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Dear friends and supports,
Most of you will remember the long and tortuous story of Susya, the tiny encampment– all tents and shacks– where few hundred people are still hanging on to what is left of their ancestral lands in the face of continuous harassment by the State and settlers, and in the wake of many earlier expulsions. You may also remember that many of their simple homes have had demolition orders issued against them by the Civil Administration, which clearly aims at destroying the entire village and expelling its inhabitants for good. The Civil Administration claims that the Susya shacks were built without permits and without an accepted, official plan for the village; in fact the villagers have submitted such a plan, and, as everyone knows, it is impossible for Palestinians living in Area C to get a permit to build anywhere on their own land
The Villages Group and Taayush has been involved together with the Rabbis for Human Rights and other organizations, for the last several years in the legal struggle over the fate of Susya; the courts have sometimes accepted our arguments for a stay of execution, but they have also at times ruled in favor of the Civil Administration bureaucrats and the soldiers.
About a year ago I reported on a truly astonishing document prepared by the Civil Administration in which they argue, in classic colonial style, that the impoverished Palestinians of Susya do not know what is good for them and that their opportunities will increase if only they are moved to the city of Yata– in other words, if they are forced to relinquish forever their homes, grazing grounds, and fields (https://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/white-mans-burden-the-israeli-occupations-civil-administration-version/)
Last week the government gave notice that it will ask the courts to remove the last impediments to carrying out the demolition orders. links to the website of the Rabbis for Human Rights and to the Haaretz article describing the legal situation in detail:http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.649340  http://rhr.org.il/eng/2015/03/update-on-susya-state-opposes-freezing-of-demolition-orders/
We don’t yet know if the court will accept the arguments of the government lawyers, but we can say for sure that what we are witnessing today is an unmistakable move on the part of the government and the Occupation authority to dispossess the entire population of Palestinian Susya and to drive them off the land once and for all. Perhaps the results of the recent election have emboldened the settlers and their supporters; perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a much wider, shameless campaign of mass expulsion, which is, one should remember, the true, indeed the only, raison d’etre of the Occupation.
We have known the Susya Palestinians for some 15 years; they are our friends. We cannot stand by and watch the destruction of their village and their way of life. Those of you who can exert influence of any kind– on your representatives in government, in public office, on the public media, or through any other channel– might be able to help at this possibly fateful moment.
Yours, David Shulman
January 9, 2015
This time I am almost ashamed of the story I am about to tell, as the whole world is dealing with the unbearable mega-terror-attack on France, and while here in Israel people – even since before the attack – are still busy with the unusually harsh stormy and snow conditions here at the moment. And perhaps in spite or because of my shame, I should tell it.
I live in a farming community in the northern Negev, where the desert begins. A place not blessed with abundant rainfall or groundwater. The South Hebron Hills, too, lying about 60-70 km east of where I live, is an area even drier than ours. Some of my good friends live there, mostly farmers and shepherds. Year after year, as winter descends, I get a phone call from Nasser, Ali and Eid who live in various hamlets in the South Hebron Hills, asking whether rain has already fallen in our village and how our fields are doing. They tell me about theirs, and about their water holes – the main and sometimes only source of water for them for both human and animal consumption the whole year long – which the Occupation authorities repeatedly destroy, and do not even allow the Palestinians to connect to other water sources.
All of last week we exchanged reports of the plentiful rains that fell both on my village and on theirs. Today Nasser called to ask whether we were having snow. They – at the altitude of 800-900 meters above sea level – have been having snow for two days now, but they heard on the radio that snow was falling even at 400 meters. “We are at 200 meters’ altitude” I answered, “and snow is a very rare sight”. And since we were already talking, I asked Nasser whether Ahmad and Laish (his children) managed to put together the puzzle I had brought them last week. “Yes”, he answered. “It became a family activity”. We continue chatting. I even disclose that I did not take part in our weekly visit last Thursday because my back was giving me too much trouble. “I wasn’t home either”, he said. “I was working. I went to document the cutting down of olive trees in the area”. Shocked at the timing (not at the sabotage itself), I asked: “What!? Even in such freezing weather, in a snow storm!?” “All the better”, Nasser answered.
“Yesterday morning”, he says, his voice sounding as routine as if we are still talking about the puzzle, “during a brief pause in the snowfall, farmers of Qawawis near Susya, and farmers from Yatta whose lands lie close to Qawawis, went out to check the water situation in the water holes of their plots. The holes were filled with water. Then they noticed 42 olive trees, 32 years old, lying sawed near Qawawis on the side of the grove next to Havat Yair settlement, and some 200 one-to-seven-year old olive trees uprooted and broken near Qawawis across the road.” Thus Nasser. I remain silent.
The water in their holes was given them by God. The sawed-down trees they discovered were destroyed by men. With and without a saw. Thus I say to myself after we are done with our telephone conversation which was not at all meant to touch on this subject. One more banal story. Another abnormal episode that becomes normal in a reality where even the complaint about evil-doing comes like falling summer rain.
When the crimes pile up, they become invisible.
When the suffering becomes unbearable no one
Hears the cries any more.
They too fall like summer rain. (Bertolt Brecht)
This attack will not make waves in the media. The attack in France, too, will soon enough fall away like summer rain. They both belong to the blindness of their perpetrators.
And God? He is present in the waterholes. The God of small things…
Yasmin (Ikhlas) Jebara participated in the workshops of Israel’s second harp festival that took place in Jaffa last week.
Yasmin was invited to the festival by her devoted harp teacher Sunita Staneslow who was among the festival’s organizers. For the story of Yasmin’s connections with Sunita and the harp, which started through the music center in Salem.
During her four days sojourn in Jaffa last week Yasmin was interviewed to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. For the interview (in Hebrew).
After her return to her Village near Nablus, Yasmin wrote the following thank you letter to the people who facilitated her visit in the festival and host her in their apartments in Tel-Aviv. In the letter she also speaks a bit about her feelings during the visit.
Ehud on behalf of the Villages Group
A thank-you letter
From the depth of my heart I write this thank-you letter
If my feelings had spoken they would have said something better
The simple words that I utter
Just present the modest thank-you letter
For some people whom I consider
Very special to me they are like the gold glitter
For those who have the good manner
Buma Sunita Fred Ehud Tamara Dani Silvia Avital and Michael and others
My feelings my emotions if they spoke they would say something better
My visit I will not forget
In spite of the fact that the army was reluctant to give me the permit
Buma and Ehud and Sunita persisted and insisted to get me the permit
My visit I cannot forget
It was really perfect
I was fascinated by the sea sound
And it left in my heart a big effect
I enjoyed the houses of the hosts and I felt that I did not leave my home even for a moment
I did not feel bored even for a second
The time was quickly spent
The harp festival was for me a great event
Thanks for whom my happiness and joy create
Even for short moments
When I was in the harp festival and on the shore
I said I will be famous for sure
I have felt at rest
With all this great care that you have given me I felt that I am the best
I never felt that I am a guest
But I felt that I am one of your family members
I specially thank Buma and Sunita who on my face drew a smile
Even for a short while
If I would write about my visit I would write more than one file
Thanks Buma Sunita Fred Ehud Tamara you have given my life it’s real style
These modest words are my gift
I will not forget you any more
You are in my heart for ever
(Photos courtesy of Buma Inbar)
Dear friends and supporters,
The opening of the new school year in September also marked the reopening of Salem’s Music Centre for children. During the last year or so, in which it has been closed, the Centre reorganized, attained an official recognition from the Palestinian Authority and moved from the local council building to a house it rented in the village. The Centre’s devoted visionary and initiator Jubier Shtayeh and the gifted teacher Amid Jamus – remain the core staff. Acknowledging these improvements and the attainment of a better organizational footing, the Villages Group reaffirms its commitment to this important institution (see attached photos from our recent visit in the centre).
Music education is increasingly prevalent in the urban sector of the Palestinian society. Unfortunately, this much needed form of education is still absent, to a large extent, in Palestinian rural communities. Salem’s Music Center is a rare and unique exception to this rule. It was conceived and is nurtured not through the efforts of well-established and well-known NGOs or patrons, but thanks to devoted grassroots field work of Palestinians and Israelis, as well as donations from individuals worldwide.
We are appealing to you to join us in this endeavor of peace and empowerment and to enable a new generation of children in the village of Salem to obtain the gift of music education.
Please watch the following short video from 2009 to learn more about our motivation for initiating and sustaining the music centre in Salem. The need to keep Salem’s Music Centre going is as relevant and pressing today as it was five years ago:
Here is the Centre’s annual budget (click to enlarge):
You can now donate to the project by using your credit card on PayPal.
Simply press the button to make a donation:
Erella and Ehud on behalf of the Villages Group
On Monday, October 27, Israeli Army and Police forces demolished dwellings in the western part of the Beduin-Palestinian village of Umm al-Kheir. This was the most massive operation of house demolition in the village since October 2008.
The operation was aimed mostly at three houses that were built in the last two years (on the ruins of earlier demolitions). These houses were built for three young couples: Abd’alla and Ruqaya al-Hathelin and their four children (aged two months to seven years); Kheir’alla and Nura al-Hathelin and their baby girl, and Bilal and Iman al-Hathelin and their baby boy.
On top of that the Israeli occupation forces demolished the mobile home of Samikha (Miyaser) al-Hathelin and her seven children, which was donated to her by European agencies after her house was demolished twice in 2011 and 2012. Samikha’s tabun (traditional bread oven) was demolished as well, although it was not included in the demolition order. It should be mentioned that recently a family from the adjacent Israeli settlement Karmel appealed to court against the tabun claiming that its smoke interrupts their daily life.
In addition, the Israeli occupation forces demolished two temporary buildings that served as the storeroom and kitchen of Suliman and Malikha al-Hathelin.
These last actions are part of an ongoing wave of house demolitions carried out by the Israeli Civil Administration and Army that seek to drive out the inhabitants of the western parts of Umm al Kheir that have been living there for more than sixty years. The main cause for these actions is the proximity of Um Al Kheir to Karmel, the Israeli settlement that was built some thirty years ago.
We arrive and no one interrupts. There are no military forces at the crossroad, no Police, no Civil Administration. The demolishers demolished and went away. We arrive at the calamity – six houses are completely demolished, a tabun that smokes its remnants, furnitures, clothing, toys, kitchenware. And men, women and children, beaten by pain, dwell between rage and depression. Their shoulders – some leaning downwards and some protest; their eyes – some weeping, some burned down, some blazing. Entire life trampled on by the swift movement of a bulldozer and retell the chronicle of heartlessness and wickedness foretold. This is not a demolition, it is demolition again. There is no more power left to draw power from the non-violent resistance. Maybe the strength will come back. But now an hour later – deep mourning. We are part of it; we stand by them, fully present, in order to give the helplessness its deserved respect. Respect for the trauma. We do not hasten to console. We do not hasten to offer solutions. Only to be here in order to make a way for the deadly pain. To cry. It is permitted to cry.
And from her tears, sitting by a small fig tree that somehow survived the extermination, Malikha whispers: “they demolished houses, a tabun, the heart, but why did they have to ruin the small garden I planted?” I touched her tenderly and kept silent. When I will come next time I will bring with me plants that will enable her old tired hands to touch the good earth again and to water it with her bitter tears of pain. Perhaps she would want to plant. Perhaps life will flourish once more….
Erella and Ehud on behalf of the Villlages Group
T.V. reports (in Arabic) and video documentation:
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
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…
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
(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
Summer camp in Susiya