‘Dream’ home for Palestinians
Palestinians start to move into a new city
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