Category Archives: Report

Summer Camp in Umm al-Kheir

Officers of the civil administration of the occupation army came recently to Umm al-Kheir cluster near the fence of Carmel settlement. The officers said to the locals that they intend to to demolish in the short run, most of the structures in the place that were built in replacement for the structures demolished last October (check: https://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/house-demolitions-in-umm-al-kheir/). In the meanwhile in the same cluster, Na’ama Hadhalin, a  teacher and local activist, organized, with the help of her husband Eid and high school students,a summer camp for the children who experience, since they were born, the anxiety and uncertainty of those whose houses are been demolished again and again. The summer camp was sponsored by the British Shalom-Salaam Trust (http://www.bsst.org.uk/). Eyal Shani of the Villages Group held Tai Chi workshop for the children in the summer camp. Below is a report by Na’ama – the summer camp organizer and some photos she attached from the summer camp’s activities.

Ehud, on behalf of the Villages Group

Letter from Na’ama Hadhalin, in charge of the Umm al-Kheir summer children’s camp

Hello,

To begin, on behalf of myself and the villagers of Umm al-Kheir, I would like to thank all of you who helped this summer camp in which our children spent an enjoyable and delicious time this season.

We began our activity on the third day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, July 19, 2015. On the first day, the camp’s outfit were distributed and the children were divided into three groups led by the three volunteers of the camp, according to their age groups – from 4- to 15-years old, aimed at their respective activities. We began by preparing holiday greeting cards. Activities were geared for fun, learning and the arts. We also enjoyed some drama, puppet theater, singing, drawing, puzzles and more, alongside talks about morality values, tolerance, honesty and cleanliness.

On July 27, a trip was held in which the villagers of Umm al-Kheir participated. It was a special occasion in which we- including the adults among us – breathed some enjoyable free air and holiday spirit. On July 28 the camp’s ending ceremony was held with the parents from Umm al-Kheir attending as well as a group of young people from Sweden. School bags were handed out as well as writing materials for the children who had taken part in the camp.

Finally, I would like to express heartfelt thanks on behalf of myself – Na’ama, the camp volunteers and all of Umm al-Kheir’s inhabitants and children. Thank you for having enabled us to give our children a chance to spend some very enjoyable time during an especially long summer vacation. Our children eagerly waited for this vacation in order to be able to participate in the summer camp that you supported and helped bring about.

Thank you for your humaneness and love, and your solidarity with us.

Yours sincerely, Na’ama Hadhalin

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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

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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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.

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/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erella, on behalf of the Villages Group

A Visit in Massfarat Yatta (9.1.2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ehud on behalf of the Villages Group

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Another Thursday (12.12.2013)

Dear friends,

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

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

I called Sausan’s mobile phone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erella

On behalf of the Villages Group

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Two Stories from the Month of October

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just two stories from the month of October.

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

With much love,

Erella (on behalf of the Villages Group)

Gabi with Yusuf

Gabi with Yusuf

Gabi with Ibrahim

Gabi with Ibrahim

Gabi at Jihad's place

Gabi at Jihad’s place