• Activism 3.0: Without leaving the comfort of an air-conditioned room or even missing a day of work, hundreds of Israeli activists succeeded in connecting a Palestinian village to running water

    JERUSALEM – July 20, 2010 – The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights launched the blog “Action-a-Day” in order to connect the Palestinian village of Twaneh, located in the South Hebron Hills under full Israeli control, to running water. For two-and-half months, we encouraged activists volunteering for the projects to participate in one action a day via our blog and Facebook, each action taking only a few minutes. For each action, a new objective was chosen. The activists worked in complete coordination despite the fact that most of them had never met one another or the residents of Twaneh.

    Last week, ACRI received a letter  from the Civil Administration, announcing the decision to connect Twaneh to running water.

    Among the campaign actions, activists “bombarded” Knesset Members Haim Oron and Dov Khenin with letters, who accordingly sent a query to Defense Ministry; to Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i, who investigated the matter; to and Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, who also promised to check into the situation. The activists advised Deputy Foreign Minister Dani Ayalon to connect the village to running water for the sake of Israel’s international image.

    In addition to the letters, activists were invited to take part in a number of innovative projects: they took pictures of their faucets at home as a sign of solidarity with the residents of the village, produced a short, satirical film in which Israeli youth “thanked”  the residents of the village for “giving up” water for them, created a Wikipedia entry on Twaneh as well as a computer game, both attempting to convey the tangible ramifications of the lack of building and planning infrastructure in the village.

    The major turnaround came following our appeal to the Civil Administration. After Brigadier Yoav Mordechai, head of the Civil Administration, received a barrage of appeals from Action-a-Day activists, he personally contacted two of them, thanked them for their letters, and informed them of his intention to convene a special meeting to discuss the village’s access to water. Subsequently, ACRI received the welcome news.

    “We are excited and happy about the Civil Administration’s decision to connect the village to running water after thirty years,” stated the activists. “However, it is important to remember that this is only part of a larger problem. In normal circumstances, running water and shelter constitute a basic matter, not a reason to launch an entire campaign. The important lesson here is that complaining about the situation does not suffice. We can change things through concrete action. We must engage through civic activism – and someone is listening.”

    “Israel is responsible for about 150,000 Palestinian residents of Area C, many of them living in villages which are unrecognized by Israel and therefore lacking official plans, explained Alon CohenLifshitz, architect at Bimkom. “As a result, many residents are not allowed to build houses legally, making it difficult to provide entire villages with basic infrastructure connections to water and electricity”, he said.

    “We decided that if we were not able to change things on a large scale, we would start small”, explained Ehud Uziel, a coordinator of ACRI’s public activities. “The challenge we set for ourselves was to provide the village of Twaneh with access to running water. Residents of the village use water which they buy in shipping containers and for which they pay seven times more than the average Israeli. Two hundred meters from the village a pipe from the Israeli water company “Mekorot” provides clean water to the settlements of Maon and Carmel and to the adjacent outpost of Chavat Maon.”

    “We weren’t sure if we would succeed,” continued Uziel. “We told ourselves that even if it doesn’t happen, the project itself will raise awareness about the issues of water shortage and housing rights of the Palestinians who live under Israeli control in Area C. The ‘Action- a -Day’ Campaign offers a new kind of activism, for those who care and want to bring about change”.

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