Tag Archives: Education

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.


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.

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.

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)

May 21, 2011: Music Teachers and Students from Tel-Aviv Visit Salem’s Music Center

Last Saturday, May 21st, 2011, the music center in Salem village near Nablus hosted teachers and pupils of Tel Aviv Municipal Arts High School A. This visit is a result of the ties that the school principal, Ram Cohen, and Dr. Ruthie Katz, the school’s music major coordinator, began to nurture with the Salem Music Center

Last summer. About two months ago, the staff of the music center visited the Tel Aviv Arts High School. They attended a demonstration class prepared for them by Mario Solan, musical expression teacher, and his students, Itamar Bellaiche and Noam Da Kalo. Last Saturday, Itamar and Noam arrived with their mothers Anna and Mali for their first visit at the Salem Music Center and joined a class that took place there, together with Mario and the center’s teachers Jubeir, Wasim and Amid.

Mario’s and Itamar’s clarinet performance enabled the pupils at the center to acquaint themselves with this wind instrument, that has been almost unfamiliar to them until now.

The class began with movement and expression exercises led by David Steinberg, coordinator of the Tel Aviv school’s drama major.

Visiting – beside these guests from the Tel Aviv school – were also Dr. Dochi Lichtenstein of the School for Music Education at Levinsky Teachers Seminar, and Noam Ben Ze’ev, music critic for Haaretz newspaper.

For us, members of the Villages Group who have been following the Salem Music Center program from its onset two years ago, yesterday’s visit was a pleasure and a milestone in the ties we have been tending with the people of this village for the past eight years. Cooperation with the Tel Aviv musicians augments the workshops given by Dr. Felicity Lawrence of Newcastle University at the Salem Center in November 2010 and April 2011. These activities open a window to different and varied musical worlds for the students and teachers in this village, among whose population of 6,000 there was only one single musician until a year ago.

As we updated you last month, the children at the Salem Music Center will be needing more musical instruments from this point on to further their studies and musical development, and enable a new class of students to join. The list of instruments includes 4 violins, 3 ouds, 2 tablas, 4 organs, 3 classical guitars, 1 bass guitar and 1 accordion.

Several donors have already helped us with the donations of one large organ, one accordion and a violin. We appeal to all those who might assist this, whether by donating instruments or making a financial contribution, to contact us as soon as possible. The children’s summer vacation, beginning in about three weeks, is activity-intensive at the center, and we would like to facilitate it with all the necessary instruments in time.

Please feel free to approach me for more information.


Ehud Krinis (ksehud “at” gmail) for the Villages Group

Sometimes Dreams Do Come True: Children’s Music Center in Salem Opens

On the 10th of March 2010, after conducting entrance exams for more than 300 children from Salem (a Palestinian village near Nablus), and for the first time in the history of the village, 18 children have started their music studies, in the spirit of the vision presented in the proposal for this program.

Eleven girls and 7 boys gather three times a week, for 3 hours each time, in the rooms provided by the  local council in the council’s building.  Leading the program is Jubier Ishtayya from the village of Salem. The coordinator – Fadi – is from Salem as well. Jubier teaches traditional instruments- the Ud, and Tabla, as well as the organ. Another teacher, Amid from Nablus, teaches violin and guitar.  The children haven’t yet chosen their personal instruments. They are in the basic stage of learning how to connect the tunes, notes and instruments.

We, Ehud and Erella from the Villages Group, visited them on Friday, 2.4.10 during one of our regular visits to Salem. It felt that us from Israel, and kids, teachers, coordinator and parents in this Palestinian village, were all playing the same music on the same piano. A bit strange in the abnormal reality we all experience each day.

The initial budget, to set up the program and finance the first 6 months of activities, was generously donated by dear and sensitive people from Australia. We are already working on finding the financial resources to enable the program to continue.  Please forward this report to people you think might be interested to know about, and support this program.

Report From A Massafer Yatta School – South Hebron Hills 7.3.2010

In a joint initiative of the Village Group and Machsom Watch, we went this Sunday (7.3) on a tour to Massafer Yatta – the heart of the cave dwellers area in South Hebron Hills.

Our guides were Hamed from Hebron and Ezra from Taayush. As you may remember from a previous report, the Massafer villages have been under heavy pressure from the Israeli military:

  • Pressure from a lot of dirt barriers along the main passageways between the Massafer villages;
  • likewise from the unceasing pursuit of military vehicles after Palestinian employment seekers who come from the Hebron area and who move along these paths in hope of finding work in the towns of south Israel.

During our tour, the military surprisingly showed no sign of their presence, seemingly honoring  the first appearance of women from MachsomWatch in the area. This fact was well exploited by the continuous movement of employment seekers’ Subaru cars – a phenomenon that is presently a burden for the permanent residents of Massafer.

The barriers themselves were open – a sign that  the struggle led by attorney Limor Yehuda from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel to keep them open is meanwhile yielding fruit. However, the dirt road used as a main passage way in this area is in rather a bad state and in some places (as can be seen in the attached photographs) is almost impassable even in a jeep.

During the tour we arrived at a primary school (grades 1-4, 42 students), that opened this year at the cave dwellers village of Fachit in the heart of the Masafer area. The photographs we took tell it all: Over and above the good intentions of the aid organizations that enabled the opening of this school (two major International organizations – Care International and the Red Cross, and a local one – Health Work Committees), the infrastructure they established: several tents, chairs and blackboards and toilets – are extremely  minimal and lacking. At the moment, about five months after the opening, weather conditions have made the place completely  unusable.

It is not an exaggeration to say that no other school in our region (i.e. the entire Middle East) operates under such difficult conditions.

And, nonetheless, students continue to arrive (although not when we were there) by means of the vehicle recently bought with donations we managed to get.

We thank Michal and Nurit from Machsom Watch South who came on the tour and hope that from now on the Massafer area will remain permanently on the map for the monitoring tours by this important organization.

Ehud Krinis

Yasmin Opens the Braille Little Oxford Dictionary

One of our Villages Group’s strongest connections is with Yasmin Gebara, a very special young woman from the village of Salem near Nablus. Yasmin is blind from birth.  A younger brother, Muhammad, is also blind. In September 2004, Yasmin’s father Saael, a taxi driver, was killed in cold blood by Yehoshua Elitzur, from the nearby Itamar settlement. Elitzur was sentenced in an Israeli court for eight years, but then fully exploited the pro-settler leniency of the Israeli justice system who let him go home before reporting to jail, and has probably escaped the country without serving a single day.

In the meanwhile, Yasmin’s Mother Muna was left on her own with six children in the ages 9-18. We started to visit Yasmin’s family regularly after Saael’s murder. During this period of five and half years we accompanied Yasmin in her long way from the senior year in Salem high school, through  four years term of academic studies in the Nablus university.

In January, we celebrated with Yasmin her graduation from university in the field of English Literature. During this celebration, Yasmin read for us from the Braille a poem of her in English, written especially for this occasion. Erella from the Villages Group read to Yasmin our greetings, praised Yasmin’s unique personality and great achievements and her supportive family (especially her late father and her devoted mother). Yasmin applied to be an English teacher in the Ramallah School for blinds. Hopefully, she will be accepted for this job.

Also last month, we sent an email plea to our list of friends, if anyone can help Yasmin continue and develop her English by sending her CDs of English poetry and English literature – and especially an English-English Braille dictionary and/or Arabic-English\English-Arabic Braille dictionaries.

Before we had time to post this plea online, it was already answered. Jamal and Georgina from London sent Yasmin the “Little Oxford Dictionary” in Braille. Since this dictionary has 39 volumes, I assume that if anyone wants to send Yasmin the “Big Oxford Dictionary”, you will need to hire an entire ship! Also, Yasmin can enjoy now from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream on CD’s sent to her by Edna from Herzliya.

We wish Yasmin success in her future plans, and thanks again to all who pitched in to help.


A Visit to Huda’s Preschool at Hashem Al-Daraj

This week we visited in Huda’s preschool at Hashem Al- Daraj (sometimes known as Umm Daraj). It is located in the Judean desert deep inside area C of the Oslo accord map.

[update: the report linked above to Hashem Al-Daraj’s name, a report authored by the Palestinian Authority, has many inaccuracies. Among other things, it says that Huda’s preschool had closed. As we testify here, it is still open! The PA has no real presence at Hashem Al-Daraj, like in most of area C, and its reports are based on indirect sources]

My three colleagues (all of them experts in education for early age) and myself, were the first foreigners ever to visit this preschool, so naturally the kids were afraid of us in the beginning.

Huda’s preschool opened some four years ago and it survived until now with almost no facilities and no budget. Huda works alone there with more than 20 children, and receives a monthly salary of $140 from an NGO in Hebron. In such conditions, all the other preschools that opened in this Bedouin peripheral area at the same time as Huda’s, had closed long ago.

Certainly, Huda is a local hero of the noblest kind.

Working in almost complete isolation, Huda was very much pleased from our visit, and thanks us for the toys we brought to the children, donated by some good Israelis. Still, it seems that what this preschool lacks the most is an annual budget which would enable Huda to purchase the most basic means – items needed for the operation of every preschool, such as blackboards, paper, pencils, etc.

If you send us donations designated for Huda’s preschool, we will use them entirely for that purpose.

Ehud Krinis

Villages Group

A Workshop at Kibbutz Shoval With Friends from South Mt. Hebron

Shalom Friends,

We held a small workshop at Kibbutz Shoval on Thursday-Friday, 11-12.2.

The workshop was initiated by Fatima, our colleague from Susya, for the purpose of creating a basis for local cooperation in the area of South Mt. Hebron.

We have visited South Mt.Hebron every week for years now and enjoyed the hospitality of our friends there; we were very glad of the opportunity to host some of our friends from that area in our home.

Three couples joined us for the workshop: Fatima and Khaled from Susya/Yata, Na’ama and Eid and Sara and Aziz from Umm al- Kheir. Part of the workshop was to enable our friends from South Mt. Hebron, who were visiting us for the first time, to get to know us better, the circumstances of our lives and the place we live in – Kibbutz Shoval. We also visited the local preschool, where the guests spoke with the teachers and the children.

The workshop was also devoted to discussions concerning possibilities of development for young Palestinians in the area of South Mt. Hebron, in light of the internal problems of life in a traditional society, and the external circumstances of life under Israeli occupation.

We are grateful to Buma and Danny (who also took the great photos attached) for the help they gave us during the workshop, and hope that the momentum created in this first course of action will continue and expand in the near future.


Ehud and Erella

The Village Group

Visit to Salem on Hanuka Eve

Friday. The day of the first candle of Hanukah Jewish feast. We are on the way to Salem village with Carin (an Australian young woman who helps us to develop the music project there). It is nice to go there on the day of the first candle. Visiting our friends and developing the next step of the children music center there, feels like lighting a candle.

It is just that on the way we’ve planned to visit another friend in Yasouf village, and buy some olive oil from him. Just before entering his village he called us on phone to tell us not to come because some settlers had “lit a Hanuka candle” their way by burning the Mosque of the village. Just two different ways to light a candle.

Not much of a joy accompanied us along the rest of the day. The only strength we’ve felt was the strength of the unconditional friendship between ourselves and with our Palestinian friends.

Here is a video about the music center, prepared by Natti Adler:

Here is Carin’s description of the visit as posted on her “Looking for Shalom” blog:

You know what? I am exhausted. It feels like I never stop. My journeys into the West Bank are long and tiring. But what can I say? I am addicted. And today was a particularly special day. I would not have missed it for the world. I went to a place where I personally feel part of the peace efforts, and where many of you are personally part of the peace efforts.

I went to Salem, a Palestinian village in the northern part of the West Bank, around 2km from the major city of Nablus. I joined two kibbutzniks, Erella and Ehud, from the Villages Group for their weekly family visits. The main reason we went to Salem was to visit Jubier Ishtayya, a local musician and teacher who is starting a music centre with your help.

Erella met Jubier a few years ago. They connected over a common dream to create peace through music. Well, peace is actually the word I chose. Erella and Jubier are more grounded than that. They do not have any grandiose ideas about peace. Instead, they believe in the transformative power of music. They believe that music is a tool for developing creative minds, rather than destructive ones. The music centre will be a place of learning, artistic expression and concerts; a centre for healing and hope.

I met Ehud, Erella and Jubier earlier this year and I was blown away. Not by the idea of the project, that was not new to me, but by the spirit, the energy and the relationship between these three people. Their idea was well thought out, realistic, and targeted at a particularly vulnerable group: boys and girls in their late teens, living in extreme conditions, with few employment opportunities, and nothing to do in the afternoons. The centre will start small, but they have big plans for the future.

And the dream was made possible because of support from many of you. So tonight, even YOU can put smiles on your faces. The music center will open in January, half the students will be girls and half boys. The head of the village has provided the space and political support for the project.

It is wonderful to feel part of a concrete project on the ground; particularly one that I so strongly believe in. This gives me hope. And I promise, before I finish this journey, I will provide you with plenty more ideas for how you can stay engaged.

20 days to go…
Images of the Salem Music Center can be found here.

The Opening of Second Class in a Chidren Program in Umm al-Kheir

Dear Friends and Supporters,

The generous donations of Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, made possible the opening of a second class of the Umm al-Kheir Learning Enrichment Program. The cluster where this class has now opened is the place that our friend and colleague Ezra Nawi tried to protest against a houses demolition – an incident that led to his recent conviction in an Israeli court.

In a place where not only every house that was built in the last 40 years have been demolished, but also the digging of the toilets under the ground is prevented by the occupation forces, the conditions in class (which is actually the tiny living room of the teacher Targhrid) are harsh, but as you can learn from the photos attached, the children’s spirits are high.

Ehud Krinis

Learning Enrichment Program for the Children of Umm al-Kheir

Dear friends and supporters,

In the Western part of the Palestinian-Bedouin settlement of Umm al-Kheir are two extended family clusters of approximately 100 people, over half of whom are children. These centers perhaps suffer more from the persecution of the occupation authorities than any other place to the south Mt. Hebron. The direct reason for this that they are a mere few meters away from the Carmel settlement that was established decades after the forefathers of these Bedouin were expelled from their homes in the region of Arad following the 1948 war and, as a result, they settled in Umm al-Kheir, which was at the time under Jordanian rule. For the past year and a half on the ‘Villages Group’ blog, we have reported the efforts of the Israeli authorities to embitter the lives of residents in both centers near the Carmel Settlement, chief of which is the ongoing cruel destruction of homes.

In the daily reality of despair and distress imposed by the occupation authorities on these people’s lives, there are also lights of hope – some the result of cooperation between local residents and various organizations and groups, among them Israeli organizations and groups, such as ‘Cultural Projects ‘Mifalei Tarbut” of the Tel Aviv Hapoel football team, Taayush, and the Villages Group. Most important of all are projects resulting from local initiative – like the one discussed here, and appearing in the images.

A young local engineer, Aziz Hazalin, established a small playground for the children of one of the two clusters; an initiative that was facilitated by a donation from a Jewish-British business man. Another important initiative is a learning enrichment program for children initiated last year by Na’ama Hazalin, a local qualified teacher. This enrichment program has now functioned for a year and is run by Sara, Na’ama’s sister. For the past year, this program has been supported by the Jewish-British organization – The British Shalom-Salaam Trust. Approximately fifteen children from the second cluster, between the ages 6-14, participate in the program. In a conversation we had with the two teachers, Na’ama and Sara, they reported significant achievements resulting from the enrichment program:

  • The program enables personal attention from the teacher. The main activity takes place over the weekend when the teacher personally helps the students. Consequently, there has been a significant improvement in the children’s learning achievements, particularly in such subjects as mathematics and English, which are the focus of the program.
  • Over and above mathematics and English, there are also projects in the fields of painting, drama and story reading.
  • The particular importance of the program is that it is an intimate meeting place, within the family, where children can express themselves freely, without fear of being mocked by their peers at school.

It is our impression, based on many visits to the place, that the learning enrichment program has been a great success and should continue. Moreover, the program should be expanded to include the second center as well. There is another young woman who is willing and able to run the program in the other center.

The annual cost of running an enrichment program is $3,000 per cluster $6,000 per two clusters. We appeal to groups, organizations and individuals to help us continue and maintain, even expand this small and very important educational project.


Ehud Krinis

Villages Group