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Hope, Faith and Peace

April 27, 2015

Positive Investing Update


“The Panels have arrived!” This is the exciting message we received on January 2. After more than a year of planning and  
design, negotiations with suppliers and contractors, a change in location from Bethlehem to Jericho, and countless phone calls and in-person meetings – the solar panels have not only arrived, they are now installed and providing power to the Arab Development Society’s research and production facilities.

The panels – which comprise the first solar-tracking renewable energy installation in the West Bank (and only the second in all of Israel-Palestine) – are the fruit of one of the Positive Investment projects undertaken to create conditions for peace in the Middle East.

The Presbyterian Foundation, working with the Presbyterian Mission Agency and a growing list of partner congregations, has now expanded the list of investment opportunities in the region from three to five, with new projects in the Life Sciences and Tourism sectors.

Next Generation Technology (NGT) is a Life Sciences and Medical Device technology incubator in Nazareth, a heavily Arab area of Israel. NGT is an outstanding model of Jews, Christians and Muslims working together to improve the lives and livelihoods of this mainly Arab/Palestinian community in Israel. The Foundation is making an initial investment of $500,000 from the PC(USA)’s Creative Investment funds. Additional funds from congregations and related institutions may also be invested.

A second new investment has been made in a Christian-tourism installation along the Jordan River at the site of Jesus’ baptism. This loan will help the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land to finance construction of a church, guest house and dormitory on the cliff facing to the West, over the Baptismal Site. Growing Christian tourism in the region is an essential aspect of building a sustainable economy for Palestinians and creating conditions for peace among the various parties in the Holy Land.

The Cultural Heritage and Community Development Building at Dar al-Kalima University College in Bethlehem is open and functioning. Students in the culinary arts and tour guiding programs are making full use of the facilities in pursuit of their studies. Grant funds are still being raised to complete the rooftop restaurant which will serve Bethlehem tourists while offering additional training opportunities to the culinary students.

The National Bank has disbursed the full first round of loans from the Microfinance program. To date, nearly $600,000 has been loaned out in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $20,000, to help start and grow Palestinian-owned businesses. Most are in the agriculture sector, and most are women-owned. The National Bank has a robust pipeline of applicants for additional loans as funds become available. Additional investment is welcomed.

If your congregation is interested in investing in one or more of these projects, please contact Rob Bullock at (502) 569-5101 or rob.bullock@presbyterianfoundation.org.  

It’s constantly in the news – violence and fear, occupation  and repression, peace talks that lead nowhere, frustration and
desperation. The ongoing quest for peace in Israel-Palestine seems to remain just out of reach. Presbyterians have, for decades, longed for, argued for, and worked for this elusive peace – safety, security and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians. We’ve drafted overtures, passed resolutions, sent letters and envoys and teams to learn about and
advocate for both sides.



“Small businesses are helping us not be relying on someone else, except reliance on God and self. It helps not just a little, it helps a lot.”
 





At the 220th General Assembly in 2012, ongoing discussions about the possibility of divesting shares of several companies that appear to be profiting from the Occupation, commissioners pushed for a new tactic: positive investment in companies engaged in peaceful pursuits in the region. This action led to the creation of a new program at the Foundation called “Transformational Investing.” The following excerpts from a Presbyterian Outlook online story by Jack Haberer tell the story.

Working with colleagues at the Presbyterian Mission Agency, several prominent congregational leaders, and partners in the Middle East, the Presbyterian Foundation has worked over a year and a half to complete three investments. Partnering with consulting firms and companies in Israel, the West Bank and Great Britain, they eagerly embraced the prospects of positive investment in the region. They could foresee how visionary investing could become key drivers of the Palestinian economy – education, microfinance, renewable energy. They joined with the Foundation and already are making news and having a transformative effect on lives in the region.
 

Microfinance

Small loans can make a huge difference for Palestinians trying to start or grow businesses. In Palestine, the combination of high education (95% literacy) and high unemployment (over 20%; even higher among women) has led many Palestinians to great ingenuity and energy in entrepreneurship. Micro-loans of start-up capital, usually in the $1,000– $20,000 range, are helping create new businesses and grow the Palestinian economy. And, the average payback rate of these loans is over 98%.
 
The Foundation has partnered with a Ramallah- based bank, which specializes in microfinance lending, to create a $500,000 loan program with a special emphasis on women business owners. Nine women have al

A student of the culinary program is now the head chef at a local hotel. He endorsed the school with his comment, “It was amazing. It changed my life, big time.”
ready secured loans to open shops, start agricultural initiatives, purchase taxis, start a kindergarten, launch a photography studio and more. The women have described these loans as life-changing boosts that are calming their spirits about the conflict in the region, while also lifting their hopes that their futures for them and their families will be bright.


“On a recent visit to Ramallah, I got to meet one of the women who has built a successful business on one of these microloans,” said Tom Taylor, the Foundation’s president and CEO.
 
“Buthaina is a seamstress by trade, and she opened up a dress shop to rent and sell wedding gowns and party gowns that she has designed. She borrowed $3,000 from our micro- lending partner and had such success in the fi  year that she was able to open a hair and make-up salon next door to serve her customers. She went on to open an accessories shop across the hall, and then a dry-cleaning business upstairs. She has four full-time employees  now and turned a nice profi  last year.”


Education

Another project entails a construction loan to Dar al-Kalima University College in Bethlehem. This Christian college serves both Christian and Muslim students with a focus on job preparedness and employability. The loan will fund construction of a new building to house culinary and tourist industry classrooms, offices and other facilities. In addition, the project will eventually include two restaurants, one with a 360-degree view of Bethlehem where tourists and outside conference groups can visit and dine, and another that will operate at the culinary training kitchen for the college’s future prospective chef-graduates that will serve the faculty, students and administration.
 
This project promises financial success given its connection to Palestine’s “natural resource” of religious tourism. Increasing visitors to Bethlehem and other places of Christian significance in Palestine is driving the rise of new restaurants and hotels opening throughout the region. Graduates of the Dar al-Kalima College programs will fill many of the new positions being created at such businesses

Renewable Energy

With more than three hundred days of full sun each year, daylight serves as another of Palestinians’ greatest natural resources. Like most other places in the world, demand for electricity continues to grow, and in the Palestinian territories, hich rely on Israel for 90% of their energy, brownouts are common and prolonged. What better than to tap the solar energy that is so readily available? Domestically generated solar power can help reduce the cost of energy in manufacturing, allowing for more job creation and lower overall costs.

The lower overall costs will be passed down to the end consumer making consumer staples more affordable. So, the Foundation recently finalized details of a $300,000 amortizing term loan to build a solar energy facility near Jericho managed by the Arab Development Society, which will cut the amount of purchased electricity by one-third. The project will involve the installation of a grid-connected, photovoltaic power facility to support manufacturing and agricultural research and training activities near Jericho. Your church can participate in the Transformational Investing program. Visit our website at PresbyterianFoundation.org/PositiveInvesting to check out videos that explain more or contact Rob Bullock or Greg Rousos at 800-858-6127, x5101.
 
Reprinted with permission from the Presbyterian Outlook
www.pres-outlook.com

 
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