From Jerusalem to a cave
We left early for a meeting for all EAs at the Norwegan Refugee Council building. Quite the trip. Palestinian buses can only go so far and then we changed to a bus that could go into Jerusalem. From Yatta to Jerusalem took more than two hours. We came to Damascus Gate by the Old City and walked to NRC offices on Nablus St. We had time for a quick tea at the Jerusalem Hotel. The sessions for the meeting dealt with land ownership, permits, demolition and stop work orders for Palestinians in Area C. The NRC does help provide legal aid. This is good to know since we can then connect them with those needing assistance regarding land issues. For instance, if a villager gets a demolition order, we can refer him/her to the NRC who will take legal action. It was pointed out that getting a permit to build is impossible – 97% rejection. The only alternative is building illegally. This goes for tents, animal pens, house additions and the like – every structure, no matter how small, needs a permit. The information we received is very helpful in understanding the challenges faced by those living in Area C.
Leif and I had to hurry back to Yatta since we were going to sleep over in the cave. We were back here at 3 or so and left for the cave just after 4. Our driver, Abed, drove us most of the way but we had to walk for about half an hour to get to the cave. There we found the shepherd and he had company – 3 of his sons, a daughter, and his wife.
The reason we provide a protective presence for the shepherd is due to previous incidences with settlers in the area. Apparently it helps when we are there. Operation Dove is there also on the other nights. We are responsible of the one night a week.
Supper consisted of the first milk from sheep mixed with what looked like bread. It was in one dish and we got a spoon each and shared. It was okay – warm and sweet tasting. Very nourishing I would imagine. The cave has electricity and TV! There is a satellite dish nearby. The beds are just the stuffed mats we see everywhere. They were arranged and we got blankets. Then after some conversation – the shepherd and his one son especially know English – it was light out just after 7:30. It would be a long night. The siblings all slept huddled together. I was very glad to see morning light since I did not sleep so well and I could not read or do anything to disturb the others. The dogs barked quite a bit during the night and the shepherd did check a few times. He has about 100 sheep and they were in the pen. Also many lambs recently born. The ‘bathroom’ was outside the cave and the ‘toilet seat’ was on the cement floor. It was enclosed on 3 sides with a cloth for the other but the wind blow it open. Then I went to see the sheep and lambs. The family was very friendly. Other times the shepherd had been there by himself since the family now lives in Yatta. Indeed, the people who lived in the village had moved away but the shepherd clings to his land and continues to shepherd his sheep.
Leif and I then walked back to the main road. We phoned our driver to pick us up. We walked for almost an hour before he came. It was good though.
Today is the Muslim ‘Sunday’ so we did not visit any villages and caught up on reports, etc. We did however walk for an hour or so in Yatta and we heard many “Hello. How are you” or “What’s your name” or “Welcome”. These are the English words a lot of children know so we hear it over and over again.