‘Dream’ home for Pales­tini­ans

Pales­tini­ans start to move into a new city

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area for the kids where you don’t feel wor­ried when they go out. The ser­vices are cen­tral and avail­able around the clock. That’s the place I dreamed to live in.”

Masri said one of the ma­jor hur­dles in start­ing Rawabi was get­ting ap­proval from Is­rael for an ac­cess road and wa­ter sup­ply to the city. “Deal­ing with oc­cu­pa­tion is not deal­ing with a proper na­tion,” he said. “It’s deal­ing with an ugly sys­tem.”

Rawabi now has a yearly re­new­able per­mit to use a nar­row road that passes through an ad­ja­cent 1km stretch un­der Is­raeli con­trol.

A pipeline, which passes through the same area, brings in 300 cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter a day - in­suf­fi­cient for the res­i­dents as well as the con­struc­tion that’s un­der way.

Ad­di­tional wa­ter is cur­rently be­ing brought in on tankers, and some peo­ple sup­ple­ment their sup­ply from a nearby vil­lage. Masri said his next bat­tle is to triple both the width of the 7m road and the wa­ter sup­ply.

“I’m a strong be­liever that a Pales­tinian state is in the mak­ing and part of the pil­lars of build­ing a proper state is to have a strong econ­omy and higher stan­dard of liv­ing,” said Masri.

Cur­rently 250 fam­i­lies live in the city. That pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to swell to 60,000 when con­struc­tion ends in about five years.

For Masri, Rawabi has be­come part of his­tory - “the first Pales­tinian city to be es­tab­lished in thou­sands of years” - and he is sure more cities like this will fol­low.

Rawabi build­ing costs have reached $1.2 bil­lion so far. A three-bed­room apart­ment av­er­ages about $100,000, about 25 per cent less than in the West Bank city of Ramallah nearby.

Along with a large am­phithe­atre that can hold 12,000 peo­ple, Rawabi now boasts also an in­dus­trial zone, schools, and the first big Western-style open-air shop­ping cen­tre in the West Bank. Such at­trac­tions lumped to­gether in one city are un­heard of in Pales­tinian ar­eas.

There is a mosque un­der con­struc­tion and also a church, which will serve the Pales­tinian Chris­tian mi­nor­ity. About 10 per cent of Rawabi res­i­dents are ex­pected to be Chris­tian. Masri can see it all so vividly. “I would love to sit at a café in Rawabi and watch the peo­ple go­ing around, en­joy­ing them­selves, liv­ing in a nice clean en­vi­ron­ment and be­ing happy,” he said. “We de­serve some re­lax­ation and hap­pi­ness... we have been dealt a ter­ri­ble deal, dozens and dozens of years. We de­serve bet­ter.”

‘Here ev­ery­thing is or­gan­ised. There is a safe play­ing area for kids where you don’t feel wor­ried when they go out.’ – Rawabi res­i­dent Sanaa Khatib

Af­ter years of set­backs, Pales­tini­ans are proudly start­ing to move into their first planned city be­ing built in the West Bank - a move that isn’t just about real es­tate but also a sym­bol of their quest for state­hood af­ter nearly 50 years of Is­raeli mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion.

Though Rawabi is still un­fin­ished, its glis­ten­ing high-rises and shop­ping cen­tres bring a rare sense of pride and ex­cite­ment to the ter­ri­tory at a time of growing malaise over a stand­still in Mid­dle East peace ef­forts.

Pales­tinian-Amer­i­can de­vel­oper Bashar Masri dreamed up Rawabi, which means “hills” in Ara­bic, back in 2007. But the con­struc­tion of the city, lo­cated about 40 kilo­me­tres north of Jerusalem, has re­peat­edly stalled due to political ob­sta­cles. Work only be­gan in 2012.

Perched on a once des­o­late hill­top, it’s the first Pales­tinian city be­ing built ac­cord­ing to a mod­ern ur­ban de­sign plan. The or­gan­ised lay­out and mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties are in jar­ring con­trast to chaotic Pales­tinian towns and vil­lages in the area.

Since Jan­uary, the first res­i­dents have been slowly mov­ing in.

Mah­moud Khatib came here with his wife and three chil­dren from a nearby vil­lage be­cause they wanted to live in a mod­ern city. First, “it was an idea,” said the 41-year-old banker. Then “it be­came a re­al­ity”. His wife Sanaa, 40, is thrilled about her new home. “Here ev­ery­thing is or­gan­ised,” she said. “There is a safe play­ing

HIS­TORIC NEW HOME: Fam­i­lies en­joy their sur­round­ing in the new city of Rawabi

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