The Yasser Arafat Prize for Achievement at 2008.
Out of his profound concern for preserving the city of Hebron, protecting it civic and cultural heritage and rescuing the Old City of Hebron from avarices of Jewish settlers, the late President Yasser Arafat promulgated in August 1996 a presidential decree providing for the establishment of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC). The Committee comprises leading figures as well as national bodies and institutions from across the Hebron governorate.
Since established, the HRC has set the following goals:
1. Confront and curb Jewish settlement activity in the Old City of Hebron by surrounding settlement outposts with buildings inhabited by Palestinian citizens, preventing horizontal settlement expansion. To also prevent urban development of Israeli settlement outposts, the HRC works towards increasing the Palestinian population density inside the Hebron Old City.
2. Preserve the Palestinian cultural heritage by maintaining structural units of heritage buildings with the aim to safeguard the national urban fabric as a whole.
3. Revive the Old City by promoting local residents’ attachment, reusing uninhabited buildings, rehabilitating public infrastructure networks, and connecting the area to the broader city.
HRC Major Tasks
Infrastructure rehabilitation: The HRC works on rehabilitating road infrastructure throughout the Old City of Hebron in partnership with the Hebron Municipality, the sole provider of infrastructure services. In addition to road pavement, this task includes installation and maintenance of electricity, water, sewerage, telephone and fire fighting networks.
Social service: The Committee has established a social guidance centre to follow up on and solve social problems encountering residents of the Old City of Hebron. To fulfil its mission, the centre launches targeted sensitisation and guidance campaigns.
Healthcare: In line with defined social standards, the HRC provides governmental health insurance free of charge to a total of 850 beneficiaries in the Hebron Old City. To be managed by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Committee is currently rehabilitating a clinic to provide healthcare services to local residents. In cooperation with local and international civil society organisations, the HRC coordinates medical treatment days that are also offered free of charge.
Economy: The HRC has finalised partial restoration of a number of commercial premises, rehabilitated major bazaars, and followed up on shops closed by Israeli military orders. On several occasions, the Committee secured government support to the Loaf of Bread campaign throughout the Old City bakeries. The campaign was launched again with funds provided by the International Temporary Presence in Hebron (TIPH).
Financial Aid: To bolster perseverance of current residents and encourage newcomers to reside in the Old City of Hebron, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) exempts inhabitants and workers from the income tax. In this context, the HRC identifies households that should benefit from these exemptions. Offered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the HRC identifies beneficiaries and distributes food packages on grounds of relevant working mechanisms, including examination and selection of targeted beneficiaries. In cooperation with civil society organisations, the HRC also provides food and in-kind assistance. The Committee has secured financial aid at times of curfews when blockade is further tightened and residents’ suffering increases.
It should be noted that renovated buildings, leased by the HRC, have electricity and water subscriptions free of charge.
Culture: To raise their awareness, the HRC has organised innumerable cultural activities targeting the Hebron Old City residents, including female and male householders. The Committee has also established a children’s library and invited many cultural institutions to visit and carry out cultural activity in the area.
Entertainment: Targeting the Old City residents, especially children, the HRC has established public parks, including the As Sadaqah [Friendship] Park in the heart of the Old City, Al Majd [Glory] Park in Qubb al Janeb area, and Al ‘Awdah [Return] Park in As Salayimah neighbourhood.
Miscellaneous services: To support perseverance of residents in second and third priority areas that are adjacent to HRC area of operation, the Committee completed partial renovation of buildings. To be fully rehabilitated at a later stage, restoration works included installation of doors, windows, iron window guards, roof maintenance, etc. These priority areas include Tal Rumeida and As Salayimah and Jaber neighbourhoods.
Employment: In light of the high unemployment generated by frequent closures and curfews, many residents lost their jobs and have, therefore, been enticed to leave the Old City of Hebron. In this vein, the HRC has provided employment opportunities to local residents. More than 450 workers were employed in externally-funded vital projects with a total of (x) working days. These included documenting, cleaning and fortifying heritage buildings in fourth and fifth priority areas, namely the Ash Sheikh and Qeitun neighbourhoods.
Public relations: Since it started operation, the HRC has made an unrelenting effort to build and enhance public relations with local and international communities. In this line of activity,
the Committee has established a Public Relations Department to liaise contacts with local and foreign audiences, consolidate HRC’s role and reputation, secure support and interaction with the public, and realise mutual benefits.
Legal Follow-ups and Monitoring Israeli Violations
Israeli violations have continued unabated. Further tightening the closure on the area, the Israeli authorities have closed streets and entrances to the Old City of Hebron. Without a legal justification, the Israeli forces also raid neighbourhoods, assault residents, and confiscate private and public property. The HRC Legal Office continues to monitor, collect and document relevant information. In cooperation with other institutions, the HRC has retained Israeli lawyers and filed certain cases before Israeli courts.
The HRC makes field visits to households and provides necessary assistance. In addition to renovation works, houses are leased free of charge. Assistance includes:
* Health insurance in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministry of Health;
* Food packages in cooperation with the ICRC;
* Tax exemption to target groups in cooperation with the Income Tax Directorate of the Palestinian Ministry of Finance;
* Exemption from utility bills in cooperation with the Hebron Municipality;
* Exemption from tuition fees in cooperation with national universities;
* Psychological wellbeing and health care service delivery in cooperation with relevant bodies; and
* Monitoring cases where local residents are attacked by the Israeli army or settlers through the HRC Legal Office.
During its career, the HRC has managed to complete its mission of sending the Old City of Hebron back to life and maintaining ancient cultural heritage. In this context, the HRC:
* Accommodated more than 4,000 persons in the area, which currently houses almost 4,500 residents.
* Restored over 800 residential flats.
* Repopulated the Old City of Hebron. Despite political, social and security challenges, about 6,000 residents now live in the area.
* Rehabilitated more than four kilometres of roads and alleys throughout the Old City.
* Established open spaces, public parks and halls for social occasions.
* Installed a fire fighting grid, telephone landlines, lamp posts, and water pipelines.
* Renovated a number of schools and mosques, including the Ibrahimi Mosque.