A Travellerspoint blog

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Palestine in 2010 w/CPT - Going Home and thoughts...

sunny 80 °F


...so after an interminable 5 hour wait at the Tel Aviv Airport, I breeze through security with no hint of issue - didn't even know I'd "gone through security" until a security person pointed that out to me. Have been lucky every step of the way. Finally start to board, but at the "ding" of the bar code swipe, she asks me to "stand over there". Oh oh...

Less than a minute later, they call my name and give me a new boarding pass. Instead of my seat 40H in steerage, I have 9F. Omigod, it's First Class! Omigod!

I still have an aisle seat, and it's a huge cocoon, with a special toiletry zip packet, ear phones, big pillow, serious blanket, flight attendants who smile constantly and address me by name and give me theirs. They seem not to know I'm a peasant. And of course I hardly know how to act in this First Class milieu, though surely they'll soon realize the magnitude of their mistake. Finally figured out it was Delta I had to thank - for noticing my high flight miles - a reward.

Two good meals - no idea whether economy got two. Feeling slightly uneasy that Dick and I were on the same plane, and after we got through security we sat together and talked while we waited and boarded together after an "adventure" or two at the airport where it seemed I was being singled out but each time was for an innocuous reason, though he didn't know that. When I was put aside after the first class designation kachinged, neither of us knew why and he continued on board. I'm sure he didn't see me again so probably assumes I'm being detained. Have to email him as soon as I can pull his address out.

All of a sudden, I'm in a completely different world where it's always cool, water is in abundance, no one here is going to attack anyone else or steal their land or tear down their home. No conversation about anything of substance.

Very old Jewish couple across the aisle - she's very old herself with difficulty moving around yet is bringing her even older husband (I suspect about 90 or so) back from visiting their daughter in Israel. She has to take him to that tiny lavatory, and sit him down when she brings him back and fix his seat belt. I don't know how she can make this flight alone. Because I had taken her hand at one point to help her get out of her seat, she felt comfortable enough asking me to help her with the customs form. She's a US citizen and speaks English but she can't read it or write it, and couldn't fill out the form. I filled it out for her (she was tickled when I asked her if she was carrying more than $10,000 - we had a chuckle).
Nice to end the trip with a reminder that at some point, we can "reach across the aisle" and communicate in spite of barriers. I wish the exchange had done something to ease the pain in my heart. It didn't.

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Major challenge to figure out how to organize all this information! Heartwarming stories, uplifting stories, stories of unbelievable cruelty both state and individual, descriptions of this amazing land and what little I've learned about its culture, facts and statistics about how Israel is attempting to destroy the Palestinian people and somehow make them go away whether through flight or death they don't care. Personal journey of pain, despair and hope. Stories about and from Palestinians that made me understand that the struggle will go on, that they will not leave, will not give up, and the depth of the determination and hope that they carry.

Stories about the really wonderful folks I traveled with and how it was being with that particular group of people that kept me from exploding with rage, enabling me to reflect and contemplate and find compassion for those Israelis who are pained and angry at what their state does in their name - I still haven't found any for the ideological settlers, and not much for the soldiers, who can always say no (yes, I understand how difficult that is and the myriad reasons it's so difficult. I know I myself will never be tested in that way and that it is arrogant of me to expect particular behavior that I myself will never be called upon to perform. Still, I have little compassion - at this moment, I'm simply stuck with that).

If I hear one more version of how Israelis are "shooting and crying" - feeling so badly about what they "have to do" (Dancing with Bahsir comes to mind...) I swear I'll scream.

Constantly reminded of the water imbalance, with Jewish settlers getting more water than they could possibly need, and Palestinians never having enough, even for drinking. Outside major cities, they have to buy drinking water in bottles. Jewish settlers drink from the tap, and their water rates are about 25% that of Palestinians.

Everywhere in the settlement of Efrat and in Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron and Jerusalem, water pipes are all over the ground, watering trees and other vegetation. Native trees don't need watering as they thrive on what the area gives them. Don't know yet if the oleander and bougainvillea that blooms along the highways is native, but much of it gets watered anyway in private Jewish or state areas.

Of course olive trees do far better if they get water, and Palestinians work hard to water them, but how many stories did we hear of the settlers or the army destroying irrigation systems and water cisterns, of breaking the pipes into tiny pieces in order to ensure they could not be put together again.

One ultra-satisfying story of a Palestinian who had experienced this destruction over and over on what was left of his olive trees (most of his land was confiscated for a settlement that sits above him and from which children and adults throw rocks and garbage at his children). He had tapped in to the settlement water through a method I won't describe and he and several others now have a steady source.

The settlers know he is "stealing" water (his own water!) but can't figure out how. They're very angry about it because theft of water (from Palestinians) is a major factor in what the state seems to believe will cause Palestinians to abandon their land, so when they see one who is not only not leaving but somehow getting water they're very upset.

LATER NOTE – same day I wrote this, I found out he had been arrested for “stealing” his own water. You can see it on YouTube, including his 5-year old son screaming and crying as the soldiers took him away.


Posted by mtorres55 13:29 Comments (0)

Palestine 2010 w/CPT-Day 12Last Day- Settler Visit & leaving

sunny 104 °F

Round eggplants, tiny eggplants, grape leaves, every spice you can imagine, mint leaves in the lemonade. A freshly squeezed glass of pomegranate juice or orange juice. "Arabic tobacco" that I simply do not believe is only tobacco - I know that smell... Cactus fruit (a sabra), pomegranates available like lemons, lemons hardly to be found, but you can always get a lime. The best falafel I've ever tasted, and the worst. French fries in the falafel sandwich. Men and women in the marketplace working harder than you can imagine.

Heaps and heaps of vegetables, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers served with every meal, along with the most delicious hummus, at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Only Spokane’s own Victor Azar's "Dazar's Catering” hummus comes close - actually it IS as good as the best here. Candy piled high in bins, usually a variation of a marshmallow or nougat candy in the shapes of fried eggs, pizzas, peanuts, bananas, other fruit. Water drinkable from the taps in the cities (after a short ... um ... introductory period.).

Kebabs and Falafel sandwiches and spinach pies (mmm...) available on the street. Busy, busy old cities, with cars, buses, donkey-drawn carts sharing the streets in many places. Women wearing scarves (some, but few, faces covered) and wearing long coats in spite of 100 degree heat, and didn't seem to sweat. Lovely, lively children. Men kissing their babies, women more serious. Little eye contact. The most generous hospitality - cold water (almost always bottled) followed by Sweet tea and fruit.

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Again, how can you fight anti-Jewish racism when this stuff is being done by Jews, for Jews, in the name of all Jews, and only a few Jews - relatively speaking - speak against it? Yet I hear from the Palestinians we visited no hatred expressed toward the people responsible for their suffering - only toward their acts. I don’t fool myself that it's not there, but we didn’t hear it.

Very different from what we've heard from some Israelis, and from the settler family yesterday.

Yesterday visited a settler family in Efrata.. In all my 65 years I have never heard so much racism at one sitting. Shocking, left us reeling, feeling sick, after spending 12 days with Palestinian families and seeing the reality of their lives. To hear so many lies, so many racist declarations at one sitting from two intelligent well-educated people who think they don't hate yet speak their hatred and justify their brutality with such ease.

I was touched that this family (David and Rivka Moses) was willing to speak with CPT. Rivka, an American former Quaker, now married to an orthodox Jewish Israeli, converted to Judaism some years ago. She was soft-spoken and gentle-seeming. They served us cold water (a staple hospitality ingredient).

She described herself as "nationalized Orthodox" and "according to some people's definition, a West Bank settler", and spoke at length of her path from Quakerism to Judaism and another fairly lengthy discussion of Jewish ethics.

One stunning statement after another:

"Every interaction with a human being should be something that demonstrates god's glory".

Then they began to speak about Palestinians, though they never use that word - they use ONLY "Arab". Hold onto your hat - this gets really ugly.

Between them they said (this wanders a bit because the conversation wandered):

- "enough American and European money has been given to provide all Palestinians with medical care but their leaders won't let them take it".

- "These people live with such violence, the only thing they understand is more violence."

- "People should know that when they try to get land by killing and violence, they just might lose."

- "This is a war between civilized people and insane barbarians."

- "We had to go into Gaza, and the soldiers took great care not to injure innocents."

- "We have a very moral army that always protects the innocent when they [the army] have to attack."

- "They (Arabs) sent 8000 missiles on us so we had to go to Gaza, and soldiers took care not to injure innocents.”

my note – (Ha'aretz carried news of the use of phosphorus, though I don't know if they spoke of the DIME and other experimental weapons of horror this moral army used).

- "not only is there not a scorched earth policy (this came out of context, with no previous reference to scorched earth), but we make every attempt to protect the lives of the innocent."

- "It is hard to understand how evil men can be in the name of Allah"

- "The Palestinian Authority still maintains an entitlement to all of Israel."

- "They (Arabs) have no red lines (limits), they can do anything they want."

- "In Islam, if you're a man and you're not lying, there is something wrong with you They are lazy thieves, even in Europe."

- "We believe we are fighting for our lives."

- "We live well here. We like to have parks for the children, and lawns and swimming pools. Palestinians do not want those things."

Because Rivka had spoken at length of Jewish ethics, I reflected back on that with my question

MT: "in light of your discussion of Jewish ethics, I'd like to ask a question vis a vis those ethics. The water distribution in the West Bank is 85% for Jewish settlers and 15% for Palestinians. Could you talk about that distribution and how it fits with those ethics?"

- they suggested my question was skewed and said it was like asking "have you stopped beating your wife?". [I still don’t understand that reference in this context]

- “they don’t want more water. They are dirty. We like lawns and parks for our children, they don’t care about those things”

- "there is little water for Palestinians because their leaders want them to remain poor refugees to gain world sympathy."

- "there is no place that has no water, not even Gaza."

They then said:

- Arial Sharon wanted to make life better for the refuges [in Jabaliya] and built 3000 apartments there, but no Palestinians took them. "That shows you what happens".
How that related to the imbalanced distribution of water was not clarified.

After my question was not answered, Hope asked again, with a story:
"Ryan and I have just spent two months in Bethlehem, and I saw with my own eyes how little water Palestinians get. The place where we stayed got water delivered to the cistern every 2 weeks. If they ran out, it cost 500 shekels for more [an enormous sum for most Palestinians]. There is no water for parks or lawns there."

Rivka referenced for the second time how "dirty and uncivilized" Palestinians are and said they do not want to have those things.

She said

- I can assure you there is no thought to giving all the water to the Jews."

- the Palestinian leaders artificially maintain substandard living conditions and "that's a human rights abuse".

- "there are areas of Bethlehem where they have refused to develop in order to keep these refugees. They artificially maintain substandard living conditions in order to keep them refugees"
- (where Hope and Ryan stayed was in the municipality, and the man (Zoughbi Zoughbi) who runs the house with his wife Diana is a member of the City Council, and they were not in the refugee camp.

Hope asked: "What of wells and cisterns destroyed? Israel has a policy of destroying Palestinian wells and cisterns".

- "Israel has a permit and engineering process, but Palestinians build without those permits."

Jonathan (nephew of Jonathan and Daoud Kuttab, names familiar from the first Intifada) : "but the situation is that 90% of Israeli permits are approved, while less than 1% of Palestinian permits are".

Answer: - "this cannot possibly be true." (IT IS TRUE.)

So we “learned” that Palestinians
a) have plenty of water
b) don’t have plenty of water because they themselves have no use for it.
c) don’t have plenty of water because they don’t follow the law required to get it (meaning they don't get permits - see Jonathan, above)., and
d) don’t have plenty of water because their leaders don’t want them to have it.

David spoke of having been "chosen by God" and gave story of a student who has "good energy and showed him that he was eager to learn and help", the teacher "chooses" him to be an assistant". This is what God did - we have a job to do according to the Bible. We have to create a state. We have an obligation to this land"

- "The navy was criticized for not doing more to protect Israel (re flotilla - missed part of this sentence) "the army does the best it can do to minimize damage."

David - "I was in the army. We're so careful not to injure innocent people." (SPEAKS TO THE DESPERATE NEED FOR BREAKING THE SILENCE!)

- said the nearby Palestinian village nearby (don't know which they were referring to) "has not harmed the settlement, and some of the people work in the settlement. Other Palestinians are angry with that village and they starved them (??? no more detail - this was an odd story and I have no other information)

David said he organized food for them.

Jonathan asked:: "All Arab nations have recognized Israel, including the PLO in the 80's. Why does Israel still say they don't?"
- But their charter still says..." (THERE'S ALWAYS "JUST ONE MORE THING".)

- "We will live with anyone who will live in peace".

- "When we brought all those terrorists from Tunis (leadership?) things got worse."

- "We cannot afford, living among 300 million Arabs, to give them a state."

- "We have a higher standard of living. We like lawns and parks and are cleaner. They don't need as much water because they live differently than we do".

- "If an international power splits Jerusalem, then the Arabs will fight it because they [want the Jews there?] because they know they can't live as well as Jews."

- they both said they believe strongly in human rights for all."

- David told a story out of context about the Palestinian men's tendency "rape young girls". He said "the only way to keep Arabs from raping is to let them know they will be punished."
- "Those people live with such violence that the only thing they understand is more violence".

Steve asked what they thought would happen if a two-state solution were arrived at, with the removal of settlements.

- this would work "only if there were mutual agreements and I cannot imagine anyone making that trade."

Rivka and David feel strongly that people should be working on conflict management NOT resolution.

I was glad we visited with this family. And far, far more glad when the visit was done.

  • *******

a note about settlers:
We were told by Amos and at least one other person, and I’ve read it for years, that about 80% of Settlers are there for “economic” reasons, not “ideological.

Yet I have to ask, is there really a difference? Certainly the settlers at Kiryat Arba, Gush Etzion and Old City Hebron, etc are there out of extreme zealotry. But if the only way my living in a part of a city can only be accomplished by physically removing its inhabitants (e.g. East Jerusalem) or by demolishing their homes to make way for mine (many of the West Bank settlements), and I choose that because it’s more affordable, knowing that I’m “fully entitled” to it, how am I not also “ideological”.

Aren’t I choosing that less expensive residence specifically because I’m “entitled”? Certainly more “entitled” than the people whose homes were demolished for mine? They know that the “other kind” (Palestinians) can’t live there.

Every young Israeli must go into the army, and most of them serve in the West Bank. If they don’t serve, they speak with those who did. There is simply no way I will ever believe that the knowledge isn’t present in the general population for if nothing else, nearly every one of them served in the army, most in Palestine, and as they’re all in the reserves most of them return there from time to time. These people all age and become the adult population of Israel – the “ordinary Israelis” who then say they “didn’t know”. I certainly believe they might choose to deny it or ignore it or change their memories or justify it by their own entitlement, but I will never believe they do not know.

Shooting and crying…., shooting and crying… As if that wipes the soul clean.

  • *******

8/4 Getting out - !

Leaving this land that has left such an ache in my heart but which has given me more hope for a just and peaceful resolution than I have had in years - because of the determination and courage of the Palestinians and the growing awareness among Israelis of courage and good will of the horrors being committed in their name and their willingness to speak up.

I have at least one more write-up to do - will probably send it after I get home. Will need to spend some time in contemplation of all I've seen and heard and done, try to analyze and integrate it, to examine what surprised me, what was new, what confirmed what I knew before and what contradicted what I thought I knew. Sort of daunting...


...so after an interminable 5 hour wait at the Tel Aviv Airport, I breeze through security with no hint of issue - didn't even know I'd "gone through security" until a security person pointed that out to me. Have been lucky every step of the way. Finally start to board, but at the "ding" of the bar code swipe, she asks me to "stand over there". Oh oh...

Less than a minute later, they call my name and give me a new boarding pass. Instead of my seat 40H in steerage, I have 9F. Omigod, it's First Class! Omigod!

I still have an aisle seat, and it's a huge cocoon, with a special toiletry zip packet, ear phones, big pillow, serious blanket, flight attendants who smile constantly and address me by name and give me theirs. They seem not to know I'm a peasant. And of course I hardly know how to act in this First Class milieu, though surely they'll soon realize the magnitude of their mistake. Finally figured out it was Delta I had to thank - for noticing my high flight miles - a reward.

Two good meals - no idea whether economy got two. Feeling slightly uneasy that Dick and I were on the same plane, and after we got through security we sat together and talked while we waited and boarded together after an "adventure" or two at the airport where it seemed I was being singled out but each time was for an innocuous reason, though he didn't know that. When I was put aside after the first class designation kachinged, neither of us knew why and he continued on board. I'm sure he didn't see me again so probably assumes I'm being detained. Have to email him as soon as I can pull his address out.

All of a sudden, I'm in a completely different world where it's always cool, water is in abundance, no one here is going to attack anyone else or steal their land or tear down their home. No conversation about anything of substance.

Very old Jewish couple across the aisle - she's very old herself with difficulty moving around yet is bringing her even older husband (I suspect about 90 or so) back from visiting their daughter in Israel. She has to take him to that tiny lavatory, and sit him down when she brings him back and fix his seat belt. I don't know how she is able to make this flight alone. Because I had taken her hand at one point to help her get out of her seat, she felt comfortable enough asking me to help her with the customs form. She's a US citizen and speaks English but she can't read it or write it, and couldn't fill out the form. I filled it out for her (she was tickled when I asked her if she was carrying more than $10,000 - we had a chuckle).

Nice to end the trip with a reminder that at some point, we can "reach across the aisle" and communicate in spite of barriers.

I wish the exchange had done something to ease the pain in my heart. It didn't.

Posted by mtorres55 13:29 Comments (0)

Palestine in 2010 w/CPT-Day 11-Hebron family stay

sunny 104 °F

Non Violence sign, At Tuwani

Non Violence sign, At Tuwani

Non-violence is a living, breathing entity here. It seems as though everyone is talking about it, though I also realize that we're seeing people, Christian and Muslim both, who have already chosen non-violence. But it seems it's the only method that makes sense, since only one side has, or ever will have, the guns, and these people have already suffered so much. Not that they don't suffer when struggling non-violently. It would seem that non-violence is far more threatening to Israel than guns or stones because it brings world attention, and world support, to Palestinians.

And you hear about it all over Palestine: Bi'ilin, Ni'hilin, Beit Sahour - list is long. Israel has hundreds of strong Palestinian non-violence leaders in prison and shows no sign of releasing them, whether or not they have been charged. It's part of why the Jewish Settlers have such a visceral hatred for the HRWs - because they watch (and interfere) and witness. The worst thing that could happen to Israel's plan to take all of this land for just one people is for the world to see what they are doing here. Many signs say "Germany 1937". I think it's 1940.

Promised you less turmoil and trials, didn't I? Well, there goes that promise... Should have known better - the trip is not finished yet.

Have seen videos of settler children attacking Palestinian children, adults calling them “Dogs” (a very nasty insult) and “Jew-hater” and standing back while the children wield clubs, rocks, spit, kicks, blows. Those might be the most disturbing things I've ever seen in all these years. The hatred was so palpable, the children totally out of control, screaming, furiously attacking. Unbelievable.

Juxtaposed with one of the most common accusations in the states, that Palestinians teach their children to hate, your mind reels. Everything here seems to stand "truth" on its head. We hear again and again "we want to live. We want to raise out children. We don't care if there is one state or two. We don't care whether we live with Jews or not. We just want to live and be free."

I've not heard one word of hatred of Jews here. I can't imagine it doesn't exist, for you cannot live with this level of torment every day of your life without having harsh feelings for the people responsible for your suffering, but still I hear no hatred spoken, and see none manifest from Palestinians. The only hatred I've seen, and I've seen a lot of it, is that of the Jewish settlers and some of the Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem, and it is deep.

They also express hatred of the Human Rights Workers HRW (the internationals) who stand and walk to protect the children. "Arab-lover" "Nazi Arab-lover" "scum". They call HRWs Nazis as they themselves wall people in, destroy their homes and water sources, beat and torture people for no reason except they were Arab... You know the list.

...on it's head, on it's head.

We've been told, and we've seen, how soldiers protect only the settlers, how, if a settler attacks a Palestinian the Palestinian is usually arrested - for being attacked, though some phony charge is made, or perhaps none at all, just an arrest. Palestinians have also told us that "soldiers don't want trouble and sometimes they protect the Palestinians", but we've seen videos and heard from HRWs that most of the time they simply stand back and let it happen. Several of us on this delegation believe the only mission of the soldiers is to protect settlers, but that occasionally a soldier whose conscience is still active might intervene to help a Palestinian child.


Did I tell you about watching Palestinian men with their children? I've seen them kissing their babies as they walk on the street holding them, watched a father interrupt a conversation with a group of adults to stoop and have a real conversation with his little girl, seen them just adore them, watched as a little boy entered a room, saw his father, and seeing his face literally light up as he ran to him to be lifted into the air.

Stereotypes fade, reality enters.

I have a chance to go take a very rare rest before we go on mosque patrol so will end this. We'll participate this afternoon in the Open Shuhadah Street demonstration (did I tell you about that yet? If not, please Google YouTube to find it. Well worth watching) and later will tail a Settler Tour of the Old City. I had thought those were temporarily stopped, but apparently not. Settlers come through every week ostensibly to see what they're missing by not having full ownership, but in actuality it's to further harass, break wares, and remind Palestinians just who has the power here.
whoops - just lost my rest time. Kids are getting out of summer school at Qurtuba school, so off we go.
More later.


Back from “school patrol” uneventful except for the group of 12-13 year old settler boys who passed Tomasz and I and told us in very calm voices that we were Nazis. The irony, of course, was lost on them.School_Patrol.jpg

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Random sights, sounds:

the man on the corner at the CPT apartment in the Old City in Hebron, squeezing heavenly orange or apple juice from an old hand squeezer. The oranges were warm of course, standing in the sun all day, but every time I passed him (several times a day) I bought a glass of juice. Three shekels - about 20 Cents. Sometimes bought glasses for the young folks if I was with them. It was heavenly, sweet.The Juice Man - 1 Shekel!

The Juice Man - 1 Shekel!

The muezzin calling prayer 5 times a day, experienced alternately by many of us non Muslims as familiar, comforting in its dependability, and sometimes irritating when it came in the middle of a meeting or a conversation.

The Old City in both Hebron and Jerusalem is a Souk - sometimes covered walkways, sometimes not covered, always very narrow and very crowded, Always stiflingly hot but far cooler than outside the City in the streets.

Hebron Old City, with three settlements and plans for a fourth in the middle of it, with the settlements being built above Palestinian life below them. Settlements in Hebron Old City take the form of large new apartment complexes. Guess who lost their homes to make way.

There are streets that have netting over them to catch the garbage and eggs and shit (yes, shit) the settlers throw out the windows at Palestinians. Two of our group got hit by soapy water tossed out on them as they passed by. They were lucky it wasn't urine, which is also tossed. (And the settler David with whom we spoke in Efrata went on at some length about what barbarians Arabs are, and how dirty - another dispatch).

The Al Ibrahimi Mosque, ancient, ancient. Once a mosque, then a church, then a synagogue, then a mosque again. This is the mosque where the American-Israeli fanatic Dr. Baruch Goldstein entered loaded with guns at prayer time, and as men and young boys were prostrated in prayer, sprayed them with bullets. He killed 29 men as they knelt to pray, and injured 170 others before survivors beat him to death. Israeli soldiers stationed at the door did not intervene.

Rage followed, and in the aftermath, as a way of "apologizing" to the Palestinian community, Israel took 64% of their mosque and turned it back into a synagogue. Israeli justice.

  • *****************

Weekly demonstration: Open Shuhada Street!

I watched as a soldier approached a Palestinian man in front of me and in spoke to him in a low voice, waving his finger in front of his face (I have the photos). Less than a minute later, after the soldier had moved several feet away, the Palestinian man pointed the soldier out and shouted "this soldier accused me of assaulting him. I did not assault him." I shouted "we have pictures of what happened! We have pictures!" The soldier stood there with what I interpreted as an embarrassed look on his face. Minutes later the soldiers attempted to arrest a journalist with a camera but the journalist got away. A day in the life of Palestine...


Posted by mtorres55 13:30 Comments (0)

Palestine in 2010 w/CPT-Day 10 Hebron/Mosque Patrol

sunny 104 °F

7/30 Day 10 Hebron – Patrols and “Shopping as a Political Act” and the night with a Hebron family.


A little disjointedness here, as I sent a short Hebron note earlier.

This one was written but not sent 2 days ago, and before we went to AtTuwani.

Some lighter stuff: We've been told since before we started that it would be best to save any souvenir shopping for Hebron and AtTuwani because merchants in those places don't get nearly the custom shop keepers get in Jerusalem. So today, SHOPPING AS A POLITICAL ACT! Who’da thunk it?
We're back in Hebron - day to day activity with the Christian Peacemaker Team:

We stayed in the Old City and walked the market first. We could see the many arches overhead and the sort of "funnel" running down the middle of the VERY narrow street that runs - no, ran - a small bit of water down the middle for cooling, just as Michael and I saw in Barcelona at Pobre Espanya. Now though, there is not enough water available for Palestinians to waste it for that. God, every good story contains some hardship, or reminder of the reality here, doesn't it?

It had areas that were very busy, many areas with few people. Many of the shops have been closed because of the settlers moving in. Some of the space between the buildings (the street is only about 10-15 feet wide) in the old part where we are has had to be covered overhead with netting because the settlers, who have expropriated buildings all around here, throw garbage, clothing, shit, leaves, all kinds of garbage, and sometimes raw eggs, at the merchants and people below. Myrta, you first showed me the picture from the Web, and now I've taken one myself. Hard to believe.Jewish Settlers throw their garbage at Palestinians in al-Khalil

Jewish Settlers throw their garbage at Palestinians in al-Khalil

We went to the Kaffiyeh factory this afternoon, the last one of three in the West Bank. It's operating at 50%, makes the traditional white/black and the red/white (I had always thought the red ones were from Syria). The owner was there and we went into the office which was also a show room. Several of us were there and we bought a number of kaffiyehs. I got an extra scarf - I had told the Palestinian man who brought us that Michael and I always preferred to wear the red one because of its political significance. He said "yes, the kaffiyehs for the Left" parties. Thought that was the end of the conversation, but as we were walking out he caught me and said "this is from ***** (no names), for solidarity" and he gave me a red scarf. Tickled me.

Zalicha is a neighbor of the CPT apartment, and her house fronts on Shuhada street, which means her front door was welded shut by the Israelis so that just settlers can use the street. I had seen the B'et Tzelem video of Shuhada Street (search dancing soldiers Hebron and click their link to the rooftop journeys) and the older woman who has to climb to the rooftop - several flights of stairs - and up and down a series of ladders to get out of her home. This day we saw two women and a child entering over the rooftop. If you didn't believe it when you saw the video, believe it. I saw it with my own eyes.Hebron_Shu..ntrance.jpg

Zalicha runs a school for primary children, with very few resources. She's quite creative and feels it's critical to teach the children the importance of steadfastness. She is passionate about both children and recycling: children must play in the street and on the rooftops, and many of the roofs don't have any barriers around the edges. So she sent the kids out to find old "fridges", and then had them brought up to the roof to line the edges, to keep the children safe!!!

She is often hassled by soldiers as she goes about her business but she is very clear about what they have a right to know, and what they don't. They often overstep their bounds, but she brings them up short: "where are you going?" "you have no right to ask me where I am going."
The other folks in our group work hard to remember that, as they say ,"soldiers are also children of god", and speak with them, not for information but just for contact. I'm glad people do that, for I recognize the need to never shut off an avenue of communication. But I cannot. I simply cannot make conversation with them. This is a flaw in my own personality and process, but something inside me goes cold and will not allow me to chat. I doubt this is anything I want to work on in myself.

LATER NOTE – having been following Tomasz’ blogs (one of our CPT folks), which I highly recommend [livingstones-tomasz.blogspot.com/] the value of being able to talk with soldiers is illuminated. Tomasz stayed in Palestine to work with ISM for three more weeks, and has divided most of his time between farmer protection and talking with soldiers at demonstrations and when they show up during a settler attack. (Tomasz spent several days in the hospital with a broken nose after he was hit across the face with an iron bar by a settler – it’s in his blog). The commander in Hebron has told him he’ll be arrested if he doesn’t stop talking to the soldiers – he talks about comparisons between their families and Palestinian families, about Torah, and it would appear he is doing some serious damage to their ability to do their “jobs”. Check out the blog!

We went to Qurtuba school in Hebron - once a girl's school until the 2nd Intifada when many people fled. They opened the doors to boys and now operate coed. It goes to I think the 6th grade for boys and further for girls. Boys go on to their own schools from 7th on.

Some interesting bits from this visit:

While in the US, it's girls who do worse in mixed gender classes while here it's boys who benefit. Reem, the Principal of the school (I'm not using last names of anyone from whom I haven't asked permission and even then sometimes will change a name) talked about how the boys' education in boys’ schools with male teachers tends to be much less rigorous than girls' in girls schools with female teachers, and girls' test scores across the board are always far higher.

She said that in Palestine there are far more girls in university than boys, and that most of the students go on to Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, India, Malaysia and a few to Russia. Only about 1 in 1000 can afford to go to London.

The school is surrounded by 3 settlements and a 4th is planned. As usual, settlers attack the children (remember these are kindergarten - 6th) with rocks, garbage, foul names and chasing. Two years ago they broke into the school and tried to burn it down, doing much damage. They tore the garden up. The front doors were metal, and when they and the stones around them actually burned, the question arose what material had been used for that fire, for metal doesn't normally burn, nor does stone. They periodically come to pull up the bricks in the sidewalk, which is the only way Palestinians have of entering the school now that they cannot use Shuhada Street.School_Patrol.jpg

I think I'm going to try to stop detailing the constant cruelties that the people here suffer - just know that you haven't heard more than the tip of the iceberg, if that.

Call to go to visit the families with whom we'll spend the night here in Hebron. Just never enough time! More tomorrow, I hope.
Some of us will go tomorrow to the Negev to stand in solidarity with the Bedouin families who lost their homes and village last week - apparently hundreds will come on bus from Jerusalem. Some of us (including me) will stay here to do school patrol and all who are here in the afternoon will go to the big "Open Shuhadah Street" weekly demo.

no – a little more time:

We spent night before last with a Muslim family in At Tuwani and tonight with Muslim families in Hebron. Writing up the Hebron family stay here, though chronologically, it took place Friday night July 30.

The Hebron family we women stayed with lives just under a settlement and has been under siege for ?? years (don't remember how many). Part of their land was stolen to make the settlement, they moved in above him, took some of his land to build a settlement from which they torment his family daily. . They attack his kids as they leave for school, tried to burn his house down, burned 7 of his cars, one after another, and all 268 of his olive trees - his family's income. and over the years, the settlers have burned 7 of their cars, one after another, some, and then finally all of their 268 olive trees - a primary source of income - tried to burn their house and did destroy most of their kitchen, and the children are regularly attacked by settler children as they walk to school. This is a family that has been offered $1million (some said more) to get out, but who refuse. A brother is visiting from Michigan, where he has lived for the past 18 years.
The husband now has a coffee shop (harder to burn down), and the relationship between he and his wife is quite egalitarian. He cooks with her, does child care, etc. She was dressed for summer in the house. I did not ask if she covers to go outside.

Hani has been in prison several times, for a total of 6 years, for violent acts. He didn't talk about his path to non-violence, but he now has a non-violence training program and he teaches it not only here but in Europe as well. He is a most remarkable man, very dramatic, absolutely riveting to listen to between his gestures, his English, and his content. A lovely man, a lovely family.

When we walked into the house, Hani told us that his two oldest sons had small pox!!!! Rather stunned, we looked at two miserable boys about 14 and 16 lying on the couch with calamine lotion spotted all over their bodies. I asked if perhaps it was chicken pox, but it took some time to confirm that was the case. None of us thought it was small pox though, so it didn't become an issue.

In the middle of the night, the parents had to rush the older boy to the hospital, where he was found to have double pneumonia. He had been in Qurtuba school several years ago when the settlers attacked and the soldiers shot tear gas into the school (notice anything odd about that action?) and his lungs were damaged. He's had asthma since that time.

Hani took us to the hospital with him when he drove us back to the CPT apartment. He's in a PA hospital where there are sufficient doctors and not sufficient machines and medicine. Under an agreement with the PA, Israel is supposed to provide the necessary machines to operate a hospital. Wanna guess...???? There should not have been the need for an agreement anyway, for as an occupying power, Israel is obligated by international law to provide for the welfare of the people under their control. I'm told the thinking goes "we're not occupying, we've simply stationed soldiers in our own land". End of problem. Except for all those pesky Palestinians who won't leave.

Whoops, done it again - planned to stay "professional" (not "objective", which is an absurd concept), but I simply can't. It hurts too much.
The men stayed with a family that has a similar story of stolen land to make room for the settlement (the most common way of confiscating land is to just declare it a restricted military zone and take it - no compensation, end of story - then give it to Jewish settlers).
Did mosque patrol today - uneventful.

Also did mosque patrol last night and then couldn't get back because they closed the checkpoint. Walked about 4 miles altogether. Nothing compared to what Palestinians young and old must walk to get around checkpoints and the Wall. Welcome to Palestine.Mosque_pat..CROPPED.jpg

BRIGHT SPOT - yesterday met Leila, who started a women's cooperative and now has a shop in which their handmade goods are sold. She covers with a scarf. I asked her how it was being one of only 2 women shopkeepers in this whole large market. She said her husband is a communist, and so is very supportive of her work. Also said that she covers because she has always done it and prefers it, and again because her husband is a communist, he doesn’t like it. And again, because he is a communist, she has her choice....

Very friendly woman, served us tea, visited for some time and invited us all (12!) to breakfast the next day, though we couldn't do it. Very assertive, very direct, as I'm finding most of the Palestinian women that I meet here. Yay, women!

I asked about who among the settlers are committing the daily crimes. It's the young ones, most under 16, who do the action, but they are taught at home and encouraged in public by their parents and the other adults to attack, to burn, to throw rocks and garbage because the "children" cannot be arrested (keep this in mind the next time someone tells you Palestinians teach their children to hate...). Adults yell insults, toss shit and garbage, harass and torment in any way they can without breaking a "law". I put quotes because "law" in Israel and Palestine is scoffed at by Palestinians and by most Israelis when it comes to Palestinians. "Law" is whatever a soldier or police say it is, and it almost NEVER applies to settlers. Eram (Israeli soldier/Breaking the Silence) told us that if a police officer arrests a settler, he usually loses his job.

Heard from Sami, with ISM, today. More of the same awfulness. He's a very personable young man with a great sense of humor. In the midst of his presentation, we learned that two men had been arrested at the checkpoint where we had been a short time before, so we all went there to see what we could do. Because I have grey hair (the grandmother in the group) I was designated the one to talk to the soldiers about it.

Knowing that we would probably get no real answers, I went to the checkpoint and asked questions like "Why did you arrest those men? When will they be released? When will you give us an answer?" Steve came up and told the soldier that the men live in Hebron and need to get home to their families, etc. - by then we knew something about them.

While we were there, TIPH came (UN mandated, hired by the Israeli government to witness and document - some appreciate them here, some don't). We stayed about 30 minutes and just as we had decided we had made it clear that we and others were watching and as we turned to go, the gates open and the two men were released. It turned out the soldiers had no reason to have arrested them in the first place, so after making them sit on the boiling asphalt in the hot sun for an hour without water, and after noticing the crowd of internationals outside the gate, they figured they had made their point (according to Sami). Sami said the presence of internationals probably contributed to them being released so soon.

Two of our group had already gone up to Kiryat Arba in response to an attack on a family by settlers up there. The family is under a more or less siege and this happens regularly. This time a settler man took the man's 3 yr old girl from his arms and roughly dropped her on the ground, and grabbed the developmentally delayed boy and picked him up roughly and dropped him too and then hit the man in the stomach (don't know if weapon or not) and the man had to be taken to the hospital. A day in the life of .....

Again, hard to believe the inhumanity of the government of Israel that puts together such inhumane policies, the settlers whose every moment seems directed to tormenting Palestinians, and even the "average joe" in Israel who all say they "didn't know" but cannot help but know if they stay awake during the day (not to mention that nearly every one of them served in the army, most in Palestine, and as they’re all in the reserves, most of them return there from time to time. These people all age and become the adult population of Israel – who then say they “didn’t know”. I think I said I was going to try not to beat people over the head with this. It's hard, because it's a part of every living minute in this land if you're the wrong religion. Though I just found out today about the treatment received by Palestinian Jews here. 'nother story...

Just met Tom from Sussex England - here on his own, but he was here last year with ISM. Talked a lot of about ISM actions in which he's participated, talked about how they are in the front, between Palestinians and soldiers. Very gutsy young people.
going to try to get this into the email for today as well.


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A note about checkpoints: Many if not most of the checkpoints include a turnstile, that one person at a time enters, sort of like the revolving doors we see at hotel entrances, but that allow only one person to enter. We were told that checkpoint soldiers, when feeling bored and mean ... sometimes wait till a person gets into the turnstile and then turn it off, for whatever period of time the soldier cares to leave it off and the person caged.

The official motto of the Israeli Army is "The Most Moral Army in the World". Enough said.

Posted by mtorres55 13:30 Comments (0)

Palestine in 2010 w/CPT-Day 9 Hebron and AtTuwani

sunny 103 °F

7/29 Day 9 - to AtTuwani

apologies for the jerky communication for a couple of days - packed schedule from 7 a.m. to about 10, preparations for the following day, just not enough hours in a day to do much else.

Spent the day in the lovely city of al-Khalil (Hebron) yesterday learning so much more about the myriad ways that first, the government, then the individual settlers, have of making Palestinian life so miserable they will leave, and the most bewildering determination Palestinians have to not be pushed any further off the land they call home.

You can't help but notice that I have a bias, and have had since I moved so many years ago from being a knee-jerk supporter of Israel to learning the reality of the situation and I offer no apologies for that. What's been interesting has been seeing the change in several of my travel mates who came to this trip with a strong sense of support for Israel and are now wrestling with the questions of how any people could be so deliberately and coldly cruel to another people, and how truth is stood on its head every day in the news, in the propaganda (the common refrain, when one of our group speaks to settlers - and even in Jerusalem to an ordinary fellow, is that we need to stay away from the Arabs because they will cut us up).

The same kinds of unreality surfaces when they talk about who is doing what to whom and why. It's really come home here in Hebron where the hatred the Settlers feel for the Palestinians is palpable, and everywhere present. Some are having a very hard time understanding how such virulent racism could exist in this holy land.

I'm behind in my "reports", and will now be another day behind, as we're leaving in about 30 minutes for At Twain, a village of about 200 only about 7 k. from Hebron, yet quite remote. No Wi-Fi, no cell phones, water in short supply (we get pretty ripe on this trip). An aside - it's a mystery how the people who live here manage to appear in public always clean, always fresh looking, even women who cover in what appears to be hot clothing.

Hebron and AtTuwani live with settlers in their midst and on their periphery - the most ideological of the settlers in the West Bank, Amos said, which accounts somewhat, but only somewhat, for the daily cruelties. Elsewhere the cruelties are government sponsored, but here they are both, and stunning to see. Kiryat Arba is the settlement that daily torments AtTuwani.

Learned Tony Blair visited At Tuwani. How can he come here, speak with these very strong and determined people, hear what they have to do daily to survive – to survive the settlers, to survive the State – and go home to continue his blind support of Israel? How can he do that? MY NOTE, LATER – in late August, AtTuwani finally won, in Israeli courts, their long battle to bring electricity to the village. Tony Blair’s visit was mentioned in the story I read about it – wonder if he might have actually done some advocacy for it?

This is a land of intensity - no matter what the issue, what the subject, things seem so much more intense, every day. Perhaps because for us, we seldom experience issues of life and death presented in such mundane situations - what route your children will use to get to their school, whether you will have water for cooking and drinking today, whether your house will still be standing when you come home from your job if you have one.

Also want to tell you about the culture, the food, so much more. Perhaps I will be able to write that while I'm flying home next week.



Well, didn't tell you yet about our visit to the tiny village - 200 people - of At Tuwani, did I? It's a Muslim village where three CPTers and one or two DOVE (Italian sort mix between CPT and Peace Corps) live full time. They were invited to come by the village, in order to provide protection from the settlers of Ma'on on the hill above them. Something tells me I said this before so won't spend too much time with it.
AtTuwani encroaching settlements

AtTuwani encroaching settlements

HRWs go to the fields in At Tuwani with the shepherds to lessen the attacks on them. Long litany of crimes against them by the settlers, some of the most ideological in Israel along with those in the middle of Hebron. Met Kifah, who, with her husband (yes, he too helps her out, as she helps him in the field) provided us with a delicious dinner and breakfast. Hospitality here has no limits. When I get home, I have to fix Maklooba, and the vegetable soup I've forgotten the name of - touroon?
At Tuwani child

At Tuwani child

AtTuwani child & baby

AtTuwani child & baby

Keifah had an arranged marriage and moved from the city to this tiny village - what a shock! No electricity, almost no water. But she's a strong woman, organized a women's cooperative, and we bought beautiful and not-so-beautiful (some are just starting out) embroidery work. I bought a small hand woven wool rug - wool from their own sheep - and a skein of what they call "resistance wool". They don't shear their sheep except periodically for the sheep's comfort, for they have no market for it (FAIR TRADERS, TAKE NOTE), but do now spin yarn from the wool they do gather.Dresses in the Women's Coop in At Tuwani

Dresses in the Women's Coop in At Tuwani

Jewish settlers from Ma'on, on the hill above AtTuwani, work hard to make these people's lives miserable. They have done that, but they have not broken their spirit. They come down in mobs and enter Palestinian homes, with weapons, sit in the kitchens and threaten the people who live there, attack the men as they are out with their sheep, the children as they walk to and from school. It got so bad that CPT and DOVE began to walk each way with the children every day. For whatever reason, Israel forbade the escorts and instead said the army would escort the children. So now, sometimes the army comes, sometimes they don't, usually they are very late, and often the settlers come down to attack the children even with their army escort because they know the army cannot touch them, by law and by inclination. There are many reports of attacks on the children with the army standing back watching.
Here's a picture of a couple of kids bringing in vegetables and you can see the pieces of water pipes all over the ground - a result of a Settler visit.At Tuwani kids with destroyed water system

At Tuwani kids with destroyed water system

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Posted by mtorres55 13:30 Tagged hebron at_tuwani Comments (0)

Palestine in 2010 w/CPT-Day 8 - Hebron

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7/28 Day 8 in Hebron – Hebron Rehabilitation Committee

With Walid, who walked us through the Old City.

Didn't write on this day. Today's events captured next entry, Page 9.

Women's co-op Leila

Women's co-op Leila

Women's Coop sign

Women's Coop sign

Walid - Hebron tour

Walid - Hebron tour

Hebron Market

Hebron Market

Posted by mtorres55 13:31 Tagged rehabilitation garbage hebron Comments (0)

Palestine in 2010 w/CPT-Day 7 Al Arakib GONE - and Hebron

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Sheikh Sayed showing us the demolition order for the entire village of Al Arakib

Sheikh Sayed showing us the demolition order for the entire village of Al Arakib

7/27 Day 7. Gone

At 5:30 a.m. today, the Bedouin village of Al Arakib in the Negev was destroyed.

1500 armed police with a full complement of helicopters and bulldozers, water cannons and dogs totally demolished the village of 500 people. Every house, every tent, every chicken coop, every animal pen, every storehouse, every tool shed, every solar panel, every water cistern, every olive tree.

Everything standing was crushed.

Every Bedouin home is gone.

Two days after we sat with them in their homes, after they gave us tea and fruit and cake and let me hold their new baby. After they looked us in the eye and asked us to help them, it’s all gone.

They lost their homes because they are not Jews, and the state of Israel wants the land for Jews even though none will come to live on it.

The police were accompanied by Israeli high school students who removed furniture and personal goods from the houses, slashed photos, and sat on the sofas outside, cheering the bulldozers.

150 Israeli dissenters came in time to witness. Five were arrested. BBC and Aljazeera filmed.

The Bedouin people began rebuilding before the last bulldozer left.

Al Arakib family watching demolition of their home

Al Arakib family watching demolition of their home

Bedouin Al Arakib aftermath

Bedouin Al Arakib aftermath

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Day 7 - and news re Bedouins Google to see how news covered it


search term Bedouin village demolished.

from http://www.voltairenet.org/article166588.html and other sources

Israeli high school students who appeared to have volunteered as members of the Israeli police civilian guard.

A number of villagers including Abu Madyam told me the volunteers smashed windows and mirrors in their homes and defaced family photographs with crude drawings. Then they lounged around on the furniture of al-Arakib residents in plain site of the owners. Finally, according to Abu Matyam, the volunteers celebrated while bulldozers destroyed the homes.

“What we learned from the summer camp of destruction,” Abu Madyam remarked, “is that Israeli youth are not being educated on democracy, they are being raised on racism.”

These are the people we sat with. 

In Hebron now, at CPT apartment in the Old City, with 3 Israeli settlements within stone throwing distance. Right next door is the roof where the old woman (and many others) climbs out of her house to the rooftop and down a series of ladders in order to get out of her house after Israel welded shut the doors of all the houses and shops on Shuhada street so only Jews and internationals could use it, but never any Palestinians. Google the "dancing soldiers Hebron" to get to Bet T'selem's site, with the link to the old woman climbing out of her house.

We received the news of the village while we were at the Tent of Nations high up on a hill outside Bethlehem. Israel wants the hill for settlements and have issued a demolition order for the entire place, whose owners have proven in court their ownership for the past 150 years. They have no water service, though all the settlements around have water, they cannot dig a well, they cannot collect water in a cistern.

The only thing they can do legally is leave or die.

Going to eat with these great CPT people. Street patrol tomorrow. Sorry I can't write more. Hardest day yet, with such awful news. We're all pretty wiped.

I wish I hadn’t committed to writing a daily narrative. This shit piles up so fucking fast I can’t keep up with it.


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This is so sick I hardly have the heart to send it to my group.
israeli high school:al arakib

israeli high school:al arakib

Israel has razed the Bedouin village of Al Arakib for the 4th time in a month, determined to remove them to a "town" (reservation), away from where they've lived for so long.

The only reason they are being removed is that THEY ARE NOT JEWISH. How can you fight anti-Jewish racism when this stuff is being done by Jews, for Jews, in the name of all Jews, and only a few Jews - relatively speaking - speak against it? Yet I hear no hatred expressed toward Jews - only toward their acts. very different from what we've heard from some Israelis, and from the settler family yesterday.

Damn, what a lot to process.

LATER NOTE: As of August 17, 2010, this village has been demolished four times in a month. FOUR times. Every time the army leaves, the people, with the help of Israeli and international activists, rebuilds. Every time they rebuild, the army comes and demolishes everything. YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK.

The official motto of the Israeli Army is "The Most Moral Army in the World". Enough said.

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What a bummer of a day. Steve got the phone call as we were visiting with a group high up on a hill outside Bethlehem, that is under a demolition order themselves, when we got word about the village. All of us have been pretty sick about it all day.

7/27 Still Day 7 Holy Land Trust, Tent of Nations and Hebron

Later, about Tent of Nations, where we were when we received the news about Al Arakib:


Just outside Bethlehem, high on a hill, is the Tent of Nations, an organization that teaches non-violent resistance to Palestinian and Israeli students. Surrounded all around by militant Jewish settlements, it is, itself, under a long standing demolition order. It was once a large farm belonging to the Nassar family, but they have lost almost all their olive trees (their main source of income) to raids by the settlers. Owner Daoud Nassar now uses his farm to welcome people from all over the world.


In Hebron now. The CPT apartment is in the old city, literally, a stone's throw away from 3 separate settlements in the middle of the town. Have seen Shuhada street, and even the rooftop and the ladder the old woman uses to get out of her house in that disturbing video.Rooftop entry for Palestinians

Rooftop entry for Palestinians

Hebron is the world’s most ancient continuously occupied (in the human not military sense) unwalled city in the world. It contains the graves of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rachel, Jacob and Leah in the Al-Ibrihimi Mosque (nasty story there, but later...) and is shared 65/35% with the settlers (want to guess what the percentage share of each is?) It is truly old - much of it is over 1200 years old and quite lovely. Not showy like the Haj Sophia, but just lovely.

Hebron - the town hit hardest by the occupation outside Gaza (remember that Gaza is only “not occupied” by soldiers, but it's still totally controlled), and I think the only town other than Jerusalem that has settlers sitting in the middle of it. 180,000 Palestinians live here, with 800 Israeli Jewish settlers now in their midst. 3000 soldiers guard those settlers. It’s a ancient city, prized by both Muslims and Jews for historical and religious reasons, and by the population itself because it is their home.

A moment about Jewish presence in Hebron. The city was primarily Palestinian for hundreds of years, though a small Jewish community has also lived there for those many years. During the Arab Revolt in 1929, 67 Jews were killed and Jewish homes and synagogues were ransacked. Nineteen Arab families saved 435 Jews by hiding them in their houses even under their own life risk, though I challenge you to find reference to the second fact in any of the Zionist literature about the city.

The attack did not happen in a vacuum. It was a tumultuous time and there was plenty of “blame” to be shared among the British authorities, the Jewish community, and the Arab community, but, I will leave it to you to gather that information yourself.

Almost all Jews were evacuated by British authorities and for the most part were absent from Hebron until 1968, when the trickle of Settlers began. Hebron today is a divided city, and 4 Jewish settlements now surround the Old City, a Palestinian area. Since 1997 it has been divided into two areas: H1 and H2. H1 covers 20% of the city and the Palestinian Authority has limited autonomy. H2 is under the control of the Israeli Army. Farmers in the area no longer have access to what was once the primary market area, in the Old City, where we are staying.

Tensions were stretched to the breaking point in 1995 after the physician Baruch Goldstein, an American-Israeli settler who lived in Kiryat Arba, one of the most ideological of the settlements in Palestine, walked heavily armed into the Al-Ibrahimi mosque during prayer, tossed his hand grenade and sprayed his assault rifle into the crowd. 29 people died, more than 125 injured, before he was overwhelmed by survivors, who beat him to death.

This primarily Palestinian city (90%) was carved up differently than the rest of the West Bank because of the importance of the City to the Jewish religion as well as Muslim. Instead of Areas A, B and C, Hebron is H1 (Palestinian Authority) and H2, (Israeli Authority). The Israeli section includes the heart of the city (Old City) where the Palestinian markets thrived before being strangled by this division. it is Hebron's true city centre where the industrial and commercial zones, as well as the most important landmarks, are located.Settlers have moved into the middle of the Palestinian community in the Old City and are expanding quickly and brutally. Today there are 180,000 Palestinians, 800-1000 Settlers and 3000 Soldiers to protect the Settlers. Jewish settlers, who make up less than 1% of the population of Hebron, control 20% of the city, which is not only incredibly disproportionate but also illegal.
This troubled history continues to feed anger and sorrow in this ancient town.

Shuhada_St..ed_shut.jpgSHUHADA STREET: from OpenShuhadaStreet.org: Shuhada Street was initially closed to Palestinian shops and vehicular traffic in 1994 after the Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 and injured 150 Palestinians when he opened fire in the Ibrahimi Mosque (Tomb of the Patriarchs) during prayers. The army cited fear of Palestinian revenge attacks as its rationale for closing the street. This main artery of the street and the former sight of the market place was reopened to traffic (but not commerce) in 1997 in accordance with the Hebron Protocol. In 2000, Shuhada Street was closed completely to traffic and partially to pedestrians.

Again, from OpenshuhadaStreet.org: What are activists doing on the ground?

Israeli, Palestinian and international organizations are actively involved in improving the situation of Palestinian human rights in the city. These organizations are increasingly working in coordination with one another.

B’Tselem documents human rights abuses in the city, primarily through its Camera Distribution Project, in which Palestinian families in H2 use video cameras to record attacks on them and their property. The project is cultivating a network of families who have more resources to protect their rights, as well as materials that can be used to prosecute rights violations in the legal system.

The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee engages in legal work, the preservation and restoration of infrastructure, and community development.

Breaking the Silence conducts educational tours of Hebron, raising awareness in Israeli society and internationally about human rights violations in the city.

Children of Abraham engages in joint Israeli-Palestinian agricultural work and protests, and coordinates solidarity visits to support the Palestinian families of H2.

The Tel Rumeida Popular Committee is developing a community and media center in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of H2. It has begun to broadcast HEB2 TV as an opportunity for Palestinian residents to document and express the realities of their daily lives.

Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel engage in legal work in Hebron, including bringing cases to the Israeli Supreme Court to challenge military and political policies and prosecute Israeli violators of Palestinian civil and human rights.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel offers persistent international presence as a deterrence to human rights violations in Hebron. (my note – this is primarily CPT)

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Posted by mtorres55 13:31 Tagged hebron shuhadah_street Comments (0)

Palestine in 2010 w/CPT-Day 6 Bethlehem etc.

sunny 104 °F

7/26 Day 6 - BADIL, WI'AM and AIDA CAMP in Bethlehem

Forgot to say earlier - if any of you want information about something specific, please let me know. I'll try to get it for you. What do you want to hear about?

.. ... ... ....

That's me, dithering about where to start, what to say. Days are so long, so jam-packed with activity and information, with amazing people doing so much hard work. We're all on a constant overwhelm. Don't know which is the greatest personal frustration: not having enough time at night to write before I drop of exhaustion, or not being able to upload my pictures to Flickr where you all could see them. I have maybe 30 there now, but they're nowhere near as interesting as the ones I haven't yet been able to get up there. Mostly it's the weakness of the internet connection here, but some of it is the limitations of my netbook. Will keep trying. will point folks to the page if and when, though descriptions will have to wait till I get home.

Also, have thought a lot about how to make these reports not be a "Helen Caldicott" - beating people over the head with awfulness after awfulness and leaving you with a sense of hopelessness. But have decided that I will simply say what we did and what we learned, and because most of it's so awful, what can I do?

The good things - the hospitality of the people, the beauty of Jerusalem, the wonder of being in such an ancient land, the beauty of the children, are all here, all in my heart, some in my camera. But it seems it's more important that I communicate information.

Also thinking that so many things fill the day that it's not possible to capture them anymore in narrative form every night, so am going to have to do it as random thoughts. Apologies, for it may be jerkier reading. Better narrative after I get home.

FIRST - as many of you know, I was feeling anxious about how this trip would affect me and my ability to do this work, and with that, Michael's work, for he will surely be affected by my emotional reaction, that two people active would be removed from this vital issue.

I've carried a great deal of outrage and anger about it for many years and have been able to cope with it through action (always a great healer). But I thought, if I see what I think I will see, I don't know how I'll bear it. I was afraid anger and despair would become so deep as to paralyze me. Hearing sometimes from people familiar with the issue that it's hopeless didn't help, even though before I left, Lauren Booth, who had been kept in Gaza along with Bill Dienst after they entered on the first Free Gaza flotilla in 2008 told me that this would be "an uplifting experience". I could not imagine how she could say that.

I clung to hope only because I knew the Palestinian people could not afford to lose it. To lose hope is to die.

This time here has indeed been hard, but today I'm finally seeing how it is that these amazing people persevere, how they remain steadfast, continue to resist with every fiber of their being. I suppose it's been a compilation of this past week's experiences and talks - in giving us information that is ungodly painful, in telling us things that make us wonder how people remain sane (and we haven't been to the worst of it yet, in Hebron, starting tomorrow), they also told us of their hopes for the future. In the face of overwhelming odds, and some would say all evidence to the contrary, they believe, as they themselves say, "justice will prevail".

They continue to struggle to work, to educate their children, to make their communities safe, and to preserve relationships and their faith whether it be Christian or Muslim. And I want to tell you that I have heard not one word of hatred. I expected to hear it. I would have understood if I had heard it. I find myself wondering how you live with this level of oppression, these daily humiliations and suffering, without hating. Yet I hear no hate. They are too busy trying to survive. I don't fool myself that it doesn't exist. But it isn't evident. These are people who say over and over again that all they want is to live in peace. They can live with the Israelis, they can live with the Jews. They just want to live.

If they can endure, then surely I can endure. And you all can endure. And act.

With that off my chest:

- today was three stops - first was BADIL http://www.badil.org/ Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights where we learned so much about refugees, and I received a bit of a shock. For many years Michael and I have donated to the UN High Commission on Refugees, mostly because of what we thought was the UN's work with Palestinian refugees. They are the ones with the power to respond with arms, which I didn't know - but which means they have enforcement power.

Aida_-_the_Key.jpgThis visit has challenged my support of them, and my decades long support of UNRWA, the UN Committee established in 1950 specifically to help Palestinian refugees. Here Palestinians, even those who are able to avail themselves of the VERY sparse aid now given, or send their kids to UNRWA primary schools, call them the "Camp Maker" because it has normalized the camps.

Am a little fuzzy on how it happened, and will check it out when I return, but here's what I understand. The UN authority responsible for them (he used some initials I couldn't find associated with UNRWA, so unclear here) is nearly defunct (which I do know is the case with UNRWA - we heard that from another source as well), but because that agency is responsible for camps, they cannot receive protection of the UNHCR, which could have intervened decades ago to stop Israel's continual attacks on them.

After what I've always called The Betrayal Called Oslo, the money world governments once gave to UNRWA they now donat to The Betrayal Called the Palestinian Authority, who use it for their own projects but not for the camps. Even if they were inclined to use it for camps they couldn't, for camps are not their mandate. They're to be helped by UNRWA. You see the loop.....

Another interesting piece from this visit. Remember the "Generous Offer" from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak that was offered to Arafat? I've written a lot about it - it was basically a total giveaway of Palestine. What I didn't know was that the main reason Arafat refused to sign it was that it contained no mention of what would happen to refugees (with the "final status" of Jerusalem, the thorniest issue of all), and he knew that if he signed it, he would be dead the next day.

We were reminded that the Nakba didn't end. It is an ongoing crime.

Another statement from Israelis: "if you go to Palestine / West Bank / Arab area you will be cut up". Another fellow related what he had been told by an Israeli, and I realized that because it is such an odd turn of phrase, if it's showing up in more than one place, it sound like part of Israel's Hasbara Project - their propaganda arm. It feeds the fear that helps Jewish Israelis justify the horrors done in their name.

- Palestinians in Bethlehem have access to only 13% the city of Bethlehem.

- the WALL, built far into the Palestinian area of the West Bank, is helping to "create facts on the ground" as each Israeli leader has said, for when a wall goes up that scoops settlements onto the "Israeli side", those Israeli Jews living there become part of Israel in demographic terms, which has everything to do with money, elections, and more. And of course it makes it just that much more unlikely that that large a population would be evacuated - no problem moving that many Palestinians, but that many Jews will never be moved.

The WALL is not for security -follow up this concept. Important piece.

- the WALL is five times longer than the Berlin Wall, and far higher.

- stories of the fear children feel, and how they cope or don't cope with it are absolutely heartbreaking. Some can’t sleep, some can’t sleep alone, can’t be alone, can’t be out of sight of a parent. I will speak more of them when I come home, but can't go there right now.

- when I asked Zoughbi at Wi’Am "what can I tell people at home when they say "you talked with a lot of Christians but what about those Muslims - do they believe in non-violent resistance?", he re-framed the question. He asked why Americans never ask "do Jewish Israelis believe in non-violence?" Of course this question is never asked. Let's think about that for a bit . ....

Oh whew! SO much more! But to the last stop of the day ending with a delicious dinner of Makloub (sp?).

- Aida Refugee Camp, via the Lajee Center (and please check out www.lajeeradio.com) where we had a delicious dinner and tour of the camp. Met Kholoud, whose grandmother was forced from her village in 1948 (another horrendous story), finally ending in Aida where Kholoud's mother was born, as was Kholoud. She was educated in UNRWA schools, and was able to study in England also (I believe she had relatives there).

Aida has a 44% unemployment rate

Aida residents receive water from Israel, pumped into a rooftop cistern, once a week, and can access this water for TWO HOURS A DAY.

Also met Danz, a young Australian woman who is volunteering there - she and I had a wonderful conversation by ourselves as the rest went up to the rooftop (my knee simply wouldn't take me up one single unnecessary stair today - we're staying at the House of Bread in Bethlehem, on the fourth floor walkup).

Wow - lots of singing and music somewhere down the street - lots of celebrating still from families whose kids passed the exams. Lovely sounds.

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Will mail all my literature, notes and camera cards home, possibly the netbook (might leave it here with an organization). I had planned to go through return airport security like a fighting Irishman, but realize now that what I have is too valuable to risk it, for they could tear up my notes and make hash of all they can (been told that enough that I believe it now). I could cope with missing my flight, but 7not with losing my pictures and notes and books and literature.

Well, I'm running out of steam. It's 11:40, and another long day tomorrow. Apologies if some of this is a bit incoherent.


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Posted by mtorres55 13:31 Tagged bethlehem wi'am badil refugee_camp Comments (0)

Palestine in 2010 w/CPT-Day 5 Bethlehem Breaking t. Silence

sunny 104 °F

7/25 - Day 5 –Breaking the Silence and Bethlehem

Breaking_t..onSMALL.jpgOur visit with a Breaking the Silence soldier was very moving, very interesting, and VERY VERY awful. He and the others who speak out publicly are quite courageous (he said that most of the soldiers who serve in the West Bank don't believe in what they do there - but for me, the fact that they don't speak out negates their sad feelings. "Shooting and crying", Israelis' favorite excuse, just doesn't cut it with me, and less now than before). And yes, I understand the price. People pay that price here – not only soldiers, but the soldier Aaron told us of a civilian friend of his, who, after she realized what was being done in her name, could no longer bear to be around the racist conversations, and one by one, lost all of her friends.

Breaking the Silence () is an organization of Israeli soldiers who served in the Palestine during the Second Intifada. They collect testimonies of soldiers who served there and they now have more than 800 testimonies. What we heard from this young man would chill your blood. I doubt they are much different from the horror stories American soldiers tell from Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. But because nearly every young person serves in the Army and primarily in Palestine, and because Israel is a very small country, more of the people there are aware of what their soldiers do than is the case in the United States. Each of them takes their stories home - some talk about them, some don’t, but they all mature into adults that know very well what happened there. And each of these soldiers then becomes one of the “ordinary Israelis”: teacher, doctor, waiter, lawyer, clerk, …and they know…

Breaking the Silence is in the tradition of Yesh Gvul and the Refuseniks from the First Intifada. Our speaker was Aaron, who served from 2004 to 2008 in Hebron and whose grandfather was a member of LEHI, one of the terrorist groups fighting to establish Israel as a Jewish State (this group and the Irgun carried out the massacres at Deir Yassin and other Palestinian villages in 1948).

He said that during the First Intifada, soldiers were not allowed to serve in Hebron for more than four months, “for mental health reasons”. During the Second Intifada, that time grew to one year, two months.

Aaron's realization of the horror of what he was doing in the Army and the crimes he was committing – and his determination to speak out about them - cost him not only his friends, but literally his family. His father was a vice Police Chief – I think of Jerusalem – and his mother a high-ranking military intelligence officer. They disowned him when he joined with Breaking the Silence. His girlfriend served four months in prison for refusing to serve and is now ineligible for all the perks of service: jobs, permit to study, most social services. She too has lost her family for her principle.

Aaron emphasized that the job of the army is to protect the settlers, and that soldiers intervening to protect Palestinians from settlers are most often punished. He himself was stoned by a group of settler children for attempting to intervene on behalf of a Palestinian victim, and was officially punished for this act.

Some of the things Aaron told us:

- about returning home one day, tired and hot, getting on a bus inside Israel. There was no where to sit, so he was standing, when a very old woman stood up and said “Please, sit.” He took the old woman’s seat because, he, said, he was “a soldier, and I’m entitled to sit”. He said this is a common attitude among Israeli soldiers.

- 15 Settler women – 15 to 30 yrs old – entering the Palestinian area with sticks and iron bars. When the soldiers got to them, they were breaking everything they could break. Soldiers stood by while three of them, each carrying a baby, beat an old man with their weapons. He said the role of the soldiers there was to “protect the women”. He said that when he (Aaron) tried to grab one of the girls beating the old man, she screamed “oh my god! You can’t touch me! I’m a woman, you’re a man!”. He said the soldiers are not allowed to arrest Settlers, so they tried to push them back and one woman spat in his face. Because they couldn’t arrest them, they called the Police, who could. All were released.

- settler children on a rampage through Hebron, carrying iron and wooden bars, beating Palestinians, breaking windows – the particular group he was describing were 15-16 year old girls. The Army arrested Palestinians who attempted to stop them.

- all people arrested, including women and children, are blindfolded and handcuffed, and often hooded.

- a young boy arrested for breaking a curfew. He was blindfolded and handcuffed for 16 hours before being released without charges.

- soldiers routinely raid homes in the very early morning hours, breaking down the doors, blindfolding the men and dragging them out for beatings in front of their children. Sometimes they are taken to Army quarters and beaten again before being released without charges. Aaron told us that they sometimes go into the kitchens during these raids, grab a handful of knives and come out saying “he had weapons”. They would then blindfold and handcuff a man in the house and drive around for several hours, then push the man out of the van.

- they practice how to make an arrest by arresting Palestinians at random, hold them for however much of the procedure they need to practice, and then release him without charges.

- soldiers do not arrest militants – that job is for the special forces, but the job of the army was to keep Palestinians terrorized, and unable to predict what the Army would do next, or when they or a family member would be arrested and beaten.

- they routinely went on “mapping” patrols – again entering homes in the middle of the night, terrorizing the family, making them all go outside where they sometimes beat the men in front of the children. The commanding officer will then order one of the soldiers to “map” the house so that they would know every exit, every hiding place “in case they have to go back for someone”. One night Aaron forgot to turn his map in, and no one asked him for it.

By then he was beginning to understand what the real job of the army was and was troubled by it. He tried an experiment. For many, many nights, he mapped a house as ordered, but never turned any of them in. That confirmed to him that the exercise was solely to terrorize and to practice harrassment, not to gather information.

- His superior officer told him “you have to instill in them the feeling they’re being chased off, that someone is after them. Keep them afraid, all the time.”

– one of his superior officers told him “the most dangerous people in Hebron are the people in the Red Hats”. He also said that soldiers are dangerous to CPT because they are fed lies about CPT”.

- soldiers are very angry about internationals taking pictures and videos.

- About tear gas – “you think you can’t breathe, but if you smell an onion it will shock you and cause you to take a deep breath. Then you realize you can breathe.”.

He said “there is no way of being a soldier in the Occupied Territories and being a good person”. These realizations finally pushed him to give testimony to Breaking the Silence. He now speaks on their behalf.

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Posted by mtorres55 13:32 Archived in Israel Tagged jerusalem breaking_the_silence Comments (0)

Palestine in 2010 w/CPT - Day 4 Negev, Bedouins

Visiting Al Arakib, slated to be totally demolished

sunny 104 °F

7/24 Day 4 - Negev, Bedouin people, and the Demolition Order against their home.

First, an observation from the highway on the way through the Negev Desert: the world standard for water is 110 liters per person per day. Israelis receive 360 liters, Palestinians 35. Israelis have swimming pools, Palestinians don't have enough to drink. And along the highways in the desert, Israel irrigates the trees lining the highway...

Today brought much new information to all of us. Some of this might be old stuff to some of you, but this time, it was personal. I had scant knowledge of the lives of Bedouins inside Israel. I knew their lives were hard, but had no idea how bad it has become. Our Bedouin guide noted "the Nakba was not a single historical event. It is a process, and it continues."

It is Ethnic Cleansing.

Accompanied by Israeli Amos Gvirtz, a passionate anti-Zionist Jewish Israeli who has worked for years for Bedouin rights, and Ataya (no last name given), a Bedouin man, we went to the Negev to visit with Bedouins, to see their demolished homes and a soon to be demolished 500-person village of Al-Arakib - the whole goddamn village. Amos said that one of the Bedouin villages nearby has been destroyed 40 - yes 40 - times.

First, some context: Bedouins have lived in this area for generations, and many had become agricultural people in the last century. More than 90,000 were forced out in 1967, and fled to the West Bank and Jordan. Many stayed in their homes in the Negev. They have deeds in their family names that go back to the Ottoman Empire, but Israel refuses to recognize their claims, and plans to move them into “towns”, “reservations” – sound familiar, Americans????

This area is INSIDE the Green Line - it's "Israel Proper" and these people are Israeli citizens, they even serve in the army, yet house demolitions and removals happen to non-Jews as they do in the West Bank. What today's experience showed me is that it is NOT sufficient to call only for an end to the Occupation, which is a common uniting concept. The cruelty and injustice of what is happening to Arab Israelis, particularly Bedouin, means that we must be sure to include End Apartheid in Israel in our calls, for how can we turn away from the theft of Arab land inside Israel and the deliberate torment meted out to non-Jewish people for the simple reason that they have something Jewish people want, or just are not Jewish?

Amos Gvirtz told us that Israel's ultimate intent is to get ALL of Israel into Israeli hands (right now they own only 96%),which most of us already understood, and they do that through expulsion and land confiscation. Gvirtz emphasized, over and over again, "this conflict is about land. It is about LAND. And nothing else." The depth of his knowledge and insights was quite impressive. See below this day’s narrative for more random notes from Amos.

Israel first forced Bedouin people into a large couple of areas in the Negev, putting them into "villages" that were not the homes of most of those forced into them. Many Bedouins already lived in settled villages in the general area, and had for up to 120 years. They then deemed those villages "unrecognized" or "unregistered", which meant the state would provide them with no water, no electricity, no roads, no schools, none of the ordinary infrastructure of a population center. Most of the houses are made of scrap metal, though there are a few quite substantial houses. Israel's current policy now calls for those in the villages to move again, this time into "towns", which do get a poor version of an infrastructure.

Why? Because the villages were strung out over a fairly large area, but towns (artificially developed) concentrate those people and free up all that other land for state ownership, that is, for Jewish-only use. People who wish to stay on land where they have planted olive trees and made homes and community for themselves are now being forced out.

Israel plants olive groves on confiscated land (did I tell you that there is very rarely any compensation for the land stolen from them, and if it comes, it is worth "two cigar boxes" as one Bedouin man explained) in order to keep Bedouins from coming back to their land. It becomes “currently used agricultural land” and will remain in state hands, probably given to a Jewish family to settle eventually. Ataya said the Bedouin’s way of life has been destroyed by the State, and 2 million dunams (a dunam = a little less than ¼ acre) of intensely cultivated land has been taken away from them.

They receive eviction orders that require them to either leave or be removed by the military. They receive no compensation, no alternative. They may or may not be able to keep their animals or the contents of their homes, as every expulsion is different and very arbitrary. They are given no other place to go - just "out of here". The village representative said to us "I can go sleep under a tree, but what about these children?" The people live in a constant state of fear of losing their homes.

AND YET, these people who are imploring us to intervene with Obama (....) to help them stop this agony, invite us to sit with them, bring us cold water, then sweet (and I do mean sweet!) tea, and usually fruit to eat - peaches, plums, cactus pears. They know we are mostly Americans and know whose funding makes their suffering possible, yet they greet us as allies, as friends. We've looked into their eyes, we spoke with them, they fed us, and we know they will have no homes in two weeks.

We also went to the “unrecognized” of Abu Klun (sp?) [3500 people]to talk with Mustafa Chamaise, a young Bedouin man who was slated to wed in 2 weeks, but whose house was demolished last week. Amos said the Israelis tend to wait for an event like that and demolish houses just before those events. AND Palestinians not only have to figure out how and where to live after they lose their homes, but they also have to pay for the demolition of their homes (you see what I mean about all the cruel inhumanities at every turn?). They are billed by the government and will be fined and/or imprisoned if they don't pay it. At the same time, they are still indebted to the family members from whom they borrowed the money to build in the first place.Bedouin_de.._1SMALL.jpg

At both Abu Klun and Al Arakib, we were welcomed with generosity. In Abu Klun, we gathered first with Atiya in a community building, where we were given first cold water (they have generators), then cold sabra (cactus pears), then sweet (SWEET!) tea, then in a large tent, where we received more water and tea. In Al Arakib, we gathered first in a large open-sided community structure and were given cold water while the spokesman, Sheikh Sayah, told us what was about to befall their village. The demolition order for the entire village of Al Arakib

The demolition order for the entire village of Al Arakib

Later, in the residential part of the village, we were invited to the headman’s house, the owner of a factory who had a warehouse of goods there at Al Arakib. I was unable to navigate a long, steep hill, and could not go. Peggy and Dick both remained with me (will always feel badly about that – didn’t realize till later that they both stayed back with me because I couldn’t go). The three of us spent the next hour or so in what appeared to be the next most prosperous home, a young couple whose 8-month old baby I was able to hold for more than ½ hour.Bedouin baby, with me.

Bedouin baby, with me.

Al Arakib - Hope with some of the children

Al Arakib - Hope with some of the children

There was all that Amos told us in the bus, much of it new information. Hope I can capture it all later from my notes.

Oh, Bart asked whether non-violence was holding. It is holding, though I cannot for the life of me understand why or how. If I were in their shoes... And this is the general sense of my group - all pacifists, and all unable to understand why there isn't massive violence from Palestinians. But they are so very tired of fighting, mostly alone, almost always futile, at such great cost.

Thank you to those of you who've sent well received words of encouragement. I hold onto those, and with these rather amazing CPT people I'm with, it makes it easier to deal with what we see and hear. One of these days maybe I'll have time to tell you about who they are (two Canadians and the rest American).

Random notes from Amos’s talk during the bus ride to the Negev, not captured in the narrative above:
- when I expressed my shock at hearing about the entire village about to be demolished, Amos said to me, "yes. welcome to Israel".

- He kept repeating "the aim of the Zionist movement from the beginning was to take this land for Jews only. One people took another people's land - this is the essence of the conflict”.

- 80% of the water in the West Bank goes to Jews.

- 88 Bedouin villages were destroyed in the Negev in 1948, and 50 more North of the Negev.

- 90% of Bedouins were forced out in 1948.

- About 150-180,000 Bedouin people live in Israel, who were settled into villages for generations before being forced by the state into only certain villages, and now, into a few towns, as related in an earlier post.

- Some of the towns have managed to get elementary schools, because Israel has a law that requires that children be educated in schools. Some have taken the state to court, and the Supreme court continues to rule that the state must provide an elementary school. So it does, though it can sometimes take up to 10 years to get one small school built because the state delays year after year while at the same time being able to say "we're doing it, we're doing it."

- Golan Heights in Syria – majority of Syrians were expelled in ’67. Today, only 5 villages remain, total 22,000 Syrians, with 20,000 Jewish settlers now on more than 80% of the land of the Heights.

- Theft of land, theft of water, demolition of homes and crops are acts of war against Palestinians, but experienced as bureaucratic procedure by Israelis.

- All land expropriation was done by force, a violation of international law and basic human rights, as are:

- expropriation of land

- demolition of homes

- theft of water

- establishment of settlements

- deportation of people from their homeland

- After the Bedouins were forced into villages within the SIAG (Restricted) Zone, they needed a permit to leave it. They could not travel freely.

- The highest rate of unemployment in Israel is in the new Bedouin “towns”.

- The people who live in “unregistered” villages (but within Israel proper) cannot vote, in this “only democracy in the Middle East”.

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- Can you imagine exits from Spokane being reduced to two, and having to have a permit to leave no matter where you're going or how long you will be out? That is the Bedouin experience in the towns.

- Can you imagine being forced to move to another town for no reason that made any sense to you, or because you weren’t the “right kind” of people who would be allowed to live there?

- Can you imagine being forced out of the home your family has lived in for generations, and not being given one penny for it?

- Can you imagine having nowhere to go after you're turned out of your home, perhaps with infants and small children?

- If you substitute "Jew" for every mention of "Arab" or "Palestinian" in this narrative, would it be easier to see how profoundly racist it is here? How a state for only one kind of people is no longer acceptable on this planet?

- Jews do not need a building permit (note- double check this statement), and have no problem building their homes. Arabs have a "legal right", but rarely, if ever, are able to obtain a permit, both inside and outside Israel proper. It's very expensive and can take years, and at the end of the process, after they have spent $2,000 to $15,000 in this poverty stricken population, learn they have been denied and their money is not returned to them.

- Because living 30 people to a house is so difficult and there are no empty houses they can move into, they must build, with or without a permit.

- If you think about these horrors being conducted by Jews, for Jews, in the name of all Jews, does it make it easier to understand an anger against Jews? And I am constantly amazed, as I listen to Palestinian people talk about their lives, how little anger is directed at the people who have destroyed their lives, but rather at the State. If we are going to object to racism against Jews, which we must, the very best we could do would be to call for one independent state, so all live in some measure of equality, so no one group commits horrors for the benefit of their own group.

11:30 p.m. - gotta quit and go to bed. Bethlehem tomorrow.


From our CPT report on this visit:
“Our Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation sits under the roof in Al Arakib village with a Bedouin family in the Negev Desert, Israel. The men and younger boys offer us seats on beautifully ornamented mats and bring cups of refreshing water and hot tea, then coffee, dates and grapes. Though we finish eating, the hospitality is repeatedly bestowed. The kindness and generosity are deeply moving. We sit with the sobering knowledge that possibly by August 15 this village will be no more.
Imagine knowing that in two weeks, your home will be destroyed. The threat does not come from a tornado, or from a hurricane, or any natural disaster. The notice of destruction comes in the form of systematic, bureaucratic oppression from governmental powers.

Over 190,000 Bedouins are currently living in the Negev. Fifty percent live in townships that were created by the government in the 1960s in effort to remove the traditionally agricultural people from ancestral lands and to relocate tribes into small, contained communities in order to transfer ownership to the State. Some of the land is given to Jewish families for farming; some simply reverts to State possession.

A young man named Mustafa Chamaise told us that last week police came to the house where he was living, the house where he would bring his new bride in two days. Mustafa was given 30 days notice to leave his house before it would be destroyed. Two weeks later the army arrived with a demolition order. There was some resistance, and his friend was shot with a rubber bullet and taken to prison. Today, what remains is a pile of rubble. Mustafa is one of the many thousands of Bedouins and tens of thousands of Palestinians who have had their homes systematically destroyed by the Israeli government. This is part of a larger process of harassment and oppression designed to force certain ethnic minorities to leave Israel.”

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Day 4 some more - and a little easier - but only a little

Random notes:

First, some of the more fun stuff: our group -there's so much more to each of these folks, but, in a nutshell:

  • Steve, a Mennonite pastor from Ft. Collins, our team leader. A kind and loving man who makes sure everyone has what they need and is doing all right - and a million other things. He did a wonderful job of putting this delegation together.
  • Kathy, a Mennonite pastor from Kansas, late from Ann Arbor - lively, fun, outraged, eager to do and see one more thing.
  • Dick - a former career policeman whose path to faith is very moving. Also a Mennonite pastor, a gentle man, easy to be with and who laughs easily.
  • Ryan - a young student with an engineering background. Bright, easy to talk with, and engaged to Hope (next). Also a gentle man. Always ready to share valuable nuggets of information about many things, and to help where he sees the need.
  • Hope - bright, lively, both she and Ryan deeply religious and at the same time very worldly. Their politics are closest to my own. They're serious world travelers, and have been in Bethlehem doing work with their groups. She just asked me if I had a safety pin. When I gave her one, she said "I knew a Mama would have one." Sweet. She’s a veritable “child-magnet” – loves them, and they love her.
  • Eric - a Nazarene pastor - young man, lively, sort of iconoclastic in faith terms. I think he challenges some of the folks in some aspsects of their faith. A wonderful and easy laugh.
  • Tomasz - the other young Canadian - quite personable, fastest talker on the entire planet. Very religious - evangelical, but I'm not sure which denomination. Earnest young man, very easy to be with. After this, going for three weeks with ISM.
  • Jonathan, young fellow from Ohio, Mennonite, spent time in Northern Ireland, his mother is Palestinian, sister to Jonathan and Daoud Kuttab. Deeply moved by what he’s learning – not that all aren’t, but he’s personally affected.
  • John from Chicago, married to Peggy - a Lutheran pastor whose understanding of power and empire also is much like my own. Also a gentle man and easy to talk with.
  • Peggy from Chicago, married to John. A teacher who has been deeply pained by what she has seen - not that we all haven't, but she is having the more visible difficulty in processing it. Very sharp.
  • Marie - young Canadian woman from Winnipeg. She's the other one besides myself who does not come out of faith. Studying for a Human Rights degree in college.

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My dilemma as I write is when to stop talking about the awfulness I'm seeing and when to lighten it up - when to tell you about these really lovely people I'm with, when to emphasize the hospitality with which we have been greeted by Arab families and organizations everywhere we have gone.

- The difficulty of using "end the occupation" as a uniting thread is that the continuing tragedy of the Bedouins has nothing to do with the Occupation, and everything to do with the fact that this is a state for Jews only. It is Apartheid.

- Some in the group are going to Yad Vashem, some are not (some were concerned about how much it costs and opted out). I am not going. I've been to the museum in D.C., to Dachau, and was steeped in Holocaust literature through my young years. At this point, I prefer to look to who IS a victim of corrupt power, not who WAS a victim.

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Posted by mtorres55 13:32 Tagged bedouin negev al_arakib Comments (0)

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