The last issue of “Signs of the Times” (Spring 2008; vol. XVIII, No. 2) reported on Israeli military raids of orphanages run by the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS) in Hebron. CPTers and other internationals stayed with the children for weeks hoping to prevent the terrifying incursions.
Those who live and work at the affected orphanages and schools nervously await an Israeli High Court decision that will determine whether the Israeli military will forcibly close their institutions.
“After all the raids on our facilities, confiscation of our supplies, and freezing of our assets,” said an ICS spokesperson, “the army has practically succeeded in a de facto closure.”
“We will open,” the spokesperson continued, referring to the August 24 scheduled return of children who spent the summer with relatives.* “But we only have money for one month of school.” He said they would rely heavily on donations that usually come during Ramadan (September) to remain open for the coming months.
In other developments, the Palestinian Authority (PA), under pressure from Israel, raided four charities in the Hebron District on August 6, including the Beit Ummar Orphans Care Society.
According to a volunteer with the orphanage, 45 PA security forces entered the building armed with guns and teargas. They confiscated all files and computers, and locked the doors to the orphanage’s kitchen and food storehouse. When one employee asked to see a written order authorizing the raid, soldiers beat him with an electric rod. “Even the Israeli soldiers do not treat the employees like this,” the volunteer added.
The PA and the Israeli military accuse the organization of both funding Hamas and receiving funds from Hamas, though they have failed to produce any evidence of this connection.
The Beit Ummar Orphans Care Society was established in 1999 and serves about 1000 needy families in addition to 200 orphans. The orphanage also operates a school and kindergarten, which has 250 students up to grade four. Beit Ummar residents donated most of the land and the building costs.
CPT urges individuals and organizations to contact the Palestinian Authority about these raids. The PA depends on $240 million in international aid, including $60 million from the USA, to strengthen its security forces. Let Prime Minister Salam Fayyad know that you are concerned about the use of donor monies to shut down orphanages, benevolent organizations, and charity organizations. Most of these institutions predate Hamas and Israel, and the PA has offered no clear proof that they are connected to Hamas. Contact: Prime Minister Salam Fayyad; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
*In the summer, relatives can easily accommodate extra children, especially in the makeshift shelters where families go to live on their farmland. After the summer, when families need to return to their city dwellings, they have no space for the extra children. The orphanage is the only home these children have.