To our friends and supporters,
At this time, as the year comes to an end and the New Year is almost here, normally we send you greetings written by our member Erella. This time, as Erella is convalescing from a back surgery, she has requested me to write you in her stead, but since I do not possess Erella’s special expressive gift, I write you instead a short summary of our activity.
These past months our activity has been affected by the escalation taking place throughout the West Bank. Consequently we have lately refrained from visiting Salem village near Nablus, where we have been active for the past thirteen years. Still we maintain our contact with our friends in Salem and continue to support the local music education center for children which we helped found six years ago. On the weekend of September 18-19 we hosted the founding team of this center – the director and the main instructor – in Tel Aviv and Kibbutz Shoval.
In the South Hebron Hills, the second and major region of our ongoing activity, the recent escalation has led to the blockage of roads connecting the outlying localities and the main cities of Yatta and Hebron (see photos attached). As a result of these blocks, free movement of the South Hebron Hills villagers has now been restricted and deteriorated to a state similar to what they experienced during the Second Intifada, in the first half of the previous decade.
This year, as in recent years, with your kind help we continued supporting different programs for the inhabitants of the South Hebron Hills: continued studies of college students, professional training for women, kindergartens, children’s summer camps and small development plans for local farmers. A precedent for us this year was our affiliation with the American organization Rebuilding Alliance as a diplomatic activity for the villages of the South Hebron Hills, and especially Susiya. In view of the severe threat of demolitions posed against Susiya, Rebuilding Alliance obliged our call and organized two delegation – with our participation – to political power vertices in Washington DC in June and September. The second delegation included two families – one from Susiya and the other from Umm al-Kheir. The joint effort of the Palestinian villagers and their supporters in Israel and worldwide, an effort to which our participation in the delegations was our modest contribution, led to the suspension of the demolitions in Susiya, which the Civil Administration had declared ready to carry out in the summer.
Even in the present state of escalation that affects life’s reality in our parts, we persist in our weekly visits to some of the tiny hamlets of the South Hebron Hills. The routine of these weekly visits focuses on maintaining ongoing personal ties with the inhabitants for over ten years now, and is the core activity of our tiny group. Our other activities, including those that reach even Washington, always begin from the cave and the tent and go back to them week by week. Over the years we have had the pleasure to have quite a few of you join us once or more in these weekly visits. Joining the visits is the most effective way of familiarizing oneself with the reality of life in the South Hebron Hills area and to the way we connect with it. We are always glad to have you join us there. Please see photos of the visit we held lately, joined by guests from the Quaker lobby, in the following link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7399630@N03/sets/72157660985907170
A few words from Erella:
From the very fountain of our strength, with and despite emotional, mental, spiritual exhaustion, we persist and repeatedly bring to our connection with our Palestinian friends – for that is the right thing to do –
our loving greetings and blessings for Christmas and the New Year.
Ehud, on behalf of the Villages Group (Erella, Hamed, Dani, Eyal, David, Fiona, Nadav, Ophir and Limor)