Demolitions, Again.

August 9, 2016

Demolition again. Another demolition. And again we were there.

A week ago, four people of Regavim (an association of Jewish settlers in the West Bank) “took a walk” in Umm Al Kheir.  They roamed around feeling very much at home and took pictures. Old Maliha, who has already stopped counting the number of times her home has been demolished, said that their “stroll” was an omen of demolition. And today it happened. Without any prior notice. Usually the state authorities give prior notice. It does not make much difference, but does provide a moment to get ready emotionally. In such a state of total helplessness and zero ability to thwart injustice, even a moment to get ready emotionally is something.

The demolition bulldozers arrived at 6:30 a.m. Adults and children, babies and youngsters were still sleeping. Regavim activists, on the other hand, were already there with their video cameras across the fence of Carmel settlement (only 5-19 meters separate Carmel from Umm Al Kheir) to document their victory.  When Maliha told me about this she could hardly control her voice. Their gloating hurt more than the demolition itself. Five homes were demolished: three – houses put up by the European Union after the demolitions this April, and two – homes built long ago by their owners.

Lords of the bulldozers, lords of the occupation, this many-armed octopus (Israeli government, army, police force, Civil Administration, settlers, their association…): the people whose homes you demolished today have names. These people have hands and feet, heads, faces. They have hearts. A life – Zyad and his wife, who have already had two demolitions since their wedding early this year, Aadel and Aamna and their five children, Maliha who no longer counts the many demolitions she has undergone, innocent Hadra and her only daughter Rima.

As soon as the soldiers came to destroy, they  gripped Haj Sliman – Maliha’s husband and the village elder – and held him forcefully so he couldn’t move, and beat him up. As they gripped him tightly, the bulldozers crushed the measly shacks. And the children? See those sights again. Where will they take their own trauma?

Usually the process of writing helps me a bit to cope with my own trauma. Somehow the words manage to gather some of my rage and turn it into pain, and then into something like understanding that is even more painful, coming from helplessness. From realizing “there is nothing to be done”, or “What can we do?” as my friends say when their homes are demolished here and elsewhere and in answer to my question, “How do you hold on?” This time, however, this writing does not help me. Maybe Bertolt Brecht will help:

When Evil-Doing Comes Like Falling Rain (Bertolt Brecht)

Like one who brings an important letter to the counter after office

hours: the counter is already closed.

Like one who seeks to warn the city of an impending flood, but speaks

another language. They do not understand him.

Like a beggar who knocks for the fifth time at a door where he has four

times been given something: the fifth time he is hungry.

Like one whose blood flows from a wound and who awaits the doctor:

his blood goes on flowing.


So do we come forward and report that evil has been done us.

The first time it was reported that our friends were butchered there was a cry of horror.

Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was

no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread.


When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out “stop!”


When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When sufferings become

unendurable the cries are no longer heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.


From: Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, ed. Carolyn Forché, Norton,1993. Trans. John Willett.

Erella, on behalf of the Villages Group

Eid al-Fitr in south Mt. Hebron – Between Occupation Encirclement and Family Joy

Last week two murders occurred in the northern part of the region that lies south of Hebron. The first victim was the girl Halel Yafa Ariel, murdered in her bed at the Kiryat Arba settlement, and the second – Michael Mark of the Otniel settlement, while he was driving with his family along road 60. Following these two murders, the army implemented the severest encirclement in years upon Yatta and other towns and villages in the area. The impact of this measure is felt most strongly in the peripheral localities lying east of Yatta (the region named Masafer Yatta). All dirt tracks leading to the area have been blocked with boulders and dirt dykes wherever they connect to road 317. This has paralyzed all life lines connecting the regional town of Yatta with its outlying localities: Mnezel and Tuwane, each of which is home to hundreds of people, as well as ten officially unrecognized cave-dweller hamlets whose populations vary between 50 and 200 people.

At the same time, these days see the holiday ending the Ramadan month fast, Eid al-Fitr. This holiday is a family event wherein the extended family members traditionally visit each other, especially those living at some distance who do not normally see each other often. In our visit on the second day of this holiday (Thursday, July 7) at two cave-dweller hamlets – Mufaqara and Tuba – we happened to experience the Palestinian sumud (holding on to the land) at its utmost. Family members living in Yatta walked miles on foot or road for hours in long, exhausting roundabout tracks in order to visit their parents and siblings who live in the encircled peripheral localities. “I’m flying with joy” said to us a widow living in Mufaqara as we visited her in her cave. The reason for this is not only the holiday but also the fact that recently, members of the Palestinian-Israeli organization Comet-Me placed solar plates next to each of the hamlet’s caves. These European-financed plates supply electricity that not only enables light in the caves but also operating washing machines, refrigerators, computers and television sets.

Ehud,  on behalf of the Villages Group


Demolitions in Wadi Jheish (Southern Susiya)

Sunday, June 19, 2016


In the month of Ramadan we visit the tents of our friends in South Mt. Hebron only in the evenings, for the Iftar (the fast-breaking meal). During the day most of the people sleep or just rest, weary and trying to save energy during the long and hot hours of fasting.

An so, one evening, a week ago, we came to visit Tamam and Haj Halil in Wadi Jheish, in the southern part of Palestinian Susiya. Intimate and calm and deliciously tasty was that evening. Tamam and Halil are our close friends for years. Since settlers beat them and we accompanied Tamam when she was hospitalized in Beer Sheva with a head injury.

This woman has light in her eyes, said my granddaughter to her mother on our way back from the Iftar.

This woman, her husband, her children and grandchildren – I hugged them all today and with them I cried.

At two o’clock we were informed that demolitions are taking place in Wadi Jheish. After a short inquiry we realized that targeted are the home of Haj Halil and his wife, the home of their son, and a sheep pen who posed a special risk to the security of the Jewish state.

When we arrived, the military force – its soldiers, officers and bulldozers – was already gone.  Remained were the tent homes, demolished to their core, most of their contents not spared, beaten people, spilled food. People between rage and despair – hanging around helpless, trying to gather whatever could be saved from the ruins. Those who asked to take out their belongings from the tents before they were demolished were answered with beatings.

They received the demolition order six days ago and tried, with their lawyers, to annul the decree, even today, but to no avail. Have you not demolished people’s home and beat them? the question is ringing in my ears, reminding, in tone and spirit, the question “Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?” turned to King David about the vineyard ofNaboth the Jezreelite, in a place not far away from Wadi Jheish, in other times. Lessons are not learned.

Later I dared to look at the video taken by Hesham (the son of Tamam and Halil) during the demolition of his home. Bulldozers with their drivers, soldiers and officers with their demeanor – all of it brought back scenarios we were taught we shouldn’t forget. It wasn’t such a long time ago. Just the scenery is different. Are lessons not learned?

We sat in silence, just hugging. Being with their pain. Being in pain.

Youngsters, elderly and children remained without a roof over their heads. Tomorrow will also be hot. Tomorrow will also be a day of fasting. We will bring food for dinner today. Andtomorrow. Today, and maybe also tomorrow, interviewers from one or the other TV channels will come, and one or another NGO, or maybe even the Palestinian Authority, will supply them with new tents. And then the wheat will grow again and life will resume its course. Only the wounds of the heart heal slowly, if at all. And if they heal, they leave a scar, like the scar in Tamam’s face from the time settlers smashed her head. Today she was still crying about that too. And the children who saw what they saw today? Not only how their home is being demolishes. They also saw how their father and their mother are being beat.

At the checkpoint, on our way back, we were asked whether we’ve seen something unusual on our way. “No,” we answered. Such home demolitions are not unusual, we thought …

I am on my way to my granddaughters. I ask myself what shall I tell Roni, who is five years old, if she asks me why I arrived later than usual. But Roni doesn’t ask anything. She just suddenly say: “Grandmother, I want to sing you a song.” And this is the song she sang, by Uzi Hitman:

Dear God, I want to tell you

A dream I had at night in bed.

And in my dream I saw an angel

Coming from the sky, and saying:

I came from the sky, I have been traveling

To bring a blessing of peace to all the children.

And when I awoke, I remembered the dream,

And I went out to seek a blessing of Peace.

And there was no angel and there was no peace

And I am with the dream.

I froze. Shivers went up and down my spine. How did she know to sing for me this particular song on this particular day?

I cried again. The second time today.

There are many days of tears in this tough land.


Erella and Ehud (in the name of The Villages Group)

Demolitions in Umm al-Kheir Last Week – Eyal’s Report

Wednesday April 6, 07:30 am 2016

I called Eid. The first time the phone hung up before Eid answered. The second time Eid seemed to be panting. When I asked him how is he? He replies “shit, they are destroying houses here” I even hadn’t had tea in the morning. ”

My heart was pounding, I told him to breathe deeply. What can I say more? Eid engaged in conversations with the officer in charge and the Civil Administration officer and I promised him I’d call back later. “Be strong.”

I sent short text to friends and acquaintances, “there aredemolitions now in Umm al Kheir“.

In Another half an hour I have to start a long day of classes and treatments.

I sat up to breathe myself. I am totally with Eid, with the people of Umm al Kheir. Even though I am half an hour from them I cannot break away from thinking about them. So much, I would like to cancel this working day and to be with them. Even if I can do nothing there, beyond supporting, understanding and comforting their bad fate.

At noon I called him again. Happily, he sounds as if he came back to himself. He tells me they destroyed six buildings and a bulldozer moved very close to his home. He was in fear his house was on the list too.  And he saw an aerial photo of his home also marked….

“It’s only a matter of time and bureaucracy” he says.

Thursday 7 April 9:00 am 2016

I went to Umm al Kheir with cake.  Sarah’s two-year old rabbit was sitting on the ruins of her home as if he did not feel that his house was demolished…

Ehud Nadav and Danny came too. We sat in a house near the ruins of a Malicha’s kitchen and the home of Nora and Cheiry and little Sara. This time, unlike in previous demolitions in Umm al Kheir, people are much more level-headed and practical as they plan how to move forward.

Many come to visit, various international organizations, Palestinian and our Israeli representatives.  Tarek asks me to help them to start to build the house of Zaid who married last summer. After a breakfast of hummus with tomato at his mother kitchen, I roll up my sleeves, but in the end this day is just talking and everyone must give testimony of what happened.

Yesterday I asked someone who works in a government office that maps the unrecognized villages in Israel, “In recent years there is increasing demolitions, what is the point of all this destruction?”

“What we know, he replies, ” is that for every house that we demolish they set up two! ”

“So” I say “why are we continuing it?”

“How would we know how many they build if we did not destroy!!!”

When I am asked sometimes why I come to Umm al Kheir, Susya, Mufakara, Tuba and other villages in the southern Hebron hills, I say that I have friends there and I want them to know that not everyone in Israel would like to obliterate them.

I wish that many people, especially those in complex responsible and powerful positions from prime ministers to Civil Administration inspectors, will wake up and understand life; that everything is connected to everything else and is constantly changing.


Hajje Sara – In Memoriam (March 22.2016)

When the phone rings and I see the name “Nasser” on the screen, I tense up even before hearing his voice, and already see and hear bulldozers and soldiers in my mind, and cries of pain and loss in Susya and elsewhere. That is why I begin our conversation with “What happened?” The day before yesterday he called. “What happened?” I ask, and he reassures me: “Nothing, I just wanted to congratulate you on Mother’s Day. Here in Palestine today is “Mother’s Day” he added, and I stay silent for a moment, swallowing a tear that has slid down my throat. I send him a loving hug and kisses to the children.

Yesterday he called again. And I, as always: “What happened?” (After all, Mother’s Day is only one day a year). “There were demolitions in Jinba and in Taban”, Nasser says. I ask him for details in a stifled, pained voice, and he says: “But I didn’t call about that. I called to tell you that Hajje Sara passed away”. I was struck dumb.

I visited her not quite a week ago. She has not been in Susya for some months. I met her at her son’s home in Yatta. She was sitting on a bed in a room prepared especially for her – thinner than ever, constantly coughing up the violent cancer that spread in her lungs and does not let her breathe. We came to see her, Ehud, Danny and I. I went in first. When she saw me, she said: “I’m going”. Meaning: I’m done with my life. The doctors instructed the family not to tell her about her real condition but after all, one knows when the time is near. I hugged her. During our visit she was in full control as always and even got a bit annoyed (I said to her: “Hajje, now I really begin to feel I’m visiting you”). She smiled. Her daughters-in-law and grandchildren gathered in her room and we sat there as we used to in her tent, as she conducted the occasion and urged the daughters-in-law to hurry up and bring us the migele she planned for us as a reminder of the mutabak of the days we used to visit her in Susya and she would bake for us. (Migele and mutabak are Palestinian pastries). Between coughs she asked about my children and grandchildren.

A special friendship was struck between the two of us ever since I first began to visit Susya in 2003.

Hajje Sara was a determined woman, and if I may, I would dare say she was a hard woman – hard as life is in Susya. Hard like the ground she tilled and sowed and harvested, and like the harsh hours of freezing winter cold and exhausting summer heat during which she herded her flock alone ever since she was widowed about 11 years ago. Sara and the earth were one – in her life as in her death.

Sara bravely withstood the unfriendly visits of settlers from the Jewish settlement of Susya who came to her land.  This woman – who, in her youth (1950) experienced her first expulsion from the Gariten region where she was born and raised, and then survived the Susya expulsions – would not agree to be expelled yet again. When it comes to Sara, “holding on to her land” is no literary metaphor. Hajje Sara’s hardiness and obstinacy sometimes affected her human relations. At times she behaved with people close to her in a way that pained them. It would anger me (although it was never aimed at me or in my presence). It was precisely this anger of mine that validated what we both knew – that our relationship was personal and human, neither patronizing nor political.

My last visit was a leave-taking. Sara surrendered to the conciliatory, compassionate massage I gave her stiff back. We had closed a circle between us. This woman was powerful. I see her standing in a brittle, dry field in the middle of a droughty winter, I hear her old voice crack as she sings an ancient prayer to god begging for some rain…

I don’t know if olive oil can be preserved. I would like the bottle of olive oil she gave me at our meeting – knowing it was our last – to last forever as a souvenir…

Rest in peace, Sara. Rest in peace from your life struggles, from your worries, rest in peace from the settlers’ harassments, rest in peace from your loves and hatreds.

Everything is now open and loose like the ground after plowing…

In deep appreciation and gratitude for years of friendship,

Erella and Ehud


A Trip to the “Fresh” Ruins of Jinba

Thursday, February 4th. On a sunny morning we get on Hamed’s jeep at Susya and travel up the road leaving to Havat Yair settler outpost and from there, descend to the Jinba valley. On the way, Ehud and Dani argue over the beauty of Jibba versus that of Toscana. For me it’s a first visit. On the way back I think that but for the occupation, this could be an amazing tourist-friendly village.

As we reach the center of the village, some 9-12 year-olds come out to welcome us. Dani is happy with their English. We follow Hamed to the ruins, piles of rubble of what – until two days ago – had been someone’s home. Ali comes out to greet us and tells us of his misfortune. The Israeli occupation forces demolished three structures belonging to him and his immediate family. Even the ownership document (kushan) dating from Ottoman empire days which Ali presented them did not suffice to prove to the occupation forces that his family has owned this land since his great-great-grandfather’s time.  At the side, his two-year old grandson recognizes us and bursts out crying. He has not been able to sleep at night since the demolitions. Every noise startles him. Even the balloons that Dani hands him do not calm him down. Even his mother, a student of education at Yatta University, cannot sooth him, and only his grandmother hugs him and cries along with him… each trying to console the other in their misfortune.

On Sunday evening Hamed tells us that the Israeli authorities and the local inhabitants could not on agree on an exchange of land. Forty years ago the Israeli army declared the site a firing zone. Since then it has wanted the cave dwellers who have lived there for many generations to “get out of its sight”.

 Monday morning the demolitions begin. What efficiency!

If bureaucracy inside Israel-proper were so efficient, the whole world would love to watch and learn…I don’t read/hear/watch the news., and I still cannot escape knowing that every single day something in our state happens based on the friction and frustration resulting from the Occupation and the shabby relations we established with our Arab neighbors, relations that unravels more every day, and if we don’t wake up soon, we will go blind. With sad eyes I look at the beauty and sadness of Jinba and wonder – is there not a single wise leader who would take a deep look at the state of things and see how this little child who has now experienced such irreversible trauma and will likely experience more to follow, will one day just give up and, in desperation, commit an act that will be reported on the news and bring on further punishment… Only last Thursday I met Odeh of Umm Al Kheir in the South Hebron Hills. He wants to learn Shiatsu, so at the edge of the football field we learned the touch, how to connect and open the heart. If we begin to act for peace and growing closer, together we can generate change. David, another member of the Villages Group, once told me his dream is for every Israeli to have one Palestinian friend whom he could call every day, and ask “How did you sleep, Mohammad? How is the family? Is everyone well?” I already have several such “Mohammads” and not only do I call them, they also call me (one even invited me over during the Gaza assault because he feared I was within missile range). What about you, have you a Palestinian friend?

May we all be able to experience peace and true calm in our present lives.




Message and New Year’s Greetings from the Villages Group

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

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)


Eyal Shani’s Reflections on the Current Situation

My Feeling on the Current Situation

To All my friends

to my International friends,

to my Israeli friends

and especially to

my dear Palestinians friends.

I returned home this evening after the first Shiatsu class this year. We were a group of good people; there was a good atmosphere, a sense of purpose and goodwill, caring and kind: something that is so lacking now in the Israeli-Palestinian reality.  Instead of “love your friend as yourself”, there is a developing over-reaction among individuals and groups who are trying to eliminate anyone who is not “one of us”.  Where are we going? How far can hatred and evil reach in the world? How do we stop or transform the avalanche?

I was going to go tomorrow with members of the Villages Group to visit Palestinian friends at Susiya, Umm al-Kheir and al-Twane – but, I got a call from Erella who told me that Nasser requested that we not come tomorrow.  He said, “the situation is calm at the moment, but could change at any moment. And if misfortune stumbled upon the wrong place at the wrong time – it can end badly.  We need you to live.”

“Life!”  I think the question is “what kind of life”?  Right now everyone is under tremendous pressure to entrench themselves, and for each group to take comfort in itself, separating itself from others and destroying anyone who tries to say something, protest, or show emotion.  Right now I feel the need to visit my Palestinian friends even more urgently than before.

Please note that I am against any bloodshed, violence and other means to hurt someone. On the contrary, I condemn all manifestations of violence whatsoever, but we also feel the fuse runs out and there is no pause. Anyone who challenges the status quo – even in conversation, poster, condemnation or demonstration where violence is not part of the protest – is met with a disproportionate response, which perpetuates the cycle of violence.

I feel exhausted from the realities we live in now.

Lucky I have friends from the “other Group “. We can talk to them eye to eye and say what hurts each other, to empathize with the pain, and together we can hope for better days for everyone.

May the coming days bring peace to all.

Would that we can accept ourselves and others equally?

May we open our hearts so we can bypass “labels” and “headlines” and arbitrary decisions that recycle the history of hatred that takes root and prevents us from sharing a good life together in the “Holy Land – the land of milk and honey”.

May it be quiet here.

I wish there will be peace now!

I Wish you all a quite Night.

Love with a tear,


14 October 2015

South Mount Hebron Delegation to the US

Below are several reports from the visit of several villagers, villages group representatives and Rebuilding Alliance team the DC and NYC. All reports courtesy of Fiona Wright.

Six residents of the South Hebron Hills will travel together with two members of the Villages Group landed today in the U.S for a tour in Washington D.C. and New York City. Their ten-day trip is organised by our friends in the US ‘Rebuilding Alliance’. Fatma Nawajeh and her son Hamoudi and nephew Aysar from Susiya, and Ni’meh and Eid Hatheleen and their daughter Sadeen from Umm al-Kheir, will spend a week meeting with Congress men and women and Senators in Capitol Hill to tell their stories and represent the residents of South Hebron Hills and their struggle against demolition orders and the actions of the occupation authorities. Aysar and Sadeen will present the ‘Pinwheels for Peace’ project in these meetings, in which children from Susiya and Umm al-Kheir took part in June 2015.
The visit corresponds with International Peace Day, September 21st, and so we will take the chance to get the attention of policymakers and media in the United States about the struggles in the South Hebron Hills region. Apart from meeting with politicians there will be chances to talk with supporters and community members in Washington and in New York City, as well as a little time for sightseeing and having fun together in the two cities. The group will be accompanied by David Massey and Fiona Wright from the Villages Group who will help to present the work of the group in the region and to report on the tour.

On Monday we woke up early to get ready for the briefing in Capitol Hill at 12.00. The briefing was an open meeting in one of the house offices to which staff members of representatives of congress were invited, as well as members of the public. We had an hour to present and about 50 people attended – a mix of congress staffers, campaigners and friends in DC. Each member of the delegation, including the kids Aysar and Sadeen, talked during the briefing, each explaining a different part of the story of South Hebron Hills and the demolitions and expulsions. Naima told the crowd about what happened when her mother’s house was demolished in Umm al-Kheir and how her daughter Leen suffered for months after that day and what she witnessed there. Her talk was incredibly moving and later she explained that she feels a responsibility to represent the women and families of her village and region and to explain to the people she is meeting in the US about what these experiences do to people in her community. Fatma spoke about Susiya and how her childhood was marked by her family being expelled from the archeological site area in Susiya in 1986. She explained how her family and community have been affected by the demolitions happening over and over again. Eid spoke about the wider situation in South Hebron Hills and how so many Palestinian residents in the area live with the constant fear of demolition and the feeling of insecurity and anxiety that brings. He said how the reason they came to America was because they understood that the intervention of the State Department was crucial in postponing the demolitions in Susiya this year. He wanted to ask that Americans continue to ask their representatives to put pressure on Israel to stop the demolitions. David then spoke as a member of the Villages Group and explained how he was inspired by his friends in the South Hebron Hills and that where he finds hope is with them, and that he had come to ask that people from countries like the US and Israel use their privilege to demand that their representatives put pressure on Israel to stop the demolitions and not destroy the lives of communities in the South Hebron Hills. Aysar and Sadeen stole the show with their talks when they explained how they just want to live without the fear of settlers, demolitions, and seeing their families suffering. Sadeen said at the end of her talk that what she wants is ‘hurriya’, freedom. Kelly from Rebuilding Alliance explained for the briefing the current situation in Susiya and the negotiations with the Civil Administration, how the events of the last few months have played out, and what they are now asking happen in congress in terms of pressure on Israel.

After the briefing finished, although we were all very tired and happy with how the briefing had gone, we went to visit the offices of the 11 representatives who signed a letter in support of Susiya that was sent by Representative Anna Eshoo to Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Kerry in July of this year, and that played a role in the State Department’s urging of Israeli authorities not to go ahead with the demolitions. We spoke to staff members in each of the offices and explained that we had now come to Washington to ask that US representatives continue to intervene and to support Susiya and other threatened villages in the South Hebron Hills. The visits to the offices were important to keep up relationships with these representatives that have spoken in support of Susiya and were also very interesting for us to see a little bit of how congress works.

We finished all these meetings at around four o’clock by which time we were all very tired and for the rest of the day we just relaxed and had some dinner – a very tasty falafel restaurant run by an Iraqi in Washington!

Another highlight of the day was when Aysar met an American cowboy on the way back to the guest house. See attached photo

After our time in Washington D.C. we arrived in Manhattan late on Thursday for some more relaxed days, although still of course very exciting and busy for the group. We had a couple of meetings with journalists who will hopefully write about the time of the delegation in the US and the situation of the South Hebron Hills villages (watch this space). On Saturday evening we were invited to a potluck dinner house meeting with members of Jewish Voice for Peace. This was a nice opportunity to connect with friends of the group and to meet some new faces and talk about what groups like JVP can be doing to support the villages. Apart from these meetings we saw some of the amazing sights of the city (thanks also to Chaim, Erella’s cousin, who lent us his tour-guiding skills) – walking across the Manhattan Bridge and looking back at the city at night, a trip across the water to the Statue of Liberty on Saturday afternoon, a visit to the site of Ground Zero and the memorials there, and of course some pilgrimages to the city’s temples of consumerism. The best moment came when, on Sunday evening as we happened to be walking on Fifth Avenue, suddenly there were a lot of police and all the cars were blocked from the street to make way for the entourage of President Obama, who was in town for the UN General Assembly – the group were delighted to have seen him drive by. We had hoped to have a face-to-face meeting to tell him about Susiya and Umm al-Kheir but this encounter came a close second.

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Summer Camp in Umm al-Kheir

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

Ehud, on behalf of the Villages Group

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


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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely, Na’ama Hadhalin

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