Category Archives: Uncategorized

Incidents at At-Tuwani

June 1, 2020

Time for harvesting the grain…” (a line from a popular Zionist song we all sang here as kids) For our Palestinian friends At-Tuwani village (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/At-Tuwani) in the South Hebron Hills it is no old favorite, but a source of livelihood. These very days they are supposed to go out to their fields and harvest the wheat that has ripened, which will feed them the whole year round.

A single dirt track connects At-Tuwani and its fields, and normally also serves the schoolchildren of the neighboring villages (Massafer Yatta area) who walk to school. The children have been accompanied by international activists, the just of our times, who make sure the children will arrive at school safely in spite of the constant harassing by the Jewish settler-colonists from the nearby outpost of Havat Maon.

Two days ago the villagers of At-Tuwani discovered that right on the track, only 150 meters from the village houses, the settler-colonists erected a tent. Simply blocking the way. If you wonder how a track can be blocked by a tent, we should explain that the Havat Maon settler-colonists are the worst kind of pogromchiks – violent hooligans –the kind whose brutality our great-great-grandparents had known in the Diaspora.  They very often enter the village itself, go wild breaking things, destroying property and farm equipment, and make the lives of the inhabitants insufferable.  They do this while the men are away at work, and only the women and children are present, and they simply sow terror. Whoever comes close to their tent would risk his life – at gunpoint. Later we shall read in the paper that “another terrorist who was trying to murder Jewish colonists was shot and neutralized”.

The villagers complained to the Civil Administration (the army arm responsible for all Palestinian civil matters) – by means of the wonderful attorney Kamar Mashraki of the Hakel organization. As a response, a caravan was placed on the track as well… An answer has not yet come from the Civil Administration, but Israeli soldiers have already been seen sipping coffee with the settler-colonists.

If we fail to remove the tent, it will become another illegal but irremovable outpost, like dozens of other metastases of the settler-colony cancer.  At-Tuwani is a village officially recognized by the occupation authorities, and the settler-colonists cannot do as they please there. So they attempt to suffocate it by blocking its access tracks.

The occupation knee is pressing on At-Tuwani’s throat, trying to choke the villagers. The international activists who volunteer there have been distanced form the area by order of the Palestinian Authority because of the Corona-virus pandemic, and Israeli human rights activists come less at this time – so who will help?

June 9, 2020

A week ago we reported another provocation of the criminal colony Havat Maon, aiming to deny the villagers of At-Tuwani access to their fields to harvest their wheat, and put simply: starve them.

Following an appeal to the Civil Administration, they were promised that the tent and caravan blocking the way would be removed. Naturally the settler-colonists are still there, barbecuing with the soldiers, and naturally the protest tent erected by the Palestinians was dismantled. This is the law in the South Hebron Hills.

But there are good news as well: on Wednesday night, Israeli army forces along with the DCO and several settler-colonists (they are intermixed – the colonists wear army uniforms and threaten with guns, what difference does it make?) in order to confiscated several tractors on false claims that even the Civil Administration has a hard time explaining, some garbage-throwing story or other. One should understand that such a confiscation, arbitrary and unfounded as it may be, might last a long time – and how are the farmers going to till their fields in the meantime?

But this time the villagers were ready. Usually oppression relies on the difficulty of villagers to organize and act together, whether because it is a family-based society, or because their villages have undergone demolition and they are forced to live on their lands at a great distance from each other.

The At-Tuwani villagers realized that only solidarity and an immediate mobilization of the entire community would save their property. Well-rehearsed, all the village men came and created a human wall around the tractors. At the end of a more than 4-hour struggle, the army retreated and the tractors were saved. For the time being.

We have no words to describe the courage of a handful of villagers equipped only with cell phones, facing soldiers armed from head to toe and escorted by violent settler-colonists.

So whoever was deeply bothered at the recent anti-annexation demonstration in the heart of Tel Aviv by Palestinian citizens of Israel singing the Palestinian anthem Biladi Biladi (My land, yours is my love, my heart) – go for it…

June 18, 2020

Two weeks ago we wrote you about the harassment by Jewish settler-colonists from the Havat Maon outpost (aided by the Israeli army, of course) of the Palestinian village of A-Tawane in the South Hebron Hills. We wrote how the colonist thugs erected a tent and placed a caravan on the track leading to the village fields in order to prevent the farmers from harvesting their crops, starve their families and make their lives unbearable – so they would finally leave their village.

The tent was unmanned for some days, and this morning attorney Kamar Mashraki of Hakel who represents the villagers informed us that the Civil Administration announced the tent would be dismantled, and indeed it was. But we knew it was too early to celebrate.

One hour after the dismantling of the tent and the caravan at the initiative of the settler-colonists themselves, Israeli soldiers showed up holding a demolition order for a structure that serves as a sheep pen in the unbearable heat of summer, and for a nearby well. The experienced villagers showed non-violent resistance, as violence would have resulted in arrests, additional destruction and beatings – but to no avail. With the aid of stun grenades, the soldiers did their job.

Once more we see how the army, the Civil Administration and the courts work together at the bidding of the settler-colonists.  They place an illegal, superfluous structure on Palestinian-owned land, “agree” to remove it – and in return, demand a heavy price paid by the Palestinians. We have already seen in the past how Palestinians fear complaining about incursions into their land, for if their complaint is taken seriously and acted upon, they will eventually pay a heavy “price tag”.

This week temperatures in the South Hebron Hills have already reached 33 degrees centigrade. The sheep will have to survive it without any shade or water. Thanks to the Israeli army and the Civil Administration.

Yair Ron, on behalf of the Villages Group

Between Corona and Occupation

Dear friends,

Two days ago I was enraged by an item I read in Haaretz newspaper, headlined:

“The police shut down a Corona clinic in Silwan…” (a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem).

I immediately wanted to write something that gives voice to an event and re-balances the writer. Instead, I shared this news by phone with some friends (this too calms one a bit, at times) and thought that this is an item that has been publicized by the media, and there is no need to publicize it further.

I also thought that in my last letter – “Times of Corona” – the essence had already been said, that the occupation does not stop even at a time when the whole world, or so it seems, stops dead in its tracks.

Two days went by. I noticed that my intuitive space is uneasy, and called Musa’eb. Ever since this Corona isolation I have been phone-visiting friends in the South Hebron Hills and various other places in the West Bank on a daily basis. So why Musa’eb today of all days? The rational mind has no answer.

Musa’eb answers. I hear shouts in the background. He says – rapidly but steadily, as usual – that settler-colonists from Havat Maon are attacking and that we’ll talk later. I hang up in a hurry, and wait with my usual steady impatience for him to call back.

After a while (in isolation I have lost my sense of time), Musa’eb calls.

Through his delicacy and presence that needs no validation I hear his pain making its way into me.  It’s a familiar pain for whoever meets evil open-eyed – evil that is the legitimate offspring of ignorance.

“We began to reap in a ravine that has not seen harassment for some years now”, says Musa’eb. “And then”, he continues at my request to tell me the details, “several people came down from Havat Maon settler-colony-outpost, threatened 24-year old Basel and beat him up. We ran to help him and at this point they had already twisted his arm so that it could break any minute. I intervened. Soldiers were already there. One of the assailants pointed his gun at me. I lifted a stone. A soldier yelled at me to let go of the stone. I asked him why he saw only the stone, and not the gun. ‘I see only the stone’, the soldier answered. There was chaos and the soldiers yelled at us as if we were the assailants. That is nothing new. We got Basel out. The settler-colonists distanced themselves a bit at the soldiers’ bidding, and we returned to the village. The armed settler-colonists returned to the ravine. The soldiers did not prevent them from doing this. It’s their seventh attack now, since the Corona-virus has placed us in isolation. They have developed a system: they attack our farmland, and when we all run to help workers under attack, another group of theirs attacks the houses. The house under most such attacks is mine, being the last house in the village in the direction of Havat Maon.

When the settler-colonists come to the house, they throw stones and beat my wife. All this was happening before the Corona-virus, but now it’s more frequent.” Musa’eb fell silent.
So did I.

I wanted to stay silent and only look at his eyes and show my deep understanding, but the phone I was holding reminded me that we were having a phone conversation. Musa’eb broke the silence and added: “When all this happens, the settler-colonists and soldiers are so close to us, less than 2 meters. We could catch the virus if any of them are carriers. They don’t even stop at the red-light of Corona”.

“The occupation is another form of Corona” – I quote Azam to him, and we laugh.

For a report on another recent settlers attack in a-Tuwani check https://www.btselem.org/video/20190416_a_tuwani_settlers_attack_palestinian_residents

The Tent and the Light Outside

All of us are locked. We face our self, our life as we never did. Fate is good, trust too. But we need a bit of thinking and fewer anxiety. Lesser action can bring both, better thinking, more worrying. We have many reasons to worry, but at least as many reasons to find what is essential in life.

During the last two years I have been producing photos in Susya. I had time to share and think about harsh life there. I weighed what we all know : resistance in adversity structures you and brings more strength. But as you should’t call adversity to be stronger, you can learn with the people who have more burden. As I love light and nature, I had more of my usual share of it in Susya. The compelling nature of South Hebron Hills was a deep experience. Not only of beauty and peace, but of a keen relation to trees, soil and the sky. Photography always brought me to think more about what was once and disappears, and what is to come and is not yet here. Many times I thought that what happens to the people in Susya, might as well happen to anybody. Because History is moving in many unexpected ways. Now, today, I can understand better the kind of thought : we are all experiencing what the people in Susya and Palestine have lived for many years : confinement, tight control and restrictions of all sorts. And above all our future seems so unsure. So as I am cut more then ever from my friends and loved ones, and blocked in my home, I think the more on South Hebron and Susya. I feel that my actual burden is just a little slice of their experience, and I am trying to imagine how much their share has accrued. I know they are strong and resistant, and in many ways less exposed. But I know, and I can see, how humanity might get radicalized in unusual conditions. And I wonder. How far ? You never know how far. The wind can go, the light can travel, and you.

Ezra Nahmad

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Coronavirus Days

March 28, 2020

To our friends all,

We always say: health is most important.

These days heath is really most important, and we hope that everyone this letter reaches him is healthy physically, mentally and spiritually.

Much is being written in times of Corona about the Coronavirus. Opinions and visions and criticism and protest and demonstration and hope and despair and humor and anger and love and the lesson and the punishment, and so on and so forth.

If all of this were water, Corona would drown for good.

But this is not water, and some of it is even important. Unlike the usual me, I read and listen, when reason has already had its say, more necessary now than ever – now when political Corona threatens even the virus itself.

All of these postings and publications which I read and hear have not a single word to say about the o c c u p a t i o n. As if it does not exist – and never ever has.

And the occupation? Has been working after hours, as if Corona does not exist – and never has.

The occupation octopus with its eight tentacles continues to demolish homes  and cut down trees and dispossess and humiliate and intimidate and kill and expel.

Nothing is as it used to be, everyone says this in times of Corona.

But the occupation is as it has always been.

In one of my (virtual, by virtue of quarantine) visits, I spoke on the phone with Azam of Palestinian Susya. After we went through everything one says to others in times of Corona, Azam told me about an armed settler-colonist who – with his five sheep – entered his sowed field and the sheep (who had not attended the lesson about differentiating settler-colonists from Palestinians) devoured the freshly sprouted green, unhampered.

I said to Azam: “The whole world is standing still. What, can’t the occupation rest for one second?” Azam answered with his special, smart humor: “My dear, the occupation is a different type of Corona”…

I was silent for a long moment, until the bitter smile managed to get around the smarting pain, and said to Azam what psychologist Abraham Maslow said – that a sense of humor is man’s highest spiritual level.

Now Azam, too, fell silent.

Erella

On Behalf of the Villages Group

Za’atar 

Last Wednesday too, October 16, 2019, Jaber gave us his heart-warming smile – a smile that is at one and the same time open and mysterious, bitter and sweet. I felt a certain silent longing to hold on to a hidden scarlet thread and follow it into the depths of the man’s soul reflected in his smile.

We first met him three months ago, days after the home of his older brother Muhammad was demolished at the outskirts of their hamlet – Khalat a-Dabeh.

The village is situated alone atop a high mountain overlooking a long ravine, wadi. The ravine (named Massafar Yatta by the Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills and Firing Zone 918 by the Israeli occupation forces) winds its way below cave-dwellers’ hamlets of a-Tuba a-Sfayee all the way to the village of Jinba. – Khalat a-Dabeh is far from the wadi, as well as from the various Jewish settler-colonies in this area. It had never known demolitions by the occupation forces before, nor ever been engaged in some altercation with the Jewish settler-colonists.

In July, without any warning, the Israeli army demolished the home of Jaber’s brother. We came for a visit two days later. Jaber smiled. A month ago his own home was demolished. We came to see him the next day, and he smiled.

As we visited him again yesterday (October 16), there was that special smile of his once more.

It was an autumn day yesterday. The sky was gray and a light drizzle had begun. Jaber opened the tiny tent he raised after the demolition where he could sit with guests (the family has made its temporary home inside a cave) and invited us in.

For a long while Jaber spoke to us of his feelings, his wonder, his pain over the demolished home, the destroyed trees he had planted with his own bare hands. What compassion was visible as his hands caressed the pomegranates that had dried up after a month of being detached from mother earth.

We began to walk towards our car, parked on the main dirt track, trudging among the piles of demolition rubble. Suddenly Jaber stopped, bent down, pointed to the tiniest green sprout making its way among the dirt and stones, and said: “this sprout is za’atar (thyme) that insists on living”.

I looked straight into his eyes and asked to permission to pose a question.

“Ask away”, he said.

“What holds you inside, what keeps you from feeling rage and hatred?” I asked.

“I tell myself that this is how things are under occupation” he answered, smiling with the modesty of those who know…

Erella

 

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Summer Vacation, A Jigsaw and Demolitions (Once More)

It’s Friday. I’m home, turning on the radio (Israel’s classical music station) and facing the computer, to try again. The empty screen awaits me, and once more I cannot write what I feel. For two days I have wanted to respond to these tugs of the heart that continue to bear my Wednesday experiences, so that my own burden be lessened and the world outside be informed. And my objections leap at me as soon as I even recognize my will to do this, yelping – you’ve written more or less the same now dozens of times. You have become a bore even for yourself. This information has whizzed through the social media almost immediately – so what could you possibly tell that’s new? And anyway, your writing isn’t such a big deal. Etc. Etc. Etc. For two whole days these voices hammer away at my mind, toxic, bewitching, without forgetting even the slightest reason for not writing… And my heart doesn’t give up easily. I am tired of this struggle and sink into chaos, darkness all around.

As I sit there, staring, I hear the radio guy describe the background for Janacek’s composing the piece about to be played: “On October 1, 1905, a non-violent demonstration by young Czechs took place, protesting the Austro-Hungarian rulers’ refusal to open a university curriculum in the Czech language. A soldier stabbed a demonstrator and killed him. Janacek, one of the demonstrators, witnessed this killing. He was inconsolable, and composed this piece”.

The hammers in my head fall silent. True, I have written similar things in the past, and will probably write them again and again because human history repeats itself at an embarrassing pace, fluctuating between its destructive urges and powers of healing, intoxicated with evil and at other times – compassionate. So here is the story:

Wednesday, July 4, 2019 – summer vacation has begun for both Palestinian and Israeli children (separately of course), and I am on my way to the South Hebron Hills with my 10-year old granddaughter. She has made friends with Palestinian children in Susya village for some years now, and visits them when vacation comes around. As always, she brings along a game that would be fun to play and serve as a language of sorts (my granddaughter does not yet speak Arabic and her Susya pals can speak neither Hebrew nor English yet).

This time we bought a puzzle to be worked on until the world map emerges.

Inside a small tent at Susya, in the South Hebron Hills, Ahmad, Miya, Zahara, Dyala and Diana looked at the world map pictured on the puzzle box, scattered its 200 pieces over a low plastic table and began to put together a world.

10 little hands worked together, busy as little ants, until they got tired and wished to take a break.

“It’s hard, building a world” I teased them. They took the hint and continued. It took them two whole hours to put together a whole world. All the continents and oceans were there. They were happy.

Ula, sitting beside us the whole time, was extremely upset. She stopped her phone conversation and reported to us that the Israeli army and Civil Administration had just uprooted 1006 olive tree seedlings at Umm al Kheir village.

The children fell quiet. 1006 tree seedlings?? I repeat the number in disbelief, and translate it into Hebrew for my granddaughter Mia.

The children faced their just-completed whole world and suddenly their own world had fallen apart into 1006 pieces of scathing pain. Not their own home this time – true – but they have already experienced demolition. And they are only 10-years old.

Wishing to bring in a bit of air into our hearts, I told them that there was once a scientist very busy with his own work, and his 7-year old son disturbed him. The father-scientist tore out a newspaper page and told his son: Do you see the picture on this page? It’s the world, answered the son. That’s right, said the father. Now I’ll tear it up in pieces and you will put back together again the world you just saw in the picture. The father was certain that the task would keep his son busy for 3-4 days, and lo and behold – after 3 hours the son stood in front of the father and presented him with a whole world. “How did you do this?” the father asked, surprised. “Simple, dad” the son answered. “Before you cut up the newspaper page with the world map I managed to see its other side. It showed a man, and I know what a man looks like, so I put together the man. When I finished fixing him, the world too was fixed.” This I told the children in Susya, and to avoid any misunderstanding I added that building the world is not always in our hands, for there’s always someone ready to destroy it. But we can build ourselves in order to be on the builders’ side.

They listened, and then ran off to the small artificial lawn donated there recently by an international organization, and asked Mia to teach them Capueira moves.

Originally we planned to visit Umm al-Kheir, but Mia seemed to have had her fill of destruction for one day so we headed back home.

The next day, my friend Ali from Tuba told me that the Israeli army had demolished 4 cisterns filled with water and uprooted trees in Dekeika desert village. Mia was next to me so I shared this with her. “Grandma”, she said, “what kind of a world is this?”

I answered her: it’s a world that enables anyone to choose where to lead his/her actions – to destroy or to build, to sow evil or compassion. “In my own bit of life, dearest Mia, all of life is reflected, and I master my choice there.”

A little bit of objection tried to remind me that I had already written this in one of my stories. I wouldn’t listen. I am proud to write it again. For the demolishers will do it again, and the builders will build again. ????? ??? ???  באום אלחיר.jpg????? ??? ???  באוםאלחיר.jpgהפאזל בסוסיא.jpg

Zoom In, Zoom Out and Everything In Between

12.5.2018

Luckily we who belong to the human race have been endowed with the ability to exercise perspective – to experience things and events, mine or yours, from the distance of time, of place, of space. To ‘zoom out’. Like a camera.

It enables us to regard things in proportion, with the proper approach. To be more removed, less involved. Less judgmental, more balanced, somewhat protected from our own emotions that sometimes tend to overflow beyond our own capacity (except for times when we view a landscape from an especially high vantage point, a plane or spaceship, and exclaim, “Wow!”).

But luckily, we can also ‘zoom in’. Otherwise, our ability to contain things would lose its capacity to bear human situations that play on our personal heartstrings, our sensitivity would be reduced, and we would gradually drop the most precious of our gifts as humans – compassion.

So I invite you readers to join one of our ‘zoom in’ journeys, which we hold at least once a week as we visit our friends.

Thursday, May 3, 2018. It’s a pleasant May morning. In my mind I recall a verse from an Alterman poem titled “Don’t Give Them Guns”: “It was the most beautiful of Mays that Mother Earth had ever birthed”. Our Subarita (a Subaru that is seeing its 25rd year on the road…) sails east, among the rolling hills of the northern Negev desert towards the South Hebron Hills rising in the distance.

A tall concrete wall topped by barbed wire coils lances the pastoral landscape even for those who have no idea that this is the Separation Wall winding along the 1967 ‘green line’ and occasionally devouring generous swaths of farmland and residential areas from Palestine’s inhabitants.

Slowly we prepare our minds to transit from the relatively relaxed ‘zoom out’ mode to that of ‘zoom in’. We cross the checkpoint freely (after all, we belong to the master race…) and begin our day of visits in Tuwane. This is a Palestinian farmer village, very close to which the illegal outpost Havat Maon – next to the settler-colony of Maon – has chosen to crown a hilltop.

Our old friend Jum’a, tall, strong, good-looking and of smiling nature, receives us with a smile, seated in a wheelchair in his own yard. We already had a rough idea of the story that Jum’a would tell us in a moment. But now here comes the ‘zoom in’ version.

Jum’a says that for quite a while now, the Havat Maon settler-colonists did not hassle the people of Tuwane. Not at home, nor in their fields nor in their greatly reduced grazing grounds. The Tuwane villagers blessed every quiet day. In early March the harassments began anew. This time, not just the youngsters of Havat Maon but adults, too, joined the action. They uprooted olive trees, threatened to run over children in their SUVs, came with ski masks on their faces to the home of Jum’a’s mother (at the edge of the village, the nearest house to Havat Maon), etc.

“At the end of that month,” Jum’a continues in his good Hebrew, “on March 25, 2018, at 7 a.m., I took out my small flock to graze in my field, not far from home. I was recovering from abdominal surgery so I walked slowly. Suddenly I noticed I was surrounded by settler-colonists from nearby Havat Maon. I realized immediately they had ambushed me. I began to yell for help. No one in the village heard me yet, but the settler group surrounding me ran off. Except for one. A single settler-colonist remained and began to throw stones at me. I fell and didn’t manage to get up again. Then he threw a very large stone that fractured my leg from the knee and up my thigh. Still no one from the village came. At this point, as I couldn’t get up, the man points his rifle at me and tries to shoot me. His gun jammed and didn’t fire. (God is great…)

After about an hour villagers who had heard me crying out for help arrived. First to come were teachers from the schoolhouse that is relatively close to the field, followed by some others from the village and outside it.

Then came the army. A soldier began to question me. I answered him with a question: Did you come to interrogate me or to help? I need help. Bring a stretcher. I was taken to the hospital. It was a complex fracture with several breaking points. I had surgery. The Israel Police came to investigate. The policeman asked: “Why are you lying about the settler? We heard you fell near your home. So why do you invent this story with the settler?” After a week at the hospital I came back home and to this day I am still recovering. I cannot step on that leg yet. The Palestinian Authority did nothing to help pay for the surgery and hospitalization and rehabilitation…

Several days later, Sami, a student from Tuwane, son of a very old friend of ours, was also floored, and his leg is badly fractured as well. Not a stone this time. He was intentionally run over by a mini-tractor belonging to Havat Maon. Driven by someone…

We descended from Tuwane, taking the rough track (that has suffered both army use and harassment and bad weather) towards the ravine leading to Jinba at its southern tip. This is the ravine (wadi) which the army has declared ‘firing zone 918’, and whose 8 out of its hamlets, situated sparsely all along, are destined to be demolished. Yesterday (2.5) the army demolished 7 buildings in several villages: in Halawa, Markaz and Jinba.

We visited Ahlam, an old friend. “They didn’t demolish my home this time”, she told us, her blue eyes a mixture of sadness and determination. “Let them demolish. They demolish and we rebuild.” After a moment’s silence she adds: “But may they demolish before the Ramadan month sets in. It’s more difficult while fasting…” Her mother-in-law sits with us this time too. She always makes a show of presence when we visit. She doesn’t really understand what we’re actually doing there. She knows we are Jewish and Israeli, and precisely because of that she is certain we are responsible for the occupation, although she also knows we’re on her side. She is angry with us every time we come – “Why is the occupation still lasting and doing all the bad things it does?” she asks, scolding us. Personally I’ve grown tired of this and try to ignore her, doing my best to hide my own ever-shorter fuse while her tirades grow ever longer. And this time too. But this time, suddenly, she gets up from her seat opposite mine, and sits down beside me. Tell me, she asks me in a voice that sounds almost entreating. Are you Jewish? Yes, I say. And you’re from Israel? Yes. So why don’t you tell them to stop the occupation? Sometimes something catches me off guard and hauls out quite the right response. Are you Muslim? I ask her. Yes, she says. And you’re from Palestine? I add. Yes, she answers. Could you please talk to Abu Mazen and tell him to hand to you at long last all the funds he has been receiving for you from countries all over the world? No!!! she answers, and her face suddenly lights up. At once she has grasped what was long a mystery, that we’re just plain people with a good heart coming to offer mainly emotional support. After a short silence her face saddened.  “The house they demolished in the neighboring village of Markaz is the home of my daughter Maryam. They destroyed everything. The house and the electricity and the water” she says in a stifled voice.  I hug her and listen. And she goes on describing her pain.

Then we rose to leave. She walked with me all the way to our waiting Subarita at some distance from the home, and all that while she never ceased: please, please come again. Please don’t forget us. It is so helpful when you listen and I can cry like this. There’s nothing else I can do. My life is very simple. I’ve always lived in this village, cleaning, cooking, working in the field, raising children, raising grandchildren, and everything under such harsh conditions. And this occupation, too? She said this, and repeated it, and I contained and contained and almost broke into tears as well, but just then we got to the car and parted with a warm hug, and I  promised we’d come again soon. Luckily, inside our car my dear friends contained me…

There was not too much time to contain each other and stay for a moment with what we had experienced so far. Only the time it took us to drive from Jinba to Susya. We already knew about the Susya events, but then again – ‘zoom in’ is another matter.

10-year old Ahmad, son of Nasser and Hiam, 11-year old Zahara and 14-year old Hamudi – children of Mahmud and Ula, and 15-year old Diana, daughter of Jihad and Samiha – all experienced trauma on Monday coming home from  school.

Nasser told me about this that very day. When we arrived on Thursday Ahmad was already waiting for me. We sat aside and Ahmad, to my request, told me about the event in detail. Then I asked him to write it all down (all in order to release some pressure from his frightened mind). And so he wrote: “I was walking home from school with my friends after our day at school. I passed a covered sign and took off the cover. 6 people saw what I did and followed me.  When I noticed them I ran home and one of them chased me and said: ‘Stop or I kill you!’ I ran fast and when I got home I got into the kitchen and hid behind my mother. I told her: its’ a settler, a settler! This man entered right after me and pushed my mother hard and she fell on the ground and he grabbed me from her hand. I was very scared. Scared to death.”

This is what Ahmad wrote. Word for word. There were many more details he mentioned as he spoke, but his writing expresses the essential fear that took hold of him. Zahara, Hamudi and Diana hid among the neighbor’s sheep. Then Hamudi and Diana sneaked off home, while Zahara escaped into Ahmad’s home and when she realized the chaser was in the kitchen, she hid under the bed. From there she watched the goings-on.

Then I carefully listened to Hiam (Ahmad’s mother). Her story begins with Ahmad’s frightened entry into the kitchen immediately followed by the chaser, whom Ahmad thought was a settler. When the man entered the kitchen Hiam told him very assertively to get out of her home. The man said he was a policeman (although not in uniform). Hiam asked to see an ID. She showed her. Yes, he was an Israeli policeman, a Druze whose mother-tongue is Arabic.  He demanded the child. Hiam kept her son behind her back. Very violently the policeman pushed her down to the floor and grabbed Ahmad by the hand.  Hiam managed to get up despite her pains from the blow and the fall, and grabbed her son’s other hand, held out to her with a look of horror that she could hardly describe.  Ahmad was hanging between the policeman and his mother, crying and screaming. When Ula entered, Zahara’s mother, she too was pushed away violently. Ahmad’s screaming summoned the neighbors. They called out for more neighbors and then international volunteers on site arrived also and everyone had their smartphones with them. At this point Ahmad was held by the policeman. When all of the people present in Susya arrived and suddenly there was documentation, the policeman changed his violent behavior and conducted himself as someone who just had a minor issue to settle. Hiam told me that this was the worst for her – that when no witnesses were there he was so utterly violent, and when others arrived – completely changed his demeanor.

Then Ahmad’s father arrived, who hadn’t been in the village all that time. The incident ended as the policeman made it clear to Nasser that his son had vandalized public property.

This incident included more specifics, but I directed my ‘zoom in’ gaze to what Ahmad, Zahara and Hiam told me and described. I wanted to enable each of them to remain with their trauma in order to confront it once more and release it rather than staying trapped between the fortified walls of repression, withdrawal, denial and all the other mechanisms triggered by fear and pain. That is why, in addition to the actual telling of what happened, I asked each of them what had been the worst part of their experience.

Ahmad said that the worst moment for him was when the pursuer held his gun “to my head and said: stop or I kill you!”. Zahara said: “the worst part for me was being under the bed and seeing it all and having nowhere to run away.” Hiam said: “the worst part for me was when the policeman tore Ahmad from my grip.”

For a moment my mind reeled with the personal trauma stories of some of my clients who survived the Holocaust in World War II. I breathed slowly until I could see again that I was here in Susya in 2018. I didn’t know whether I was breathing into weeping or feeling released. I could only hug them, very lovingly.

I got back home and took a look at the paper. How wonderful to be able to rest a bit, in the arms of ‘zoom out’ – Iran, Syria, Gaza, refugees, expellees…

 

 

Certain Uncertainty

February 5, 2018

When a house is demolished, a part of its owner’s soul is demolished along with it.

When one expects the demolition of a house that one knows for certain will be demolished, just not when exactly – its owner’s soul is demolished even before the house is.

Indeed, the certainty we possess in life is made up of moments of illusion. But these are a must in order for us to live in a reality that by its very nature is anything but certain.
Life under occupation drains the occupied person of such necessary moments of illusion. One can no longer plan even the most banal things in life.

Life in Area C (Palestinian areas under total Israeli control) reduces such certainty even further, so that one has hardly any more control left over one’s life. It means living for years under an injunction, living in the meantime, until Occupation Empire will rule on the matter – this is an uncertainty that the human spirit can hardly contain. Life under certain uncertainty brings the human spirit to the very limits of its capacity.

The threat of demolitions hovering over Susya residents for quite some time now is an uncertain certainty, whose certainty is gradually tightening around their soul.
Last Thursday, Israel’s Supreme Court of Justice ruled that out of humanitarian considerations, seven structures will be demolished – for the time being – of the twenty structures which the State has instructed to demolish. Since that day, certainty is certain to such an extent that even those destined to be demolished later want to have this behind them already. Now begins the real torment, the hours of grace of the ‘enlightened’ occupier. The ultimate control over the victim – no one knows precisely what will be demolished and when.

Now Susya runs its everyday life with the presence of human rights organizations all day and night, planning how to face impending doom, with a heavy cloud of pressure threatening to burst one’s heart.

On Friday, the demolition bulldozers did not arrive, and on Saturday Jews refrain from demolitions on account of the holiness of the Blessed Sabbath… So we are all prepared for Sunday at dawn.

On Saturday night we came, Nadav and I, ready to spend the night with Abu Sadam and his wife Najah, whose home is on the list of houses to be demolished en masse (one must arrive in the evening beforehand, for if demolition takes place in the morning, the village will be out of bounds, the army closes all entrances). We visit these people on our regular weekly rounds, and they have become dear friends.

Abu Sadam is a handsome, sturdy man, dignified and very ill. Cancer has taken over his face. He has tasted the bitter taste of chemotherapy only under pressure of his children, and decided this was not for him. “I’ll live until I die, but without this suffering,” he told them. His wife Najah, smiling and goodhearted, is a model wife.

We reached them in the evening, dined with them in their tidy tent, and together we watched the news on television, including a respectable item on Susya. Najah was one of the interviewees, and she smiled her gentle, modest smile when seeing herself on the television screen.

In 2011 their home was demolished and they rebuilt it. In 2012 their home was demolished again, and yet again they put it up, and now it will be demolished and they will come back and rebuild. “Where shall we go?” they say. “And what will become of our herd, and the chickens, and our calf?” In the morning we rose before them. Even on nights without certain demolition, Abu Sadam does not sleep soundly because of his illness, so he is not an early riser.

We sat outside in their beautiful fruit tree grove. We listened to the sounds of the morning and watched the sunrise, that daily event that occurs with certain certainty.
Susya rises to its daily tasks. Even Abu Sadam and Najah. They immediately put on their boots and took their flock out of the pen and into a broad yard which Abu Sadam has fenced with old tires. “The sheep must eat”, he said with the simplicity of a veteran farmer. “20 lambs died on us from the cold two weeks ago” he said, taking out the two lambs that survived the storm. Another two lambs were born five days ago, and their mother has no milk. So they carry the lambs to the teats of another sheep. After the sheep were fed, we ate, as if this were a regular morning. Last night, while thinking (they and we) how we face the demolishers if they arrive in the morning, we thought we’d invite them to join us for breakfast. Now, outside, we’re enjoying this delicious breakfast prepared by Najah, watching the road, and Abu Sadam says: “So why aren’t they here? We wanted to invite them for breakfast…” Humor is the highest spiritual level man can reach, says Abraham Maslow…

We look at Anu Sadam’s and his wife’s possessions – one tent for cooking and hosting, another tent for sleeping, a sheep pen, feed storage for the livestock, a lavatory, and a water tank donated by the European Union, and their beautiful yard. So what will be demolished of all of these? Unclear as yet. When exactly? Unclear. It could happen at any moment.

This is a gap on the border of containment, a rift between the idyll of the dawning morning and the tension rising inside one’s mind. Najah says: “I’m doing everything like an automat today. The living want to live. We, the animals. But I keep thinking about this demolition.”

Later, when we’ll sit in the yard of Azam and Wadha, his wife, dear friends of ours, also targeted for demolition, together with Abu Sadam and Najah and Nasser (who is like a son to me), he will steal a moment from the meetings and think-tanks in order to sit with us for a little while. He will quote lines from Byalik’s famous poem – “The sun shines, the mimosa blooms, and the butcher slaughters”. After we translate these paralyzing verses written about the pogroms that victimized Jews many years ago, we will say to each other that the difference is not between Palestinians and Israelis, but between those whose heart refuses to hate and those whose heart is shut and have lost all touch of compassion and love.

Then Abu Sadam will tell jokes, and in between he will say to me: “The worst pressure for me is that I must accept this.”

I repeat the sentence to check with him whether I understood him right. He shakes my hand with the warmth of those who know.

And the encounter with helplessness continues.
And the accumulating pain. Where will they take it?
And the protest, the resentment,
When the master destines you to doom??

Erella (on behalf of the Villages Group)

 

Beyond the Walls – A Visit to the Music Center in Salem

November 15, 2017

Thick walls of four occupation fortresses must be scaled by the children of the Salem Music Center, in order to free a little liberation song out of their restless souls – the family fortress, the village/society fortress, the cultural/religious fortress, and the Israeli occupation.

Adults must carve their way through an added, fifth fortress – the hardest of them all: our own patterns which we have empowered to safeguard us from pain and suffering, and they produce the cruelest of occupiers. We, the adults who accompany the children of the music center – the center teachers, directors, supporters – thus yield to our own fatigue, frustration, despair and depression. For seven years we have tried to enable this center to maintain itself, flow on and take wing. And for seven years we have barely managed to have it breathe, and even that has taken enormous effort, a struggle even, to break through the various fortress walls on our way.

We arrived at the point where our strength ran out. We could no longer raise the financial resources to operate the center. In early spring, after it almost sighed its last, the center had a sort of blossoming. It received lodging (not really appropriate but better than its predecessor), the instructor team continued working voluntarily, and new children came to sing and play music.

Keyboards, violins, guitars, the oud, percussion instruments that had been purchased with time and labor resounded again with the little fingers that played them, and hearts jumped for joy.

In the summer the children of the music center were invited to sing and play at a ceremony held in the village in honor of the successful matriculations. The children stood on stage, thrilled, and sang proudly, free to express their moving spirits.

Two days later someone broke into the Local Council building, into the music center space, and cruelly, heartlessly shattered all its musical instruments. Not a single instrument remained intact.

The center’s director reported to us about this event and sent photos of the devastation. “It’s someone from inside”, he said. “Someone from the village itself.” (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3EvpcaVvKo&feature=youtu.be)

Ehud and I were so stunned we could hardly embrace the pain felt by the director, the teacher, and the children. And we thought that this time the center would not be able to rise above the goings-on.

In early fall we came to visit. In spite of the olive harvest, 20 children surprised us at the music center (of the 45 studying there) and sang for us. If there are no musical instruments, they can sing – said the teacher and the director, both filled with faith, and we stood there thrilled with the children. They sang with such power and grace, yielding to the music breaking out of their innermost feelings and into the room – as though declaring to the world: we are here! We want to sing! I wanted to embrace them, tell them how exciting they were, and that this melody cannot be stopped. But I didn’t want to interrupt, so only the salty, abundant tears that streamed down my cheeks held out to them.

Later, after they finished, with them around us, I asked: What brings you here?
And they answered, each in turn.
I wished to translate every word but the camera card was faulty and there’s no way of extricating the videos taken so lovingly by Danny.

So here is the gist of it:

Some said: I want to learn to play music and sing.
Some said: I want to nurture my musical talent.
Some said: I come here because I love ‘Amid (the music teacher)

No less than their words, the way the children expressed themselves thrilled us: their body language, their intonation, and above all else – their passion.
Their words echoed like a thousand strings and keys and drums.
These children are attached to life and their heartstrings cannot be broken.
As with a magic wand they broke down the fortresses of my own fatigue that protect me from further frustration. They really connected me to my source. To my life-giving source.

Thank you children,
Thank you Jubeir and ‘Amid,

Very lovingly,

Erella
(in the name of Ehud, Tamar and Danny and the Villages Group)

 

Help the People of Susya in Their Struggle Against the Demolition of Their Village

Dear friends,
 
The village of Susya in the South Hebron Hills is again under imminent threat of demolition affecting most of its homes, with a High Court decision, likely to be final, expected in mid-November next month. Some 300 adults and children live in the village, which the Israeli courts accepted is situated on private Palestinian land. Many of you will recall the campaign of 2015-16 to stop the house demolitions, which included the intervention of Senator Diane Feinstein, and led to the suspension of the demolition plans. The matter has reached a critical point and we are asking all supporters to contact their MPs and any others who could assist, to ask that they do all they can to influence the Israeli authorities to abandon the demolition plans under which the villagers have lived for years. In particular, UK MPs should be asked to contact Alistair Burt, MP, Minister of State for International Development and Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, who visited Susya this summer and is well acquainted with the situation.
 
– – – – – – – – – – –
 
Sample letter or email (in Britain):
 
Dear X
 
I am writing to you as your constituent to ask that you contact Alistair Burt, MP, Minister of State for International Development and Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Please ask him to do all he can to impress on the Israeli authorities the need to lift the demolition orders affecting most of the residents of Susya, and to agree to a master plan that would allow them to obtain planning permissions. The villagers, numbering some 300 adults and children, are sustained primarily by subsistence farming; they have already been displaced more than once, and the Israeli courts have recognized that they live on private Palestinian land. The Israeli High Court decision on the demolitions of their homes is due in mid-November and the residents’ situation is desperate.
 
I very much hope that you could assist and I look forward to hearing from you.