On the morning of the first, we finally were able to go to the burnt house. It is in Area B and near a road that Israeli settlers use. Area B is under Palestinian administrative control but with Israeli security. We discovered a house not yet finished being built. It is very big and the settlers may have thought that it would be a mosque. They wrote something in Hebrew and broke a window to throw in the molotov cocktail. There was not too much damage as the home is made of stone and it was contained.
On Saturday, we went to a land action to show presence on the land. There was some good news for the villagers since they were able to access land that for 10 years they were not able to plow. It was conditional though that the farmer notify authorities so they can be present when he goes on the land. On Saturday, villagers, Israelis from Ta’ayush and a few other internationals were there to again show solidarity. We had been here before. (See blog – 2nd half) This time, we talked for more than an hour with an Israeli. He spoke of the educational system in Israel. He said children are not taught about the Nakba, nor are Palestinians mentioned in textbooks. They learn that they were “a people without a land going to a land without people”. So Palestinians are called Arabs and they came here from Syria or Lebanon. No mention of those who were here and also have deep roots in the land. Also there is no border shown so this is all Israel. ‘Arabs’ then are seen as not belonging. The man said he read a lot and now comes to show that he is against the occupation and the policies of his government. I heard this from others also in my months here. We and the Ta’ayush people also stayed when a shepherd came to the area since most of the military left when the villagers returned to the village.
After this we went walking to show present at Masafar Yatta which is the area close to the firing zone. Our driver dropped us off on a road used also by settlers to get to the settlement of Ma’on. We take that road to a dirt road that we walk along. A little ways along, the views are spectacular as it is high up and we can see the desert and some of the villages. We saw two boys with sheep also. As we neared the main road on our return, an Israeli on horseback came galloping past on the dirt road going to the Palestinian villages. I tried to get him to stop but he ignored me. He was masked and had a gun. I thought right away of the 2 boys. A minute or two later, a truck with 2 Palestinian men came by. They stopped and I told them to be careful since an Israeli is up ahead. Then as we got to the paved road, the military came by and I told them about the guy on horseback and they then went up the dirt road. Hope they caught up to him before he did anything. I like to think he was just having a ride but then, why masked?
On Sunday, Laura and I went to the Meitar checkpoint. It was raining and it was not busy so we returned home early. Later in the day, we went to Khirbet al Karaba. There is a family here whose home was demolished in early November and they finally received a tent a few weeks ago. They are really now would like a solar panel to provide them with electricity. So I emailed Hamed who will see to the possibility. The lady tried to teach me how to make bread in the tabon but baking is not my forte and they had a good laugh. She spoke in Arabic which Laura and I could not make out and she would laugh and we would laugh along. Had the best time with these people who were so generous with what little they have. The mother wanted our driver to find a wife for her eldest son since the driver goes to many villages and what qualities she should have. Of course the son was sitting there a bit embarrassed but I think he was wanting also to find a girl to marry.
The next day we met with the mayor of Bani Na’im north east of us. It is not in our area but he would like us to provide protective presence especially when they fix up a road which is partly in Area C. It is used by many people from the town as well as farmers but it goes past a settlement. Settlers from Pene Hever had destroyed about 7 kms of the road. It was good to explain our program to the men in attendance and the mayor spoke good English. We will add this information in to the EAPPI office to see if the area can be added to the work we already do or if the Hebron team can cover it since it is closer to Hebron.
Today Laura, Christian and I, met up with two ladies from the German Embassy. Laura had arranged this and they toured Um la Kher, had lunch at Susiya and then to At Tuwani. They said they did not know the extent of what was going on here and want us to send our reports to them. It was a good visit and I was impressed that they came to the area.
The weather is turning nasty and a lot of rain is expected. Usually then our electricity goes out and Leif and Christian went out to get groceries in case we are stuck inside. Laura hitched a ride to Jerusalem with the Embassy people. Greg who hails from Australia, is here visiting for several days. I may leave in the morning and head up to Jericho for 2 days where I hope to talk to the EAs there to see what the issues are and also work on my presentation. Also would like to interview a Christian family living in that area or the minister of a church. Maybe climb the Mount of Temptation and go to the Dead Sea.
The day started with a land action nearby At Tuwani. It was in a field where olive trees had been cut by Israelis. When we arrived the military was close by of course – they seem to be everywhere. Ta’ayush was also present as they are at all land actions. It is good to know that there are Israelis who are also working for justice and an end to the occupation.
Danny was there who I had previously interviewed. When I asked if he had been in the military, he said he had refused and so spent a couple of times in jail. He told them that if Israel was attacked, he would be the first to join but overseeing occupation was not defending your country.
When walking through the olive trees, he mentioned that things get worse in the spring when shepherds are out for longer periods of time and when the harvest is ready.
We were now helping to plant trees around the perimeter of the olive field. You could clearly see where the trees had been cut a year ago and the new growth. Sandra an EA from the Jerusalem team was with us on a placement visit so she got to be at a land action. She was good with the kids there and they taught her a song in Arabic. Leif and Christian dug some holes and I carried some of the plants. These land actions are a way of being present in the land and letting the Israelis know that nothing they do will drive them away. But for sure, life is very difficult.
We left the land action to walk to the Firing Zone. We entered from the At Tuwani side. Our intent was to visit three villages that we had missed. We did get to a village called Um Fagarah. It consists of 17 families with a population of 150 or so. The people need to buy water when the wells become dry. They have had demolitions in the past and demolition orders for the village as all do that are in the Firing Zone and close to the desert. They have electricity by generator which is costly. We will check to see if solar panels can be installed for them as well as the next village of Khallet Athaba. There is a third village nearby an outpost that was now abandoned. I guess, a victory for the Israelis. I do think that if this continues with settlements, villages will be isolated and cut off from each other and eventually be driven out. Now their grazing lands, etc are greatly reduced.
After returning to At Tuwani, our driver picked us up. We decided to go to Um la Kher so Sandra can see the how close it is to the settlement. This way, she got to see some of the evidence of recent demolitions.
Note: As EAs, we get a chance to visit other placements for two nights if we wish. That way we get a more rounded picture of what is happening in the West Bank. I went to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to see about what goes on in a more urban environment. And we get EA’s from Jerusalem and Bethlehem coming here. Laura, from her, is now visiting the Jericho team.