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Golan for the development of Arab villages
  22/09/2009
   




Establishment:
Golan for the Development of the Arab Villages (GfD), is a non profit organization which was established in the occupied Golan Height's in late 1991, as a reaction to a series of events in the local national sphere. The main goal of the organization is to provide an alternative framework for people of the occupied Golan facing the Israeli occupation authoritys schemes.


Vision:
In the absence of a national authority in the occupied Golan, and the disruption of communication with the motherland, Syria, people in the Golan Heights aimed to address and resist the practices and aims of the occupation since its early days.
In order to emphasize this aim of resistance, GfD have addressed since its establishment the target of preserving steadfastness and national belonging. GfD has given particular importance to the establishment of local institutions that are able to develop plans and alternative strategies to meet the needs of the local population.
According to this view, GfD has worked to establish developing projects and services in the Golan Heights to function as an alternative of the services provided by the occupying Israeli authority. It has been active in the areas of health, agriculture, culture and environment, aiming to achieve the following:


Goals:
- To minimize the reliance of the local population on the occupational institutions through establishment of alternative sustainable services and projects.
- To address the Israeli policy of obscurantism and the promotion of national ownership and security.
- Disclosure of practices and violations committed by the Israeli occupation in the Golan Heights.
- To maintain relations with the peace forces in support of Arab rights and resistance against the occupation.
- Working to create local job opportunities, and reduce the brain drain from the local population .
- Promote the values of pluralism, democracy, human rights, justice and equality in the society.
- Support women in their struggle for justice and equality.
- The establishment of developmental programs, and to contribute to overcoming the obstacles in the areas of health, agriculture and culture in the Golan Heights.


From this point GfD is working to fill the fundamental gap in facing Israeli occupation plans. Our motto, has been and still is, to work daily in order to create a network of services and development resources, and a solid foundation to maintain national affiliation, and for the building of a civilized community.


Funding for sustainability:
Since its establishment, GfD has worked on being fully self-reliant and to self-finance its ongoing expenses through the provided services, out of a belief that external support should be a support for our development, and not a condition for continuity.
The funding resources are multiple and can be divided into:


1 - Income from providing services to the public: Since its foundation GfD worked to develop services and projects to the public in the occupied Golan Heights. The income of services formed the basis to cover expenses of various projects. This income comes from: the health services in all branches, educational and professional courses, kindergarten fees, educational activities and publications, theater, alternative tourism, research and agricultural laboratory. A person with limited economic abilities is exempted from paying part of, or the entire cost.
2 - Support from voluntary contributions of people from Golan Heights: Thousands have contributed to our organization to support several projects, most recently a donation campaign to establish an X-ray center. The donations covered 20% of the total expenses.
3 - Support through voluntary work: All the working staff in the organization provide a certain percentage of their work in support of the institution, since they earn approximately 50 - 70% of the average wage for a similar work elsewhere. In addition, hundreds have volunteered and took part in carrying out several projects.
4 - Income through Health Maintenance Organizations: Since the beginning of 1995 compulsory health insurance law was imposed upon all residents of the Golan Heights. Every citizen in the occupied territory pay, per month, a tax for health insurance. And thus the HMOs became responsible for covering the health costs of their costumers. GfD functions as a contractor and provides these medical service to health insurers and HMOs cover these costs.
5 - Support from outside institutions: through our external relations, the Society prepared and submitted three projects for several donators in Europe. We have received support from the Foundation ICCO of the Netherlands at a rate of 100 thousand Euros per year


Events and projects:

Health:
The health project is the largest amongst our projects. In 1993 we established the first medical center in the Golan Heights which provided 24 hour health services to all residents of the Arab Golan villages.
Today, after more than sixteen years since the opening of the first clinic, the health project expanded to include four public clinics (in: Majdal Shams, Masada, Ein Qinea and Ghajar), as well as the Center for X-ray, specialized medicine,  Physiotherapy clinic, Ultrasound center, research department and the emergency center in Majdal Shams which provides medical treatment to all people and operates 24 hours a day. 30 doctors, in addition to 20 nurses, technicians and secretaries work in these clinics.
The medical activity developed and held by our organization in the Golan Heights has made a tremendous improvement in the standards of health services.
Looking at the ratio between the working hours of doctors and the population: there used to be one doctor for every 8000 people. Today, the percentage is one doctor for every 800 citizens. This is considered a huge success that our society  achieved during a relatively short period.


Agriculture:
Agriculture is the most important source of income in the Golan. Given the lack of financial support required, the work in the agricultural field has been limited only to research, so far dealing with the use of agricultural pesticides in the occupied Golan. Results of this research were published in a booklet under the title: The use of agricultural pesticides in the Golan, harms and risks.


Environment:
So far, due to the scarcity of financial resources, environmental activity is limited. There are a lot of issues surrounding pollution and destruction of the environment in the Golan Heights as a result of different practices of the occupying authorities that we intend to study and document.


Education and Culture:
Education and culture are amongst our highest priorities in GfD. In schools, teachers are forced to teach according to the Israeli curriculum set by the occupational authorities, which is compatible with the Zionist ideology, and this has potentially tragic and dangerous results for the children who have no other choice but to learn it.
The occupation authority is conducting a process of brainwashing in schools using the curriculum. Via this policy their objective is to try to help raising a generation with self-discriminating tendencies.
Hence, GfD held several sessions of vocational education, of courses such as administration, accounting, hairdressing, computer, languages, etc. In addition to dozens of tours in the Golan Heights to show the new generation the practices of the occupation and destruction it caused
We would like to emphasize that our main concern is our internal social situation in the Golan, where nationalist sentiment is at the highest level. We still believe that we need to emphasize national awareness, especially between the new generations.
Accordingly, we realized the importance of national culture and the importance of our national language. With a focus on the theme of Arab heritage teaching instead of the "the Druze heritage" being taught in our schools, our approach is to rely on the Syrian Arab teaching method.
In addition, our organization initiated a photographic project of different locations in the Golan Heights, which resulted in a photographic exhibition of the destroyed villages in the Golan Heights at the Kufa Gallery in London, and in different cities in Palestine.

Several studies about the situation in the occupied Golan Heights were released both in Arabic and English. For example: The policy of land confiscation in the occupied Syrian Golan; A Brief History of Twenty-five years of Israeli occupation in the Syrian Golan; and The Syrian population in the occupied Golan Heights.
The organization receives annually tens of local and international delegates and organize tours for them including an  explanation about  the situation in the Golan, and the violating and discriminating Israeli practices in the area.


Golan for development provides also daily kindergarten serivces, attended by approximately 60 children.


Theater:
Since we were always aware of the importance of theater in the lives of people, we worked on introducing this vital art in Golan Heights. Due to the lack of infrastructure and technical capacity of the theater in Golan, it was important to start with a theater teaching project, which was launched in 2003 under the supervision of the local writer and artist Moataz Abu Saleh. The framework is of teaching a course in drama to younger generations, in cooperation with Palestinian artists, especially the actor and director Ehab Salama, who contributed with his efforts to the project for a long time.
This was the beginning of great significance; the first produced play was "Game of Dreams". GfD has concentrated on the development of this project. Accordingly, the project has continued as an activity course, and accepted new students while maintaining and empowering the former students. There was also interest in developing other theater arts: stage, lighting, sound, decorations, etc.
Thus, "Oyoun" (Eyes) Theater was established, as one of GfDs major achievements, notably receiving contribution and support from Palestinian artists. The organization has maintained constant contact with the theater activists inside Palestine and the West Bank.
So far, seven plays have been produced: Game of Dreams, Colors of Darkness, Enchanted House comedy, Trump, The Merchant of Venice, Eja bee , Eyelashes Dancer. All these plays were produced as a result of intensive workshops and courses in drama.
There is no doubt that this theatrical activity has proven a successful achievement in the occupied Golan, which added another dimension to the cultural achievements. Direct public interaction is one of its biggest assets, and this relationship is clear from the public involvement with the local theatrical productions, and anticipation of the plays.
Today, more than 60 students are in Eyes theaters different sessions: drama, movement and dance. Our experts are always keen to introduce a variety of methods in the theater, and GfD aims to develop the theater to become an institute of theater teaching in addition to the theatrical stage production.


Golan Center for Media and Publishing:
We are aware of the ongoing practice of obscurantism and obfuscation held by the Israeli authorities in the Golan, and the falsification of national history and civilization of the original inhabitants of the territory, aiming to cause absence of our national identity. The organization, mainly through its website (www.jawlan.org), documents facts and events of the past and present, to preserve and show the reality of what is happening in the Golan, and highlight the fact that the people of the occupied land will always be loyal to their Syrian belonging and identity. We are working on publishing reports and information, in addition to documenting the Israeli violations: confiscation of land and water,eradication of the population, destruction of villages in the Golan, and the uprooting of the population from their land.