Our Visit to Wadi Jheish

When we get to Wadi Jheish (the southern part of Palestinian Susya) I leap at Tamam. Our hug embodies all the tenderness in the world. Today it is also enveloped by the soft breezes and fragrances of autumn. Even on the news, their soft part, we were told that at noon first rains would fall. So the soft colors of the morning wrap the tenderness of our embrace, as does the caressing smile of Haj Khaleel, heading towards us from the hill. How the heart longs to surrender to this softness, even as it knows how fragile it is in these areas.

Into all this tenderness, a Civil Administration off-road vehicle bursts from the ravine. Tamam and I tighten our hug and sense its softness tensing up. Haj Khaleel and Nadav tense up as well. Nothing special will happen now. No blows, no bloodshed, no one will be arrested, no heads will fall. But the soul is to be beheaded. A chronicle foretold of Civil Administration presence.

An official disembarks. Climbs a few meters up the hill towards one of the structures and photographs it. Tamam, Khaleel, Ghaliya (wife of their son Hisham) and we – are all dust at his feet. No. Not even that. Insects. Not even. Simply nonexistent. Transparent. It is an incredible sight. The second official disembarks. In an unusual act he mutters “Hello”. (When Nadav says to them in a moment, “But we can talk, can’t we?” he will say, “What, didn’t I say hello?”).

The first walks over to a new caravan, built with the help of an international organization for Hisham and Ghaliya whose dwelling was demolished by the Civil Administration in June, at the beginning of the Ramadan month of fasting.

https://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/demolitions-in-wadi-jheish-southern-susiya/).

He produces a form ordering them to halt all work (the precursor of demolition) and has Haj Khaleel sign it. I try to prevent the Haj from signing without knowing precisely what he signs, but he does, experienced and familiar with the process. In a few moments, when the Civil Administration officials will leave the place, the details of the familiar form will be rather strange. But we are not there yet.

The tenderness stood on its hind legs facing the stiffness of those who are right – a tight stiffness, flawless, dripping contempt and hatred. Tenderness – born of love – does not wish to give up its essence, the right to proper respect of all God’s creatures, including those of the species called human. So I stand there with my tenderness that will not cease and softly, tenderly putter towards the first official: “Monster!”

Nothing happens to him for, as I said, I am transparent for him. But it helps me contain the borders of the wound I allow their right stiffness to leave in me.

They leave. We enter the caravan that as of today is destined for demolition, with the right to appeal with will surely be rejected (a fictive procedure of the stiffs in order to protect themselves. From Whom?)

We go over the form that is named “halting all work” and notice essential details that are not true. (Perhaps this will serve their attorney in the ridiculous game whose rules are set only by the master).

We see how the soft expression of our beloved friends is mixed with the familiar shade of helplessness – a tremendous pain that has no outlet and becomes anger that has no outlet and reaches the dangerous junction where it might turn into unlimited aggression.

And I tell them how I said “monster” and invite them now, sitting inside the home, to shriek “monster!” (in Arabic: ghula). They eagerly comply and everyone let out their ghoula. Rather polite, but still freeing some of the inner suffocation that paralyzes the soul.

I asked (a question I have already posed in the past and still emerges authentically):

Where do you get this power to experience all of this over and over again without going numb and becoming aggressive? The Haj said: what can we do? Tamam and Ghaliya said this was from God. Ibrahim (a neighbor and Khaleel’s nephew who has come to support them) said: When the settlers beat me up four years ago next to my own home at 6 a.m., I felt how I was being filled with a power that came to me from the outside”. Perhaps this was what the women had meant when they said: from God. Some cosmic power that watches over good souls not to lose their godliness. And they do not. They do not become aggressive, but nor do they lose their godliness into the victim apparatus. When I expressed my revulsion of the Civil Administration official, and said: “”He was so callous and stiff that even his eye didn’t move”, Haj Khaleel added: “But when he wrote some words on the form, still his hand trembled”…

What a tremendous heart this man has, how much independent dignity, what persistent trust. 

Thank you, my teachers, yet again.

And to our dear readers, I apologize that our letters repeat themselves, and contain no refreshing news. 

Such is the reality that inspires them. These stories need to emerge from us in order for us to remain sane. So I thank you too for your cooperation.

Yours, 

Erella (and Nadav and Ehud)

 

Living Archive- Life in South Hebron Hills, Palestine

It is with great pleasure that we are now able to share with you the first stage of our initiative: a Living Archive of life in the South Hebron Hills, Palestine.

Living Archive is part oral history, part online portal, part database. The idea is to give the Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills an online presence on their own terms. The site enables you to “enter” a village and “meet” its residents through specially collected stories, audio recordings, video footage and photographs. In addition to this new material, the site also brings together existing articles, films and reports – all ordered by village.

Living Archive is available in Arabic, Hebrew and English. Currently, the villages of Jinba, Susiya, Tuba and Umm Al-Khair are up and ready for you to explore, with more to follow soon. Living Archive is – as its title suggests – an open-ended project which will grow and develop with the material that each village chooses to add. Additionally, on the Facebook page of Living Archive you will find updates and news from residents of each of the villages.

By putting faces to the villages of the South Hebron Hills, Living Archive hopes to break the narrative of occupation and show that daily life there is about far more than simple survival; it’s about love, persistence, laughter and catastrophe as well.

Thank you for your interest and support. Please share the links so that the journey can begin!

Greetings from the Living Archive team

Demolitions in Um al Kheir, Again

24.8.16

To all our friends, where ever they are,

Scroll your mail to 9.8.16, two weeks and two days ago. Read it again, for what I can write today will be under the same title. Demolitions again. Again in Um al Kheir.

But today I cannot go there. Only a telephone call. I shall come tomorrow. But the sights are known, and the sensations of the heart no longer need to see. I will be there tomorrow with me friends of Um al Kheir in order to participate and try to embrace the grief, the contained anger, the tears.

They demolished at 6:00 am, they demolished once more the house of Zayed, Eid’s brother. A house that was demolished two weeks ago and that the people of the village have rebuilt (after all one needs a place to rest the head on). They demolished the house of grandmother Hadra (Aziz’s mother), that welcomes in her house the children of the village that many of them are her grandchildren, and they demolished the community centre that was built with the support of you, our friends, and his development continued thanks to the incredible efforts of Aziz and his friends (by gaining financial support from different organisations and by operating it for the benefit of the people of the village). And Haj Suliman the Elder? Once more he was violently taken away so he would not disturb the hoty deed.

Once more the children and the elderly people were sleeping when the bulldozers opened their mouths, and soldiers whose hearts are shut and their faces blank destroyed the modest houses. Where would they lead the astonishing surprise, the pain of loss, the helplessness, the frustration? Where would they lead the contained anger?

What poem shall I cite this time? Brecht’s poem from last time fits the present situation as well…

Tomorrow I might write again, and perhaps not because I run out of words.

But it is unthinkable to conclude such a report without some light at the end of the tunnel. Therefore I will quote a poem I wrote 13 years ago. I feel fortunate to be able to say goodbye to something in order to be able to be connected to the heart:

With murmuring consistency

my consciousness surrenders

to the humming of its depths

weeping my parting

enfolding me like a sacred canopy.

Like a Tabernacle

my mother made me when she was alive,

like the shrouds

I made her when she died.

I cut the umbilical cord of my birth,

I bid you farewell, my motherland.

Farewell plundered treasure,

farewell you who are made arrogant,

farewell you who go to the stake

of your defilers’ oblivion.

The pain of parting slashes my throat,

my living mindfulness hears

clods of earth shed upon my grave.

Tomorrow a new day will envelop me

without my motherland.

Days of mourning are hard.

Erella, The Villages Group

Demolitions, Again.

August 9, 2016

Demolition again. Another demolition. And again we were there.

A week ago, four people of Regavim (an association of Jewish settlers in the West Bank) “took a walk” in Umm Al Kheir.  They roamed around feeling very much at home and took pictures. Old Maliha, who has already stopped counting the number of times her home has been demolished, said that their “stroll” was an omen of demolition. And today it happened. Without any prior notice. Usually the state authorities give prior notice. It does not make much difference, but does provide a moment to get ready emotionally. In such a state of total helplessness and zero ability to thwart injustice, even a moment to get ready emotionally is something.

The demolition bulldozers arrived at 6:30 a.m. Adults and children, babies and youngsters were still sleeping. Regavim activists, on the other hand, were already there with their video cameras across the fence of Carmel settlement (only 5-19 meters separate Carmel from Umm Al Kheir) to document their victory.  When Maliha told me about this she could hardly control her voice. Their gloating hurt more than the demolition itself. Five homes were demolished: three – houses put up by the European Union after the demolitions this April, and two – homes built long ago by their owners.

Lords of the bulldozers, lords of the occupation, this many-armed octopus (Israeli government, army, police force, Civil Administration, settlers, their association…): the people whose homes you demolished today have names. These people have hands and feet, heads, faces. They have hearts. A life – Zyad and his wife, who have already had two demolitions since their wedding early this year, Aadel and Aamna and their five children, Maliha who no longer counts the many demolitions she has undergone, innocent Hadra and her only daughter Rima.

As soon as the soldiers came to destroy, they  gripped Haj Sliman – Maliha’s husband and the village elder – and held him forcefully so he couldn’t move, and beat him up. As they gripped him tightly, the bulldozers crushed the measly shacks. And the children? See those sights again. Where will they take their own trauma?

Usually the process of writing helps me a bit to cope with my own trauma. Somehow the words manage to gather some of my rage and turn it into pain, and then into something like understanding that is even more painful, coming from helplessness. From realizing “there is nothing to be done”, or “What can we do?” as my friends say when their homes are demolished here and elsewhere and in answer to my question, “How do you hold on?” This time, however, this writing does not help me. Maybe Bertolt Brecht will help:

When Evil-Doing Comes Like Falling Rain (Bertolt Brecht)


Like one who brings an important letter to the counter after office

hours: the counter is already closed.

Like one who seeks to warn the city of an impending flood, but speaks

another language. They do not understand him.

Like a beggar who knocks for the fifth time at a door where he has four

times been given something: the fifth time he is hungry.

Like one whose blood flows from a wound and who awaits the doctor:

his blood goes on flowing.

 

So do we come forward and report that evil has been done us.

The first time it was reported that our friends were butchered there was a cry of horror.

Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was

no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread.

 

When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”

 

When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become

unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

 

From: Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, ed. Carolyn Forché, Norton,1993. Trans. John Willett.

Erella, on behalf of the Villages Group

Eid al-Fitr in south Mt. Hebron – Between Occupation Encirclement and Family Joy

Last week two murders occurred in the northern part of the region that lies south of Hebron. The first victim was the girl Halel Yafa Ariel, murdered in her bed at the Kiryat Arba settlement, and the second – Michael Mark of the Otniel settlement, while he was driving with his family along road 60. Following these two murders, the army implemented the severest encirclement in years upon Yatta and other towns and villages in the area. The impact of this measure is felt most strongly in the peripheral localities lying east of Yatta (the region named Masafer Yatta). All dirt tracks leading to the area have been blocked with boulders and dirt dykes wherever they connect to road 317. This has paralyzed all life lines connecting the regional town of Yatta with its outlying localities: Mnezel and Tuwane, each of which is home to hundreds of people, as well as ten officially unrecognized cave-dweller hamlets whose populations vary between 50 and 200 people.

At the same time, these days see the holiday ending the Ramadan month fast, Eid al-Fitr. This holiday is a family event wherein the extended family members traditionally visit each other, especially those living at some distance who do not normally see each other often. In our visit on the second day of this holiday (Thursday, July 7) at two cave-dweller hamlets – Mufaqara and Tuba – we happened to experience the Palestinian sumud (holding on to the land) at its utmost. Family members living in Yatta walked miles on foot or road for hours in long, exhausting roundabout tracks in order to visit their parents and siblings who live in the encircled peripheral localities. “I’m flying with joy” said to us a widow living in Mufaqara as we visited her in her cave. The reason for this is not only the holiday but also the fact that recently, members of the Palestinian-Israeli organization Comet-Me placed solar plates next to each of the hamlet’s caves. These European-financed plates supply electricity that not only enables light in the caves but also operating washing machines, refrigerators, computers and television sets.

Ehud,  on behalf of the Villages Group

 

Demolitions in Wadi Jheish (Southern Susiya)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ramadan

In the month of Ramadan we visit the tents of our friends in South Mt. Hebron only in the evenings, for the Iftar (the fast-breaking meal). During the day most of the people sleep or just rest, weary and trying to save energy during the long and hot hours of fasting.

An so, one evening, a week ago, we came to visit Tamam and Haj Halil in Wadi Jheish, in the southern part of Palestinian Susiya. Intimate and calm and deliciously tasty was that evening. Tamam and Halil are our close friends for years. Since settlers beat them and we accompanied Tamam when she was hospitalized in Beer Sheva with a head injury.

This woman has light in her eyes, said my granddaughter to her mother on our way back from the Iftar.

This woman, her husband, her children and grandchildren – I hugged them all today and with them I cried.

At two o’clock we were informed that demolitions are taking place in Wadi Jheish. After a short inquiry we realized that targeted are the home of Haj Halil and his wife, the home of their son, and a sheep pen who posed a special risk to the security of the Jewish state.

When we arrived, the military force – its soldiers, officers and bulldozers – was already gone.  Remained were the tent homes, demolished to their core, most of their contents not spared, beaten people, spilled food. People between rage and despair – hanging around helpless, trying to gather whatever could be saved from the ruins. Those who asked to take out their belongings from the tents before they were demolished were answered with beatings.

They received the demolition order six days ago and tried, with their lawyers, to annul the decree, even today, but to no avail. Have you not demolished people’s home and beat them? the question is ringing in my ears, reminding, in tone and spirit, the question “Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?” turned to King David about the vineyard ofNaboth the Jezreelite, in a place not far away from Wadi Jheish, in other times. Lessons are not learned.

Later I dared to look at the video taken by Hesham (the son of Tamam and Halil) during the demolition of his home. Bulldozers with their drivers, soldiers and officers with their demeanor – all of it brought back scenarios we were taught we shouldn’t forget. It wasn’t such a long time ago. Just the scenery is different. Are lessons not learned?

We sat in silence, just hugging. Being with their pain. Being in pain.

Youngsters, elderly and children remained without a roof over their heads. Tomorrow will also be hot. Tomorrow will also be a day of fasting. We will bring food for dinner today. Andtomorrow. Today, and maybe also tomorrow, interviewers from one or the other TV channels will come, and one or another NGO, or maybe even the Palestinian Authority, will supply them with new tents. And then the wheat will grow again and life will resume its course. Only the wounds of the heart heal slowly, if at all. And if they heal, they leave a scar, like the scar in Tamam’s face from the time settlers smashed her head. Today she was still crying about that too. And the children who saw what they saw today? Not only how their home is being demolishes. They also saw how their father and their mother are being beat.

At the checkpoint, on our way back, we were asked whether we’ve seen something unusual on our way. “No,” we answered. Such home demolitions are not unusual, we thought …

I am on my way to my granddaughters. I ask myself what shall I tell Roni, who is five years old, if she asks me why I arrived later than usual. But Roni doesn’t ask anything. She just suddenly say: “Grandmother, I want to sing you a song.” And this is the song she sang, by Uzi Hitman:

Dear God, I want to tell you

A dream I had at night in bed.

And in my dream I saw an angel

Coming from the sky, and saying:

I came from the sky, I have been traveling

To bring a blessing of peace to all the children.

And when I awoke, I remembered the dream,

And I went out to seek a blessing of Peace.

And there was no angel and there was no peace

And I am with the dream.

I froze. Shivers went up and down my spine. How did she know to sing for me this particular song on this particular day?

I cried again. The second time today.

There are many days of tears in this tough land.

 

Erella and Ehud (in the name of The Villages Group)

Demolitions in Umm al-Kheir Last Week – Eyal’s Report

Wednesday April 6, 07:30 am 2016

I called Eid. The first time the phone hung up before Eid answered. The second time Eid seemed to be panting. When I asked him how is he? He replies “shit, they are destroying houses here” I even hadn’t had tea in the morning. ”

My heart was pounding, I told him to breathe deeply. What can I say more? Eid engaged in conversations with the officer in charge and the Civil Administration officer and I promised him I’d call back later. “Be strong.”

I sent short text to friends and acquaintances, “there aredemolitions now in Umm al Kheir“.

In Another half an hour I have to start a long day of classes and treatments.

I sat up to breathe myself. I am totally with Eid, with the people of Umm al Kheir. Even though I am half an hour from them I cannot break away from thinking about them. So much, I would like to cancel this working day and to be with them. Even if I can do nothing there, beyond supporting, understanding and comforting their bad fate.

At noon I called him again. Happily, he sounds as if he came back to himself. He tells me they destroyed six buildings and a bulldozer moved very close to his home. He was in fear his house was on the list too.  And he saw an aerial photo of his home also marked….

“It’s only a matter of time and bureaucracy” he says.

Thursday 7 April 9:00 am 2016

I went to Umm al Kheir with cake.  Sarah’s two-year old rabbit was sitting on the ruins of her home as if he did not feel that his house was demolished…

Ehud Nadav and Danny came too. We sat in a house near the ruins of a Malicha’s kitchen and the home of Nora and Cheiry and little Sara. This time, unlike in previous demolitions in Umm al Kheir, people are much more level-headed and practical as they plan how to move forward.

Many come to visit, various international organizations, Palestinian and our Israeli representatives.  Tarek asks me to help them to start to build the house of Zaid who married last summer. After a breakfast of hummus with tomato at his mother kitchen, I roll up my sleeves, but in the end this day is just talking and everyone must give testimony of what happened.

Yesterday I asked someone who works in a government office that maps the unrecognized villages in Israel, “In recent years there is increasing demolitions, what is the point of all this destruction?”

“What we know, he replies, ” is that for every house that we demolish they set up two! ”

“So” I say “why are we continuing it?”

“How would we know how many they build if we did not destroy!!!”

When I am asked sometimes why I come to Umm al Kheir, Susya, Mufakara, Tuba and other villages in the southern Hebron hills, I say that I have friends there and I want them to know that not everyone in Israel would like to obliterate them.

I wish that many people, especially those in complex responsible and powerful positions from prime ministers to Civil Administration inspectors, will wake up and understand life; that everything is connected to everything else and is constantly changing.

Eyal

Hajje Sara – In Memoriam (March 22.2016)

When the phone rings and I see the name “Nasser” on the screen, I tense up even before hearing his voice, and already see and hear bulldozers and soldiers in my mind, and cries of pain and loss in Susya and elsewhere. That is why I begin our conversation with “What happened?” The day before yesterday he called. “What happened?” I ask, and he reassures me: “Nothing, I just wanted to congratulate you on Mother’s Day. Here in Palestine today is “Mother’s Day” he added, and I stay silent for a moment, swallowing a tear that has slid down my throat. I send him a loving hug and kisses to the children.

Yesterday he called again. And I, as always: “What happened?” (After all, Mother’s Day is only one day a year). “There were demolitions in Jinba and in Taban”, Nasser says. I ask him for details in a stifled, pained voice, and he says: “But I didn’t call about that. I called to tell you that Hajje Sara passed away”. I was struck dumb.

I visited her not quite a week ago. She has not been in Susya for some months. I met her at her son’s home in Yatta. She was sitting on a bed in a room prepared especially for her – thinner than ever, constantly coughing up the violent cancer that spread in her lungs and does not let her breathe. We came to see her, Ehud, Danny and I. I went in first. When she saw me, she said: “I’m going”. Meaning: I’m done with my life. The doctors instructed the family not to tell her about her real condition but after all, one knows when the time is near. I hugged her. During our visit she was in full control as always and even got a bit annoyed (I said to her: “Hajje, now I really begin to feel I’m visiting you”). She smiled. Her daughters-in-law and grandchildren gathered in her room and we sat there as we used to in her tent, as she conducted the occasion and urged the daughters-in-law to hurry up and bring us the migele she planned for us as a reminder of the mutabak of the days we used to visit her in Susya and she would bake for us. (Migele and mutabak are Palestinian pastries). Between coughs she asked about my children and grandchildren.

A special friendship was struck between the two of us ever since I first began to visit Susya in 2003.

Hajje Sara was a determined woman, and if I may, I would dare say she was a hard woman – hard as life is in Susya. Hard like the ground she tilled and sowed and harvested, and like the harsh hours of freezing winter cold and exhausting summer heat during which she herded her flock alone ever since she was widowed about 11 years ago. Sara and the earth were one – in her life as in her death.

Sara bravely withstood the unfriendly visits of settlers from the Jewish settlement of Susya who came to her land.  This woman – who, in her youth (1950) experienced her first expulsion from the Gariten region where she was born and raised, and then survived the Susya expulsions – would not agree to be expelled yet again. When it comes to Sara, “holding on to her land” is no literary metaphor. Hajje Sara’s hardiness and obstinacy sometimes affected her human relations. At times she behaved with people close to her in a way that pained them. It would anger me (although it was never aimed at me or in my presence). It was precisely this anger of mine that validated what we both knew – that our relationship was personal and human, neither patronizing nor political.

My last visit was a leave-taking. Sara surrendered to the conciliatory, compassionate massage I gave her stiff back. We had closed a circle between us. This woman was powerful. I see her standing in a brittle, dry field in the middle of a droughty winter, I hear her old voice crack as she sings an ancient prayer to god begging for some rain…

I don’t know if olive oil can be preserved. I would like the bottle of olive oil she gave me at our meeting – knowing it was our last – to last forever as a souvenir…

Rest in peace, Sara. Rest in peace from your life struggles, from your worries, rest in peace from the settlers’ harassments, rest in peace from your loves and hatreds.

Everything is now open and loose like the ground after plowing…

In deep appreciation and gratitude for years of friendship,

Erella and Ehud

 

A Trip to the “Fresh” Ruins of Jinba

Thursday, February 4th. On a sunny morning we get on Hamed’s jeep at Susya and travel up the road leaving to Havat Yair settler outpost and from there, descend to the Jinba valley. On the way, Ehud and Dani argue over the beauty of Jibba versus that of Toscana. For me it’s a first visit. On the way back I think that but for the occupation, this could be an amazing tourist-friendly village.

As we reach the center of the village, some 9-12 year-olds come out to welcome us. Dani is happy with their English. We follow Hamed to the ruins, piles of rubble of what – until two days ago – had been someone’s home. Ali comes out to greet us and tells us of his misfortune. The Israeli occupation forces demolished three structures belonging to him and his immediate family. Even the ownership document (kushan) dating from Ottoman empire days which Ali presented them did not suffice to prove to the occupation forces that his family has owned this land since his great-great-grandfather’s time.  At the side, his two-year old grandson recognizes us and bursts out crying. He has not been able to sleep at night since the demolitions. Every noise startles him. Even the balloons that Dani hands him do not calm him down. Even his mother, a student of education at Yatta University, cannot sooth him, and only his grandmother hugs him and cries along with him… each trying to console the other in their misfortune.

On Sunday evening Hamed tells us that the Israeli authorities and the local inhabitants could not on agree on an exchange of land. Forty years ago the Israeli army declared the site a firing zone. Since then it has wanted the cave dwellers who have lived there for many generations to “get out of its sight”.

 Monday morning the demolitions begin. What efficiency!

If bureaucracy inside Israel-proper were so efficient, the whole world would love to watch and learn…I don’t read/hear/watch the news., and I still cannot escape knowing that every single day something in our state happens based on the friction and frustration resulting from the Occupation and the shabby relations we established with our Arab neighbors, relations that unravels more every day, and if we don’t wake up soon, we will go blind. With sad eyes I look at the beauty and sadness of Jinba and wonder – is there not a single wise leader who would take a deep look at the state of things and see how this little child who has now experienced such irreversible trauma and will likely experience more to follow, will one day just give up and, in desperation, commit an act that will be reported on the news and bring on further punishment… Only last Thursday I met Odeh of Umm Al Kheir in the South Hebron Hills. He wants to learn Shiatsu, so at the edge of the football field we learned the touch, how to connect and open the heart. If we begin to act for peace and growing closer, together we can generate change. David, another member of the Villages Group, once told me his dream is for every Israeli to have one Palestinian friend whom he could call every day, and ask “How did you sleep, Mohammad? How is the family? Is everyone well?” I already have several such “Mohammads” and not only do I call them, they also call me (one even invited me over during the Gaza assault because he feared I was within missile range). What about you, have you a Palestinian friend?

May we all be able to experience peace and true calm in our present lives.

Eyal

 

 

Message and New Year’s Greetings from the Villages Group

To our friends and supporters,

At this time, as the year comes to an end and the New Year is almost here, normally we send you greetings written by our member Erella. This time, as Erella is convalescing from a back surgery, she has requested me to write you in her stead, but since I do not possess Erella’s special expressive gift, I write you instead a short summary of our activity.

These past months our activity has been affected by the escalation taking place throughout the West Bank. Consequently we have lately refrained from visiting Salem village near Nablus, where we have been active for the past thirteen years. Still we maintain our contact with our friends in Salem and continue to support the local music education center for children which we helped found six years ago. On the weekend of September 18-19 we hosted the founding team of this center – the director and the main instructor – in Tel Aviv and Kibbutz Shoval.

In the South Hebron Hills, the second and major region of our ongoing activity, the recent escalation has led to the blockage of roads connecting the outlying localities and the main cities of Yatta and Hebron (see photos attached). As a result of these blocks, free movement of the South Hebron Hills villagers has now been restricted and deteriorated to a state similar to what they experienced during the Second Intifada, in the first half of the previous decade.

This year, as in recent years, with your kind help we continued supporting different programs for the inhabitants of the South Hebron Hills: continued studies of college students, professional training for women, kindergartens, children’s summer camps and small development plans for local farmers. A precedent for us this year was our affiliation with the American organization Rebuilding Alliance as a diplomatic activity for the villages of the South Hebron Hills, and especially Susiya. In view of the severe threat of demolitions posed against Susiya, Rebuilding Alliance obliged our call and organized two delegation – with our participation – to political power vertices in Washington DC in June and September. The second delegation included two families – one from Susiya and the other from Umm al-Kheir. The joint effort of the Palestinian villagers and their supporters in Israel and worldwide, an effort to which our participation in the delegations was our modest contribution, led to the suspension of the demolitions in Susiya, which the Civil Administration had declared ready to carry out in the summer.

Even in the present state of escalation that affects life’s reality in our parts, we persist in our weekly visits to some of the tiny hamlets of the South Hebron Hills. The routine of these weekly visits focuses on maintaining ongoing personal ties with the inhabitants for over ten years now, and is the core activity of our tiny group. Our other activities, including those that reach even Washington, always begin from the cave and the tent and go back to them week by week. Over the years we have had the pleasure to have quite a few of you join us once or more in these weekly visits. Joining the visits is the most effective way of familiarizing oneself with the reality of life in the South Hebron Hills area and to the way we connect with it. We are always glad to have you join us there. Please see photos of the visit we held lately, joined by guests from the Quaker lobby, in the following linkhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/7399630@N03/sets/72157660985907170

A few words from Erella:

From the very fountain of our strength, with and despite emotional, mental, spiritual exhaustion, we persist and repeatedly bring to our connection with our Palestinian friends  – for that is the right thing to do –

our loving greetings and blessings for Christmas and the New Year. 

Ehud, on behalf of the Villages Group (Erella, Hamed, Dani, Eyal, David, Fiona, Nadav, Ophir and Limor)