House Report No. 14
Visit to Al Ain Refugee Camp in Nablus
AL AIN UNDER CURFEW
The book, Tale from Under Curfew, was written during a writing workshop for the children of Al Ain refugee camp in the city of Nablus in occupied Palestine. They were born in Al Ain after their families were thrown off their ancestral lands that the children have never seen. They compare the green hills of the villages in Galilee their grandma described to them with the camp where the alleys are so narrow that, when their grandma died, elders had to carry her body from roof to roof to reach the main street. Their grandma’s tales were used to calm them during curfew when soldiers swept into the camp in jeeps and tanks, shouting, throwing tear gas and shooting at them for days and nights.
Another International Women’s Peace Service volunteer and I visited Al Ain with a French volunteer and Reida Masri, administrator of the Local Rehabilitation Committee, working with refugees. Reida focuses on extreme psychological trauma of refugee children due to soldiers coming into their houses at night and keeping the camp under fire for extended periods.
Al Ain Refugee Camp, established by UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in 1947-1950, has a clinic and schools for boys and girls within the camp. The 6,800 residents live under such stressful crowded conditions that fighting is common and 60 are currently in prison. Reida showed us how severely the soldiers had destroyed the structures of the camp, which were covered with graffiti and bullet holes. Any light fixtures were shot and many parts of the structures were completely destroyed. One section of the camp was underground with lighting destroyed by soldiers. Refugees lived underground with no windows in cave-like structures. Sheep were living next to one dwelling in an adjacent structure.
In 2007 Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Border Police placed the camp under complete curfew for three days while they carried out a house-to-house search and arrest campaign, during which two Palestinians were killed and 25 injured including two children and one woman. One IDF soldier was killed and 5 injured, including 4 by a tear gas canister exploding prematurely inside their armored vehicle. They reportedly shot and killed a crippled man, would not allow the ambulance in to treat him, and shot the driver in the hand while he was trying to treat people. In times such as these, their grandmas told them tales of villages they had never seen.
The maze of narrow alleys of the camp is indeed too narrow to carry their grandma through. The sun barely reached the ground. At the first place we visited, the mother had gone to visit her son who had been in an Israeli prison for 13 months on administrative detention, meaning that there were no charges or trial. She was the only family member allowed to visit and had to leave the house at 4am to reach the prison. She was not allowed to bring anything to her son except money so he could buy Israeli products in the prison store.
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization reports that Israel was holding 4,596 Palestinians political prisoners in October 2012, including 184 in administrative detention, and 189 children – most for expressing opposition to the occupation. Among all Palestinians, 25% have been imprisoned and 40% of Palestinian males. Family visits, if not denied, are allowed only once every 3 months for 45 minutes. Israeli prisons are known for physical abuse, appalling conditions, medical negligence, and torture, including for children as young as 12. The youngest prisoner was beaten, placed in solitary confinement, sexually assaulted, and tried to commit suicide twice.
In the next place, Reida knocked and then opened the door as she explained that the girl in that place had become “crazy” due to fear. The Committee had built a wall so that the family had a living room with a small door at floor level, which, when opened, revealed only the feet of the girl who was hiding underground and covered with a blanket. The family has no money to get treatment for her.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Palestine Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC) report increased numbers of children with PTSD and other anxiety disorders. Over half the cases they treat in Nablus are severe enough to affect daily functioning with over 40% of all patients experiencing anxiety related to settler harassment and military incursions. One eight-year-old girl developed bed-wetting, stuttering, and lost weight after being pulled away by her hair by soldiers as she tried to hold her father’s legs while he was being forcibly arrested.
We then stopped at a place where the young woman served us juice and then described how Israeli soldiers had shot across her pregnant abdomen from one side to the other when she was ready to deliver a baby girl. The shot killed the infant but the soldiers refused to allow her to go to the hospital for 2 hours. Her husband was also shot and is still recuperating after several surgeries. She then pulled out her cell phone and showed us photos she had taken of the dead infant who appeared to be fully formed with fatal traumatic injuries.
This type of IDF cruelty was reported to be common. The BBC News reported in March 2009 that Haaretz Daily confirmed the production of customized t-shirts, including one that showed a sniper’s crosshairs over a pregnant woman’s abdomen with the caption, “ONE SHOT-TWO KILLS”. An IDF psychologist was reported as saying soldiers were allowed to wear them in private and in the barracks to promote bonding within a small unit. In the same article, soldiers were quoted as saying they killed Palestinian women and children by opening fire in haste under relaxed rules of engagement in Gaza.
Another indication of aggression toward childbearing Palestinian women is documentation by the Palestinian Ministry of Health that between 2000 and 2007, 10% of Palestinian women were forced to endure labor or childbirth at a checkpoint. Lancet reported that this cruel practice resulted in at least 35 deaths of infants and 5 women during that period.
As we returned home walking through the souk, or market, on our way to the bus station, we passed through an area where the soldiers had destroyed as much as they possibly could of the ancient Old city of Nablus during 2002. Israeli military forces had carried out an 18-day air and ground bombardment of Nablus, destroying about 400 structures in the Old City where approximately 23,000 Palestinians lived. During the second invasion of Nablus, its residents were placed under 24-hour curfew for more than 100 consecutive days and another 1,200 structures were damaged. Shortly thereafter another 592 buildings were damaged.
During the 2012 Russell Tribunal on Palestine, some presenters described sociocide as the attempt to destroy a people, its dignity, culture, and any trace that it had ever existed in the land. The destruction of the Old City of Nablus, coupled with imprisonment, terrorism of children and cruelty and slaughter of women and children appears to constitute sociocide. Luckily the children of Al Ain continue to exist and to speak out, even under curfew and terrorized, bravely refusing to let the stories of their ancestral villages die. But all Palestinian people, including 5.5 million refugees housed around the world and the 6,800 residents of Al Ain deserve to live lives of peaceful sleep and play with adequate food and water and health care and intact families – and to reclaim their ancestral lands without being exiled, arrested, harassed, terrorized, tortured, killed by IDF soldiers or treated as nonhumans. All of us must ensure that our governments and the United Nations are not complicit in attempted sociocide in Palestine.
Written by Carol
Edited by Andi and Gwen
12th November 2012
House Report No. 11 – 18.10.2012
Olive picking on a Large Scale
The last 2 days’ of olive-picking have been quite different from usual, involving large groups of between 50 – 80 people. For both we relied on Beker from Farkha village to be our principle contact, and both were very well organized.
On Tuesday all 4 of the team at present in the house got up at 4.15am in order to go to an agricultural gate in the perimeter fence surrounding the vast settlement of Ariel, separating the farmers of Salfit from their lands now enclosed by the settlement. The army has given them up to 20 days to pick and each morning they have to be there at 6am for the opening of 3 gates to be passed through before they are immediately locked again. They are then “let out” at 4pm promptly. Once a year Beker, as the local organiser for PARC (Palestine Agricultural Relief Committees), organizes internationals to accompany the farmers just for one day as a show of solidarity. In the event only 6 internationals turned out, 2 from ISM and all of our available house team. Gathering at dawn with a huge crowd of humans and animals was dramatic. There must have been a minimum of 80 people there. Inevitably the soldiers kept us waiting and when they arrived, guns cocked at children and donkeys, the green ID cards of all Palestinians were collected off them and internationals were asked for passports. None of us had the genuine article on them – just copies – but we were let through after some discussion. We each walked with the group we had been allocated to, spreading out over the sides of the valley we entered, touched by the sun as it rose above the horizon. My family had trees right up the hillside, planted in immaculate well-spaced rows on broad terraces built over years by the grandfather of Abu Ahmed, the English teacher I was with. With his son and 2 other shebab we formed a strong team of 5 and worked pretty solidly through the day, though with good breaks for a delicious breakfast, tea, coffee and water to punctuate the long hot day. The highlight for me was the singing of the shebab as they stood in the trees picking high branches. One was tone deaf but it didn’t matter. All sang with gusto for a long time.
When we gathered again at the gate we all agreed it had been a great day, well-organised and carried out efficiently. PARC paid for the caps and T-shirts that were handed out, for the food and for the taxi transport to the site. We would all like to go back there but it’s unlikely because this was a symbolic day of solidarity and will not be repeated this year.
This was immediately followed by another day of solidarity, but very different in nature. Again, it is an annual event. In this case the solidarity with local farmers in Qarawat Bani Hassan came from a variety of local officials from the Salfit governorate, from the Governor downwards through the ranks of army, police, fire-fighters and administration. Some central PA officials were there too, and of course the press and lots of photographers. Similar events are held in other villages on threatened land.
Only 2 of the house team were available to go to this but we made up for that by being the first to congregate in the baladiya (municipal buildings) of Qarawat. After 2 hours being plied with coffee, juice and sickly cakes everyone was ready to set off in a cavalcade of cars through the village to the hillside overlooking the settlement of Qiryat Netafim which has taken much of the village land. Besides Amy and myself there was one other woman in this large group, and we all descended on one area of trees, picking them clean like a plague of locusts. Again, there was much male singing, this time lead by the brother of our mayor Abu Nawab, who is a singing artist and who teaches in Qarawat. In fact he had commandeered his class of boys, dressed in uniforms similar to scouts, to keep us all fed and watered during the morning. Although many trees were picked there was also much time spent sitting in the shade smoking, drinking and eating the constant hand-outs of the boys. Then at mid-day sharp everything was abandoned and we were transported back to the baladiya for a lunch of mussakhan with chicken. Just as quickly, the lunch was over, debris strewn everywhere on tables and the floor, and the room was suddenly empty. We were transported back to the house free of charge and carrying a small mountain of the vegetarian left-overs.
I think a good time was had by all. We get back to serious picking tomorrow.
Written by Gwen, Edited by Amy
Incident Report – 16.10.2012
Jamma`in – Removing the earth mound
Today an earth mound which was blocking the way to the olive trees was removed by a group of 30 people, inhabitants and international activists together.
This blockade is installed by the Israeli army several times a year in the time of harvesting the olives, to keep the farmers from their trees. The first earth mound is constructed at the beginning of the harvest and another will be reconstructed after the removal sooner or later. The earth mound was removed in a joint action. Today the Homeland Party (Wattan) was taking part in it.
With mattocks and buckets everyone was taking action. In less than an hour the road was usable again for cars and it was free except for two rocks still lying in the middle of the road. These will be removed on Saturday with a tractor, as on Saturday there is expected to be less military around because of the Jewish holiday. It is sure, however, that the Israeli military will bring back the blockading mound, as it did in previous years.
When the work was done, a military jeep arrived, with 4 soldiers inside. They were talking on the phone, got out of the jeep and told a car driver not to stay on the road. After that they went back to the jeep and went off, without taking further action.
IWPS was part of the action with 2 women from the German speaking delegation as well as 2 long term volunteers. ISM had 7 participants. There was also someone from the Palestinian press taking pictures.
Written by: Andi
Edited by: Karin and Gwen
Home Demolitions in the Village of Hares
Wednesday 7 November – the Demolitions
We received the call at 9.45 am, Wednesday 7 November from Issa Souf that there were soldiers and bulldozers in Hares. Gwen stayed in the house to receive and make urgent calls while Andi, Carol, Gill, Karin and Vivienne piled into a taxi at 10am and went straight there. We were then separated in two taxis and did not catch up with each other till much later.
Carol, Karin and Vivienne found the way up to the houses under threat blocked by 4 soldiers and 2 IOF jeeps. We understood that 3 houses were under threat,. At this point, the atmosphere was not particularly aggressive, though there were shabab in the fields on both sides being chased by soldiers. No stones were being thrown. Villagers were coming from all sides to oppose the demolitions. We understood later that there had been quite a lot of teargas fired near the 1st of the 3 houses itself.
After a while, these soldiers drew back and we approached the first house. There were two large bulldozers, one Caterpillar and one Hyundai. We were told by a PLO official from Salfit that a paper had been received from the Court in Bet El settlement halting the demolitions. We did not know whether this was a formal court order halting the demolitions or a notice that the lawyers representing the owners had been given leave to appeal the initial court decision the day before to uphold the demolition orders of the 2 houses. However, we felt reassured at that point that nothing untoward would happen. At this point, we joined Andi and Gill who had come into the village by a circuitous route to avoid the soldiers.
We were invited by the local official from the PLO to come with him, we slipped past the soldiers who were preventing villagers from approaching the house. We stood for some time between the bulldozers and the house, which was not yet fully built. Carol stayed with a woman who was lying under a blanket in front of this first house, between it and the bulldozers, apparently overcome by tear-gas. She became separated from the rest of us while caring for the woman. (See separate report by Carol)
We then went on the roof because we had heard that ISM volunteers were behind the house. We also wanted to get a better view of the landscape and assess the situation. Suddenly, we were hit by a barrage of tear-gas which affected both Karin and Vivienne quite badly. This was a clear signal that something was going to happen and we got out of the house fast, getting as far away from the tear gas as we could. We were also avoiding getting between the soldiers and the shabab who were now throwing stones, well after the teargas had begun.
As we withdrew, the commanding officer ignored the document faxed from the Court and ordered the demolition. We were not aware till afterwards that a second house was also demolished.
It was so horrible, seeing these great bulldozers like mechanical dinosaurs, pushing the house over like it was made of cards. It was also so shocking and heart-breaking that the people with whom we had shared meals, cups of tea and with whom we had picked olives, could be treated so brutally ad so unjustly. Their human vulnerability and essential innocence was in such sharp contrast to the violence and hate embodied in the military machines.
Thursday 8 November – Follow-up meeting with lawyers
On the day following the demolitions, IWPS was invited by Riziq Abu Nasser to attend a meeting with the villagers and various international activists for a report from the lawyers. Gill, Andi, Karen, Vivienne, Carol and Amy attended. This is reported in detail in House Report No. 13 written by Gill.
It is clear that the Palestinians rely on us to tell their story. They say ‘We don’t have access to the corporate media, you internationals must be our media.’ Only international pressure can end this, and they are relying on us.
Tuesday 13 November – Meeting with women of Hares and Machsom Watch
We were invited by Issa Souf to come to a meeting with the women of the Hares Social Work Society and the Israeli women of Machsom Watch. Carol, Gwen and Vivienne went for IWPS. The Israeli women come weekly to work with the Hares women teaching them Hebrew, English, computers, embroidery and other skills they have requested. Issa addressed the Israeli women in particular, assuring them that the Palestinians want to live in peace side-by-side with the Israelis. But he made it clear that peace depended on an end to the Occupation and a just solution in accordance with international law. We then marched to the demolished houses led by pre-school children from the village kindergarten.
Thursday 14 November – Independence Day March
IWPS was again invited to join the Independence Day march to mark the anniversary of the day in 1988 when Yasser Arafat had called for an independent Palestinian state. This had been called by the PA Governor of the Salfit. Again the march went to the demolished houses. It was much quieter in tone than the others had been – the suits from Salfit had a sobering effect! Amy, Carol and Vivienne were there for IWPS. We met Khalida and her family. were hosted for tea and spent quite some time with Khalida and her family while they served us tea and coffee.
House Report 2012-11
al Aqaba Part 1
In the village of al Aqaba, which lies inside the closed military zone of the Tubas governate, lack of infrastructure, shortage of housing and the difficulty and great expense of accessing water makes life incredibly difficult. These difficulties, especially the lack of housing, means that many of the residents leave when they become of marriageable age, gravely threatening the future existence of the village.
A couple of months ago, the IWPS house team visited the Tubas governate for a day and we were asked to come back and get to know more about the problems they face and attend a Friday demonstration. We were invited to come and spend a couple days al Aqaba to assess its needs and raise awareness for these needs.
We were first taken to a home in Tamoun, where after a lovely lunch, with an even lovlier hostess, we were brought to al Aqaba. On the way to the village proper, we were shown an agricultural road that had recently been blocked by an earthen mound by the Israeli Occupation Forces. We then drove through the village (not a long drive) and shown the “peace Road” that leads from the village to the Jordon Valley. Two weeks ago the IOF had destroyed it.
Apparently it has been destroyed numerous times, but rebuilt by the villagers.
After given a very brief geography lesson of the area, we were taken to the mayor of the village. Haj Sami has lived in al Aqaba all his life. At the age of 16 he was shot by the Israeli Military, in what he said they called an accident. The “accident” left him paralyzed from the waist down. The wheelchair he has spent the past 42 years in has not deterred him from his work for the village nor has it dampened his spirit for peace. When we met up with him he was with a group of 30 or so teenage boys; he left all but one of them to their activities and accompanied us to the village guest house. The guest house is a modern comfortable building with 3 bedrooms, a spacious kitchen, and living area and a computer area. The young man who left the group to walk with us and Haj Sami assisted the mayor up the steep incline that leads into the guest house. We sat around the kitchen table drinking tea and coffee and listening to Haj Sami tell is the story of the village, its many trials and his persistence that peace must triumph…this despite some seemingly overwhelming odds.
Sadly, though not surprisingly, he was not forthcoming about what could be done to create a peace. When asked what he taught the youth of what they could do to bring about peace, he was silent. He could only respond that he does not want to see more people in a wheelchair as he is himself. In this tiny besieged village there is a very great man with even greater aspirations, but the way forward seems to be an unspoken question. Several times during the conversation Haj Sami referenced a specific case when his ideals were questioned by a villager. This villager had his home demolished; he has a wife and 10 children. He asked the mayor how there can be peace when his home is demolished and he has no place for his family to sleep. Haj Sami reiterates that he does not want another person to end up in a wheel chair.
Later in the evening we visited the home of another villager, an older relative of Haj Sami. From him we got some of the history of this village. These Palestinians lived in caves that dot the mountainsides of the village. They lived a very traditional lifestyle. Their lives were dictated by the land. Though much of their traditional lifestyle suggests they are Bedouins, they do not today consider themselves so. Apparently potable water was always a hardship and had to be carried by large jugs from a distant spring. However, there is a closer spring that is suitable for the livestock.
The backdrop of the difficult but peaceful history being woven for us was that of war. Nearby, very nearby, the Israeli Occupation Forces were playing war games with live fire, guns and heavy artillery. The explosions are such a common sound for the villagers that they went by seemingly unnoticed. On our way back to the guest house the mayor showed us where they were practicing their training exercises. It was a hillside less than a quarter mile from the center of the village. IWPS volunteers watched the explosions and heard the soldiers yelling at one another late into the night from the front of the guesthouse. Flares were shot into the air to indicate where soldiers were so they would not be shot from one of their own. Sadly, the villagers have no such flares to keep them safe. The soldiers didn’t mean to shoot and paralyze Haj Sami when he was 16 years old. It was an “accident.” Accidents are bound to happen when crazed ideological soldiers are playing war games around a tiny village whose inhabitants are considered dangerous and less than human by many of the IOF.
In the light of the next day we could see the soldiers “battleground.” They have built a mock village, in plain site of al Aqaba, which they use as their training ground to attack Palestinian villages in real life.
We were told that there was an even bigger “mock” village on the other side of the hill which they attack. But the night we spent in al Aqaba the soldiers seemed to prefer the smaller mock village, the one that is a stones throw from a real village, with real people, one of them in a wheelchair from Israeli war games.
Freedom for Mahmoud Sarsak
On the 84th day of Mahmoud Sarsak’s hunger strike, IWPS house team joined Palestinian and International activists in Nablus to express our solidarity with Mahmoud’s cause and our outrage at the torment he is enduring. Mahmoud Sarsak is a soccer player for The National Palestine Football team. He was arrested at a checkpoint on his way to a football match 3 years ago and has been in custody, without charge or trial, since that time, He began his hunger strike on March 19th of this year. As he totters between life and death, the world remains silent. Meanwhile, the president of Israel, Shimon Perez, is being awarded the prestigious Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. It is insanity.
In a statement released by Samidoun last week, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network Makmoud Sarsak and a fellow hunger striker Akram Rikhawi express their distress to the people of the world:
“This is an urgent and final distress call from captivity, slow and programmed death inside the cells of so-called Ramle Prison hospital, that you know that your sons and brothers are still struggling against death and you pay no attention to them and do not remember their cause – as if, after the end of the general strike all the demands of the prisoners were met.
We are still here, continuing our open-ended hunger strike and that battle has not ended despite 78 days of strike for one of us, and 59 days for the other.
Regretfully, we thought that you would support us in our hunger strike, but instead you have stood on our wounds and our pain.
From here, we cry out to you, to our brothers, to dignified people, that you bear your responsibility, for after God, we have no one but you and the freedom loving people of the world to bring victory to our cause.
Second: As the hunger strike continues to erode our bodies and sap what is left of our strength, we cry out to you to help us in our battle on every level and field, local, regional and international, especially in the media, and especially Palestinian television which represents the Palestinian people.
And also in the newspapers, radio and electronic media, so that our voices can reach the freedom loving people of the world and expose this entity, and for the victory of our cause.
We say: there is still enough time and the support that comes late is better than that which does not come at all. It is better that you receive us alive and victorious rather than as lifeless bodies in black bags.
Therefore we two hunger strikers remain on our strike, Mahmoud Sarsak who has endured 78 days, and Sheikh Akram Rikhawi who has endured 59 days and was already ill, having spent 8 years in Ramle Prison clinic suffering from illnesses, and who now struggles against death.
We inform you that we will remain on our strike until all our demands are met and we will not submit to the demands of the Prison Service regardless of what we suffer in restrictions, provocations, and bargaining, and we will not accept promises and half-measures despite the deterioration of our health and our entry into difficult and dangerous situations, especially since we have lost more than 25kg and 18kg.
Our people, our leaders in Gaza, in the West Bank and outside, and freedom loving people of the world, we cry out to you, and to all people in the world who believe in the justice of our cause: do not abandon us to the vindictive hands of the jailers to take what they want from our frail bodies.
IWPS – House report:2012-10
June 17, 2012
A few days ago, on Thursday June 14, the IWPS team received a request for our presence overnight in the village of Kfer Haris in Salfit. The military shuts down the village twenty-six (somewhat sporadic) nights a year at 10pm, forcing every person into their homes to make way for Israeli Settlers who come to pray and make their presence known at Joshua’s tomb, which is located in the centre of the village. The Colonizers/Settlers believe Joshua is a figure who conquered the ancient Cannonites and brought the Jews from thousands of years ago into this land. These gatherings supposedly occur for pious reasons, yet often result in thousands of Settlers wreaking havoc in the village, through means of vandalism, trash, defecation, and obnoxious noise sent echoing through the quiet, small village into the wee hours of the morning. Palestinians watch silently from their darkened homes, unable to sleep, watching as their town is taken over.
Our presence was requested so that we could not only take pictures and document this frequent display of violence and colonization, but to hopefully keep the vandalism to a minimum, with our international outsider status.
Our evening began with us quietly leaving our Palestinian host’s home, where we had laughed and ate much, and making our way to the centre of the square. We joined the over half-dozen military trucks and security vans while getting a sense for things. We made sure the soldiers understood our persona as innocent Christian pilgrims who were there at Joshua’s tomb to pray, having heard about the celebration in Jerusalem. One soldier escorted us to the tomb to pray before the settlers began their evening and then invited us to get him if any soldiers caused us problems. After spending some time huddled around a prayer book of one of our teammates, while soldiers popped their heads in and out of the underground concrete tomb, our persona was secured. We made our way to a patch of ground in the centre/edge of the square, in clear view of the nights activity, as dozens of settlers began to arrive and set up tables for food, mingle about the town, and sometimes pray.
One of our teammates, who had observed such an event before, noticed a significant difference on this night from her last time seeing it; there was a major lack of religiosity in the majority of settlers’ behaviour, which is supposedly why they take over the village.
What became apparent (and was even confirmed by one of the more orthodox Settlers) was that there was a lack of spiritual fervor amoung the young people, which comprised most of the numbers of the mobs. A need to pray at Joshua’s tomb was trumped by the lure of a chance to be obnoxious and make their colonizing presence known to the Palestinians who were forced to silently watch and/or and listen from their darkened windows.
Over the course of a few hours, the mingling about consisted of a number of Settler boys barking at us; asking where we are from, condemning us for our Christian beliefs, and making it clear that we were not welcome there – that we were inferior in their eyes. We witnessed young boys attempting to size up the observing and disenchanted soldiers. They tried tampering with Palestinian property (which was thankfully under control of the soldiers because the numbers on this particular night were significantly less than other times), and aggressively ripped fig branches off Palestinian trees and threw them on the ground.
In waves, the crowds mobbed a road trying to reach Jonah’s tomb off to the side of Joshua’s, pushing against the line of soldiers blocking them. The boisterous yelling, pushing mob was clearly not seeking somber time in prayer, but loud and obnoxious trouble making. As the evening played out, our presence as internationals with further intentions than prayers and innocent piety, was made more clear as we took pictures and stood more obviously and knowingly within the action.
At one point a soldier right in front of us began to pick up garbage, and as we followed suit, a gang of young male Settlers made it loudly clear that they thought we should leave the trash on the ground for the Palestinians, cursing Palestine and the town that we were in. It was difficult to stand there and not be able to fully argue back the way that I would have without such circumstances surrounding us. Somewhat refreshingly, one soldier who was clearly disgusted by the Settlers, told us to “Never listen to what they say, ever.”
At about 2:30/3am we began to make our way out of the village, down the only road we could walk on, lined with soldiers. At the based of the village, we curved in the opposite direction of the settlers, past the soldiers, and along a smaller road within the olive groves, headed for Haris. We walked home for two hours through to morning, with Army trucks whizzing past us along the main road.
The Settlers take-over and presence in Kfer Haris proved to be a demonstration of their self-proclaimed power and ideological arrogance. Both those who came to pray at the tomb of Joshua (the figure they believe brought the Jews from the Torah into this land) and those who came to declare their status as settlers, did so through colonial acts of imposing on, controlling, and taking over a Palestinian village. God wonders what they were praying for.
It has been a goal of the IWPS house team (Spring 2012) to make solidarity visits to as many of the villages in the Salfit region as we are able. We wish to express our continued support to them, as well as to update our village profiles and record what their most pressing problems are in relation to the occupation.
To that end we made an appointment to visit the municipality of Deir Ballut, who has the first and only female Mayor in the West Bank! The women of Deir Ballut have taken a very active role in resistance to the occupation; IWPS has worked with them since 2002. M. took time away from her mayoral duties, which on this day included a party for students graduating from primary school, to visit with team mates.
The construction of the Apartheid Wall confiscated about six thousand Dunums of village land. Much of this was wheat, used by the villagers to make their bread. Now, as is in so many of the villages of Palestine, wheat must be purchased from sources outside the West Bank. This is a double edged sword. Purchasing wheat is an added financial burden on the families of Deir Ballut, and it also means that money is going outside of the West Bank, which adds to the region’s financial hardship and makes them even more dependent on outside aide.
M. also said the in the past year the village has lost 200 trees to settler vandalism. This also is a problem that is not unique to the village of Deir Ballut, but prevalent in most of the villages of the West Bank. Settlers often uproot olive trees or burn them to the ground, and these vandals are never held accountable for their actions.
During our meeting with M, her 14 year old daughter came into the office. She, like her mother, is steadfast against the occupation. She has a gift for writing and the recitation of poetry. We were treated to hearing one of her favorite poems, which was heart rending and at the same time, quite inspiring. However, Israel has punished her for her theatric form of resistance.
School children are given a special permission once during their school years to visit somewhere in Israel, a “privilege” to Palestinians who are only allowed into their ancestral lands west of the Apartheid Wall if they are able to obtain special permission. This can be difficult, and often impossible. Often Palestinians can only see the al aqsa mosque once in their lifetime, on their school trip. M;s fourteen year old daughter was denided permission by Israel to go on her school’s field trip. She, a child, was deemed a security risk because she shares her dream of Palestine through poetry. Indeed, Israel has a reason to be afraid. Expression of free thought is one of the greatest dangers to this Apartheid state.
Home Visit in Deir Istiya
Contrary to many of the negative images that influence our notions of the Middle East, Arab populations are not only are vastly diverse, complex and beautiful, but we have things to learn from the many wonderful traditions. We need to embrace the very vibrant, intelligent, wise, and hospitable reality of Palestinian culture, not only so that we can reconstruct the dehumanized images we have been fed in the media, but so we can humble ourselves to learn from one another. Internationals are here for multiple reasons, but besides attempting to document and ease the tensions between soldiers, settlers, and civilians, the experiences of a tradition of hospitality are a reality of anyone’s experience in Palestine.
Over the weekend, two team members were honoured to experience the common Palestinian hospitality. On Saturday, while waiting for transportation to Nablus, we were ushered in off the street and out of the heat by a local woman we greeted on the road, to wait for the bus in the courtyard and company of her daughter’s family. After tea, company, laughter, and missing our first two busses, our new friends invited us back the next day for a traditional Palestinian meal, just for us.
As we arrived on Sunday for this lunch, we discovered the matriarch of the house had gathered her whole family together to not only share the food, but also take us around her house and share her life with us. Language was extremely limited, but smiles were plenty, and the tour was a pleasure. Though the family did not have an abundance of anything material, we ate half our body weight in Musakhan, a traditional dish of homemade flatbread with caramelized onions, olive oil, saffron, roasted pine nuts (in this case peanuts) and chicken, with freshly chopped veggies and natural yoghurt to dip – amazing! Dessert consisted of more fruit and of course Khawa (Turkisk coffee), which is a staple in Palestinian homes – along with its partner in crime, shai (tea).
One of us used our Arabic to converse with the adults, discussing how the occupation has affected their lives. The economic situation is squeezing enclosed Palestine, and forces those without jobs to take work in Israel – compromising many of their beliefs and dignity. The father of the household had no choice but to wait three weeks without work to hear back from Israel if they will let him renew his working contract and let him out of the West Bank for work. Workers cannot renew their working contract while on the job, and the renewal process can take around 6 weeks, resulting in a significant amount of time after each work contract without employment, and the added risk that the renewal will be denied. The father said he does not know what he will do if this waiting game reaches the two month mark.
Knowing less Arabic, I had the privilege to be surrounded by my notebooks and translation dictionary, with the many children leafing through them, passing them around, communicating with me and teaching me the language as we laughed through the awkwardness of trying to understand each other.
Often in the West, people have this unspoken, unquestioned view that different Arab cultures are lumped under one umbrella, and that umbrella is often something threatening or scary. Despite persistent efforts of people all over the world to change the stereotypical image of “terrorist,” Islamophobia still has massive sway on Western political and economic decisions. Though we should never romanticize anything, we must continue to counteract and deconstruct these notions that paint Arab cultures in the image of the enemy, or alternatively completely victimize and silence.
The West Bank has been broadcasted as a war zone where terrorists are kept walled in supposedly for the “security” of the state that pins it down, however this weekend was just one of countless positive interactions with Palestinians that comes in the forms of hospitality, food, smiles, families, tea, coffee, and more food – no weapons or threats in sight. The only threat I have personally ever felt is from the occupying and colonizing forces here. I been overwhelmingly humbled day-in-day-out as I learn hospitality and warmth from Palestinian people and their culture.
Hospitality is a part of travel to the West Bank, despite the instilled fear that it is life threatening, dangerous, uncivil, and barren. What is left on the ever decreasing land that hasn’t been stolen and bulldozed by illegal settlers and illegal military presence is rich with flowers, fruit, olive trees, culture, families, deep spiritual and intellectual thought, and tea, tea, tea. We hope that these images will begin to fight back the war on Islamophobia in the media.
While doing some research on the legal justification of Israel is using to uproot trees in Wadi Qana, the agricultural lands of the village of Deir Istyia, the IWPS house team visited the National Bureau for the Defense of Land and resistance to Settlements. While they were unable to give us specific details about Wadi Qana they were keen to give us some first hand experience if the problems faced by settlement expansion and the Apartheid Wall in the Tulkarm governate.
To this end we traveled northwest from Nablus, and basing ourself for the night in a village hear Tulkarm, we visited Deir al Ghusun and Naziat ‘Isa, a village that has been cut in half by the Wall. In Naziat al Gharbiya we visited a man who was 2 months old when the Zionist regime declared the state of Israel and displaced Palestinians living within the newly declared state. From the second floor of his home he can see the land he was born on, the land his family tended for generations,the land his mother fled with him in her arms. He can look on it, but he cannot go there.
He accompanied us to the Apartheid Wall that separates him from his land. We drove from his current home for about 20 minutes; at several places along our route we could see the Wall. We made a turn down a street that was obviously a market street, though at the time of the day it would be normal for everything to be closed. All of the stalls were indeed closed. But something didn’t feel right about it. There was an empty desolate feel in the air. It was odd to have the sense about a street that was simply closed at the end of the day. Later, we found out why.
This street ended abruptly at the Apartheid Wall. We got out of the car to take some photos, with our very knowledgeable Palestinian friends showing and explaining the impact of the Wall to their particular area. The Wall is practically built against one two story home, so that all they can see from their windows and balcony is the stone face of the Wall. To add to their distress, their roof is a closed military zone complete with barb wire, surveillance cameras and armed soldiers maintaining a constant presence directly over head of them. Another home, its inhabitants perhaps less lucky, lived in, literally, half of their house. Their home had been cut in half to make way for the Wall. Jagged edges of concrete beams were evidence of rooms that once were the living areas of people. Now the rooms are simply gone.
Asked how long it took to build the wall around Tulkarm we were told about a month. It is hard to imagine what it was like for the people who daily watched their city being walled in. They heard first the destruction of everything in the path of the wall; bulldozers demolishing homes (or cutting them in half) and uprooting trees. Then the sounds of cranes and other heavy machinery that dug at least 3 meters into the earth then placed the 8 meter panels of concrete into place. All the while military vehicles would be patrolling the area with their heavy machinery and weapons, screaming at Palestinians who dare look through their windows to watch what was happening. In demonstrations against the building of this wall, 6 Palestinians were killed, as well as 2 IOF soldiers.
There are few, if any places in the West Bank where you are as heavily under Israeli scrutiny than near the Wall. In fact, one is intuitively aware that one is being watched everywhere one goes in the West Bank, but the guard towers the brings this fact home. People who take us to see the wall are conscious that we don’t stay too long, or take too many pictures. They are taking a risk; it might mean a raid on their home at night, an arrest…
As we were leaving, it was explained that the street we were on, the street where the sense of emptiness and desolation was pervasive, was the street of commerce before the Apartheid Wall was built. It’s name is Traders Street. The sense we got of emptiness was true. The stalls were not closed because the trading day had ended. The stalls were closed because there is no longer commerce on the street. It is a street that leads to the face of injustice in Palestine.
Al Awdah Centre for Children and the Young Welfare
On 22 May, the IWPS house team visited the Al Awdah Centre for Children and the Young Welfare in Tulkarm refugee camp. The camp is the second largest in the West Bank and houses more than 18,000 registered refugees on an area of approximately 0.18 km. The people in the camp are refugees from the villages of Misca, Kakun and Wadi Hawareth around Haifa, Jaffa and Kissaria area, which were destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948.
We arrived at the Al Awdah Centre just as they were closing, but staff at the centre were happy to stay a little longer and talk to us about their work. The Centre caters to children with learning difficulties between the ages of 3-16. They strategically work with the families of the children, especially the mothers, who then mentor their children at home. The school was originally started in 2004 and operated out of a small house in the camp. Demand for services has seen the school grow and in 2006, they were able to establish the Al Awdah Center with financial help Spain. It currently accepts students from within the camp and surrounding area. Seventeen teachers including special education teachers are employed by the school. International volunteers also occasionally offer a range of other courses at the school. Current enrollment sits at approximately 50 children. Referrals to the school may be made by the other schools in the camp, or an approach made by individuals. School fees are 100 shekels-month (about $35>00), though this is still prohibitive for many families.
The UNRWA run 4 schools in Tulkarm refugee camp but they are insufficient for the population of the camp and the social problems life in the camp subject the children to. We spoke to one of the 17 teachers at the school who was also born in the camp. He told us that nowadays, most of the children drop out of school and do not finish 9th grade. He explained that the conditions for people in the camps are much worse now than before the second intifada, and when he was young. It is the norm for 25 -30 people to live in one household, along with their animals. Unemployment is at 30%, as 70% of those who were able to find work in Israel lost their jobs after the second intifada. Only a small number of children proceed to high school. Most try to eke out a living in the markets.
Overcrowding in the UNRWA schools is endemic. One school holds double shifts for students. In 6th grade classes the teacher/student ratio is approximately 40 students for every teacher. By 8th grade there are fewer students per teacher (28/1) but only because students drop out of school as they get older.
On a brighter note, UNRWA also hosts a centre for women that conducts workshops on embroidery, computing and hairdressing. The workshops are free apart from the hairdressing course and are intended to provide additional skills for them to earn a living. There is a waiting list to get into the workshops; the women are motivated to improve their lives and the lives of their families.
The Al Awdah Centre and the workshops for women are a small sign of hope for the people living in the Tulkarm refugee camp. However, the hardships of Palestinian refugees continue to be severe until Israeli’s illegal occupation of Palestine ends and a just solution is found for the 4.5 million Palestinians who live without a land to call home.
The centre can be contacted on alawdamesyahoo.com
House team Report 2012-9
The IWPS house team was given an introduction to the situation in the Jordan Valley by the Bureau of the Defence of Land and Resistance to Settlements, based in Nablus. One member had seen the Jordan Valley from the Jordanian side. It is green and lush and is the food bowl for both sides of the river. Unfortunately, Israel has occupied and annexed all of the Jordan Valley declaring it a closed military zone. Instead of farmland producing food for Palestinian consumption, this area now comprises 5 military camps and 12 settlements. The situation in the Jordan Valley for Palestinians is dire and quite miserable.
We went first to Tubas and were received by the Mayor and some Council members. Tubas, one of the largest towns in the Jordan Valley has lost 76% of its land. Large parcels of land totalling 72,000 donums were lost as a result of the wars in 1948 and 1967. Between 1965 and 1967, whilst the area was under Jordanian jurisdiction, farmers built up their farms again and invested in agricultural infrastructure. Small villages grew again in the area. These were destroyed in the war in 1967. Since 1970 and the transfer of land back to Israel, farmers have been denied access to their land as this area was declared a closed military zone.
Today, Palestinians have control of only 89 out of the 291 wells in the Jordan Valley. One farmer put in 27 km of water pipes to bring water from the nearby town of Farah to his farmland outside Tammoun as he cannot access water to irrigate his fields. Many wells have been destroyed by the military.
Farmers not actually residing in the Jordan Valley are denied entry as it is a closed military zone. Entry is via two checkpoints – Tayasir and Hamra. Tayasir is reported to be a particularly rigorous checkpoint where people can only enter on foot and no cars are allowed. The challenges of living here have resulted in a population drainage as 56 000 people remain compared to the 320 000 who used to live here prior to 1970. As usual, agricultural land is zone C which means it is under full Israeli control, the land can be requisitioned anytime and in practical terms, this means that tanks from the military camps train here and trundle over the fields on a whim.
The Mayor explained “he who is stronger he can do what he wants….the weaker can only look on.” However, at the farmland itself, we were told that the farmers had continued to plant their fields out of sheer determination. They cultivated their fields despite the risk of confiscation of land and equipment. Planting and replanting is their form of popular resistance.
The farming area that we could see was very fertile. Field crops were supplemented by numerous greenhouses. It was the season for wheat, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, corn and shallots (small onions).
There was a mineral spring in the Jordan Valley but this was concreted in by 40 m of concrete by the Israelis.
We were told that the people here are very poor. 70% of the population are farmers but with 70%of their farmland confiscated and very little opportunity to seek work in Israel, their prospects are dim. Many have had to seek agricultural work in the settlements nearby. By a cruel twist of fate they have to eake out a living working on farmland that has been confiscated from them.
As we drove back towards Nablus this afternoon, our guide reflected on the continued theft of land: “they took our land in 1948 and we try to forget, but they take all and this is miserable.”
House demolition at Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi
At around 11 am today the IWPS house team received a call from EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Isreal) requesting our assistance to take record of a house demolition at Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi near Qalqilya.
By the time we arrived, which was a huge rigmarole through Jaljoulia checkpoint, the home was already in ruins. Visible in the rubble left by the Israeli Occupation bulldozer was broken timber, zinc and styrofoam sheeting, vinyl and personal effects: a woman´s shoe, a battered typewriter, pillows and a toy matchbox car was visible amongst the wreckage. Amazingly, one of the children of the home, a 2.5 year old girl who suffers from asthma, ran out of the house with her medicine as soon as she saw Chaim, the “Liaison Officer” who is well known to her and the other children of the village.
He has overseen the demolition of many homes in Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi. A family of 10 lived in this house, including 8 children. A UN rep had just arrived before us, and the Red Cross/Red Crescent minutes later.
This was not the first time this family has endured the loss of their home. Their previous dwelling was bulldozed in December and a new structure donated by OCHA had been put up last month. It was barely a month old when the Occupation forces and the Border Police tore it down this morning at 10 am. The whole event took half an hour. In a cruel twist of irony, Chaim had come to the village yesterday and congratulated them on their new home. The villagers said the military, accompanied by Chaim, often come into the village to take pictures, and sometimes take pictures from the main road. They also said they know that everything in their village is watched from a nearby illegal Israeli settlement.
Earlier this month, on the 6th of May, the military told them that this home would be demolished if they did not tear down the posters advertising OCHA donation. The residents telephoned the aid agency that had donated the structure and were advised to leave the posters up. This morning, the Israeli Occupation Forces and Border Police arrived with a bulldozer and 7 jeeps and demolished the home. One of the village elders said that the military destruction of the family dwelling was extreme disrespect to the generous donors from Europe.
After the demolition, as the IOF were leaving they threw tear gas and sound bombs into the village. As we walked around the village to photograph the destruction the children clustered around us and though they did not speak any English used gestures to demonstrate what happened: they showed us a burnt area of earth where a tear gas canister had fell and put their hands over their ears and said “boom boom.”
They pointed to the littlest one in their group who was about 2 years old to tell us that she cried.
The UN rep told us that every building in the village has a demolition order against it.
The Red Cross had already provided them with tents from a previous set of demolitions. It is very distressing to know that these people have to endure this repeatedly. We were told by both the UN and Red Cross that the people here actually own the land and have papers to prove this. This means little when in effect they are powerless to stop the demolitions or any other acts of terror, harassment or intimidation inflicted on them by the military in their regular incursions into the village.
This piece of land lies in very close proximity to the illegal settlement of Alfei Menashe which was established in 1983, 4 km east of the Green Line. The separation wall loops around this settlement and cuts this land off from the Palestinian West Bank, effectively putting this piece of land on the “Israeli side”. The wall in this area, completed in 2003, makes an enclave of five Palestinian villages. The enclave is part of the seam zone between the wall and the green line. So, though the villagers have all the legal papers to prove ownership of this land and have been here since 1957, all of their permanent structures are consistently demolished. Life here is difficult as they cannot build stable buildings and though they have access to water, they do not have electricity despite electricity cables passing directly overhead. A generator provides some power for a couple of hours after nightfall, enabling some communal television watching and light for the school children to study by.
The people here are very poor 1948 Bedouin refugees from Bir Saba. They eke out a living with their products such as goat and cheese in the market. Some of these products are bought by Palestinian Arabs living in Israel who prefer to buy their products from Palestinians in the West Bank. Increasing taxes imposed on products brought back into Israel through the border has proven to be prohibitive for some, further straining any income source for these people. Despite their many hardships, the people of Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi vow they will stay on their land.
House Report 2012-8
May 19th 2012
Date: Friday 18th May 2012
Where: Nabih Saleh demonstration
What happened: Injuries sustained by individuals during peaceful protest demonstration at Nabi Salih village.
On Friday 18th May 2012, two members of the IWPS house team attended the demonstration organized by the village of Nabih Saleh. Also in attendance were 11 members of San Gha’ny, a choir from Scotland. The demonstration commenced at approximately 1.30 pm. The village asked the choir to lead the column of demonstrators down the road to the spring.
The military present included approximately 20 armed soldiers, a “skunk” truck and military jeeps. The choir stopped some distance from the military and sat down. IWPS members stayed with the choir and also sat down. The military did not issue a warning before commencing use of the skunk truck nor provide sufficient time for the choir to leave. The “skunk” truck continued spraying even though people were running away from the truck. The choir mistress was fully drenched and several members of the choir were sprayed.
Rubber bullets and tear gas were subsequently also fired resulting in several injuries. Injuries noted by IWPS include:
-Rubber bullet in back shoulder (IWPS LTV)
-Rubber bullet in neck (choir member)
-Rubber bullet in arm (choir member)
-Rubber bullet in back between shoulder blades (choir member)
-Rubber bullet in shoulder (Palestinian male)
-Tear gas canister hits thigh (Palestinian female)
Rubber bullets were fired at demonstrators who were running away from the military. Tear gas canisters were fired at the crowd rather than in the air away from people.
No other injuries were observed by IWPS.
The demonstration concluded at approximately 5 pm.
Reported by Dawn
Edited by Marie
House Report 2012-7
April 23 2012
Yesterday the House Team visited EAPPI in Yanoun. The history of Yanoun is particularly tragic as the illegal settlement of Itamar, one of the most ideological settlements in the West Bank, has brutalized the villagers for years. The violence against them became so bad that in 2002 all the villagers left, but a few returned when an international presence was established. The international presence hasn’t stopped the violence, but has de-escalated it to some degree, and now 4 families comprising 65 people live in the village. Of those, only 5 are men; the rest are women and children. The village is divided into “upper” and “lower” Yanoun. In upper Yanoun, perched on the side of a hill, the people reside along with the internationals (EAPPI). Lower Yanoun is in the valley, mostly used for agriculture. Part of lower Yanoun had been declared a closed military zone, which obviously makes agriculture and grazing of live stock difficult, if not sometimes impossible. Adding to the problem, this closed military zone is arbitrary in its scope. Sometimes it is within one area, at other times this area is expanded. So, at the whim of the Israeli Occupation forces, different areas can become off limits to villagers from one day to another. Several weeks ago one of the EAPPI volunteers asked to be shown precisely where the closed military zone was. He was told he could be shown it, yes, but if he were shown it he would be within it and would be arrested for being there! This is the nature of the Israeli Occupation.
For the farmers of Yanoun, the closing of their land (or more precisely, more of their land, is devastating. The area they are able to cultivate is now much smaller and even more challenging is grazing their goats and sheep. They must move their herds around for the animals to be able to find forage, and the shepherds face the Israeli Occupation forces (possible arrest and confiscation of their animals) if they enter the undefined CMZ, and just as bad, violence from the settlers, who are armed and very dangerous.)
Adding to their problems, settlers often come into the village, sometimes just for a hike, toting their machine guns, and if they have a mind, as was the case in March, they destroy property and pollute the water well of Yanoun. The villagers are helpless to these atrocities.
It is nearly impossible for the villagers to find work. Unemployment is high in the West Bank, and transportation to and from Nablus, the nearest source of employment, is time consuming and expensive. Though the village is not far from Nablus (Nablus is a few km. west of Yanoun), the road leading there is closed to Palestinians so they must make a long journey south then back north to reach Nablus. This is a time consuming and costly journey. Thus, their local agriculture is the only means for the people to support themselves.
Still, the brave souls who live in Yanoun vow they will not leave again so long as there is an international presence. They have a primary school for the 8 children of primary school age.
There is a small store run by 3 elder women of the village. We purchased Yanoun honey and toasted almonds from them, more as an act of solidarity than need. But we found the almonds to be of the finest quality and honey as good as tupelo!
The agricultural valley of Yanoun is prime estate and no doubt the Israeli’s covet it. If the villagers are driven out entirely, Itamar will absorb it into their illegal settlement. One wonders if these ideological settlements which violently oppress villages such as Yanoun are not strategically placed to make the theft of outlying Palestinian land easier. These settlers are a de facto army without any code of conduct. To western eyes, they have no morals or conscience. They steal, do grave bodily harm and desecrate Palestinian land. And they answer to nobody. A Zionist dream team….
After a few hours in Yanoun we went with EAPPI to their regular village visits in Burin. Burin isn’t far from Yanoun, but again due to the road closure to Palestinians, we had to drive in a long circle and through the militarycheckpoint at Zatara Junction to get there.
The first person we met was B. who has a family of 6- a wife, 4 sons and a daughter.
Four years ago he had just completed his home atop one of the mountains overlooking the village.
He and his family went into the village one evening and settlers from Bracha ransacked the home, stole all the furnishings and even took the doors and windows! It was a clear message for him not to come back. Since that time he has rented a small house for his family. From this house he can see the home he built with his own hands, but he dare not venture up there. The settlers destroyed the road leading to the house so the only way up is to walk. Without a vehicle he would be extremely vulnerable to settler attack and without a means of escape. He wants to return but does not feel that he can without an international presence. Still, he vows that he will return. It isn’t about the house he said. The house is his home, yes, and of course he doesn’t want to lose it. He built it himself. But the house is a real life metaphor for the mountain it sits atop. If, he said, the settlers get his home, they will also take the whole mountain.
Next we visited BA, whose home is a stones throw from the settlement of Bracha. He and his wife have a lovely home, with an absolutely enchanting garden.
Unfortunately, their home must be surrounded by a gate topped with barbed wire and watch dogs warn of encroaching settlers who recently destroyed 30-40 of their olive trees. Their home was enclosed by the fence after settlers burned part of their house and their car. But the olive trees are outside the fence, on the hillside between their home and the illegal settlement. We asked to take pictures of the destroyed Olive trees, but BA was fearful this would incite the settlers and they would face reprisal once we were gone. He said their home is always under surveillance by cameras installed on the perimeter of the settlement.
Finally we visited H, a woman who lives on the outskirts of Burin. She is a young widow. In 2002, settlers from Yitzar attacked her home and set it afire. In the ensuing violence, her husband had a heart attack and died.
One might think she would have left her home after this, but she is steadfast to remain.
She and her grown sons still tend their olive trees and raise sheep, goats and chickens. And they are still under attack by the settlers, whose illegal outposts can be seen on the mountaintops surrounding their home.
A couple of comments on the homes we visited. As in Yanoun, each place, except B’s, is situated partway up a hillside, with the traditional grazing area atop the mountain and the verdant and fertile valley below. Each is isolated from the village center of Burin so more vulnerable to settler attack and in all cases extremist settlers have been strategically places to intimidate the villagers away. And, in each case, there many internationals, including activists and press, have come to do reports which have come to naught. The Zionist controlled government continues to allow and even subsidize these illegal settlements and outposts. And despite the hardships, each family vowed they would not leave their land, except for B. whose home must be reclaimed before he can vow not to leave it. However, he does indeed vow to reclaim it!
Written by Marie
Edited by Jenny
House report, 2012 # 6
April 21 2012
The Wall in Qalqilya
The house team visited Suhad from the Palestinian Medical Relief Society .We met her at the premises of the PMRS and we were treated to a piece of kanafe as the Organisation was celebrating the success of an inspection visit from their funders.
The purpose of the visit was to see the perimeter of the wall that engulfs the town and to see the effect it has on its inhabitants. You can see that the town is cut off by the Apartheid Wall and closed military zones (no man’s land); on the other side illegal settlements expand on Palestinian land .
Suhad gave us a very informative and enlightening introduction to the history of Occupation and its consequences. This is very poignant for Suhad as her family was affected by the loss of land that ensued the partition of Palestine and subsequent building of the wall.
In the map below, the left hand side border is the “Green Line” drawn by UN in 1948 to grant Palestinian land for the creation of the new State of Israel.
The green parts on this map are still Palestinian. The yellow parts have been appropriated by Israel. Suhad called the incursions fingers or tentacles that are strangling Palestine. These incursions are not arbitrary; they seem to follow an insidious plan to split the West Bank into small segments, while linking the illegal settlements to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
North and South of Jerusalem you can see the tentacles spreading like a cancerous growth that will tear Palestine up. Jericho is totally surrounded by occupied land. Tragically, this land along the Jordan river is very fertile.
The Green Line skirted around the perimeter of the town of Qualqilya, but severed it from most of its agricultural land, which laid west of the Green Line. Further down you’ll see a yellow oblong area where the village of Emuas used to be. Emuas was evacuated and the area is now “no man’s land” close to the Mevo Horon settlement. Please have a look at the Wikipedia photograph, it looks like an idyllic holiday resort, except that it is built on stolen land, irrigated with stolen water and subsidized by USA, EU and the taxes levied on the Palestinian territories, such as water and electricity charges; e.g. Israel sells electricity to Palestine at higher rates than to Israelis, in spite of the fact that Israeli living standards are higher than Palestinian’s. Suhad told us that Qalqiliya has 53% of the water in Palestine but it is not allowed to carry it to other areas because it would necessitate crossing Israeli controlled roads.
The first stop of our visit was the checkpoint where workers que at 3am in order to pass through Israeli “security” and be on the other side at 6am, in the hope of being offered casual day work: no contract, no medical insurance, no protection; just low wages.
Suhad also told us that Israel built the wall inside the Palestinian territory. In addition, they took an extra 300 m from the wall,, which is declared “no man’s land” but it is de facto, Israeli territory, as no-one can approach it; it is surrounded by barbed wire. Bedouin communities got trapped in this land and don’t have access to water or electricity. They cannot access Qalqiliya directly in order to sell their produce. They have to travel to Tulkarem and by then , it has lost much of its freshness and value.
The concrete wall is 8m high and has foundations of 3m. The Israeli side is planted with tress to disguised its sinister look. Qalqiliya doesn’t’ have such luxury. Instead, it has to live with foul smells due to frequent blockages in the sewerage, and lack of access to the other side to make any necessary repairs (sewerage flows from east to west):
The nearest village is Habla. Qalqiliya has no access to the main highway, so a tunnel has been built to allow traffic between the two municipalities.
We visited the huge check point that allows farmers to tend their land beyond the wall. The check point is open only a few hours a day and the procedure is as cumbersome as the crossing to Israeli territory. However, it is imperative that farmers tend their land, otherwise, if it lies fallow for 3 years, the Israeli army would requisition it.
We ended our visit by viewing the proximity of the nearest settlement, Alfe Menashe ,
and the derelict house that used to be the summer home of the landowner whose land is occupied now by the settlement. Suhad’s dream would be to renew the house and water well (reservoir) and to convert them into a recreation facility for women and children in Qalqilya. Inshallah!
Written by Jenny,
Edited by Marie
House Report 2012-5
April 20 2012
IWPS House Team attended the Kafr Qaddum demonstration this Friday (April 20). Kafr Qaduum is only some 15 Kms north of Deir Istiya, so we were overconfident about getting there for the Friday demonstration, which starts around 1pm, after midday prayers. Although our friend and expert driver knew the back roads, we were stopped by the Israeli military just outside Kafr Qaddum. They checked our drivers identity card and our passports then refused us entry into the village, calling is a “closed military zone”. With the help of locals, we found an agricultural road. i.e. a dirt track which was quite taxing on the vehicle, we were able to skirt the checkpoint and arrived in Kafr Qaddum about 11.30. Once there, we learned that the road had been closed since 9am.
The time prior to the demonstration is a great time to catch up with news. We met up with EAPPI from Jayyous and, thankfully, got a list of all their new phone numbers, as we had been trying to contact them since arriving on the ground but their numbers had all changed! We also caught up with ISMer’s whom we were in training with earlier in the month.
While we visited, the children tussled abound with one another, as children do, and held their own little demonstration, chanting in Arabic, “even if you arrest our fathers, the demonstrations will not stop, we will lead them”
This refers to the raid that the village suffered on 5th of April.
The demonstrations here initially started in 2003 to protest against the closure of the road to Nablus. The village took legal action against this closure and the Court decided that the village had the right to use the road. Ironically, the road is still closed to them by military order because, due to its proximity to the illegal settlements of the Qedumim and Har Hemed, the road is too dangerous for the Palestinians. So the road remains closed!. This means that an 1.5 Km. trip to the nearest village, Jit, becames a 15km. drive. You’ll see from the map that the settlements outsize the village.
Qedumim is indeed close, literally, at the end of the closed road. The photos that follow, were taking facing the soldiers and the houses you see behind -with red roof tiles- are part of the settlement.
The demonstration consisted of unarmed villagers, internationals and Israeli activists against the Occupation. The villagers had earlier in the morning made barricades along the march route to slow down the jeeps and skunk water truck. The army had ready a bulldozer to clear the large stones, but it was unnecessary . The skunk truck was able to run over the home made barriers and sprayed the way of the march as well as the olive groves on either side of the road.
Then soldiers took strategic positions on the side of the road, in the olive groves and on top of several of the village homes, shooting rounds of tear gas in all directions. The gas grenades were fired in all directions inundating demonstrators with tear gas. Some were overcome by it and needed medical assistance, but luckily nobody was injured or arrested during this demonstration.
Today,the soldiers retreated relatively quickly. Most of the demonstrators then marched to the end of the village road (where it meets the settler only highway closed to them).Just across this highway, the settlers of Qedumim held their own mini demonstration, waving Israeli flags and yelling at the villagers. A young man from Kafr Qaddum responded by climbing an electrical tower and hanging a Palestinian flag on it.
After the demonstrations, we all walked back to the village center, where we were invited to have coffee with the village organizers. We were given some history of the village and its problems with the Occupation and more specifically with the settlements encroaching on their land. Said one of the organizers, “even if they open the road to us, we will not stop demonstrating, because the illegal settlement will still be there, stealing our land”.
Written by Jenny
Edited by Marie
Long time friends of IWPS, N and Z, invited us to the take an afternoon break with them in the Wadi Qana. The Wadi Qana is the major agricultural area for the village of Deir Istiya, a valley abundant with natural springs and indigenous wild flowers and edible plants. The scent of orange blossoms from the citrus groves are intoxicating, and there always seem to be both blossoms and oranges, as well as a farmer giving away the delicious fruit to us when we visit the valley. The hillsides are terraced with the famous Palestinian olive trees, grown here for centuries by the people of Deir Istiya. The only thing that spoils the view are the illegal settlements that continue to expand on the hills above the valley, often dumping their raw sewage into the valley, polluting the springs and destroying the agriculture.
But on this day our focus was not on the settlements or their encroachment on Palestinian land. We were there to enjoy the Wadi Qana, to let it absorb the hardship of the occupation and perhaps most importantly, offer a reprieve from the sadness N and Z’s daughter, L., was suffering from losing a pet that IWPS had given her several years ago. (and that is a story in itself which we won’t go into!)
We had lunch at our host’s home before we went: sumptuous stuffed grape leaves with tradional Palestinian bread, but L would not touch her food. She sat at the table looking absorbed in her pain. However, as we made our way into the valley her entire attitude changed. She became animated, tussling with her older brother and skipping rocks across a spring fed pond. It was wonderful to see her smiling again!
N. is an expert at gathering edible native plants and she stuffed a pocket of my backpack with greens she said would be good in an omelet, as well as wild mint and miramyira ( a favorite in tea when the weather is chilly). Z. obviously a lover of nature, took pictures of the many flowers growing this time of the year.
There is a natural swimming hole that villagers have used for recreation in times past, but often, as was the case today, settler youth had taken over the pool. Usually, they swim in the nude, an embarrassment to the modest villagers of Deir Istyia. We came upon them, then quickly left the area, beginning our journey back toward the entrance of the valley. The settlers might call the military to alert them that Palestinians were in the Wadi Qana, and soldiers would be a hassle. On our return trip, a local farmer of orange trees insisted we sit under his sweet smelling trees and treated us to oranges. Many oranges!
After we left the valley, we had yet another treat in store. N. who has for years dreamed of building her own home “in the country” where she would have enough land to cultivate trees and crops, is seeing her dream become a reality. The foundation has been laid for the family’s new home. They have electricity and water, and have already begun their garden. A large stone -several feet in diameter, was “in the way” of the garden, but their daughter absolutely refused it to be moved. So Z spent hours chipping away at it to create a natural planter for herbs.
Z carries with him in his car… well… just about everything a person could need, including all the makings for a pot of tea. While the sun was going down we sat on a flat stone outcrop near their nascent home and shared sweet mint tea with our beautiful Palestinian friends.
Written by Marie
Edited by Jenny
House Report 2012-4
April 18 2012
Today the IWPS house team (there are currently 2 of us on the ground) visited the village of Marda, where recently the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) closed their agricultural access road with earthen mounds. This access road is necessary to the villagers as a large portion of their agricultural land lies on the other side of Highway 505, a road built for the settlements in the area. The agricultural access road allowed for tractors and laden donkeys to more easily cross the highway to and from their village to their olive groves.
We were also informed that the military has served an order on the village that an unknown amount of the village land would be expropriated. Also unknown it where this land is and when it will be taken. More than half of the village has already been expropriated by the IOF (more than 5000 dunums) when the illegal settlement of Ariel was created, a settlement that is home to more than 18,000 Israeli settlers.
The proximity of Ariel to Marda is unmistakably provocative. The village of Marda is built along a hillside, with its village center partway up the hillside and its agricultural land in the valley. Ariel (which stretches some 12 KM across the Salfit region) is seated atop the hillside over looking Marda and other Palestinian villages in the region.
M, who asked us to visit and do a report of the new agricultural access closure, said Ariel dumps its pollution into the valley, damaging homes and killing the ancient olive trees that abound throughout the village. Yesh Din, an Israeli organization that works with Palestinians who are subjected to abuse by the illegal settlements and their inhabitants, have put pressure on the Israeli authorities to contain Ariel’s pollution. Often, the Israeli’s will install septic systems when pressured, but just as often, they do not maintain the systems, and as settlements expand, the systems become inadequate and overflow, yet again polluting the Palestinian land.
Yet, M. was not spending the day complaining of hardship. Rather, he was working hard at a number of projects to make life better for his family and his village. On this particular day he was working with his brother and cousin to build a shelter for the family goats. Hard work! They were building the walls of large rocks. The walls were more than 6 feet tall… each stone chosen for its size and shape then pounded into place with another large rock. “No concrete necessary”, he said. Indeed, his family will have an adequate shelter for the animals within a couple days with the 3 men at work, under the direction of their mother, of course.
M took time out from his labors to show us his perma culture farm and the work he has done to beautify Marda’s kindergarten. Creating planters out of used tires, the school yard is kid friendly in its colorfulness. His sister is the headmistress, and to day we were given the treat of visiting in the school and taking some photos of the children. They were learning English words today; all of them holding cards with a simple word written on it in English.
Shy to speak, they were quite happy to have their photos taken. I was grateful for this opportunity, because if there is one thing we can do to raise awareness of how the occupation corrupts the fabric of Palestinian life is to show the very human faces of the Palestinian people, and nothing better shows that than the beautiful children.
M’s permaculture farm is always a work in progress. We have visted it many times and there is always something new. This past year he, along with international volunteers who come to learn about perma culture and Palestinian life, have created a new pond and a large chicken coup made out of hardened mud walls. He is growing many different varieties of vegetables and flowers, all organically.
I asked him if he considers this work a form of resistance to the occupation. “Yes” he emphatically responded. He said Palestinians don’t need money, they need their land. From the land they can grow the food they need to eat and what they don’t eat they can sell to purchase that which they can’t grow. It is quite simple.
Except, now the Israeli’s are cutting off access to a significant part of their agricultural land, and they are going to expropriate more of the village for the expansion of illegal settlements. And that makes what could be a simple life very difficult.
Written by marie
Edited by Jenny
House Report # 2012-3
April 15 2012
We visited our ISM colleagues in Hebron on Sunday 15thApril, 2012 in order to pick up a SIM card (our main mobile phone number) that had made its way from Ramallah to Nablus to Hebron!
We went from Ramallah via Bethlehem in order to circumvent the Qalandia checkpoint. As a first time visitor to Hebron, I was excited like a school girl on a school outing.
I liked Hebron instantly. It has the relaxed, slightly chaotic feel of Palestinian towns with their street shop fronts and stalls of food and drink and the buzzing of yellow taxis and “serveeces”.
I sauntered whilst my team mate phoned the ISM co-ordinator to get directions to their flat. By accident, or by unconscious wish, we found ourselves walking down the souk in the old city, and the souk, Ah,that delightful mixture of stalls with clothes, toiletries, food! However, we weren’t making sense of the directions to the flat, so we ended taking a taxi, and luck would have it that a passer-by worked with ISM and told the taxi driver how to get there. Their flat is right at the top of the city in Tel Rumeda St., Jabul Alrahme area, still in H1- Palestinian controlled- but about 100 metres from a new metal gate into H2 -Israeli controlled- intercepting traffic between the two parts of the city. The building opposite has a rotating video-camera on the roof, and there is the ubiquitous control tower just in front. We learnt that the roof of every building is an Israeli military zone, even though the buildings are owned by Palestinian families. In strategic places -as we’ll mention later- these roofs have soldiers on permanent watch.
As it happened, 15th of April was the first anniversary of Vittorio Arrigoni’s tragic death, so we went with ISM to a memorial held in town at the Centre for the Happiness of Children. The event was organized by the Hebron Defence Committee with participation from many supporting organizations, including the Israeli activist Neta Golan.
It was a very moving event. There were poetry readings in Arabic and speeches from different organizations. The Hebron Defence Committee gave us some history of the occupation of Hebron from 1967. From 1978, Jewish settlers started targeting the centre of town. In 1980 they occupied a Palestinian school, in 1984 the War Minister approved a new settlement, in 1985 a new Israeli building was erected close to the fruit and vegetable market, thus closing that area to Palestinians. The expansion continues with tightening of military control, expropriation of homes and shops. Most tragic was the 1994 massacre of 29 men and boys at the Ibrahim Mosque. Even holy sites have been taken over and street and neighbourhood names changed from Arabic to Hebrew. There are plans for yet more settlements, monitoring towers and check points. One of the most glaring examples of the occupation in Hebron is the closing of Shuhada street, which was the main market for the city.
There were very emotional speeches from ISM members: “our presence is our bodies, but we fight to live not to die.” Poignantly, Hisham broke into tears remembering Vittorio. Other activists asked for truth and justice in relation to his death and that of Juliano MerKhamis.
Vittorio life was celebrated by the Palestinian dabke dance performed by young dancers from Gaza.
Finally, we then saw the 90 minute Aljazeera documentary “Staying Human” about Vittorio’s work in Gaza. He came to Palestine in 2002 and went to Gaza in 2007. He acted as a human shield to protect the local fishermen, as part of the “Free Gaza Movement” . In 2008 he was wounded by Israeli fire on the boat he used and later arrested . Following the savage bombing of Gaza he worked as an ambulance driver until the end of his life. , The film gave very rich insight into Vittorio’s thinking and writings published in the Italian Newspaper Il Manifesto and his “Guerrilla Radio” see
The final words were for a Free Palestine!
Many of the activists cried through the memorial. It acted as a catalyst to shed the pent up tears from so much injustice and trauma we witness and the Palestinians suffer!
However, it was very nice to come out of the auditorium into the playground where children played happily and mothers chatted. It was a beautiful return to a more humane side of reality.
We went for a coffee with the organizers and our ISM colleagues then stayed the night at their flat.
We volunteered to do the “school watch” 7-8 am. in the old town, close to one of the check points. In the past there have been instances of settler attacks and military harassment of children going to school. To get there we had to cross three checkpoints: all different sizes and styles, but similar indignity! When we got to our destination, we just sat by the check point and greeted the children and teachers, all of us overseen by three soldiers on the roof of the building opposite. About 20 minutes into our shift, a child came running and deposited a carrier bag with our breakfast: 3 cartons of milk-shake and 3 pastries! We were thoroughly chaffed by the kindness and generosity of our hosts.
On our way back we had a chance to see the barbed wire around the new Israeli buildings and the mesh above the souk that gathers litter thrown by the settlers to humiliate, and at times, hurt the shop-keepers and shoppers.
We made our way towards to town with a heavy heart. However, we were most cheered by our visit to the keffiyeh factory; the Hirbawi Textile Factory in Hebron is the only keffiyeh factory in Palestine.. It was wonderful to see the looms churning cloth of beautiful patterns and colours. This seems to illustrate the resilience of the Palestinian people. Against all odds, and competition from China, they keep weaving their keffiyehs in Hebron. By the way, they accept orders that can be exported abroad for fund-raising purposes. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and their phone number is 0599-439253/ 0599-297028/ 0599-557735
On this very positive note, we left Hebron!
Written by Jenny
Edited by Marie
House Report 2012-2
April 14 2012
Our “landlord”(DW) and his wife visited us today. A couple times a year his wife prepares a sumptuous home cooked Palestinian feast and today was our lucky day for the feast. While they were here it was emphasized that he doesn’t consider us tenants, but rather guests, because we are here in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
They were almost an hour late in arriving, which is unusual for them. They are normally quite punctual. When they did arrive they explained that they were stopped in Wadi Qana (on the highway) by the military police. They were asked for their identification and drivers license, which they produced. When the soldier saw that all was in order, he claimed that DW was driving on the wrong side of the road. According to DW, this was not true. He said there was no other traffic on the road. (which begs the question, “why would be be driving on the wrong side of the road?”
The soldier then told him the fine for his traffic violation was 1500NIS and loss of driving privileges for a period of time. However, said the soldier, DW appeared to be a “good man” so the soldier would reduce the fine to 500 NIS and not revoke his driving privileges. The soldier then said, “do you like me?” This apparently asked in reference to his “kindness” for reducing the penalty. To this DW replied this was an administrative issue and had nothing to do with whether he liked the soldier or not. He then said he hoped the day would come when everyone liked each other.
Our landlord is a retired professor, aged 74. He seldom ventures out of his city of Nablus, where in theory, Israel has no control. But today he made an innocent trip to his childhood home to visit his “guests” there and bring us a home cooked meal. This kind gesture cost him 500NIS, and more than that, it cost a little piece of dignity. He could not argue with the soldier about the validity of his driving on the wrong side of the road. That could have meant arrest. He could not tell the soldier that while he might get along fine with him as a person, the soldier was collaborating with an illegal occupation and in fact had no right to stop him for a traffic violation on the first place. That would most certainly have been cause for arrest!
So DW acting amicably with the soldier; out of necessity he complied with the officer, accepted the patronizing tone and outrageous question, ” do you like me” and was “allowed to continue on his way.
Every Palestinian citizen travelling from one village to another witnesses their roads controlled by a hostile military force. In this case, for 500NIS, about a week’s salary here in Palestine, DW was allowed to bring his guests a home cooked meal.
During the meal, as he was relating this story with my prompting, he said that as part of his dissertation, he analyzed some of the textbooks Israelis use in the K-9 schools He said in one section of one schoolbook (and this is not the exception but rather then rule) there were 37 slurs against Arabs. (Israelis do not recognize Palestine so they do not use the term Palestinians). He emphasized how critical the education system is to the Occupation, relating it to the system Hitler used to promote the Nazi state.
It is no wonder that the soldier who stopped DW on his way to visit us 1) stopped him in the first place just to hassle him and 2) fined him for a violation that he did not commit then had the audacity to “reduce” the fine then ask him “do you like me.” That soldier has been brainwashed by the Zionist system that dehumanizes Palestinians from cradle to grave!
Of course, DW took the situation quite lightly. After all, he and his wife have lived through much worse. Al Nakba, 1967 war and resulting occupation, 2 intifadas….. This experience was nothing to him. But to me, it was a glaring example of how even the simplest things Palestinians do are tinged with a bit of darkness by the illegal occupation.
Written by Marie
Edited by Jenny