21/7/10 - 3/8/10 103 °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.
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?
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.
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.