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A Report by Erella on Yesterday’s Demolitions in South Hebron Hills

2/3/2021

Dear friends all,

It’s evening. Just got back home from the South Hebron Hills, and am still reeling from room to room, like some plaything that has been wound up, in an attempt to calm down.

Now I stare at the computer screen trying to write something. I get up to make myself a cup of coffee. I pace again.

Sit down at the computer again, and can only write how I cannot write about what happened today.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened today. Several homes were demolished in the South Hebron Hills.

I was there again today.

At 9 a.m. we came to A-Rakeez. Farsi, whose home has already been demolished three times, whose son Harun was shot in the neck by a soldier 2 months ago, ran to us, pointing to the road.

We turned our heads and saw the familiar destroyer convoy – a bulldozer followed by the Civil Administration car and military vehicles.

Shortly they will be busy demolishing. We just don’t know where and whose home.

The locals say it will happen at Khalat A-Dhaba and at A-Rakeez.

Khalat A-Dhaba it was – for the fourth time, the home of Jaber and his brother Omar. The fourth time in a year and a half.

Then they proceeded to demolish the home of Khathem at A-Rakeez. Again, we see the bulldozer crushing a humble abode with one blow of its blade. Poof, and an entire life collapses into the rubble. We watch from a distance – the occupier does not like being disturbed in his work – and experience for the Nth time the pain of those who cannot hold out a hand to prevent the destruction.

We drove on to Jaber, to hold out a hand.

Two weeks ago, we sat with him on the porch of the home he had built after the November 2020 demolition. I asked him what happens if they demolish again, and he answered: “I’ll rebuild”. Now he faces the rubble and says: “I’ll rebuild”.

Ilan of the Civil Administration harasses him personally. When he came this time, Jaber asked him: “Have you come to shoot me as you shot Haroun?”

This is how we stood for a long while, listening to Jaber give interviews to Palestinian media people who curried to the scene. If only this pain could be broadcast in the occupiers’ media, I thought.

When we visited 2 weeks ago, I brought Jaber a photo of a fledgling dove on its first flight. I told him: “Peace is not in our hands, but our freedom cannot be taken from us, and this fledgling dove symbolizes it.”

Today I asked him where the photo was, and he said: “In the rubble…” He fell silent, then added: “But they cannot destroy my freedom”.

Erella

On behalf of the Villages Group

The Shocking Story of Harun From a-Rakeez

4\1\2021

The way to al-Ahali hospital in Hebron passes blocked and chaotic streets somewhat reminiscent of southern Tel Aviv. Inside – a hospital like any in the world, long corridors and many people worried and waiting, waiting worried.

Harun’s father and uncle are waiting tool. They both have bright blue eyes like Harun’s, who is lying ventilated in an Intensive Care Unit since an Israeli soldier shot him in the neck without any reason, last Friday.

For fear of Covid-19 we were not allowed to approach him, and only watched him – connected to machines and tubes – from the doorway. He seemed asleep, until he suddenly opened a pair of huge eyes and stared for a long time at the ceiling. That’s the only place he can look at. The bullet severed his spinal cord between vertebrae C6 and C7. He cannot turn his head or look anywhere else. But his clear gaze told us he will live. And that he knows.

Before our visit, we sat with Harun’s family and neighbors and heard more details about the crime that took place there on January 1, a New Year’s present by the Jewish settler-colonists, the Israeli army and Civil Administration to the villagers of a-Rakeez. We heard about what happened prior to the shooting, and even more horrific – what happened afterwards.

Last Sunday, Ashraf – Harun’s neighbor on the opposite hill – heard that the Israeli court had declared a moratorium on the demolitions in the area. Ashraf thought this would be an opportunity to expand his sheep pen, brought along plates and metal pipes, and on Tuesday the sheep pen was standing.

Friday morning, settler-colonists of nearby Havat Ma’on came and photographed the sheep pen. Let us remember that Havat Ma’on itself – an illegal outpost like all of the outposts erected on every hilltop – is metastasizing like a violent cancer without any construction permits, but on the Planet of Occupation there are different laws for the superior race.

The Civil Administration and Israeli army acted immediately. At 2 p.m. an army jeep and pickup truck of the Civil Administration stopped by Ashraf’s house. The soldiers entered. What are you looking for? asked Ashraf. The soldiers had no warrant and did not even bother to explain to Ashraf what they were doing in his home. “Shut up”, the soldier said and pushed him. “Shut up and stand aside”.

As we know, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have no human right whatsoever: not to dignity, not to privacy, not to fair trial. Their home is not immune to nightly incursions and demolitions, their property exposed to arbitrary confiscation, their life and limb trampled by any soldier who happens to feel like it.

The soldiers did whatever they pleased in Ashraf’s home, in view of his wife and little son. They discovered an electric cable to which Ashraf had connected a disk-saw, followed it and found the generator, that generator made famous by the video, worth some hundreds of shekels. With no reason or explanation, they took it and placed it in the Civil Administration pickup truck. Why? Shut up!

Ashraf was not willing to take it. He tried to take the generator back and the soldiers beat him up. Rasmi, Harun’s father who works in Israel and came home for the weekend, saw the hubbub and came to help. The soldiers beat him up too. Harun saw his father being beaten up and ran to his help. They were joined by another boy or two, while Ashraf’s wife stood aside, shouting, and their 2-year old son. And that’s it.

The unnecessary fight breaking out between armed Israeli soldiers and 4-5 Palestinians was named by the Israeli army spokesperson “a violent riot of 150 Palestinians that included massive stone-throwing”. Yes. Seriously. On the Planet of Occupation, truth is not an option.

And then the shot rang out, and Harun fell, and the soldiers and Civil Administration representative ran to their secured vehicles, and Ashraf and Rasmi loaded bleeding Harun on to Ashraf’s jalopy and tried to take him to the hospital. But the army jeep blocked their way and would not let them through.

Ashraf drove off the road and tried to bypass the soldiers. And then they shot his tires. Yes. Israeli soldiers shot the tires of the car that was taking to hospital the young man they had shot in the neck not over a minute ago. Yes. What is there left to say.

Somehow, they managed to get to the neighboring village of a-Tuwani, and passed Harun onto the vehicle of Muohammad Rab’i. When they were on the main road again, the soldiers were waiting for them again. And stopped them again. And again Muhammad had to escape them with the bleeding Harun on the back seat. And shots rang out again in their direction. Yes. Yes.

In the next village, the ambulance was already waiting and they drove on to Yatta. The doctor says that another ten minutes delay and Harun would not be alive any longer. He stopped the bleeding and sent Harun to Hebron, where he received primary care and was sedated for two days until his condition stabilized. That’s where we saw him today.

We left the father and uncle with Harun and went back to a-Rakeez. We met his mother, Farsi, shaken between hope and unknowing, his brother Muhammad (16) and his sister Hanan (14) who are going berserk, and little Doha who does not yet understand. We also met Harun’s fiancée, Du’a. She seemed frozen and in shock, and wouldn’t say a word. They were supposed to be married two months from now.

The mother was especially worried about Muhammad. He and Harun were so close, she said, always together, planning the new house they would build, speaking about the large wedding that Harun dreamt of. What will he do with all the anger, the pain, the helplessness, the sense of horrific injustice?

We sat with Ashraf. One could see how guilty he felt as if somehow everything had happened because of him. On the other hand, who would have thought that a person would be shot over a generator? He cannot get over the lies distributed by the army spokesperson, and repeated them again and again: 150 people? Why invent such a lie?

[At the village outskirts, on our way back, we met a camera crew of Al-Jazeera. The Israeli police stopped them at the entrance to the village and fined the car’s passengers 5000 shekels each for not wearing masks. Yes. Yes. It never ends.]

What now? In Israel Harun could get much better medical care, certainly when his rehabilitation begins. But since Trump declared annexation, the Palestinian Authority does not enable the transfer of patients to Israel nor finance the cost of their care and hospitalization in Israel. Annexation evaporated like a bad dream, but the decision still stands.

In a normal world, Israel would accept responsibility and care for Harun. But words such as “normal” or “responsibility” are not recognized by the occupation lexicon. We are trying to find a way to take Harun to an Israeli hospital. We shall update.

In the meantime, Harun lies there staring at the ceiling. Alone.

 Yair (and Erella) on behalf of the Villages Group

Last Week’s Demolitions in South Mt. Hebron – A Report by Erella

November 30, 2020

Dear friends,

For sixteen years I have walked at Nasser’s side. He was 20-years old when we first met. His youthful dream was to become a vet. Luckily that didn’t work out, otherwise – how could he have grown to become the one to document as a researcher of B’Tselem of the everyday injustices incurred in his area, and still manage to remain connected to himself?

Early last week we had our usual “how are you?” phone call. Nasser told me that he had had a week filled with demolitions at various locations within his charge. After a moment’s silence he said: “The most frightening thing about it is to become used to it”. We arrange to meet at his Susya home on Wednesday, at 9 a.m. (hoping there will be no demolitions then), in order to think together about experiencing ongoing injustice and not “getting used to it”.

7:50 a.m. – we’re on our way. A voice message from Nasser arrives: “There are 3 bulldozers near Umm Al-Kheir and I’m on my way there”. Now we already know there will be a demolition today, we just don’t know exactly where. Nerves are on edge – who will be the victim of this Russian Roulette today, the lords-of-the-land’s favorite game.  The memory of former demolitions is revived and the area’s villagers are going out of their minds.

The fatal choice fell on Khirbet A-Rakiz – a beautiful village of cave dwellers on a hillside, overlooking a fertile valley. The villagers labor there ever since the Israeli army cut the irrigation pipes that reached it from A-Tawani village.

We arrive. We are already really close. All I want is to run to the people, to the dazed women and children, and hug them. Tell them that we’re with them, that we won’t let anyone tear them away from their land… But two soldiers, covered from head to foot in all sorts of shields, do not allow Ehud, Yair and myself to approach.

I said something to the young soldier who ordered me to stop. Trying to control myself, I don’t remember the exact words but I do recall his answer: “It’s not my decision. I only follow orders.” These words sound familiar. When I hear them, the blood freezes in my veins. There are certain things that Jews are not allowed to utter.

At close range we see how the monstrous bulldozers – that have a driver who only follows orders, and commanders and subordinates in and out of uniform (Civil Administration) who only follow orders – shatter lives. I want to throw up, but there is no time for trivia.

The demolition ends rape-style – finish and leave. I run the slope to the people, the women and children who yelled and then cried, and then their hands dropped, and now they sit still and silent.

We are met by Muhammad Muhammad. We don’t know him. His blue eyes are blazing in anger and he says to us in Hebrew: “You are another peace organization that does nothing but talk. You don’t do anything. Can’t you influence your government?” We keep silent. Try not to take it personally. Muhammad keeps taking his anger out on us. So much pain comes out. When things quiet down a bit, I asked Muhammad if he can influence his government. He says they cannot, but that in our case things are different. “They’re no longer different” I said, and my breathing contracted a bit more.

Then he looked at us softly. He invited us to his home (a house not yet demolished) and showed us from where people had broken in, probably from one of the settler-colonist outposts nearby (Havat Ma’on, Avigail), into his home last Saturday, where they stole the generator and other pieces of equipment. Muhammad’s cousin, also named Muhammad, insisted on inviting us for coffee.

We sat at the entrance to the cave where he was born in 1967. The thieves broke in there too, and stole the battery of the solar panels. And now this demolition. I asked Muhammad Muhammad what he does with all that pain. “I cannot afford to bring up my children on hatred. So I swallow it all and get sick.”

The whole while the demolition forces kept on demolishing more houses in nearby Khirbet Sarura, then on to Khalat A-Dhaba where they demolished Jaber’s home again. They demolish and he rebuilds, and again they demolish and he rebuilds. What does he do with the pain?

We couldn’t approach so we continued to Fakhit on the main Massafer Yatta road. The demolition convoy gets close to us – 3 Civil Administration Toyotas, 2 army jeeps and 3 bulldozers. The first Toyota stops us. “This is a firing zone. Where do you think you’re going?” Ilan spits at us, head of the regional Civil Administration. Had his face not been so full of himself and of hatred, he could be considered handsome. “We’re on a trip to Arad” (an Israeli Negev town) Ehud answers, and we seem to have somehow gotten away with it. We were wrong. An hour later, on our way back from Fakhit on the same road, we meet the demolition convoy again.

I am not sure I have words to describe what my eyes saw and my heart felt in those moments.

Now, as I write this, I recall the motto that the poet Rosario Castellanos, Mexico’s ambassador to Israel in the early 1970s, wrote in her book Balún-Canán: “We shall whisper the origin. We shall whisper the story and the tale… We have fulfilled our task, and our days are done. Think of us, blot us not from your memory, consign us not to oblivion”.

They had cut the water pipes with a handsaw. The bulldozer pulls the pipe to the middle of the track, and the cutters cut away. With their own hands, they cut the life pipes of hundreds of people living in Massafer Yatta in their miserable little villages. Cutting away, and the water pours down on the track’s hard ground and will reach no one, no person, no animal, no bit of soil.

The Palestinian activists of the area are already there. We wish to join them. There are Nasser and Tareq and ‘Eid, our dear friends. Ehud parks the car at some distance, and Yair and I walk over to them. I hug Tareq and Nasser. Nasser calms me and himself and whispers into my ear: “Don’t worry, we’ll appeal to the Supreme Court. We will win eventually.” That very moment, the officer is roaring into my other ear: “Whose is the red Subaru? (He knows, we’ve already met today). If you don’t scram immediately, I’m confiscating your vehicle”. My eyes stared at the jets of water streaming out of the cut pipes, at how they irrigate the tight dirt track in this arid desert area whose annual rainfall is minimal. The officer’s threats found no place in my heart.

For a long while the cutters persisted. I felt as though my own veins were being cut. I was going out of my mind. From the abyss I recalled that earlier this morning we were on out way to Nasser, to wonder together how to experience the crisis and not letting it break you. How one experiences time and again this helplessness, and does not get used to the sights. How one meets the jets of hatred and indifference and manages not to hate in return.

At evening time, I returned to my Negev home, which the regime’s officials do not demolish and where water pipes are not cut.

Separately I wrote to Tareq, to Nasser and to Eid:

Hi my very dear friend, it has been a difficult day. For you, for me. At A-Rakiz, and at Khalat A-Dhaba I felt as though my own home was being demolished, and when the water pipes were cut I felt as though my very veins were being severed. Your persistent presence amazes me every time anew, how you manage to keep your mental stability.
Love, Erella

Tareq answered me:

Good evening, Erella, thank you. Thank you very much. This is the hard part of our lives, the fact that it has become routine. What can we do? We shall go on struggling, videoing, documenting, distributing it all to the world at large, so that one day with support of people like you, who know what integrity is, we shall manage to live a life of peace and quiet. Thank you for your presence there, and for the words you wrote me. It strengthens me and protects me. Thank you.”

Next week we shall come again, as we do every week, to practice keeping stability in hellish conditions…

Erella

On behalf of The Villages Group

The Story of Fares from Th’ala Village

October 25, 2020

Dear friends,

It’s the end of October, I long for autumn which should have already been here with its consoling coolness, its soft breezes and intoxicating scents – but in the meantime it’s still hot and arid throughout our Negev desert, and our Palestinian friends in the South Hebron Hills have received not a single drop of consoling rain.

Even in the winter, when the hills don a green grass plumage, the sheep get to graze very sparingly in the areas that have remained open to them after their larger parts have been robbed by the area’s Jewish settler-colonists.

All the more so during this dry autumn season. When we were there last Thursday, we saw the flock consuming nothing, and their shepherds stand by helpless… The water holes too are now empty of last season’s rainwater, and the livestock has no water to drink.

And if all of this is not enough, the settler-colonists of Havat Maon have built a large sheep pen at the edge of the hill, distant from their colony, and none of them actually lives there – it overlooks the entire wadi and the hills around it, the grazing ground historically belonging to the Palestinian farmers of the neighboring villages.

A month ago, Fares of Th’ala village went out, as he is wont every morning, to graze his sheep. Carefully he ventured with his flock to a grazing ground close to his village. Soon enough, he noticed four settler-colonists rushing in his direction, and wounding his sheep with knives, as the frightened animals run in all directions.

Fares tries to collect his flock and take it back home. Then, as in a horror film, the settler-colonists free their dog at Fares. They well know that the ‘locals’ fear dogs. And indeed, Fares is afraid and rushes on, the dog following angrily, bearing its fangs. Fares throws a stone at the dog, trying to chase it away. This is the moment the planners have been waiting for. They film Fares throwing the stone as the Israeli army and Civil Administration are already on their way. They lodge a complaint and Fares is under arrest.

The fellow has been in custody for over a month now, accused of throwing stones at innocent settler-colonists out at pasture.

Last Thursday we visited his family at Th’ala village. Fares’ father gave us a warm welcome. From speaking with him, I understood that he trusts the lawyer handling the case. As we sit and inquire, I notice that the left side of his neck is very swollen. I dare ask him about it, and he answers that it is a malignant tumor, that he has already undergone surgery on the other side, and is now waiting for the left side. “Waiting for what?” I ask, and he answers that such surgery is very costly. I kept silent and thought that life under Israeli military occupation is burdened with the “extras”  of hardship, that even without occupation one has a hard time facing.

Now Fares’ father needs money to fund a lawyer in order to release his son, arrested at no fault of his own. The tumor will have to wait…

Erella

(On behalf of the Villages Group)

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

 

רימון מיובש בח'לת א-דבע.jpeg

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