Approaching a New Year
It has been a busy week here in the South Hebron Hills. Operation Dove asked us to take over a school run. Children from Tuba go to school in At Tuwani. Between Tuba and Al Tuwani there is a settlement and an outpost. The road to school runs right between them. So it is dangerous for the children since they are harassed. The other way is to go around but that is a long way and some of the children are 6 and 7. So the military comes and drives behind the children to escort them past the outpost and settlement. Can you imagine. The Israeli army having to protect Palestinian children from Israelis! Sometimes though they show up late or not at all. So the children miss school and if the military is not there when school is out, people from Operation Dove (OD) walk with them the long way to Tuba. OD also sleeps two nights a week in Tuba since the people there are so close to the outpost.
I will say something here about Operation Dove. They are young people who live in a house in Al Tuwani and do some of what we do. They live just as any Palestinian in a home without much of the comforts that we have here in Yatta. I admire them very much and some have been arrested or faced prison and some have been deported. They try to film demolitions, etc. Right now there are only two but usually there are four of them. They are mostly from Italy.
On Monday, we decided to go to two villages we had not visited before. We did a lot of walking again near the desert. We stumbled on one older couple living alone. Their cave had collapsed a few days earlier. It was night and they sleep at the back of the cave which was a good thing. Everything near the front of the cave was crushed including their fridge,etc.and now too they had no electricity. It is hard though to describe where to find them for an aid agency to get to them but we try. They were very upset and desperate.
Today Leif and I went for protective presence for shepherding. It was close to a settlement and we saw 7 settlers watching us so I kept an eye on them. When 4 disappeared, the two shepherds clearly became worried and kept looking around in case the settlers were coming to ambush them. I kept walking between the shepherds and the settlement. And as usual, the military eventually showed up. After a while they came down from the road into the valley where we were. At least with the army there, the shepherds did not have to worry about the settlers. They told the shepherds not to cross a certain point on the hill. But of course it is Palestinian land belonging to the village of Shuweika. Access to land is another issue here.
We stayed with the shepherds from 8 to 12:30 when they were done we had Abed meet us at the road and we returned to Yatta to have lunch.
We had planned to do an incident report about a home that was burned. A molotov cocktail was thrown through a living room window of a Palestinian’s home. Luckily, the people were in bed and not injured- it was around 3 a.m. They woke to the fire in the other room and worked to extinguish it.
But things do not go as planned and we got a call that a farmer was stuck at the checkpoint in Beit Yatir. They would not allow his tractor and trailer with many bags of feed for sheep to go through to his farm. He has his farm in the seam zone which is between the “wall” and the green line. The farm has been in his family for generations and the people at the border know him. They said that every bag of feed had to go through the scanner. But the bags are very heavy and so he had been there for three hours. We came and the manager at the checkpoint suddenly became friendlier and a solution was found. He called for a dog to come with a handler from Meitar checkpoint. The dog could get on the trailer and sniff the bags for bombs. In 20 mins or so they came with the dog and we stayed to watch and make sure the farmer could get on his way. This could have been done right away of course but it took us being there.
This is the same checkpoint where schoolchildren have to pass through on a daily basis. They live in the seam zone and the school. The checkpoint was put in a few years ago so children were cut off from their school. Even though it is the same children day after day, they have to pass through a scanner as in airports and have their bags checked. I wonder what it will do to their health with all that radiation from the time they are 5 or 6 and every school day for years. Also psychologically. One older girl is always kept longer and the headmaster from the school wanted to know if we could look into it since she is frequently late. See earlier blog about the seam zone.
Then we went to Um Fagarah since there was a demolition this morning. We had visited this village about two weeks ago. I will call the red cross and other aid agencies to see if anything can be done.
We may get to the burned home tomorrow since we had not more time today. We need to do an incident report for that and the data goes to the UN.