Author Archives: Ophir Münz-Manor

Desert Snows

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…

Erella

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Yasmin (Ikhlas) Jebara at the Harp Festival

Yasmin (Ikhlas) Jebara participated in the workshops of Israel’s second harp festival that took place in Jaffa last week.

(see http://harpcontest-israel.org.il/he/?page_id=310)

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.

(click https://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/music-and-friendship-at-salem-sunita-yasmin-and-the-harp)

During her four days sojourn in Jaffa last week Yasmin was interviewed to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. For the interview (in Hebrew).

(check http://www.mynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4607942,00.html)

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)

Yasmin in the harp festival 1

Yasmin in the Harp Festival 2

Yasmin in the Harp Festival 3

Appeal on behalf of Salem’s Music Centre

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:

http://vimeo.com/4970392

Here is the Centre’s annual budget (click to enlarge):

Buudget Salem

You can now donate to the project by using your credit card on PayPal.

Simply press the button to make a donation:

"Donate

 

 

 

Erella and Ehud on behalf of the Villages Group

villagesgroup1@gmail.com

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House Demolitions in Umm al-Kheir

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

https://www.facebook.com/villagesgroup

villagesgroup1@gmail.com

T.V. reports (in Arabic) and video documentation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nadav answered:

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

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

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

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

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

Nadav and Erella.

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

Dear friends and anyone else interested:

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

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

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

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

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

His eyes shined happily.

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

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

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

 

In the name of Allah the merciful,

the prayer and blessing of Muhammad-

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

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

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

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

Thanking you,

Muhammad Suleiman Al-Ka’abneh

Born December 31, 1968

ID 955708177

 

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Updates – Susiya

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

 Ehud and Erella on behalf of the Villages Group

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

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

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

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