When the Heart is Full of Love There is no Place for Hatred

9.7.14

To our friends,

I have already been sitting for an hour, staring at the empty word page and not finding words that would describe the pain – the pain of those of us who see straight. The pain of the sober, of those who knew that the bottled demon grows and grows, and when it is let out, it will be unbearable. And it has been let out.

Last night I spoke with my good friend from Gaza. Over the phone he heard the din blast of the Gazan rockets that exploded near us, in an open field. At my end, I heard the Israeli bombing from the air near his home. We talked. He said: “You know what my dreamiest dream is? My dream is that still in my own lifetime I will be able to have coffee with you and your family (whom he knows personally from other times) in my kitchen. Here, in Gaza. And then we will go to the beach and sit and count waves. As we did in 1999. Remember?” “I remember” I said, and could no longer speak for the tears that were choking me, tears of simple love, of human longing for contact that is impossible to fulfill, only in the mind. I recalled another talk with Ali of the South Hebron Hills, who also called me last night to ask how I was doing, because of the rockets. In our talk about the general situation, Ali said: “What do I want, after all? To get up in the morning and smell the earth that I plow, and reap in the spring, and bring bread to my children, and that you would be with us to taste that freshly baked bread. I know you love it. And I also waited for an entry permit into Israel which we get for the Ramadan because I wanted so much to visit your home. But now it’s closure and no permits are issued. I am so angry about this”. This is what Ali said, and I said “I feel as you do”.

When my Gazan friend spoke with me, he added: “Let’s write something together?” “To whom?” I asked. “To the world”, he answered. I reminded him that 14 years ago, in the crisis of fall 2000, I wrote something together with our common friend from Gaza (see below), something “to the world”. I told him that it very precisely reflects the situation, even if merely because something from 14 years ago is still relevant today. I sent it to him, and he said he would hand it out to his students and to others.

I asked him to write something himself, and I would also distribute it.

I’ll call him again today…

More such phone calls are coming in and going out to our friends in Gaza and the West Bank.

And as a friend from Salem, near Nablus, said to me today: “For people who do not have such ties as we do, it is easier to let hatred into their hearts. But in my heart there is no room for hatred. It is filled with love.” Thank you, dear friend, for these words which in Hebrew are a bit imperfect but whose truth is so real…

I have nothing more to say. The description of the present situation in various places, the different political analyses, the interpretations can all be obtained from various media.

Erella, on behalf of the Villages Group.

- – - – - –

Here we go again.
Once more the blood counter ticks.
We’ve already been in this scenario. And because we know the scenario, we already know what will happen in the next episodes.
Now there are fears. One fear is of the monster on the other side – the victim’s fear, and of the monster on the side of the perpetrator: the monster of the weak, and the monster of the strong. The monster of those who do not yet have a state, and the monster of those who do.
Another fear is that of seeing the home-monster, and of saying it out loud.

The home monster is especially dangerous for it magnifies and activates that of the other side.
The next episode is more bloodshed, a lot of it. For these monsters are ravenous. Fear turns into hatred, pain becomes a weapon. And the blood-counter? It measures the blood.

And the episode after that is inevitable as well – hatred will bear more fear and the monsters will manage death.

The leaders, too, are afraid, especially of the home-monster, for it is the one that might topple their rule, so they stop seeing it. They see only its shadow, falling on the neighbor’s wall.

We, Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews, the secular and the religious, call upon every person who is brave enough to encounter their own fear and pain, instead of acting them out. This enables us not only to be right, but especially to be wise, and attentive to the fear and pain of the other. Upon call upon all of these people to strengthen each other from within, and upon those on the other side, and the leaders, to implement agreements that have already been reached, and continue seeking a solution to all that is still a controversy.

And to constantly remember – when the monsters emerge and get to work, the wound can no longer be located…

Summer Camps in Umm al-Kheir and Susiya

Indeed I live in the dark ages! 
A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens 
A hard heart. He who laughs 
Has not yet heard 
The terrible tidings. 

Ah, what an age it is 
When to speak of trees is almost a crime 
For it is a kind of silence about injustice! 
And he who walks calmly across the street, 
Is he not out of reach of his friends 
In trouble? 

(From Bertolt Brecht’s “To Posterity”,  translated by H. R. Hays)

I don’t think it’s necessary to unfold before you the wrongdoings of the occupation government (not that we have any other government) in the West Bank and Gaza since the atrocious and painful kidnapping of the three Israeli youngsters. It is even unnecessary to note that there is nothing new under the sun and that the wrongdoings and crimes of the occupation did not begin after the kidnappings. It is but another painful chapter in the story of the system. Whoever did not understand the system so far, has an opportunity now to understand it. Moreover, whoever did not understand that peace is neither in the “to do” list of this government nor in its vision for the future, now has a chance to sober up. There are media venues that recount the wrongdoing, and if the reader adds the emotional details, such as how does a child feels when they wake him up in the middle of the night with bangs and guns and arrest his father in front of his eyes, without skipping the humiliation, degradation, and so on – he or she will have an idea on what’s going on over there.

Last Wednesday, our friends and families, those who love and cherish us, asked us to maybe give up our weekly visit in South Mt. Hebron, for fear it might be dangerous. We considered, asked our friends in the villages, and found out that the road calls us to take it. We drove. We arrived. A regular visit. How much trust and love are needed in order to feel, even in such times, that what is common to us, more than any affiliation and partnership, is that we are all equal members in the family of humankind. Naser (who in these days is documenting the happenings in Hebron for Betselem) told Dany: “I don’t know where I would have been without this relationship I have with you”.

And through all of this, live continues to be lived (how fortunate). The summer vacation has begun, and children on vacation have summer camps. On Wednesday, we visited the summer camps in Susiya and in Umm al-Kheir. These are summer camps funded through the Villages Group, and this is an opportunity to thank, from the bottom of our hearts, the friends who donated from their money and their hearts, and made these summer camps possible. The children and guides don’t know the donors personally, so they send their thanks through us. And above all – even one smile of one child is worth all the efforts and the thanks.

Summer camp in Umm al-Kheir

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Summer camp in Susiya

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Just Another Thursday? Yes, Just Another Thursday (12.6.2014)

It is summer vacation for the children in the West Bank, and the summer camp in Umm al-Kheir has already started.

Nadav and I go there to experience the small pleasures of people and children, our long time friends, who are living in the shadow of the occupation, and under constant threat of demolitions and violence.

With minimal facilities, on a voluntary basis, and not without arguing among themselves on contents (as every living breathing society with problems from within, even without the occupation from without), they manage to hold an exciting summer camp for children. How precious are moments of joy in poverty’s dwellings.

This time no soldier stopped us and said we cannot pass because a certain area was suddenly declared a closed military zone; we didn’t receive notice on a Palestinian girl whose head was injured from a stone shot from a settler’s slingshot; no girls were stopped on their way from school just because of a settler’s false story. Today, such happenings, which occur almost daily in south Mt. Hebron, did not happen.

But something is bound to happen, if not in the Occupied Territories, beyond the Green Line, than within the Green Line, where the people of al-Araqib, Nadav and I all have the same citizenship, so say our blue identity cards. But when Nadav and I reached the road leading to the cemetery of al-Araqib, the current stronghold of the living residents, we were met with a police force, armed for battle, asking us who we were.

Nadav answered:

“I am Nadav from Kibbutz Urim, and this is Erella from Kibbutz Shoval, and we are neighbors and wish to visit our friends.”

“This is a closed police zone,” answered the policeman. “Power shovels are working here and we are guarding to keep the citizens safe, so they won’t get hurt.” Nadav asks to see a paper testifying this is a closed area.

The policemen start losing their patience, start responding aggressively to a legitimate request of a citizen. Nadav asks the policeman to call his commander. The policeman says he doesn’t have the phone number. Nadav asks for the policeman’s details. The policeman hands Nadav his Police ID. Immediately afterwards they ask us for identifying certificates. It takes time until we get them back. The policemen talk to us all at once and some of them aggressively, in a way not fitting civil servants.

The Bedouin village of Al-Araqib is besieged, and its remaining residents – citizens of the state of Israel – are expelled and discriminated by law and defined as state enemies (http://mondoweiss.net/2014/06/bedouin-demolished-proceedings.html). At the very same time, the implementers of this unlawful law (some of them Bedouins serving in the Police) tell the sweet story of protecting civilians from the blow of the power shovel. And when the citizen doesn’t really buy into this manipulation, then he as well turns into a dangerous enemy.

We drove away. We did not reach the people of Al-Araqib. We did not strengthen their hands. And our hands? They weakened. Our heart, that has room to contain the pain of the other, has been defeated. (Not that we didn’t know this from the start.) The harshness of the heart won yet again. Sad. Painful. Facing human ignorance that we are unable to change, all we can do is lick the burning wounds of helplessness.

Nadav and Erella.

Appeal of Muhammad from the Bedouin Village of Khirbet a-Duqaiqah

Dear friends and anyone else interested:

Khirbet a-Duqaiqah is a Bedouin village in the very southern tip of the West Bank, close to the Arad valley. Its first inhabitants were refugees from the Arad region, expelled in 1948. Duqaiqah is situated close to the area defined by the Occupation authorities “firing zone 918” and in spite of not being included in it, it is destined for demolition (Check: http://www.btselem.org/south_hebron_hills/duqaiqah ). Massive demolitions have already taken place in the village in the past.

We, of the Villages Group, heard of Duqaiqah, its misery and hardship, and of handicapped Muhammad who lives there. We had refrained from going there since even without frequenting Duqaiqah, we find it hard to nourish and deepen the personal ties we have created for the past 12 years with inhabitants of numerous villages throughout the South Hebron Hills. Still, Gideon Levy’s article took us there (see: http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/twilight-zone/.premium-1.541901).

We met Muhammad, a handsome man with a broad, inviting smile and eyes brimming with wisdom. Muhammad cannot move his legs and hands, only his head. We saw how he is supported by his mother, sisters and several of his brothers, the harsh conditions of his life and the total absence of professional rehabilitative treatment which should be extended by the welfare systems. The Israeli occupation does not offer such services – that would mean following the Geneva Convention that stipulates that the occupier is responsible for the welfare, health, mobility and other basic civil rights of its occupied. As for the Palestinian Authority, the inhabitants of the South Hebron Hills are a backyard, particularly the Bedouins among them. Welfare organizations have not found Muhammad eligible for their services for some reason or other.

We asked Muhammad how he passes his day. He smiled, embarrassed, and said he does nothing. We asked him what would make him happy. Muhammad answered us as if he had waited for a long time for such a question: “reading”, he said with clarity.

In one of our next visits we brought him a mechanism that enables one to turn pages with one’s head, as well as books on various topics in Arabic, at his request, for at the village the only books available are religious ones.

His eyes shined happily.

From one visit to the next our connection to him deepened, along with our mutual trust.

In our last meeting we asked him how we could help more. Muhammad was a bit embarrassed but agreed to share with us his stressful inability to move outside his home and isolated village, and his will to contribute productively to the livelihood and existence of his family. Muhammad has chosen to formulate his difficulties and desires in a detailed letter, presenting his life-story and pointing out the real possibility he sees for improvement in his state under circumstances that so greatly limit his state of health.

Below please find Mohammad’s appeal, which financially comes down to helping him purchase a used car costing approximately 5000 US Dollars. Anyone interested in helping Mohammad fulfill this request, is invited to write us to the Villages Group at villagesgroup1@gmail.com

 

In the name of Allah the merciful,

the prayer and blessing of Muhammad-

Dear honorable Mrs. Erella and Dr. Ehud and Mr. Danny,

I send you this letter, detailing the story of my life since I was born to this world until this present moment.

I am a Bedouin of the tribe of Al-Ka’abneh. Its lands lie from north of the city of Arad to east of Yatta town, south of the city of Hebron. The members of my tribe make their living growing sheep and goats. When I was born, my family lived in a goat-hair tent. Then we moved into homes built of concrete blocs and tin sheets, since the Civil Administration in the Occupied Territories prohibits permanent construction on this land, as anyone visiting with us can see. We suffer the harshest living conditions and we need to improve or crowded living conditions in structures that would protect us from the heat of the summer and the cold of winter.

My personal story: My name is Muhammad Suleiman Al-Ka’abneh, of the village of Khirbet a-Duqaiqah. I am 45 years old. Since the age of four I have suffered from a serious disease, to the point that I could no longer stand on my own feet and walk. My father began to seek treatment in clinics and hospitals. Most of the time he carried out his searches on foot, for distances exceeding 25 kilometers, as there is no public transportation from our place of residence to the town of Yatta. He was already over 70 years-old. Transportation was scant and sometimes non-existent. Father suffered bitterly until we finally received a doctor’s referral to a government hospital in Ramallah, where I was hospitalized for a whole month, at the end of which I seemed to have recovered. I could walk again and move freely. I thought it was all over then, that I had recovered and the disease would no longer strike. I went back to school until the 7th grade. Then I left school because of our economic conditions, to help my father who had two wives and a large family of 21. I began to work in farming for some years, until I reached the age of 18. At the end of 1987 I began to sense a certain heaviness in my legs and my condition worsened with the years. Father and I resumed our search for treatment at various hospitals such as Al-Mukassad in Jerusalem, and Al-Mutala. We were referred to Hadassah En Kerem in Jerusalem, where one of my legs was operated to extract a muscle tissue sample. After extensive testing the doctors informed me that I was suffering from an incurable muscle-degenerative disease. Since then, 1991, my health deteriorated daily. I could hardly walk. My father, who had cared for me devotedly and gave me anything I needed and wanted, died a short while later. After his death I lost all hope for help and a chance to survive in this life. My brothers married one by one and created families of their own. Due to our harsh economic conditions, each looked after their own family and its livelihood. I remained alone and seated without any possibility of moving my body, neither my hands nor my legs. I have been living with my 75-year old mother ever since. She is the one who helps me eat, dress and wash. In my distress I began to think how to get myself out of my hopeless situation. I reached a solution that helped exist and get out of the home: one of my brothers had a driving license. I looked for a way of making a respectable livelihood so I decided with my brother to sell and buy sheep and goats. We bought a car together and traded in this field for 4 years. I began to feel better about myself. On one hand I would get away from home, sit in the car and see people. On the other hand I would work and make some money we could live on. All this ended in 2004: one day my brother drove off to get food and in one of the nearby villages he drove on a dirt road, since Palestinian vehicles were forbidden to travel the paved roads. Suddenly an Israeli army recon unit blocked him, took him out of his car and took the car to Kefar Etzyon settlement, confiscating it, claiming he was inside a closed military zone where military maneuvers were taking place. We could not pay the fine needed to release the vehicle and it stayed impounded by the army. From here on I lost all hope. Again I lost all human contact and the source of my livelihood. My life has become more and more difficult, for I cannot afford to purchase another vehicle and live as decently as others do. I wish to be a socially active person and help others who need aid, but this is my destiny and fate. I appeal to humanity and to good-hearted people who would help me as much as they can, for we were born human to build this world. God bless you all, God bless the person who helped me write this letter (I cannot write by myself), and all who would help send it further.

Thanking you,

Muhammad Suleiman Al-Ka’abneh

Born December 31, 1968

ID 955708177

 

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Updates – Susiya

Dear Friends,

We would like to update you regarding several recent developments in the legal circumstances of Palestinian Susiya.

The current phase of threat on the existence of Palestinian Susiya started in February 2012 with a petition to the Supreme Court, submitted by the Jewish settlement of Susiya and the “Regavim” organization. In this petition the settlers asked the Supreme Court to order the Civil Administration of the Israeli army to demolish the dwellings of the Nawajeh clan in Palestinian Susiya, located close to the Susiya settlement, claiming that the Nawajeh people are “trespassers”.* About a year after the petition was submitted, Civil Administration officers arrived at the place and marked almost all the dwellings of the Nawajeh clan in Susiya as designated for demolition.** On the other hand, the people of Palestinian Susiya, assisted by “Rabbis for Human Rights” and other bodies accompanying them, submitted to the Civil Administration’s Subcommittee for Planning and Licensing a comprehensive master plan for the locality. As we reported extensively, about six months ago this subcommittee rejected the plan submitted by the people of Palestinian Susiya, using arguments taken straight from the Colonial vocabulary.***

One recent development (from January 2014) is the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the petition submitted by Susiya settlers and “Regavim”. This decision means that the demolition orders hanging over dozens of constructions in Palestinian Susiya are still valid and the Civil Administration can implement them at will, but the Supreme Court chose not to interfere with the Civil Administration’s considerations and not to instruct it when to implement these orders. Another recent development, from about two weeks ago, is a new petition submitted to the Supreme Court by the Palestinian residents of Susiya and their representatives from “Rabbis for Human Rights”, against the rejection of the comprehensive master plan they submitted to the Civil Administration.

To conclude, it should be noted and emphasized that the Supreme Court in its current composition is characterized by feebleness, lack of moral backbone, and reluctance to keep even minimal codes of justice that would have obliged it to directly confront the military establishment, the Israeli government and the aggressive pro-settlers occupation policy it is leading. This state of affairs leaves but a small space for legal moves such as the ones performed by the lawyers of “Rabbis for Human Rights” for the Palestinians of Susiya.

More than ever it seems that the Administration’s short-run abstention from mass demolitions in Palestinian Susiya should not be attributed to the Supreme Court but to activists in Israel and abroad, whose hearts are in the right place. The efforts these activists invest, especially with diplomatic circles, diminishes for now the motivation of Civil Administration commanders to implement the demolitions and iniquities in Susiya in the name of the Israeli occupation rule.

 Ehud and Erella on behalf of the Villages Group

*http://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/settler-front-group-presses-government-to-accelerate-the-demolition-frenzy-in-south-hebron-hills/

**http://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/report-on-the-recent-distribution-of-demolition-orders-in-susiya/

***http://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/white-mans-burden-the-israeli-occupations-civil-administration-version/

Carmel’s Settlers Interpretation of the Jewish “New Year of the Trees day”

Had the Jewish settlers of Carmel held their Tu Bishvat (the Jewish “New Year of the Trees day”) tree-planting ceremony on January 16, within the borders of their settlement, Carmel, it would have been taken as a fait accompli by whoever has become accustomed to the fact that Carmel inhabits the lands of others. But their “New Year of the Trees” plantings took place on a range that the sheep of the Umm al-Kheir’s Palestinian shepherds pass on their way out to graze, for many years. The planting on this range was no coincidence, it was meant as a declaration – “This is ours, and so is that”.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday (17, 18, and 19 of January, respectively) the shepherds came through as is their custom, and the army stationed on the range did not stop them. On Monday, January 20, an incident took place when Umm al-Kheir shepherds tried to cross the range with their flock, on their way to the grazing area, as they do every day. The incident was concluded with the arrest of Maliha, owner of the flock. She was released on the same day, with an order keeping her away from the said area for 15 days. On Friday, January 24, in the early morning hours, about 35 settlers, adults and children, crowded on the range for further plantings, as if the  “New Year of the Trees day” was not yet over. They planted again at spots that prevent any further possibility of passage for the Umm Al Kheir herds. It must be remembered that this is an ongoing conflict, and ever since the settlers took over the range de facto (in 2011), numerous incidents have taken place until a court appeal was made by the villagers of Umm Al Kheir. The appeal was accepted by the court of law, and the villagers possess an official document issued by the army and civil administration, confirming their right to pass their flocks over the range.

At 8 a.m., three shepherds (14, 18 and 25 years-old) came forth from Umm Al Kheir towards the grazing grounds, and intentionally directed their flock round about the range in order to bypass the planters of the settlement (in spite of the official document they possess, permitting them to cross the range). Three members of Rabbis for Human Rights joined the shepherds.

The Carmel settlers stand on the range, the shepherds are down on the rim of the wadi. And then several of the settlers descend upon them: Ezer, Yaacov, Aharon, Gabi and his son, Simha and his son David (a bearded man), and Dror (who did not attack) and another whom the shepherds do not recognize by name. The settlers blocked the sheep who were on their way to detour and spare a clash. One of the assailants (unknown to the shepherds) went in among the sheep frantic with fright of the crush, and began to lash out in all directions. Yaacov and Ezer, too, were beating the flock. Bilal, the eldest of the shepherds, filmed the goings-on and kept from responding in any way. The assailants beat him too, saying: “What kind of a man are you?” One of them was armed with a rifle, ready to fire. Ezer and Yaacov were armed with pistols.

Yaacov was choking Bilal, who then shut his video camera in order to keep it whole. Yaacov let go of Bilal’s neck only upon noticing that Arik of the Rabbis for Human Rights was filming this situation.

And the flock? The assailants kept pushing it downhill, the shepherds stopping it. The sheep were maddened. And the assailants? Continued to lash out at the sheep. At this point an army jeep arrived, standing on the range. Two soldiers went down to the confrontation spot, and proceeded to demand Bilal’s ID. He was determined not to be arrested, and as he tried to negotiate with them, Arik intervened while Bilal ran off into the wadi.

Maliha then arrived, unable to bear further abuse of her sheep, and asked Ezer who ws hitting out: “Why do you do this?” He answered her with a harsh blow of his fist at her head. Of its sheer force, Maliha lost consciousness for a moment and fell to the ground. She came to immediately, but before she managed to rise to her feet, Ezer continued to beat her as she lay on the ground. At that point the two soldiers who had only been observing the blows, pulled Ezer up. Eid went down to the wadi to bring the sheep away. Ezer left. Bilal left. Only then, 40 minutes after the incident began, the police and the DCO officials arrived. The policeman asks the assailants: “Why did you not open fire?” And Rami Fares, the Hebron DCO infrastructure officer, says to the Palestinians: You have no right to go over the range”. The policeman pushes away Suleiman and Amna who had arrived on the spot along with other villagers from Umm al-Kheir.

Then Guy of Taayush arrives with the document signed by an attorney, stating black on white that the Palestinians are permitted to cross the range. Guy gives the paper to Rami Fares. The latter speaks on the phone with the attorney whose name is signed on the document on behalf of the Umm al-Kheir residents. The attorney tells Fares; “I speak to you lawfully, not with force”. Needless to say, the Carmel settlers did not acknowledge the document which Guy brought to the spot.

When the army forces arrived, the Carmel settlers concluded their tree planting and left. So did everyone involved in the assault.

The sheep were finally led to their grazing area via the long trail, which the shepherds had originally meant to take anyway, to avoid clashes. Arik joined them. On the way back from their grazing, again Simha, the security official of Carmel settlement and his friends came out towards the shepherds and their flock but without further provocations.

Maliha was taken home, a Red Crescent ambulance arrived, the paramedics examined her and, as she requested, did not take her to the hospital.

And I write this testimony, this time as a detailed report, as I sit with Maliha, her head dizzy, her leg wounded, and her heart shrieking with its great pain. I sit and listen, silently. I know, as she does, that the physical pain will subside. And like her, I try to contain the unbearable – the injustice, the hatred, the blindness… I run out of words…

Erella, on behalf of the Villages Group

A Visit in Massfarat Yatta (9.1.2014)

Last Thursday we were driving in the Jeep in the main area of the cave dwellers in south Mt. Hebron. The locals call it Massfarat Yatta (or Massafer Yatta, i.e Yatta’s frontier). The occupiers call it Military Zone 918. The different names tell it all: It’s the difference between life and death, between peace and war.

The weather was excellent and the scenery was beautiful – a desert area a few weeks after a great rainfall. Another great sight was the Comet-Me wind turbines arising from some of the Massfara’s hamlets. From a hill in the middle of the Massfara you can see how complicated this area is: the few small hamlets in it are divided to clusters and are very vulnerable to both the army and settlers’ invasions. Indeed, settlers from the outpost of Mizphe Yair invaded Beer al-Ed, one of those hamlets, on that very same day.

Our mission in the Massfara was to bring a considerable donation collected by our friends in Rhode Island for the sake of supporting the studies of two women students, Ruwan and Arwa, from the hamlet of al-Fakhit. 

While Ruwan was still in university in Hebron on the day we came, Arwa was already in the middle term vacation. Studying nursing in the University of Bethlehem, Arwa is the only representative of Yatta’s area in this university. 

We are dealing with supporting students in south Mt. Hebron for seven years now. During those years we came to understand how complicated it is to be involved in this matter. The many obstacles and difficulties we encounter are bringing us to the verge of despair. What keep us hanging on is the seriousness and the devotion of students like Arwa, and the great and ongoing support we receive from our friends abroad. 

 The next stop in our weekly visit this time was the hamlet of al-Mufaqara, where we had the opportunity to meet another student supported by us – Sausan. Sausan is a young woman who (as some of you may remember) was arrested and spent 10 days in a cell in a police jail in Jerusalem after her house was demolished, about two years ago. Now, with our encouragement, she initiates enrichment sessions with kids from al-Mufaqara, exposing them to topics they won’t encounter in school. Indeed, Sausan, with her exceptional personality, is setting an example for what a student can do for his/her community during the period of studies.  

 The last stop in our visit this time was in the village of al-Tuwani. At Umm Jum’a’s house, Erella was sitting with Nasser from Susiya and Jum’a from al-Tuwani to discuss the practicalities of the workshop the veterinarian Gabi scheduled for the following week. Outside, Jum’a’s son was revealing to us the secret of it all with his ‘do it yourself’ object (see the photos attached). Between Massafer Yatta and Military Zone 918, between life and death, we choose to continue coming in contact with life pole of this area. 

Between Massafer Yatta and Military Zone 918, between life and death, we choose to continue coming in contact with life pole of this area.

 

Ehud on behalf of the Villages Group

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Another Thursday (12.12.2013)

Dear friends,

Snow and thunder storms happen in our world. In cold areas, state and people are well prepared for them. In warm areas, like here in the Middle East, they are less prepared. Such a storm has now reached us. The media is working full steam, of course, to report and also to stimulate viewers’ impulses and fuel their anxieties, all for the sake of rating. We, who know the gap between media and reality (not only when weather is concerned) decided to go to South Mt. Hebron, as we do every Thursday.

Ten minutes after passing Sansana checkpoint the snow started piling. We reached the steep dirt path going down to Mufaqra. The path was so covered with snow, we couldn’t see its sides, and the entire village was concealed by heavy fog.

I called Sausan’s mobile phone.

“We are a minute away from you,” I said.

“What are you doing here today,” she asked, astonished.

“We came for our weekly visit. We thought that if you can live here in such a storm, we can visit you in such a storm. It’s just that we are not certain we should go down the snowy path, even with Danny’s 4×4 jeep,” I replied.

“Don’t risk it,” she said, her voice choking with emotion, moved that we arrived there at all.

We headed towards Susiya. The entrance to the village is shorter and not as steep as the entrance to Mufaqra. There was no fog in Susiya so we could see the damages. Tents flew and even a portable toilet, that is a bit more solid, fell on its side. This fog-less visibility (in more ways than one) made it possible for us to also see the houses of the Jewish settlement Susiya standing stable and heated, a short distance from the place where some of the families heated their tents with a wood stove (“Soba” in Arabic) letting out the smoke through a chimney. Some of the families warmed themselves around a campfire they made inside their tents, the smoke so stifling that they had little choice – freeze or suffocate. The children were quiet and crowded near the fire. It was cold. Very cold.

In another tent, where a newborn baby was napping, a fire was not lit and all the tent’s inhabitants spent their time under a heap of blankets. Everyone, with all the kinds of tents and all the ways of heating, were busy trying by every possible mean to block the leaking from the tents’ sheets, or in the walls of the portable constructions given to them by UNRWA and other aid agencies (usually after their tents were demolished for constituting a grave security threat to the very existence of the state of Israel).

Until 1967 (Occupation year) the residents of South Mt. Hebron lived in caves. In Susiya, since the destruction of many caves (for allegedly constituting a security risk) tents substituted the caves (other building is forbidden here), and the hand of the occupation demolish them too, every other day. But at the end of this month, on the very same day of Jesus’s birthday, the people of Palestinian Susiya will finally receive a compassionate answer to their plight. They won’t have to suffer anymore from the cold, the storms and the snow – the entire village stands to be demolished – by the Ruler’s orders.

Suddenly I remembered that when I was 9 years old, in Haifa, my mother came from Jerusalem, where my father was hospitalized, and said: “Dad is not suffering anymore.” I asked, happily: “So when is he coming home?” “He will not be coming home,” said Mom. “Your father is dead”…

These were my thoughts today, when I was visiting, as I do every Thursday for the last ten years, my good friends in Susiya.

Erella

On behalf of the Villages Group

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White Man’s Burden – the Israeli Occupation’s “Civil Administration” Version

Dear Friends,

By a miracle of sorts, we had a mostly peaceful day in South Hebron today; such an event is so rare that I thought it might be worth mentioning to you. In lieu of a more substantial report, let me just say that Abu Sharif and Fadil plowed three fields, with an iron plow and a donkey, on one end of the wadi at Umm al-’Amad, just under the settlement of Otniel– lands they were denied access to for some 15 years– and there was a slightly higher-tech plowing, with an old tractor, at the other end of the wadi as well. The settlers and the soldiers kept their distance. The goats grazed freely. The sun was sweet. If the rains come, there will be crops of barley in these newly regained fields.

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David Shulman gives traditional farming a hand under the guidance of a Palestinian resident, November 2013

At Umm al-Ara’is, on the other hand, the standard ritual played itself out; the ‘Awad owners were driven off their land, along with our activists, by the soldiers, as happens week after week.

Lest anyone be tempted to think that things are better, I should mention that the committee of the “Civil Administration” that [according to Israel] still has the authority to approve Palestinian development plans in West Bank “Area C”, has rejected the village development plan submitted by residents of Palestinian Susya.

This means that if the final appeal to the High Court [which had heard this case for years - then punted it back to the "Civil Administration" a few months ago] goes against the residents, the entire village, housing some 300 to 400 people, will be demolished and its inhabitants expelled

(the demolition orders have been hanging over them for years, and the “Civil Administration” [see here for a chronology of its torment of area residents in 2008-2011] is talking about issuing final orders to destroy all the tents and shacks and infrastructure).

The “committee” offered the following rationalization of its decision:

“This plan offers no hope that the population can be advanced beyond the state of poverty and ignorance to which its representatives have condemned it….

The city, as the meeting place of diverse populations, serves as a source of cultural, economic, and educational enrichment. On the other side of the scale, the village dwellings are fragmented and scattered, founded upon tribal and clan identities which suffocate the citizen, the individual, and which offer no means for social development or opportunities for making a living, for cultural or educational experience…

The urban structure lets people meet one another, multiplies opportunities, enriches the horizons of each and every one in the family or tribe as in the wider society. Thus, in our view, the present plan is but another attempt to prevent this impoverished population from making progress…

It also prevents the Palestinian woman from liberating herself from the cycle of poverty and closes off opportunities for work and education. Similarly it keeps the Palestinian child away from the opportunities open to everyone else and condemns him to life in a small, degenerate village.”

If anyone had any doubt as to whether the Occupation of the West Bank is a colonial enterprise through and through, this passage should settle the question.

[It must also be noted that the fabled "enriching urban environment" towards which the Occupation wants to cleanse Susya residents, is none other than Yatta - a down-and-out town of ~50,000 residents suffering from inadequate infrastructure, economic suffocation - 75% of residents are day-laborers for Israeli bosses (pdf link), and - at least according to Israeli media - rampant crime]

Military Vehicle keeping a watch upon Palestinians plowing their lands, November 2013

Military Vehicle keeping a watch upon Palestinians plowing their lands, November 2013

The sheer cynicism is astonishing: you can guess who has kept the Palestinians of Susya in poverty, and who now intends to expel them from their ancestral homes and lands. The West Bank must be the last site in the world where this kind of language, reminiscent of French Algeria or apartheid South Africa or colonial Kenya or Tanganyika [or, indeed, the self-righteous precedent providing the post's title], can still be used without shame.

David Shulman

Editor’s notes:

[Comments in square brackets] are mine. As the links in the post show, this struggle has been going on – and covered by us – for quite a while. Click on those links to learn more.

I insist upon placing “Civil Administration” in quotations. It is a faux government body with a fraudulent name – designed specifically (by Ariel Sharon in 1982) to create an impression of “law and order” when there is none.

As this latest gem from the “Administration” shows, the only guiding principle of that impostor body (which – contrary to its misleading name – is actually a branch of the Israeli military, and whose legal authority is questionable to nonexistent) is: quash the Palestinians and take their lands, and find as many lands as possible to give to Jewish settlers.

The “Civil Administration” hacks will find or invent any legalistic, bureaucratic pretext to cover up this naked racism and thievery. In the current case, apparently, they are stupid enough as to be unaware of the historical context of their charade.

Here are some addresses and numbers you might try, in order to protest these policies:

Israel’s defense minister, sar@mod.gov.il or pniot@mod.gov.il, Phone: +972 3 6975349 Fax: +972 3 6976218 /691 6940 / 696 2757 / 691 7915 / 697 6711 (they are said to hate faxes),

or the ministry’s US outlet (info@goimod.com, fax 212-551-0264).

And of course… feel free to share and cross-post this widely.

Thanks, Assaf

Two Stories from the Month of October

Dear Friends,

We visit villages in South Mt. Hebron once a week. (During the other days of the week they “visit” us, in our thoughts and actions, in our phone talks with them, and among us about them.) And since there is never a dull moment (in life in general and in the occupied land in particular), if we were to share with you the constant current of our experiences, spending all the time at the computer wouldn’t be enough to describe even a little bit. But something we must tell. So I chose a few “gems”, to make it possible, after all, to smile from time to time:

At the beginning of the month (on Sunday, October 6, 2013), settlers from Havat Ma’on, reinforced by residents from other settlements in the area, tried, again, to enter the Palestinian village of A-Tuwani. (For Operation Dove’s report on the event see here; for a report on another event in A-Tuwani from the recent days see here).

After the event we visited, as we always do, our friend Mus’ab and his family. Mus’ab described in details what happened. I choose to bring the following detail, in his words: “When the soldiers entered the village homes and the mosque, I asked one of them: Why do you allow settlers to go into the village and do as they please. The soldier answered me: you are the settlers, not they.”

But that was a long time ago, at the beginning of the month. Now we are nearing its end.

Again in South Mt. Hebron. We are a special company today – a veterinarian joined us. He saw the documentary “The Human Turbine”, took the trouble to find my phone number, called me and said he wanted to come with us and maybe contribute, from his profession, as a veterinarian.

A soft autumn morning accompanies our ride from Shoval to Wadi Jheish, where we began our visit.

There, Gabi, the veterinarian, meets Ibrahim. We enter Ibrahim’s pen. He has a big herd of sheep and goats. A professional talk, fascinating and efficient, takes place between the two, with Ibrahim asking and Gabi consulting. Danny and I are there with them, enjoying the simple ability to be a bridge, to bring together, to translate occasionally, when needed, to do life things. The unbearable lightness of being brings a smile of joy to our faces, for a moment. The next moment I get a phone call. Just like that, among sheep and goats, the phone rings. On the screen I see it is a lawyer with Rabbis for Human Rights. The last time I talked with her on the phone was at the beginning of the summer, on the eve of the Supreme Court’s hearing regarding the legal struggle against the demolitions of Susiya and other villages (for background see here).

A moment passes between seeing her name on the screen and pressing the key, to enable the talk. I notice how my heart, refusing to give up the smile and the relief brought by the autumn lingers. That was in the summer, and now it’s autumn, and the smile, and the moment of contentment. I notice how my heart is about to lose a beat. I press the key.

“Erella,” I hear lawyer’s mellow voice on the other side of the line. “hello,” I answer with joy that does not hide the suspense. “How are you?” she asks and I answer: “Ok, and how are you?”, “Ok,” she answers and continues: “Listen, I wanted to let you know that a message has arrived from the High Planning Council of the Civil Administration, that it rejected the master plan of Palestinian Susiya. They have 60 days to appeal to the High Court of Justice.” “What does it mean?” I ask. “Look, we’re going to take a few more legal actions, but this whole legal struggle has almost exhausted itself. They [in the Planning Council] didn’t send me the rejection’s details yet. This will arrive in few days time. It seems that the reasons for the rejection are political, but I am interested in the legal explanation they will come up with.  I will send it to you as soon as it arrives.” So said lawyer, and I am in Ibrahim’s sheep pen at the very moment when Gabi is showing him how to set a broken leg of one of the sheep properly. “If you set the place of the fracture properly, the fracture will heal after two weeks,” says Gabi to Ibrahim. “Let her go with the herd, it will heal while she walks,” he adds.

We also, continue to go. From Ibrahim to Yusuf in Susiya. He has a big herd and he, too, has questions. And from him to Jihad in Susiya (see the photos attached).

We also continue to go with a fracture. But somehow, this fracture doesn’t heal in two weeks. And not in one year. This fracture has loads of fracture years. Someone takes care to set it so it will always remain fractured. We try to mend. The veterinarian can do it in two weeks. We cannot.

Just two stories from the month of October.

We will continue to go there, and in there, also during the month of November. We will continue to do what needs to be done in order to mend.

With much love,

Erella (on behalf of the Villages Group)

Gabi with Yusuf

Gabi with Yusuf

Gabi with Ibrahim

Gabi with Ibrahim

Gabi at Jihad's place

Gabi at Jihad’s place

 

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