21/7/10 - 3/8/10 104 °F
7/30 Day 10 Hebron – Patrols and “Shopping as a Political Act” and the night with a Hebron family.
NO TIME TO READ THIS OVER BEFORE SENDING. HOPE IT'S COHERENT!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.