hebron district Israeli military commander, Yehuda Fuchs, handed confiscation orders issued by General Gadi Shammi, the Israeli military commander of the West Bank, authorizing the Israeli military to confiscate several properties, including those of Abdel Khader Al Kasey, a Hebron resident who lives with his two sons and their families over four shops that the Israeli military plans to confiscate.

Al Kasey’s son, Issa, and Tarik Sharif, whose five year- old son received an eviction notice from his nursery school as part of the same military operation, visited the CPT apartment March 1, showed CPT the orders, and explained their situations.

The military order said the property confiscation was against the Islamic Charitable Society. The commander told Al Kasey they knew he was not with Hamas but they had orders to confiscate his shops. Commander Fuchs also told Al Kasey that none of the peace agreements applied because under emergency law the military can do whatever they want.

Al Kasey has until March 4 (one week after the order was issued) to appeal the confiscation. After March 4 the Israeli army can demolish or seal the shops. After April 1, anyone who enters the shops could face a five-year prison sentence.

Al Kasey showed CPT a copy of the lease. On February 1 he rented three of his shops to a merchant who needed a warehouse to store rice he was importing from Spain and Italy. The merchant, who has an Israeli ID, is appealing the confiscation.

While Al Kasey and his family have no connection with Islamic Charities, the nursery school that Sharif’s son Omar attends is funded by The Islamic Charitable Society. “Why are they targeting a nursery school?” asked Sharif. “Islamic Charities help children and old people. The army closed all of the offices and confiscated all of the equipment, even the buses that take the children to school. What will poor people do now?”

CPT has already seen some of the consequences of the attack on Islamic Charities. Last week we visited a woman in Hebron’s Old City who had no food for her baby. Our interpreter explained, “She used to receive food from the Islamic Charitable Society. Now they are closed.”

These events have been covered in the regionial press as well. According to the Beirut Daily Star:

In late February and again early this month, Israeli soldiers descended upon this Palestinian city, welding shut the gates of a private school now under construction, closing two bakeries and handing eviction notices to an array of offices and retail outlets – all the property of a 46-year-old charitable organization that runs schools, clinics, and orphanages for more than 5,000 needy or imperilled youngsters in and around Hebron.

The Israelis gave ... tenants at the Al-Huda Mall a little more than 30 days to clear out.

Then, on March 5 just before midnight, the IDF raided a warehouse in the Al-Harayek area of southern Hebron, a facility the charity uses to store food and other goods needed for the children in its care.

During the following nine hours, according to Abd Al-Kareem Farah, legal representative of the Islamic charity, the Israeli soldiers gutted the warehouse, removing banks of industrial refrigerators and freezers, along with clothing, books, shoes, and cleaning supplies.

As the Daily Star notes, the IDF claims legitimation for these actions by claiming a connection of these charities to Hamas:

"All of the foundation's resources are devoted to funding Hamas and Hamas' grip on the region ... and to strengthening the terrorist network in order to target Israel," according to the Israel Defense Forces press office. "The Islamic Charity (Society) has, among other things, delivered money to Hamas terrorist operatives and their families, trained youths based on jihad principles, supported the families of suicide bombers and incarcerated terrorists, and spread Hamas principles amongst the Palestinian population."

As has been mentioned in Ha'aretz's coverage of the IDF's actions, although GOI claims that the Hebron charities are connected to Hamas, the charities' directors assert that not only is there no connection, but that the charities have been established in Hebron long before the formation of Hamas, even before the 67 war (when Hebron was still under Jordanian sovereignty).

The Islamic Charity Movement in Hebron was established in 1962, long before the birth of Hamas, shortly before the beginning of the Israeli occupation. Since then the organization has established a ramified network of educational and welfare institutions, and has acquired a great deal of real estate all over the city, with the declared aim of providing assistance to the needy - mainly to local orphans and the children of the poor. The legal adviser of the movement, attorney Abd al-Karim Farah, young and energetic in an elegant suit and a well-kempt beard, who does not hesitate to shake women's hands and is now studying Hebrew at a local ulpan, says that in the early days of the occupation the Military Administration helped and encouraged the activity of the charitable movement. He himself is a product of its institutions.

Today the Islamic Charity Movement cares for 7,000 orphans and children in distress from Hebron and surrounding villages. There are 350 youngsters at its boarding schools and 1,200 pupils attending its three city schools; another six are in outlying towns. The children have lost one or both parents, or come from severely distressed homes. Only a small percentage are children of the fallen. The movement's institutions employ 550 people, assisted by hundreds of volunteers. Their monthly budget is 400,000 Jordanian dinars, over NIS 2 million. Attorney Farah says everything is supervised by accountants and the Palestinian Authority's welfare and education ministries. Also, the curricula in the movement's educational institutions are identical to those of the PA, according to Farah, who emphasizes that "everything is legal."

Most of its budget comes from donations from abroad - from Arab countries, and European and American agencies - but the charitable organization also has quite a number of independent sources of income: from buildings and modern commercial centers all over Hebron that it owns and leases to private tenants and businessmen, two bakeries, a sewing workshop and a dairy, whose products are used by the children in the institutions and are also for sale in the open market. The movement has a board of directors that is elected biannually and was headed by Dr. Adnan Maswadi, an ear, nose and throat specialist, who was recently released from detention in Israel and was forced to resign. About 30 additional employees are presently under arrest for belonging to the organization.

"I would like to emphasize," says Farah, "that our movement has no official connection with Hamas. Perhaps some of our workers belong to Hamas, just as in other institutions such as the municipalities, but there is no formal connection. Nor are there transfers of money to Hamas, as Israel claims. Our financial reports are open and transparent. We are in no way the infrastructure of Hamas."

Please keep all of the needy in Hebron who have benefitted from these charitable works for decades in your prayers.

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