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A Thank You Letter by Muhammad Suleiman Awad of Khirbet a-Duqaiqah

19.8.2014

 Our Dear Friends,

These are hard times that we have been and are still going through.

The war, in and of itself, is so hard to bear. Hard to bear is also our helplessness about it, for all we can do is call our Gazan friends and check, daily, if they are still alive.

Hard to bear is the sense of loneliness of those who see the Tsunami trampling on, dripping with hatred, racism, calls for revenge and war mongering, the likes of which had not been seen in our streets, blind as they can sometimes be.

And in addition to all that, to awaken again to the scorching realization that reading the map correctly and alerting of the approaching danger – won’t make the slightest difference.

 

There are moments in which it is tempting to stand on the roof of the world’s wagon and shout: “Stop the train, we want to get off.”

Nevertheless, the sun shines every morning, illuminating the world.  And because the sun illuminates the world, we can also see its beauty and what needs to be done, if only since this is the natural role of the heart.

And in the words of the Canadian author and facilitator, Oria Mountain Dreamer, inspired by Indian wisdom:  “It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.”

 

So, we get up in the morning and do but a little of what needs to be done…

We did such little of what needs to be done when we connected between you and Muhammad, of the Bedouin village  Khirbet a-Duqaiqah, in the South Hebron Hills. This connection opened up a new horizon of opportunities for Muhammad, whose entire body is paralyzed. At the same time it opened, for us and for you, an opportunity to show goodwill and generosity against the alienation and ruthlessness that feed the ongoing horror that have struck again in great force during the last month.

 

Erella, Hamed, Danny, Nadav and Ehud, in the name of the Villages Group

 

Here is a translation of Muhammad’s thank you letter.

 

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,

Prayer and peace be upon our master Muhammad,

God’s prayer and his favors be upon the chosen prophet.

 

I am sending this letter feeling calm and joyous. I am sending it from the bottom of my heart and in full gratitude towards the people who stood by me and helped me. I reckon the world is still in a good state and there are good people with humane feelings towards their fellow human beings.

 

And I go on and say:

Peace be upon you and God’s mercy and His blessings be upon you, you who stood by me, promised and fulfilled your promises.

And especially, I would like to mention Mrs. Erella, and Dr. Ehud, and Mr. Danny.

And I will never, in all my life, forget the dear brother Hamed Qawasmeh, and how he assisted me in my journey. I wish you full health and longevity.

And from the bottom of my heart I thank the people whom I don’t know personally, who made the purchase of the car financially possible. I cherish each and every one of you for your generosity.

 

I wish I could be available for you and return your favor, all that you made possible for me, but I am completely disabled and unable to move. I pray for your sake, that God will speed you in all your deeds  for humanity and for every person  in need, in every place you will reach. Also, I pray for all people from all religions, to feel each other’s needs, and for peace to prevail in our country, and for all of us to be friends, and to love and respect one another, and help one another, since life, if we calculate them in days and hours, are very short. So, why not be good people who feel each other’s needs? And when we leave this life, those who outlive us will remember us in our good deeds.

 

Thank you all for extending a helping hand and being true to your word. Thank you all.

And I have a request from you, my friends Erella, Ehud, Danny, Nadav and Hamed – please keep in touch and don’t stop visiting me.

I pray for your health with joy. Thank you.

  Muhammad Suleiman Awad

 

Muhammad and Erella Muhammad in the car Muhammad with Hamed and Erella Muhammad with the Villages Group's visitors Muhammad's car

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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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/

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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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

 

People who Know How to Laugh and Cry at the Same Time

I have not written to you for a long time, since it seems I would have written more of the same, again and again.

About the rotten fruits of the occupation.

Yet, sometimes things happen which are the little that holds much.

My daughter Reut lives in South Mount Hebron (within the green line of course). The distance between her home and villages in the occupied area of the region is 5-10 minutes ride by car and half an hour by donkey. Even walking doesn’t take that long. Some of my friends from the villages are also good friends of hers as she sometimes joins us in our weekly visits.

Yet, short as this distance is, only she can visit them but they cannot visit her, since there are check points between them.

Some days ago Reut became a mother for the second time and I called my friends to tell them about it. When I told Eid from Umm al-Kheir, he said: “Thank you for sharing. You know,” he added, “what I want to do the most now is to come to Reut and hug you both. But I can’t.”

Silence was between us for a long while.

When I could talk again, I said: “You know Eid, what you’ve said was not a political declaration, nor a bloody event, nor murder or evacuation, not a demolition or any kind of revenge action, and so on. And yet, the pain I’ve felt for all of those (which happen every day) is folded within it.

Silence again. “Yes,” he said. We understand and feel alike.

A day later, exactly the same conversation took place between me and Nasser from Susiya.

I asked him if he had coordinated with Eid. We laughed.

“We are probably from the same tribe,” I added.

“The people who know how to laugh and cry at the same time,

And know how to call things by their true names,

in order to be able to leave their hearts open for compassion.”

 

With much love to you all,

Erella (on behalf of the members of the Villages Group).

Summer Camps in South-Hebron/Massafer-Yatta, Against the Background of Military Oppression

A few days after the three youngsters from Umm al-Kheir returned from their detention (of which I told you about in my former letter, dated June 10), there started in Umm al-Kheir a summer camp for all the children of the place (3 to 13 years old). The summer camp consisted of two groups (a group of the small children and a group of the older children). The guides were four women from Umm al-Kheir itself: Na’ama, Sara, Ikhlas and Taghrid. We went to visit on Thursday, as we always do. It was the fifth day of the summer camp. Looking at the sights and hearing the voices – our hearts expanded . A small summer camp in the middle of the desert, in two tents that serve as a local community center (established with such effort and constantly under the threat of demolition). Yet the children are happy and the guides’ faces are beaming.

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We stood there for a good two hours – Ophir, Limor and me – watching. Fun games seasoned occasionally by music activity (a delightful implementation of what the guides learned in a music workshop held in a nearby village in April and facilitated by Fabianne), relaxing breathing exercises, a tasty falafel in the break and plenty of joy.

At the end of the camp there was a trip. “Without a trip, the summer camp is not really worth it,” say the children, for whom going out of the constricting boundaries of the village was a formative event.

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At the end of the ninth day of the camp the children return to their homes and meet there the security guard of Karmel (the nearby settlement), escorted by the army, the police and Civil Administration officials. For what went on there, see here.

We were glad we could at least enable the kids a summer camp (with the generous support of our friends from England).

A few days later started the summer camp in Susiya.

On our weekly visit we arrived on a cheerful camp day, guided by Yihya and Fatme, who were assisted by three local girls. One of the activities was a play the children prepared.
A local Palestinian family sits down to have its meal, when a young man bursts into their home and asks for refuge from soldiers who are chasing him and trying to catch him. The family quickly hides the young man but a collaborating neighbor informs on him and the soldiers enter the house, grab the young man, bit him, tie him and take him away with them.

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A piece of reality. The children bring it into the play with all its complexity. The topic was chosen by them, without any guidance from the grownups. In a completely natural, though maybe not really conscious way, the children process their traumas, and the summer camp is a space that enables that.

The very next day, Civil Administration officers, accompanied by soldiers, arrived and delivered stop-work orders (precursors of demolition orders) to almost every family in Susiya (Limor wrote about it in her last report).

Since then events succeeded one another (as always, and a bit more). My writing pace falls behind the pace of the events we would like to share with you. I started writing this report at the end of June, when the summer camps ended. And here we are, past the middle of August, and every passing day increases the important “debt” – to tell their stories.

Sometimes the two camps – the going-to-the-field one and the writing-about-the-field one – clash within me. Usually the first one wins …

Many thanks to each and every one who contributed, in funds or spirit, so these summer camps could have taken place, and successfully so.

We are thankful and our friends are thankful, through us. And the children? The photos will tell their happiness …

Yours, with much love,

Erella (in the name of the members of the Villages Group)

Report on the Recent Distribution of Demolition orders in Susiya

Our visit a week ago on Thursday, June 27th in South Mt. Hebron was going to be a particularly happy one. With summer vacation having recently started, our son, who is 15 and half years old, and our daughter, 14 years old, could join us again to visit the area, and so did our friend, Tamar. Indeed, we arrived at Susiya as planned, around 10 o’clock in the morning, but from then on, the visit was entirely different than the one we planned and hoped for…

We were glad to meet Nasser on the path leading to the village, on horseback, and we entered the village together, Nasser’s son on the horse with him and the other kids cheerfully following. After greeting the women of the Nawajah family, which took a few minutes, suddenly entered the village a Civil Administration car and a Border Police jeep. Both stopped by the dwelling of Nasser and Eyam and two Civil Administration officers came out, accompanied by three Border policemen, armed with guns. Family members, adults and children, came out and we all gathered in front of the vehicles, anxiously waiting to see what it was all about. I asked, in Hebrew, one of the two young men who came out of the car and wasn’t in uniform: “What’s going on?” and he blurted: “Nothing.” I tried again: “What is it?” and he played the wise guy: “Why, is it forbidden to come here for a patrol?”

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The Border Policemen who “secured” the operation

After a few more minutes we all understood what was going on. The two young Civil Administration officers started going around the village, stopping at nearly every tent, goats’ pen or any other construction – briefly filling out a form describing it, posing for a photograph near it, for documentation purposes, nervously clearing away whoever got in the frame, and placing the piece of paper between two big rocks next to each family dwelling. These were “cease-work” orders, which means they are the precursors of demolition orders and their subsequent implementation. I asked Nasser why “cease-work” when most of the tents or constructions are not in building stages but have been used by the villagers for quite some time? Nasser told me I am not wrong, and I realized it’s just the way of the Civil Administration (and one might say, of the occupation authorities in general) to remind the village residents that the Supreme Court proceedings (taking months already) will not interfere with manifesting domination, and also to remind them of the imminent threat of their homes’ demolition, already pending for years (for a summary and an update on the proceedings regarding the village and for a newspaper report on this event, see [http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-orders-west-bank-village-to-tear-down-tents-solar-panel-set-up-by-eu.premium-1.532369]). As is customary, the orders were not given by the Civil Administration officers personally to the owners, although the owners were standing right next to them, but were placed on rocks, as if to say: For us there aren’t any people here, just rocks.

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The Civil Administration officer places…

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… and presents the order

Nasser accompanied the patrol with his video camera, so he was subjected in the beginning to reprimands and threats from the Civil Administration officers: “Don’t disturb us”, to which he answered: “I am not the one disturbing – it’s you who are disturbing us in our home, invading it.” Other residents were very anxious that such an order will reach their homes too, and indeed, when the patrol stopped by the home of Samiha and Jihad, Samiha burst out screaming and cursing, expressing her pain… we tried to calm her down and offer support: “guard your soul; you are making it harder on yourself, not on them.” But it isn’t hard to understand her feelings in those moments … in addition to the feelings of the village’s people, I was wondering what do these young men from the Civil Administration and the Border Police are feeling? Are they only obeying orders? Do they see the injustice and pain their actions are inflicting? Looking at them, it seemed they are completely detached from the events, manifesting nothing but indifference and cynicism towards the villagers – this hurt me no less, and maybe even more, than Samiha’s screams.

During that morning there were many “cease-work” orders delivered in the village: to dwellings, storages, sheep and geese pens, cisterns and the solar panels providing electricity. Finally, an order was delivered to a recently new tent used as a medical clinic near Susiya’s elementary school. The school, which was opened three years ago, had already got a demolition order a while ago. Recently, the walls have been painted, to the delight and pride of the school’s headmaster and teachers.

In each place, the orders’ messengers took photos of themselves with the forms, to document their activity, and at the same time Nasser and Ophir also documented the conduct of the Civil Administration and Border Police officials and the way they treated the locals. Sometimes the children and youngsters joined in the documenting photos, smiling and signaling “V” with their fingers, and, as my son said to me, there was a lot of strength in this gesture, more than in the screams of anger and pain.

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Children from Susiya step in as a demolition
order is being issued to a tent donated by

 

We tried to follow the patrol of delivering orders and to visit the families for support. We sat in the home of Azzam and Wadha with Sara, their young daughter who was alone at home on that day. We sat in their pleasant bower together with two other young women – her neighbors-relatives, drinking tea and talking on what’s happened, and on other things too. For a while it seems like this is a normal and pleasant visit, and life goes on …

From afar, Ophir saw the jeep continuing to the next hill and to other dwellings in the village, and we decided we should also go and be there. The small children of Jamal and Youssuf greeted us happily. The patrol has already continued to the home of Haja Sara and a few of the family members went with it. We sat with the elderly parents and listened to their feelings: “This is our land, my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather lived here, I have land registration papers from the time of the Turks, we will never leave, although there are attempts to drive us away from our homes all the time,” so said Haj Isma’il. “We are here to be here and support you,” we said. “And we love you,” said Isma’il. “We love you too,” we replied, “and we will continue to come and be with you.”

Indeed – we will continue to visit our friends in Susiya (almost) every week, as we have been doing for a long time now. We will come when orders are delivered, when the hearing in the Supreme Court will take place, in difficult times and also in happy times…

Yours,

Limor Mintz-Manor, in the name of the members of the Villages Group

 

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