Category Archives: October
“The sky will be my blanket and the earth my bed”; what Bedouins’ face
A Running Start
After breakfast together, our driver and interpreter, Ahab, came over and we discussed the plans for the day. First is a visit to Um al Kher, the village that had the demolitions on Monday. It is a bedouin community that we had visited last week before the devastation.
The village is very close to the Israeli settlement of Karmel. There they have running water and electricity. But for Um Al Kher there is very little infrastructure and with these latest demolitions, life will be even more difficult. The Israelis control the water supply in the region and destroyed wells and cisterns belonging to Palestinians.
Today there were people who had come to help with some clean-up. There was a women’s football team from Bristol, UK who were in the West Bank to promote good will through sports. Also some media and UN personal. We stayed for an hour and a half talking to people and lending a hand with moving stone to build a wall.
Please see http://ow.ly/DvC8i The man speaking on the video is Hamud Qawasmeh, a human rights office and wonderful hands on fellow who mobilized those helping in the cleanup. He also is our go-to person when we find out the needs of villages and he can contact the NGO’s who may be able to provide for the needs.
There is a home lower down in the valley which was not destroyed. The fellow living there makes things out of scrape material. His home is also under demolition orders but is still intact for now. He has a blog: http://eidworkshop.wordpress.com/my-home/
After the visit at Um al Kher, we went to Khashem ad Daraj. It is very close to the firing zone 918. From the village we could see Jordan and between also lays the Dead Sea although that is at a low elevation so was not visible.
The Israeli government will declare an area a firing zone and then proceed to displace those living in that area. Some of the land too is used by shepherds and they can no longer go there.
The bulldozers and military were at Khashem ad Daraj the day before and destroyed a cave, toilet, animal shelter and a home. Two children were home when the destruction began and the father stated that they cry at night. Three other children were at school. Imagine coming home and finding a pile of rumble.
We made out an incident report. Not sure if it will result in help since it is very remote and cut off.
So that was our day.
From Jerusalem to Yatta
We just had a short session in the morning before heading off to St George’s Cathedral for the handover ceremony. This is when we officially become the team, in our case, for the South Hebron Hills (SHH). Then we all had lunch at a restaurant in the area.
We then picked up our luggage and walked to Damascus Gate to catch a bus to Hebron. From there another to Yatta. Now we could settle into what would be our home for the next 3 months.
No good news it seems
Today, I heard that a village of we visited last week was bulldozed. Even the outdoor oven (tabun). Terrible. One child is only 3 months old. What will they do with winter rains coming? Apparently house demolitions go up in winter time to make life even more difficult. And it will be our job to go and report on the demolitions for the UN office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). What do you say to people sitting on rubble or to children searching through the wreckage for a toy.
Here in East Jerusalem, about a block from here, there was also a demolition. East Jerusalem is Palestinian but slowly being taken. East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank but I fear not for much longer.
Today we had sessions on Communications, DIAKONIA: Introduction to Human Rights and International Law, Bedouin displacements (check out this video: Nowhere left to go) and a presentation from UNICEF: child rights and access to Education.
This evening the team presently in Yatta arrived here and we all went out for supper. Tomorrow is the handover and then we are going to Yatta to take over the work there.
Back in Jerusalem
Saturday morning we left Yatta and headed to Bethlehem for a meeting about our placement priorities. Then on to Jerusalem to meet up with the other teams at the Capitol Hotel. My team skipped the dinner at the Hotel opting for going to the Jerusalem Hotel to have drinks with our supper. We relaxed and found out more about each other. Some men and women were smoking a water pipe.
On Sunday morning, we had a speaker, Hanna Barag, from Machsom Watch (women against the Occupation and for Human Rights). Very informative and interesting. She is at checkpoints to help Palestinians who are denied passage and advocate for them. Her group also tries to get demolition orders reversed. She talked about the agricultural gates – how farmers need to start early before it gets hot but the soldiers just take their time and the gates are not opened early. Soldiers are teenagers and are interested only in sleeping in. Please see an interview with Hanna at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxyoVH3Tvzs .
I will not bore you with other sessions we had. Some had to do with Team building, logs and reporting, advocacy work, etc.
Our team did find some time to go to the old city and the markets. Went into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and saw the stone believed to be where the body of Jesus laid. People were rubbing it and were quite emotional. Also where Jesus was crucified. Then walked on the Via Del Rosa and past the prison.
Today the teams went to the Holocaust museum (Yad Vashem). I opted out the tour however and went for a long walk. I did listen in on a discussion of the tour this evening.
Getting to know the needs
Started the day with briefing from Hamed, the Human Rights Officer with the Office of the High Commissioner and Nassar who is also involved in advocating for communities in this area. He will let us know if they think there may be an issue e.g.a demolition and then we would need to go there.
Today we went to some small communities at the edge of Firing Zone 918. We called to arrange for tents and find out their water situation. The people always offer us tea and do not take ‘no’ for an answer.
We also went to a checkpoint which we monitor on Sunday mornings.
The team that we are replacing have been very good at ‘showing us the ropes’. When we return next week, it will just be the four of us.
Heading to Bethlehem tomorrow morning for a meeting. Then on to Jerusalem for 3 days
This is just a few impressions and thoughts. This area is very hilly and dry. One is going either up or down. Much rocks and rubble from demolitions, etc.
Meet a man yesterday who said that the occupation should not come as a surprise since it is prophesied in the Koran. There it states that the occupation would last 80 years so he is quite accepting of it. Allah’s will be done and it will be in his time.
Today we went to a village in Area C – under total Israeli administrative and military control. Watch towers are everywhere and there is also a military firing zone so that all the villages in the area are under demolition orders. The one village had an Israeli settlement about twenty meters away. The homes there were nice and had running water and electricity. And trees and other vegetation. And going to it was on a good road. The homes in the Palestinian village were demolished but some stayed and put up shelters. One young fellow (he could talk some English) hollowed out a large cave-type hole in the ground by hand out of rock with only a pik axe. It is to collect water in the rainy season.They also had some sheep, goats and chickens. His one brother was beaten several years ago by the settlers and was now handicapped. An aid agency brought a special toilet for him to use but the Israeli army took it. The young fellow also said that he wishes the settlers would just talk to them and have tea with them and they would see them as people. But instead they (the Israelis) push and push and do everything to make life difficult and discourage them. If a Palestinian pushes back, he is called a terrorist.
Next we went to a school opening in Birin. Some officials were there and, after the ceremonies, we were given lunch – rice and sheep meat.
The people are extremely friendly and we get tea or coffee not matter how desperate and poor they are. Another village in the hills was also demolished about 4 months ago and piles of rumble everywhere. The Red Cross had brought two tents which were still up. (Now the Red Cross no longer brings tents since they are usually just taken away by the Israeli military.) One agency in the last two weeks or so has put up homes but there are no floors in them or anything else. They are much like the medal tool sheds we can buy at Home Depot but bigger. No floors and the rain can come in under them as well as the snakes and scorpions.The people there – about 20 in total, really have nothing but we were welcomed and given tea.
This is all for now. Getting late.
Day 3 Getting to know the SHH (South Hebron Hills)
The first full day in Yatta was a busy one. We had 3 meetings in Hebron to get acquainted with agencies that may be able to provide assistance to villages re: agricultural help, rebuilding and, most importantly, adequate water supply. We then had lunch and also saw the closed Al-Shuhada Street.
At 3 p.m. we went to the Fawwar Camp. This has been a refugee camp since 1949 and has about 9500 inhabitants which makes it one of the smaller camps. In August, the soldiers from the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) raided a home and the people heard a shot. The soldiers left and then the people saw that their 12-yr-old son had been shot in the lower back. He died. We talked to the mother, uncle and grandfather. We are to follow up to make sure the investigation into the incident is not dropped. See news article.
Later our driver took us to the village of Urn al Amad. However there is only one home left in front of the Israeli Ot’niel settlement.The home belongs to a shepherd and we will at times be with him to protect him from settlers. We also took pictures and noticed that there was activity further down the hill indicating that the settlers may be taking more land. This we will report to the UNOCHA.
Day 2 – Boots on the ground
We started early this morning. Packed our bags and brought them to be stored downstairs at the hotel. In the lobby at 8:15 to walk to the UN OCHA (United Nations office for the coordination of humantarian affairs) headquarters. Here we learned more about the makeup of the occupation. There are 2.7 million Palestinians. In the West Bank there are also 550,000 Israelis in settlements and outposts all of which the UN and international communities view as illegal and in violation of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention. 42.7% of the West Bank is controlled by settlers and is off limits for Palestinian development.
The Wall or Barrier also accounts for land confiscation. The green line, the international recognized border of the West Bank, is less than half the length of the separation Wall. 85% of the Wall goes well into the West Bank and cuts areas off from one another. The argument that the Wall is for security, is false since then it would follow the green line. Now it is used to take more land.
Other challenges – 59 checkpoints, 25 partial checkpoints, 116 road blocks all make life difficult for Palestinians in their own land. Altogether, Israel now controls 60% of the West Bank. The Palestinians only 38% and that is not continuous but broken up. Further, there are closed military zones and those living in that zone have their homes under demolition orders.
In the afternoon, we had a speaker from Breaking the Silence Then we received the team money (5600 Israeli shekels) and our money for personal use (2300 Israeli shekels). Then off to our placements.
I am now in Yatta. The upper part of a house which will be our home for the next 3 months is large enough. Right now, there are eight of us since the team that had this placement is still here and will orientate us and introduce us to our contacts. We will be here for 3 days and then go back to Jerusalem for a few days before officially taking this placement over.
Hope to post pictures tomorrow but very late now. Need some sleep.
After an early breakfast, we had sessions about what to expect and also getting to know one another. Found out 2 people did not make it through security. One was sent back and the other is in detention. After lunch, we went to Bethlehem by bus. The person doing the afternoon session could not get a permit to come to Jerusalem and she lives in Bethlehem. Her six-month permit is expired and she hopes to get another but that may take awhile. Palestinians need permits for everything it seems. They cannot travel from one place to another without it – even just to a neighbouring village within the West Bank.
We learned about cultural sensitivity and things like what to wear and not wear. Skirts are out since then we could be mistaken for settlers, and also head coverings that look like Muslim scarves or Israeli head coverings. We also talked about security and what to do in different scenarios. I am on the team going to the South Hebron Hills and will be stationed in a town called Yatta. There are four of us – 2 men and 2 women. One of the men is a Lutheran minister from the northern most part of Norway. We also did a role plays with our team members. This is the scenario our team had to work with:
You are providing protective presence to herders letting their sheep graze close to a settlement. After a while a group of settlers come and ask the farmers to leave. The farmers claim that it is their land and that they are allowed to be there. The settlers then get upset and start throwing rocks and chasing the herders. Two of the settlers are armed and one of them is holding his gun in his hand.
We headed back to Jerusalem and walked from the bus stop about 15 minutes to the hotel. Learned what we need to prepare for the following day. So more on that tomorrow.