A Safe Place to Grow

Summary

Combatants for Peace (C4P) are building playgrounds and organizing children's theater programs in memory of a child, Abir Aramin, who touched so many hearts. The playgrounds (a total of 3 to date!), all connected with a Palestinian kindergarten or elementary school in the West Bank, are constructed by professionals with Israeli and Palestinian former combatants working together to help. New, the C4P teams are coaching children's theater programs at each school to help youth raise awareness of their village's story.

"The Abir’s Garden Project is more than a playground.  It is about justice prevailing over revenge, genuine partners for peace, and a precedent-setting case to prevent violence.  At its heart, these Combatants for Peace are working together to build a beautiful place where children can be children, where they can go to be safe, to step out of the Occupation into a world of play and creativity, and begin to heal."

- Zohar Shapira, co-founder of Combatants for Peace

UPDATE

With the help of people throughout the world through speaking tours and fund raising conducted by the Rebuilding Alliance, Combatants for Peace completed their first “Abir’s Garden Playground” at the Anata School for Girls in Anata, East Jerusalem, their second in the West Bank Village of Al Samoa Simya near Hebron, and their third in Yanoun, a village East of Nablus!

What is the issue, problem, or challenge?

Palestinian children need safe places where they can safely leave the occupation and enter into their imagination. Moms and dads need warm places to gather with one another as their children play. The Aramin family, among the founders of Combatants for Peace, has sought to turn their tragedy into care, creativity, and teamwork in memory of their daughter. Palestinian & Israeli children need a meaningful way to learn from Combatants for Peace and together work to realize the children's dreams.

WHat happened to abir?

Abir Aramin was leaving school with her sister and two friends in the West Bank town of Anata on January 16th, 2007. She never made it home to her family. On this day a single shot was fired from the back of an Israeli Border Police jeep that was patrolling outside the gates of the Anata Girls’ School. Abir was hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet and critically wounded. She was taken off life support after 3 days of struggling for her life. She was only 10 years old.

In January 2007, news of Abir’s death created a wellspring of emotion worldwide, in part because Abir’s father, Bassam Aramin, is a peace and justice activist and founding member of Combatants for Peace. Responses to an online condolence letter written by Women of a Certain Age and addressed to her family, came from 58 countries.

“As I was signing it, I knew that we had to do more,” said Donna Baranski-Walker, founder of Rebuilding Alliance. “My board asked me to contact the Aramin family.  Her family wanted nothing for themselves — they wanted a way to help Abir’s friends, because her desk would now be empty at her school.”  Rebuilding Alliance, working with Women of a Certain Age, partnered with Combatants for Peace with the hope that the world would help us build playgrounds to provide these children and their families with a safe place to play — and the response is very positive.

How will this project solve this problem?

C4P regional teams meet regularly in West Bank Palestinian towns to share their stories. Under the guidance of the school administration in those towns, C4P develops a plan for the construction of their playground and brings dozens of volunteers who come in peace to help. Through extensive training in Ireland, C4P has been using theatre to build understanding and positive, nonviolent action. They ask your help to extend their theater program to the youth of these villages.

Potential Long Term Impact

How does one measure the positive impact of children who have a safe place to play, children whose voice and vision is heard and aided through theater workshops? In Rebuilding Alliance's experience, the Abir's Garden playgrounds and the crafting of educational theater around the children's dreams and vision are invaluable in creating the network of safety and support that will help children and their families hold on despite the big challenges and inspire all to work for justice & peace.