“The Abir’s Garden Project is more than a playground. It is about justice prevailing over revenge, genuine partners for peace, and a precedent-setting case to prevent violence,” said Zohar Shapira, the project’s first coordinator for Abir’s Garden and a co-founder of Combatants for Peace. Zohar formerly served for more than 15 years in Israel’s elite unit of “Sayert Matkal,” as a combatant and as a commander. “At its heart, these Combatants for Peace are working together to build a beautiful place where children can be children, where they can go to be safe, to step out of the Occupation into a world of play and creativity, and begin to heal.”
With the help of people throughout the world through speaking tours and fund raising conducted by the Rebuilding Alliance, Combatants for Peace completed their first “Abir’s Garden Playground” at the Anata School for Girls in Anata, East Jerusalem. Fund raising is now completed for the 2nd Abir’s Garden Playground and construction is now underway at the new kindergarten in the West Bank Village of As Samoa, Simya neighborhood, near Hebron!
In January 2007, news of Abir’s death created a wellspring of emotion worldwide, in part because Abir’s father, Bassam Aramin, is a peace and justice activist and founding member of Combatants for Peace. Responses to an online condolence letter written by Women of a Certain Age and addressed to her family, came from 58 countries.
“As I was signing it, I knew that we had to do more,” said Donna Baranski-Walker, founder of Rebuilding Alliance. “My board asked me to contact the Aramin family. Her family wanted nothing for themselves — they wanted a way to help Abir’s friends, because her desk would now be empty at her school.” Rebuilding Alliance, working with Women of a Certain Age, partnered with Combatants for Peace with the hope that the world would help us build playgrounds to provide these children and their families with a safe place to play — and the response is very positive.
What Happened to Abir?
Abir Aramin was leaving school with her sister and two friends in the West Bank town of Anata on January 16th, 2007. She never made it home to her family. On this day a single shot was fired from the back of an Israeli Border Police jeep that was patrolling outside the gates of the Anata Girls’ School. Abir was hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet and critically wounded. She was taken off life support after 3 days of struggling for her life. She was only 10 years old.
According to Abir’s attorney, Michael Sfard of Yesh Din, “Fourteen eye-witnesses and an independent autopsy report submitted by the renowned Israeli pathologist, Dr. Chen Kugel, demonstrate clearly that Abir was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the back of the head while running away.”
However, the Israeli State Attorney’s office closed the case citing lack of evidence. Appeal to reopen the case was denied; the State Attorney claimed she was hit by stones thrown at the time the jeep was leaving the village. But according to the soldier’s own reports, Abir was already at the hospital before the jeep had even left the village. A third and final appeal to the Israeli High Court of Justice was presented on Oct. 14, 2009, and the High Court issued its decision (top of page) on February 9th in favor of the family. On March 28, the Israeli State Prosecutor’s Office announced that it would reopen the investigation, however, following review the Israeli State Prosecutor again announced to the High Court that there is not enough evidence to hold a trial. Now in Spring, 2011 we await the High Court’s final recommendation.For details about both the civil court verdict and the High Court’s decisions, click here.