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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erella, on behalf of the Villages Group

A Visit in Massfarat Yatta (9.1.2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ehud on behalf of the Villages Group

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Another Thursday (12.12.2013)

Dear friends,

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

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

I called Sausan’s mobile phone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erella

On behalf of the Villages Group

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White Man’s Burden – the Israeli Occupation’s “Civil Administration” Version

Dear Friends,

By a miracle of sorts, we had a mostly peaceful day in South Hebron today; such an event is so rare that I thought it might be worth mentioning to you. In lieu of a more substantial report, let me just say that Abu Sharif and Fadil plowed three fields, with an iron plow and a donkey, on one end of the wadi at Umm al-‘Amad, just under the settlement of Otniel– lands they were denied access to for some 15 years– and there was a slightly higher-tech plowing, with an old tractor, at the other end of the wadi as well. The settlers and the soldiers kept their distance. The goats grazed freely. The sun was sweet. If the rains come, there will be crops of barley in these newly regained fields.

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David Shulman gives traditional farming a hand under the guidance of a Palestinian resident, November 2013

At Umm al-Ara’is, on the other hand, the standard ritual played itself out; the ‘Awad owners were driven off their land, along with our activists, by the soldiers, as happens week after week.

Lest anyone be tempted to think that things are better, I should mention that the committee of the “Civil Administration” that [according to Israel] still has the authority to approve Palestinian development plans in West Bank “Area C”, has rejected the village development plan submitted by residents of Palestinian Susya.

This means that if the final appeal to the High Court [which had heard this case for years – then punted it back to the “Civil Administration” a few months ago] goes against the residents, the entire village, housing some 300 to 400 people, will be demolished and its inhabitants expelled

(the demolition orders have been hanging over them for years, and the “Civil Administration” [see here for a chronology of its torment of area residents in 2008-2011] is talking about issuing final orders to destroy all the tents and shacks and infrastructure).

The “committee” offered the following rationalization of its decision:

“This plan offers no hope that the population can be advanced beyond the state of poverty and ignorance to which its representatives have condemned it….

The city, as the meeting place of diverse populations, serves as a source of cultural, economic, and educational enrichment. On the other side of the scale, the village dwellings are fragmented and scattered, founded upon tribal and clan identities which suffocate the citizen, the individual, and which offer no means for social development or opportunities for making a living, for cultural or educational experience…

The urban structure lets people meet one another, multiplies opportunities, enriches the horizons of each and every one in the family or tribe as in the wider society. Thus, in our view, the present plan is but another attempt to prevent this impoverished population from making progress…

It also prevents the Palestinian woman from liberating herself from the cycle of poverty and closes off opportunities for work and education. Similarly it keeps the Palestinian child away from the opportunities open to everyone else and condemns him to life in a small, degenerate village.”

If anyone had any doubt as to whether the Occupation of the West Bank is a colonial enterprise through and through, this passage should settle the question.

[It must also be noted that the fabled “enriching urban environment” towards which the Occupation wants to cleanse Susya residents, is none other than Yatta – a down-and-out town of ~50,000 residents suffering from inadequate infrastructure, economic suffocation – 75% of residents are day-laborers for Israeli bosses (pdf link), and – at least according to Israeli media – rampant crime]

Military Vehicle keeping a watch upon Palestinians plowing their lands, November 2013

Military Vehicle keeping a watch upon Palestinians plowing their lands, November 2013

The sheer cynicism is astonishing: you can guess who has kept the Palestinians of Susya in poverty, and who now intends to expel them from their ancestral homes and lands. The West Bank must be the last site in the world where this kind of language, reminiscent of French Algeria or apartheid South Africa or colonial Kenya or Tanganyika [or, indeed, the self-righteous precedent providing the post’s title], can still be used without shame.

David Shulman

Editor’s notes:

[Comments in square brackets] are mine. As the links in the post show, this struggle has been going on – and covered by us – for quite a while. Click on those links to learn more.

I insist upon placing “Civil Administration” in quotations. It is a faux government body with a fraudulent name – designed specifically (by Ariel Sharon in 1982) to create an impression of “law and order” when there is none.

As this latest gem from the “Administration” shows, the only guiding principle of that impostor body (which – contrary to its misleading name – is actually a branch of the Israeli military, and whose legal authority is questionable to nonexistent) is: quash the Palestinians and take their lands, and find as many lands as possible to give to Jewish settlers.

The “Civil Administration” hacks will find or invent any legalistic, bureaucratic pretext to cover up this naked racism and thievery. In the current case, apparently, they are stupid enough as to be unaware of the historical context of their charade.

Here are some addresses and numbers you might try, in order to protest these policies:

Israel’s defense minister, sar@mod.gov.il or pniot@mod.gov.il, Phone: +972 3 6975349 Fax: +972 3 6976218 /691 6940 / 696 2757 / 691 7915 / 697 6711 (they are said to hate faxes),

or the ministry’s US outlet (info@goimod.com, fax 212-551-0264).

And of course… feel free to share and cross-post this widely.

Thanks, Assaf

Two Stories from the Month of October

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just two stories from the month of October.

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

With much love,

Erella (on behalf of the Villages Group)

Gabi with Yusuf

Gabi with Yusuf

Gabi with Ibrahim

Gabi with Ibrahim

Gabi at Jihad's place

Gabi at Jihad’s place

 

People who Know How to Laugh and Cry at the Same Time

I have not written to you for a long time, since it seems I would have written more of the same, again and again.

About the rotten fruits of the occupation.

Yet, sometimes things happen which are the little that holds much.

My daughter Reut lives in South Mount Hebron (within the green line of course). The distance between her home and villages in the occupied area of the region is 5-10 minutes ride by car and half an hour by donkey. Even walking doesn’t take that long. Some of my friends from the villages are also good friends of hers as she sometimes joins us in our weekly visits.

Yet, short as this distance is, only she can visit them but they cannot visit her, since there are check points between them.

Some days ago Reut became a mother for the second time and I called my friends to tell them about it. When I told Eid from Umm al-Kheir, he said: “Thank you for sharing. You know,” he added, “what I want to do the most now is to come to Reut and hug you both. But I can’t.”

Silence was between us for a long while.

When I could talk again, I said: “You know Eid, what you’ve said was not a political declaration, nor a bloody event, nor murder or evacuation, not a demolition or any kind of revenge action, and so on. And yet, the pain I’ve felt for all of those (which happen every day) is folded within it.

Silence again. “Yes,” he said. We understand and feel alike.

A day later, exactly the same conversation took place between me and Nasser from Susiya.

I asked him if he had coordinated with Eid. We laughed.

“We are probably from the same tribe,” I added.

“The people who know how to laugh and cry at the same time,

And know how to call things by their true names,

in order to be able to leave their hearts open for compassion.”

 

With much love to you all,

Erella (on behalf of the members of the Villages Group).

Summer Camps in South-Hebron/Massafer-Yatta, Against the Background of Military Oppression

A few days after the three youngsters from Umm al-Kheir returned from their detention (of which I told you about in my former letter, dated June 10), there started in Umm al-Kheir a summer camp for all the children of the place (3 to 13 years old). The summer camp consisted of two groups (a group of the small children and a group of the older children). The guides were four women from Umm al-Kheir itself: Na’ama, Sara, Ikhlas and Taghrid. We went to visit on Thursday, as we always do. It was the fifth day of the summer camp. Looking at the sights and hearing the voices – our hearts expanded . A small summer camp in the middle of the desert, in two tents that serve as a local community center (established with such effort and constantly under the threat of demolition). Yet the children are happy and the guides’ faces are beaming.

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We stood there for a good two hours – Ophir, Limor and me – watching. Fun games seasoned occasionally by music activity (a delightful implementation of what the guides learned in a music workshop held in a nearby village in April and facilitated by Fabianne), relaxing breathing exercises, a tasty falafel in the break and plenty of joy.

At the end of the camp there was a trip. “Without a trip, the summer camp is not really worth it,” say the children, for whom going out of the constricting boundaries of the village was a formative event.

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At the end of the ninth day of the camp the children return to their homes and meet there the security guard of Karmel (the nearby settlement), escorted by the army, the police and Civil Administration officials. For what went on there, see here.

We were glad we could at least enable the kids a summer camp (with the generous support of our friends from England).

A few days later started the summer camp in Susiya.

On our weekly visit we arrived on a cheerful camp day, guided by Yihya and Fatme, who were assisted by three local girls. One of the activities was a play the children prepared.
A local Palestinian family sits down to have its meal, when a young man bursts into their home and asks for refuge from soldiers who are chasing him and trying to catch him. The family quickly hides the young man but a collaborating neighbor informs on him and the soldiers enter the house, grab the young man, bit him, tie him and take him away with them.

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A piece of reality. The children bring it into the play with all its complexity. The topic was chosen by them, without any guidance from the grownups. In a completely natural, though maybe not really conscious way, the children process their traumas, and the summer camp is a space that enables that.

The very next day, Civil Administration officers, accompanied by soldiers, arrived and delivered stop-work orders (precursors of demolition orders) to almost every family in Susiya (Limor wrote about it in her last report).

Since then events succeeded one another (as always, and a bit more). My writing pace falls behind the pace of the events we would like to share with you. I started writing this report at the end of June, when the summer camps ended. And here we are, past the middle of August, and every passing day increases the important “debt” – to tell their stories.

Sometimes the two camps – the going-to-the-field one and the writing-about-the-field one – clash within me. Usually the first one wins …

Many thanks to each and every one who contributed, in funds or spirit, so these summer camps could have taken place, and successfully so.

We are thankful and our friends are thankful, through us. And the children? The photos will tell their happiness …

Yours, with much love,

Erella (in the name of the members of the Villages Group)

Report on the Recent Distribution of Demolition orders in Susiya

Our visit a week ago on Thursday, June 27th in South Mt. Hebron was going to be a particularly happy one. With summer vacation having recently started, our son, who is 15 and half years old, and our daughter, 14 years old, could join us again to visit the area, and so did our friend, Tamar. Indeed, we arrived at Susiya as planned, around 10 o’clock in the morning, but from then on, the visit was entirely different than the one we planned and hoped for…

We were glad to meet Nasser on the path leading to the village, on horseback, and we entered the village together, Nasser’s son on the horse with him and the other kids cheerfully following. After greeting the women of the Nawajah family, which took a few minutes, suddenly entered the village a Civil Administration car and a Border Police jeep. Both stopped by the dwelling of Nasser and Eyam and two Civil Administration officers came out, accompanied by three Border policemen, armed with guns. Family members, adults and children, came out and we all gathered in front of the vehicles, anxiously waiting to see what it was all about. I asked, in Hebrew, one of the two young men who came out of the car and wasn’t in uniform: “What’s going on?” and he blurted: “Nothing.” I tried again: “What is it?” and he played the wise guy: “Why, is it forbidden to come here for a patrol?”

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The Border Policemen who “secured” the operation

After a few more minutes we all understood what was going on. The two young Civil Administration officers started going around the village, stopping at nearly every tent, goats’ pen or any other construction – briefly filling out a form describing it, posing for a photograph near it, for documentation purposes, nervously clearing away whoever got in the frame, and placing the piece of paper between two big rocks next to each family dwelling. These were “cease-work” orders, which means they are the precursors of demolition orders and their subsequent implementation. I asked Nasser why “cease-work” when most of the tents or constructions are not in building stages but have been used by the villagers for quite some time? Nasser told me I am not wrong, and I realized it’s just the way of the Civil Administration (and one might say, of the occupation authorities in general) to remind the village residents that the Supreme Court proceedings (taking months already) will not interfere with manifesting domination, and also to remind them of the imminent threat of their homes’ demolition, already pending for years (for a summary and an update on the proceedings regarding the village and for a newspaper report on this event, see [http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-orders-west-bank-village-to-tear-down-tents-solar-panel-set-up-by-eu.premium-1.532369]). As is customary, the orders were not given by the Civil Administration officers personally to the owners, although the owners were standing right next to them, but were placed on rocks, as if to say: For us there aren’t any people here, just rocks.

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The Civil Administration officer places…

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… and presents the order

Nasser accompanied the patrol with his video camera, so he was subjected in the beginning to reprimands and threats from the Civil Administration officers: “Don’t disturb us”, to which he answered: “I am not the one disturbing – it’s you who are disturbing us in our home, invading it.” Other residents were very anxious that such an order will reach their homes too, and indeed, when the patrol stopped by the home of Samiha and Jihad, Samiha burst out screaming and cursing, expressing her pain… we tried to calm her down and offer support: “guard your soul; you are making it harder on yourself, not on them.” But it isn’t hard to understand her feelings in those moments … in addition to the feelings of the village’s people, I was wondering what do these young men from the Civil Administration and the Border Police are feeling? Are they only obeying orders? Do they see the injustice and pain their actions are inflicting? Looking at them, it seemed they are completely detached from the events, manifesting nothing but indifference and cynicism towards the villagers – this hurt me no less, and maybe even more, than Samiha’s screams.

During that morning there were many “cease-work” orders delivered in the village: to dwellings, storages, sheep and geese pens, cisterns and the solar panels providing electricity. Finally, an order was delivered to a recently new tent used as a medical clinic near Susiya’s elementary school. The school, which was opened three years ago, had already got a demolition order a while ago. Recently, the walls have been painted, to the delight and pride of the school’s headmaster and teachers.

In each place, the orders’ messengers took photos of themselves with the forms, to document their activity, and at the same time Nasser and Ophir also documented the conduct of the Civil Administration and Border Police officials and the way they treated the locals. Sometimes the children and youngsters joined in the documenting photos, smiling and signaling “V” with their fingers, and, as my son said to me, there was a lot of strength in this gesture, more than in the screams of anger and pain.

Image
Children from Susiya step in as a demolition
order is being issued to a tent donated by

 

We tried to follow the patrol of delivering orders and to visit the families for support. We sat in the home of Azzam and Wadha with Sara, their young daughter who was alone at home on that day. We sat in their pleasant bower together with two other young women – her neighbors-relatives, drinking tea and talking on what’s happened, and on other things too. For a while it seems like this is a normal and pleasant visit, and life goes on …

From afar, Ophir saw the jeep continuing to the next hill and to other dwellings in the village, and we decided we should also go and be there. The small children of Jamal and Youssuf greeted us happily. The patrol has already continued to the home of Haja Sara and a few of the family members went with it. We sat with the elderly parents and listened to their feelings: “This is our land, my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather lived here, I have land registration papers from the time of the Turks, we will never leave, although there are attempts to drive us away from our homes all the time,” so said Haj Isma’il. “We are here to be here and support you,” we said. “And we love you,” said Isma’il. “We love you too,” we replied, “and we will continue to come and be with you.”

Indeed – we will continue to visit our friends in Susiya (almost) every week, as we have been doing for a long time now. We will come when orders are delivered, when the hearing in the Supreme Court will take place, in difficult times and also in happy times…

Yours,

Limor Mintz-Manor, in the name of the members of the Villages Group

 

Detention on Saturday Morning

To our dear friends,

Between our weekly visits to South Mt. Hebron things happen, things that happen during a week, quite ordinary things.

People wake up in the morning to a new day – they wash, pray, eat, discover that settlers cut down 62 trees in their olive grove, as a “price tag” action; or they go to sleep and wake up to the violent presence of 20 soldiers and one policeman in their living room, a visit that was not pre-coordinated with and approved by the house owners; or they go to shepherd their goats, get detained for two days and released with a court summon, after paying bail they will never get back.

These and other are the happenings between one weekly visit to the next, in an ordinary week, one among many in which a daily routine like this takes place. Mere footnotes, maybe similar in their importance, as Ophir says, to getting a parking ticket in Tel Aviv. Even Gideon Levi will not write about it in his newspaper column.

And so, 20 years old Ammar and Odeh, and 16 years old Akram, from Umm al-Kheir, who went out with the goats in the morning of the 1st of June 2013, as they do each Saturday, to the grazing areas close to their home, and were detained – they too will surely fold their pain, store it in the storeroom for unprocessed pains, and continue their life, their daily routine, as if such a pain is an ordinary matter, like breakfast, like brushing your teeth or going to the toilette.

We, on the other hand, when we came to visit 3 days after they returned from their detention – chose to talk with them, in order not to let it happen.

Ammar told: “We were with the goats not far away from a place where a metal railing was built; Police came, they handcuffed us; we asked why, they said we stole iron. When they handcuffed us and answered our question, they also beat us.

I kept quiet. I was afraid that if I open my mouth they would beat me more. Akram said the same.

They took us to the police station in Kiryat Arba [the biggest settlement near Hebron]. Three hours they left us without water, and 13 hours without food. From 9 o’clock in the morning, when they detained us, until 10 o’clock at night when they moved us from Kiryat Arba to Gush Etzion (cluster of settlements near Bethlehem). In Kiryat Arba they handed me a document and told me to sign it.

The document was in Hebrew and I asked what is says. For this they beat me again. Still, I did not sign.

We slept in the detention station in Gush Etzion with other detainees.

In the morning they transferred Akram, who is considered a minor, to Ofer detention facility.

We slept another night in Gush Etzion. In the morning, Khalil [Amar’s cousin, Oda and Akram’s brother] came with a car and 4,500 NIS bail (1,500 NIS for each of us).

At that time, Aziz picked up his brother Akram from Ofer camp.

In September each of us will have a trial.

Before they confiscated our mobile phones, Odeh managed to call home and notify that we are detained.”

From that moment on, efforts to release them took place: the family called Buma Inbar (Israeli humanitarian activist) and Rabbis for Human Rights, and Avital, RHR’s lawyer, managed to release them on bail until the trial.

I asked Amar and Akram how they feel now, after 3 days at home:

Amar was angry for being beaten up without a reason and for being left without food. But that is already over. Now he is angry about the 1,500 NIS and about the trial. But the hardest thing for him is that they took away for 3 years the special permit that allowed him to work in settlements. His father is paralyzed; his eldest brother is in jail, so in recent time, by working in a settlement’s supermarket, Ammar was the main provider for his mother, father and ten brothers and sisters.

Akram said that he remains angry about everything and scared too.

Akram missed an end-of-year exam that was held in his school on Sunday, when he was detained.

The headmaster allowed him to skip it because Akram is an exceptionally good pupil.

When we left them, to continue our day, we thanked them for sharing their story with us. They thanked us so much for wanting to see them and to hear their story – the story of what happened, and its emotional soundtrack.

As we distanced from them I knew we allowed their pain to be conveyed, to be contained – by us and maybe also by them – and in this way to air a bit the storerooms of pains that do not get attention and might turn into stiff and violent rage, damaging to its possessor and to the entire surroundings.

On grounds of protecting the reader, I do not continue and describe our visit in Salem, the following day; I am leaving it to my next letter.

Yours, Erella (in the name of my friends in the Villages Group)

Image

Ammar, Khalil, Ophir, Odeh, Limor and Erella (Akram is not in the picture)

Salem’s Music Center

Dear friends and Supporters,

We accompanied Salem’s music center since it was started more than three years ago. Walking hand in hand with the center’s staff and students was and is a challenging and rewarding experience for us. There is hardly anything that can match the satisfaction of exposing the children of a poor, neglected and brutally occupied village to the wonders of learning to play on musical instruments.

From the beginning of this program we were very much aware of our limitations as a small group of volunteers we can’t carry for long a project which expand and grow year by year, such as Salem’s music center, neither organizationally nor financially. Our colleagues in the staff of the center are sharing with us the awareness of those limitations. At this stage we all feel time has arrived for them to take full responsibility for the center’s financial needs as the responsibility they took from the beginning concerning the professional aspects.

Returning to his hometown Nablus after several years of studies abroad, the center’s new coordinator, Abdullah Kharoub is seeking to use his natural charm and wit as well as his acquired skills, for the benefit of the children of his area. The time when the center would be able to walk on its feet with the help of well-established organizations has not  arrived yet; it is on its way. In order to fulfill this goal the center still needs to pass through some stages such as official recognition; they work hard to get it. In the meantime the maintenance of the center’s activities still requires support.

In this attached file you will find a newsletter written by Abdullah with the cooperation of the Villages Group.

This by itself is a huge step of the center towards maturity.

Those of you, dear friends, who want to relate, please contact Abdullah abdkharoub@gmail.com  (we can be added as addressee). That is one of the ways through which we seek to enable the center’s staff to grow into a new phase of independence.

Erella Dunayevsky and Ehud Krinis in the name of the Villages Group villagesgroup1@gmail.com

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