Commenter Profile

Total number of comments: 37 (since 2011-10-19 19:23:15)

Donna Baranski-Walker is the founder and Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance, a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding war-torn communities and bringing the world together to make them safe. Rebuilding Alliance’s Rebuilding to Remain program with the Palestinian West Bank Village of Al Aqaba is currently under consideration as a semi-finalist for the 2016 World Habitat Award. On August 31, 2010, the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Polish Solidarity movement, Donna was awarded the Medal of Gratitude at the Gdansk Shipyard in Poland before 27,000 people for organizing the Support of Solidarity committee in Chicago when she was 24 years old. On October 2010, Donna received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo. On Oct. 4, 2008, Rebuilding Alliance, the organization she founded, received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, “Presented to the Rebuilding Alliance in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community,” upon unanimous passage of H.Res. 1369, The Peace- Makers Resolution. which Donna authored. Donna’s work has been awarded the 2003 Lewis Mumford Award for Development by the Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social Responsibility. Donna is 2nd generation Polish-American from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, raised Catholic now attending Quaker meetings. She holds a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.S. from the Unversity of Hawaii, both in engineering. Donna’s interest in the Middle East began in 1990 when she initiated a symbolic message to the people of Iraq as a way to end the then standoff without going to war. Some 10,000 people participated weekly with considerable U.S. news coverage. Her New York Times op-ed, “Small Lights in the Darkness,” was translated into Arabic and presented to the Iraqi Women’s Federation a week before the First Gulf War began. Mentored by Jerome Wiesner, President Emeritus of M.I.T. and former science advisor to President Kennedy, Donna’s work over the past 25 years explores the creative use of technology to link neighbors together over the world to build peace. Her latest work to create an advocacy mapping mobile app draws upon all she has learned about engaging Congress to provide a powerful new resource for citizen engagement and policy change.


Showing comments 37 - 1

  • Bulldozers poised outside Susiya, right in time for July 4th congressional break
    • To hear from Palestinians and Israelis who are directly involved in the international effort to keep Susiya standing, please join us on Wednesday, July 8 at 10am PST, 1pm EST, 8pm Jerusalem time for a Stay Human Conference Call with Congress.

      On the line will be Villages Group members Hamed Qawasmeh (also part of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Ophir Mintz-Manor. We are inviting Congressional staffers and you - as their constituents - to join the line. For more information, go to link to

      Click Here to Register — and please register before 9pm July 7th. We'll send dial-in information accordingly.

  • Bedouin village razed 83 times must pay $500,000 for demolitions, Israel says
    • Pabelmont, there's no way Al Araqib or anyone in the world should pay these outrageous fines -- instead, help them pay their lawyer and fight the fines in the Israeli courts and the court of world opinion.

      Amos Gvirtz, on his recent speaking tour sponsored by Rebuilding Alliance, used his speaking events to raise funds to help Al Araqib legal defense fund; raise funds to rent a bus to get activists to the village (everyone is safer when friends are there); and raise funds for Dukium to teach the youth and women in Al Araqib and 2 more villages to use cameras to tell their own story.

      Amos Gvirtz wrote, "One of the most important lessons from World War II is that we should not tolerate racism anywhere. Especially in the Jewish State, we must affirm each person’s
      common humanity, whether Jewish or not, and uphold everyone’s basic human rights."

      If you or other readers and commentators would like to contribute to the Al Araqib Human Rights Fund please send a tax-deductible donation to Rebuilding Alliance, 178 S. Blvd., San Mateo CA 94402 with Al Araqib in the subject line. We've done our homework and we're partnering with the Human Rights Defenders Fund and Dukium in support of Al Araqib — good people.

  • Tell your congressperson or senator to speak out against repeated destruction of Al Araqib in the Negev
    • We're so close to 3rd place. Here's the Leaderboard for Small Nonprofits

      Give now please - Silicon Valley Gives ends at 2:59am Eastern / 11:59pm Pacific

    • Crunch time now. Rebuilding Alliance — with our work to help Palestinian villages build and engage people around the world to make them safe — is currently in 4th place in the Silicon Valley Gives Competition. It will end at 2:29am Eastern / 11:59 Eastern Pacific.

      You could give to help finish 8 houses in our Rebuilding to Remain program: /story/Rebuilding-To-Remain-1

      You could give to send Backpack Kits for Gaza's Children: /story/Gazas-Children

      You could give to open Lina's Collective Song Music Center and make hearts sing: /story/Collectivesong-Music-Center

      or you could just give, unrestricted, where needed most: /story/Rebuildingalliance

      We're good, really good, at what we do but we can't do this without you.

    • Please send a link to the source story

    • But they don't like getting bullied either. Senator Feinstein helps keep the Palestinian Village of Al Aqaba standing -- so did some 20 other senators and representatives. Their calls through their channels really matter. This is the Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk form of diplomacy -- and if we must use it one by one, village by village, until the policy changes - do it.

    • Yesterday, Ehud wrote to me on behalf of the Villages Group. Susya is in the south of the West Bank in Palestine. They are asking for help too, so is Um Al Kheir.

      The hope here in Susya rests with the pending High Court Case - but can they hold on? How is it that the High Court of Israel permits the lower courts to ok demolitions while a case is pending.

      Israel High court settler-judge Noam Sohlberg (Check: link to rejected today the request of the people of Palestinian Susya and their legal representatives – Rabbis for Human Rights, to issue a temporary decree to prevent demolitions in the village until a final decision is made by the high court in their case.

      Sohlberg’s decision encourages the implementation of the demolition orders which was issued by the civil administration of the occupation’s army for a great part of the residence places in Palestinian Susya. For more details on the demolition threat pending on Susya, See: link to"

    • Their office should be open now. When you talk with the receptionist, ask for the senior staffer for foreign policy and explain that this is an urgent matter and you are asking their help on your behalf to intervene with the State Department.

      Be sure to write down that senior staffer's name and ask for their email.

    • Yes! That Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) site is a great resource. Let us know what you hear, I will too.

  • Help break the blockade and clothe Gaza’s children this winter
    • So many thanks to the 121 people who gave today! We raised $22,251 for 'Clothe Gaza's Children' and we came-in third by most donors, 2nd in total funds raised. I'll keep you posted re. next steps. Sincerely, Donna

    • Thank you -- 'Clothe Gaza’s Children' is in 3rd place, with 24 min to go. 120 donors so far -- and we need 30 more to take 1st place.

      We've raised a total of $22,231 -- and we're in 2nd place by most donations. We just need about $2000 more to reach 1st place in 'most donations'. Whew.

    • Clothe Gaza's Children has raised $20,339 and there's still another $5400 in matching funds available. We're just eleven donors below first place.

      You might think that everyone else can give, but look, what you do really does make a difference. If this project wins Most Donors, that extra $1000 bonus is a third the cost of a shipping container... and a container holds about $96,000 worth of donated clothing.

      Please Give Now

    • Please give now. There's still $20,000 in matching funds and right now Clothe Gaza’s Children is in 2nd place!

      We'll need 162 more donors if the project is to win the bonus. Here's the GlobalGiving Leaderboard to follow our progress.

    • GlobalGiving's Bonus Day competition is on and Clothe Gaza's Children is running in 6th place right now.

      Such a small thing to ask — clothing for children in the cold of winter. Please give now. GG's Bonus Day ends at 9pm Pacific Time today.

  • The cost of fear: a night on the West Bank
    • Alice, thank you so much for writing, for being there, and telling their story with care. This is Donna from Rebuilding Alliance. When I asked one of our founding board members, Ghassan Abdullah, how to help resolve this latest crisis, he replied, "I suppose by telling the story, as Edward Said suggests." That is what you are doing.

      I've learned that Congressional staffers will make calls to the State Department and the Israeli Embassy, privately, in response to constituent requests for intervention especially when small, specific actions are requested. Based on what you are seeing, what specific action would you request?

      Lastly, somehow I am somehow receiving the COGAT (Israeli Civil Administration) monthly announcements. They sent a respectful message describing Ramadan prayers and noting an easing of checkpoints stating, "All Palestinian men aged 50 or older, and women aged 40 or older may visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Israel without a permit on Fridays during the month of Ramadan." At the bottom of the message, there is an asterisk without comment, "The policies above do not apply to Hebron residents", a city of 250,000 people.

  • Israeli army enacts curfew near Nablus and raids eight major West Bank cities
  • Two Palestinian youths killed by Israeli army live-fire during Nakba Day demonstration
    • There is an important American Law called the Leahy Law that requires a U.S. response to such gross violations of human rights by an allied army. The law states that the U.S. must cut off aid and training from the 'unit' involved, at the smallest level, until the perpetrators (soldiers firing live ammunition) are brought to justice.

      Alison, can you find out the exact name of the Israeli Army Unit involved at Ofer? Walid, what was the the exact name Israeli Army Unit that fired at the young Munib Masri?

  • Five eggplants and a bulldozer
    • Look, my going to talk with the soldiers was not about provoking them further, it was about reducing risk and keeping everyone safe. Although the Israeli Army's military training (and there's always training in that closed military area of the Northern Jordan Valley, Area C) grew very big over the next three days, and it was terrifying, the mayor and everyone there concurs, they stuck to the 2002 agreement brokered by the Israeli High Court. They did not use live fire in Al Aqaba Village.

      The reason I was on my way to Ramallah on April 1st was to join a meeting of the Civil Society Advocacy Working Group on Displacement, a group I've been following for many years but never met. One of the major issues they raised was what to do when a circle is drawn by the Israeli Army Civil Aministration to protect some parts of a village but not outlying homes. Clearly, the advocacy strategy must be to protect all, whether inside an arbitrary circle or not. When it comes to saving houses, I'll take the Raoul Wallenberg approach (he saved people) every time: save every one that you can, using every means available, then save more.

      On April 1st, the soldier's kept their word. Al Aqaba and Tayasir stayed safe with all homes intact but demolition bulldozers were active in nearby Tubas and other towns, demolishing more homes and animal shelters than in all of April 2013 (see UNOCHA report below).

    • Per a call with Mayor Haj Sami, now it is all calm again. He said, "Yesterday the soldiers were walking in between the houses in the village, but no shooting. Today the tanks and soldiers have all gone."

    • With Mayor Haj Sami's posts of extreme levels of training all around the village, I'm heading back to the village as soon as morning comes. He would have called me if they entered the village -- that's when we ask everyone to call their Representatives and Senators to ask them to call the State Department and Israeli Embassy... I'll write a script now that people can use for their calls.

      Take a look at the UNOCHA report - on April 1st there were more demolitions than for all of April last year. This escalation is likely payback for PA President Abbas signing Palestine into 15 UN agencies including the Geneva and Vienna Conventions and those dealing with women’s and children’s rights.

      Let's hope this training, like usual, calms by end of day today as the soldiers head home for Shabbat.

    • This just in from Mayor Haj Sami's Facebook page

      Translation: Urgent
      Occupation forces turned to the village of Aqaba battleground this morning of Thursday, 04/03/2014 through bombing and shelling over and around the village of Aqaba, sparking panic and fear among the citizens, especially children, kindergarten and school students (12 photos)

    • Important Addendum: UNOCHA Humanitarian Update, April 2

      Wave of demolitions in Area C displaces 60 people and affects over 30 others

      On 1 April, the Israeli authorities demolished a total of 32 Palestinian-owned structures in six locations across Area C of the West Bank, on grounds that they lacked building permits. These demolitions displaced 60 people, including 31 children, and undermine the livelihoods of 30 others:

      The affected communities and structures are:
      1. Humsa al Baqai’a (Tubas): four residential structures, seven animal shelters and pens, two toilets and one kitchen;
      2. Humsa Basaliya (Tubas): one animal structure;
      3. Qarzaliya area of Al Jifltik (Jericho): two animal structures;
      4. Al Ja’wana (Nablus): four residential structures, eight animal shelters and one latrine;
      5. Bruqin (Salfit): one agricultural room; and
      6. Haris (Salfit): a shop.

      The first four areas are herding communities located in the Jordan Valley, which continues to be the part of Area C most affected by demolitions. Around 90 per cent of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area is designated as Area C ...

  • 'NPR' praises Israeli assassination program in faulting US one
  • Letter from Al Aqaba on the 'Rebuilding to Remain' campaign
    • Try again. To find Al Aqaba, google Tayasir and look east to where the road forks. Latitude: 32°20'12.09"N, 35°25'5.20"E in GoogleEarth.

      You've been looking at a nearby town called Akaba, a much bigger place in Area A. Many people confuse Akaba Town with tiny Al Aqaba Village which does not appear on GoogleMaps:

      - When the UN helped me first visit Al Aqaba, even they got confused and went to the wrong place.

      - In 2012, US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro made that same mistake when he responded to an inquiry from Representative Eshoo at my request. Ambassador Shapiro was surprised when Mayor Haj Sami explained that the $437,000 USAID provided for equipment to the town's primary health clinic, rainwater collection cistems and water supply trucks was only for Akaba Town in Area A, not Al Aqaba Village in Area C.

      That said, Al Aqaba is also a great place for a coffee shop and they've just opened one near the guest house! Please do go visit, they welcome everyone. Here's a link to Al Aqaba's Guest House to help you plan your visit.

    • Thank you, good to hear this translation.

      Worth noting is that Al Aqaba's villagers hold very clear title to their land and this has never been in dispute. The filing of title documentation was especially rigorous in the northern part of the West Bank.

      Also worth noting is that just outside the windows of Al Aqaba's kindergarten is a track of land extending for 22,000 dunums (5336 acres) that belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. That land was purchased by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in the 1930's, at the request of the landowners of the area.

      Al Aqaba is exploring the possibility of leasing the Patriarchate's land to build a Rehabilitation Hospital — a green, restorative, and inspiring response to the harm that military training has caused.

    • A big Thank You to everyone who gave today. 'Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine' reached 4th place by most donations, and 3rd place by most donors!

      With the $12,765 we raised, Sadeq's home will be finished very soon and work will begin on the next 'Rebuilding to Remain' home too!

      Thank you again,

    • 'Rebuilding to Remain' is in 3rd place with about 35 min to go. Good news: we've raised enough to finish Sadeq's house — they'll be able to get married in March!

    • The easiest way to see Al Aqaba, is to google nearby Tayasir, then look east, just up the road. Specifically, Al Aqaba is at Latitude 32°20'12.09"N, Longitude 35°25'5.20"— looks good on GoogleEarth.

      Your question raises a bigger question — why isn't Al Aqaba on the map? And what about the other 149 Palestinian villages in Area C also facing demolition orders?

      A group of us are planning a visit to Google's mapping group very soon to ask them to include them all. I'll be happy to take a Google mapping rep with me when I travel there in March (maybe for Sadeq's wedding, yes?)

      For more on Al Aqaba, see link to

    • Many thanks, Tree! Here's the link to find out if your company will match:
      link to

    • Now 7th place! We've raised a total of $7,093 so far including $1637 in matching funds. With $3000 more, we can finish Sadeq's home. With $23,000 more, we can finish all three homes.

      The competition lasts until midnight, Eastern time and GlobalGiving still has $29,000 to give away.

    • Eva, thank you so much!

      'Rebuilding to Remain' is in 8th place so far and there's still $31,000 in matching funds available. We'll need 81 more donors to overtake the "Most Donors" leader, so please tell your friends.

      Here's a link to the Leader Board:
      link to

    • I first met Phil Weiss when I brought the Mayor of Al Aqaba, Haj Sami Sadeq, to speak at a Brooklyn for Peace event in 2008. It was the opening week at the U.N., the stock market was crashing around us and the hotel that assured us access for people with disabilities was sadly wrong. What a challenge to find accessible accommodations when all of NYC is full — the dynamic mayor of Al Aqaba is paraplegic. He was the first victim back when the Israeli Army routinely used this village for live-fire training exercises.

      Many will wonder why this mayor, these villagers, and Rebuilding Alliance have worked so hard to finish these homes. Coming home has been their dream as long as I've known them. We started with a kindergarten in 2003 and my promise was to build a school that would not be demolished; today it serves 160 children. That Kindergarten attracted 20 other countries to invest in Al Aqaba too, ignoring demolition orders that are currently frozen in the Israeli court system.

      They deserve the right, as do all families, to live on their land, to plan their future, to educate their children, to have a job. Thank you for making this possible.

  • Here’s how Sadeq can get married
    • The Global Giving Bonus Day Competition closed with 'Rebuilding to Remain' in 4th place by total donations (2nd, 3rd, and 4th were all very close), and in 3rd place by most donors! 70 people gave during the competition and we raised a total of $12,765 including nearly $3000 in matching funds.

      Thank you so much. We're now able to finish Sadeq's house (he and his fiance will get married at last!). I ask more funders to come forward to finish the other two homes because they'll be safer if they all move in at the same time. What a homecoming that will be!

    • Thanks for asking the question and thank you for your support. Though most agree that Al Aqaba's villagers, indeed all Palestinians, have every right to live on their land in Area C, so far, that very real threat of demolition has been enough to discourage any significant investment. Al Aqaba's villagers put forward a way to counter that misperception.

      Let's hope the potential investors accept Al Aqaba's invitation and proudly join us to build the next 10 homes and do their best, adding their diplomatic channels to all of ours, to keep this village — and the other 149 Palestinian villages in Area C — standing.

    • Good news! We've raised enough to finish Sadeq's house!

      With 45 min to go, 'Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine' is in 3rd place by most donors, and 6th place by most donations. We've raised a total of $11,092 so far.

      If another 79 donors give before 9pm, we could win a bonus of $1000.

    • Unlike the rescue for George Bailey, this one does not depend upon an angel. Instead I look to real world Raul Wallenberg for inspiration. I always thought it must have been a mighty negotiation, to save so many people. Instead his success was based on his creative negotiation for each one's release, 1 by 1. Wallenberg's issuance of protective passports is what inspired Al Aqaba's issuance of their own building permits.

      About your P.S., to be honest, we have sought out those options — and more. The Quatar Foundation seemed interested at first, then no. Royalty at the Global Donors Forum, the biennial convening of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, were excited to see the designs then asked 'how soon before Israel will demolish the homes?' They chose not to lend a hand.

      The PA made promises they did not keep. The Rawabi team declined to connect, even though these may be the only truly affordable housing designs available for low-income Palestinians. Millionaire al-Masri did not return our calls, though we tried many times. Islamic Relief warmly welcomed our presentations but they too have not provided funding.

      Shall I go on? The Palestinian Housing Council asked for a proposal to fund the next 10 homes then stepped back without comment. One of their board members negotiated the Area C provisions in the Oslo Accords and had warned Yasser Arafat of the danger of accepting those 18 month delay clauses.

      There's more. Do you remember Abigail Disney's promised to divest her holdings in Ahava and invest her earnings in peacemaking initiatives especially in the Jordan Valley? She's had our proposal for 2 years now. And of all the 20 countries that have invested in Al Aqaba Village, well, the U.S. is not among them yet. We're hoping this will change soon as USAID is offering to help Al Aqaba market its herbal medicinal teas.

      Al Aqaba, when faced with insurmountable obstacles, chose to respond thoughtfully, with love, and without relying on anything more than their own good resources and the good will of everyone who cares. That's why I ask you to go to Rebuilding to Remain and click Donate.

      What we give today really matters. It will matter to Sadeq and his fiance. It will matter to this village and more.

    • The Bonus Day Competition is now in full swing with just under 6 hours remaining. 'Rebuilding to Remain in Palestine' is in 8th place with just $2200 needed to finish Sadeq's home and another 20K to finish two more.

      If you have not made your donation yet, please give now. link to
      If you have already donated, please spread the word.

      You can certainly donate in honor of those you most care about, and you can also donate anonymously.

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