Tag Archives: Human Rights

Israeli Occupation Builds Villas for Carmel Settlers, Destroys the Hut of their Widow Neighbor. YOU Can Do Something about it.

Miyaser Al-Hatheleen is a 45-year-old woman living in Umm al-Kheir, South Hebron Hills. Her house was first demolished by the Israeli Occupation authorities in October 2008, together with other dwellings belonging to her relatives (see our original 2008 report about these demolitions). In July 2009, Miyaser’s husband Salem passed away, leaving behind him his widowed wife and their seven children: Manal (now age 18), Tareq (17), Husam (15), Ahmad (13), Khulood (11), Maysoon (8) and Gamila (6).

No, this is not the home the Occupation authorities is building for Miyaser in compensation for the 2008 demolitions. These are villas being built only a few minutes walk away, expanding the Carmel (Karmel) settlement, on land confiscated and/or denied from the local Bedouins and Palestinians. This construction is underway with heavy subsidies from the Israeli government, whose political pretext for the expansion is “natural growth of the settlements.”

After the 2008 demolitions, Miyaser’s extended family at Umm al-Kheir built for her and her children a small house – or rather, a hut – made of mud and stones:

Yet, even this extremely poor dwelling place was too much in the eyes of the Occupation regime. Last week, on January 25 2012, while the heavy machinery keeps swallowing the hill near Carmel settlement in order to make room for the building of spacious new houses for Umm al-Kheir’s Israeli neighbors, a “fellow bulldozer” made its way to the indigenous village – not for construction, but for demolition work that left once again Miyaser’s home in ruins. It should be noted that the past few weeks in Israel-Palestine have been very cold and wet. Umm-Al-Kheir sits some 800m above sea level, with nightly temperature near freezing.

Over the last weekend, the Hatheleen family of Umm al-Kheir and activists of the Taayush movement erected together a small tin home for Miyaser and her children.

A different, yet effective way of helping Miyaser, even by those of you who live far way, is suggested by us here: Miyaser is a skillful embroider. She is willing to sell her embroidery art, such as table maps and runners.

During the last year we have been able to sell several of Miyaser’s embroidery pieces here in Israel, and also in Durham, United Kingdom (by the help of our friends there, Shlomit and Alison). Anyone who wants to help Miyaser and her family by buying her embroidery works (or in another creative way), is invited to contact us at our Villages Group’s address: villagesgroup1@gmail.com. We will ship Miyaser’s art to you. If you live in the UK, Villages Group activists are due to visit Shlomit and Alison soon and bring them a new collection of Miyaser’s embroidery.

Ehud Krinis on behalf of the Villages Group (with additions from Assaf)

PS: this recent demolition is part of a broader pattern, that has been continuing for years but escalating recently. For more background about the current wave of Occupation vandalism in South Hebron Hills, and in West Bank Area C in general, see this post from November, and this one from 2009.

Winter at Salem: Music Center Annual Concert – and Military Raid on Center Director’s Home

The first part of this post, an account of Salem’s music center 2011 end-of-year concert held recently in the village municipality building, was written by Ikhlas (Yasmin) Gebara, the young poet from Salem (a village just outside of Nablus). Ikhlas is sitting to the left of Erella and Ehud in the picture below.

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Music is a gift for our minds and our hearts. It is a jewel that we lost and we feel happy when we find. It is the motivation that encourages us to live. It is a tool by means of which our minds and spirits operate.

By the effort of the Villages Group and members of the village, the idea of the music center materialized, converted from imagination to reality. Despite the short period since it was established, it has achieved great success and has become one of the popular centers in the village. The idea of the center started from the point of teaching children in village how to strengthen their role in society through music. In fact, the center aimed at providing a sense of pleasure since children felt that there is something they lack. So from the founders’ point of view, this lack is filled by music.

The center has been working for two years, and it was able to achieve popularity in the children’s as well as their parents’ minds. So the parents started to send their children to the center to learn how to use various musical instruments. During the last two years two groups of children graduated, and the center ended its second activity year with a concert. A big number of people attended and saw how children became creative in using musical instruments.

The event started with the coordinator of the center greeting the attendants and thanking the funders as well as the founders. Then the Palestinian national anthem was presented by the children. Then followed a series of songs which were played and sung by the pupils of the center. At the end of the concert there was a big ceremony in which the children were given certificates and the founders (who are really peace makers) were given thank-you gifts by a representative of the village council, the head of the center and a representative from the Villages Group.

Eventually, although the center is still modest it seeks for more development in order to increase the number of children and to have a crucial role in developing the village as well as empowering its children. Among our aspirations, we would like to have an independent house for the music center, so the center can grow.

Ikhlas Gebara, Salem

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We would have loved to end the Villages Group update from Salem here. Unfortunately, on the night between January 1 and 2 – a couple of days after the concert – the Israeli Occupation’s military forces raided the house of the Center’s founder and director, Jubeir Ishtayya.

The pretext was a search for weapons. As you can see in the pictures, the soldiers caused much damage to the new home, and deeply upset Jubeir and his wife and terrified his three little children. On the following Friday, Villages Group activists paid a solidarity visit to the Ishtayya family.

Military Trial of 17-year old Amal Hamamdeh from Mufakarah. Charge: Spilling Water on Soldier

As reported here, during home demolitions in the cave-dweller village of Mufakarah, two young women who resisted nonviolently were arrested and charged with “assaulting soldiers” under the Israeli Occupation’s draconian martial law. The older of the two, Sausan Hamamdeh, reached a plea bargain in December resulting in a fine. When reporting on that development, we were fairly confident that her 17-year-old cousin Amal Hamamdeh would see her charges dropped. After all, she just tried to hand Sausan a water bottle to wash her pepper-sprayed eyes, and when soldiers interfered some water were spilled on them. We were wrong.

The first court session in Amal’s trial took place Sunday, Jabuary 15th 2012, at the military court and prison base of Ofer, in the West Bank north of Jerusalem. Charges pressed by the military prosecution against Amal include throwing water and spitting at a soldier, and swearing at the security forces. The defense, by Amal’s attorney Neri Ramati (a Jewish Israeli lawyer, partner at the Gabi Lasky law firm), decided to admit pouring water on the soldier, and reject the allegations of spitting and swearing.

On the day of the arrest, while in transit to the Kiryat Arba police station, Amal was sexually harassed by one of the soldiers sitting with her in the army jeep. At the police station, the interrogators took advantage of her inexperience and lack of access to counsel (martial law is *very* convenient for interrogators and prosecutors), and managed to make her confess to throwing water at a soldier during the demolition. The next court session in Amal’s trial has been scheduled for February 5th, 2012.

It should be noted that in our experience, it is very rare to arrest and charge women in this context of protesting or resisting demolition of their homes (such protesting commonly occurs, it is a natural reaction when seeing one’s home demolished). At first we had thought these arrests were a random local initiative by the IDF officers at the site. Whether or not this is true, the fact is that now the military prosecution has stepped up and decided to throw the book, or rather, invent a book from thin air in order to intimidate these young women. This might be related to the intesification of the Occupation’s general campaign to intimidate West Bank “Area C” residents in the hope of driving many of them out and eventually annexing their land to Israel. This campaign has finally caught some mainstream attention due to a recent European Union report. We have been witnessing it and trying to stop it on the ground for years.

Below are two photos of Amal and her family, taken by Efrat Nakash during our visit at the family cave in Mufakarah, last Thursday.

On Wednesday, December 28th 2011, at Beit Ha’am on Rothshild Blvd. in Tel Aviv, an evening program of solidarity with Amal and Sausan was held, attended by about 150 people. This event was initiated by a group of activists in Israel’s massive social-justice movement, that uses Beit Ha’am as one of its activity centers. Among the evening’s organizers were Galia Tanai, Shelly Ben Shahar and Shani Solomon (who also visited Amal and Sausan in Mufakarah). The program, held in cooperation with Rabbis for Human Rights and the Villages Group, included a video interview with Sausan (at that time we still thought Amal’s charges would be dropped).

Activists of both organizations spoke and reviewed several aspects of reality in the South Hebron Hills in general, and Mufakarah in particular. Musicians Rona Kenan and Ruth Dolores Weiss gave a voluntary performance, one song of which is shown in the video below. The proceeds will go to help cover Amal and Sausan’s legal defense.

Ehud Krinis and Assaf Oron
The Villages Group

Update about Sausan and Amal, 2 Palestinian Girls Arrested as their Home was Demolished

Our last Villages Group post reported the demolition of structures, including homes and a mosque, in the Palestinian village of Al-Mufaqara (also known as Umm-Faqra) in southern West Bank.

The destruction was perpetrated on November 24 by Israeli civilian contractors (see here for a brief report in Ha’aretz). They were hired by the deceptively named “Civil Administration” – an arm of Israel’s military Occupation apparatus which poses as a legitimate governing body. The name “Civil Administration” was invented deliberately in the 1980’s by then-defense minister Ariel Sharon, in order to confuse and confound people about this body’s true nature. Its main business these days seems to be to harass, refuse permits, and eventually destroy property belonging to Palestinians, in order to “clear” them out of West Bank areas that Israel wants to eventually annex.

The civilian contractors and deceptively-named “Civil Administration” thugs were accompanied by ordinary IDF soldiers. As can be seen in the video below, throughout the demolition neither contractors, nor CA thugs, nor IDF soldiers, acted or looked like people under any form of threat or duress.

That did not stop them from arresting and carting off two female Palestinian youth: 21-year-old Sausan Hamamdeh and her 17-year-old cousin Amal. Some of the events around and immediately after their arrest are in the video, around minutes 1:30-3:00. The video was filmed by Guy Batavia, activist with Ta’ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights.

Amal and Rasha (Sausan’s sister) gave us a detailed account of the arrest: during the demolition Sausan was stressed, realizing her home was about to be demolished without the women of the family having a chance to remove its contents. According to the present Israeli procedure of house demolitions, the removal of the house contents is carried out only by a contractor’s firm hired for this purpose. Sausan’s attempt to force her way into her home to clear out belongings led to her being pepper-sprayed in the eyes by one of the soldiers, and to her arrest.

Amal was arrested as she tried to provide Sausan a water bottle to relieve the stinging in her eyes. Water from the bottle squirted out and wet the soldier who was preventing Amal from giving Sausan the bottle, and that was the reason for Amal’s arrest.

Sausan (image on right) and Amal were then taken by army jeep to the police station at Kiryat Arba settlement. During the ride one of the soldiers in the jeep tried to sexually harass Amal and also kicked her in the belly.

After the interrogation at the Kiryat Arba police station, Sausan and Amal were driven to Jerusalem where they were placed in detention at the infamous “Russian Compound” detention center. Conditions at the facility (which they shared with another inmate) were very severe – it was a very cold week in Jerusalem and the room had an air conditioner that was cooling rather than heating the place.

Repeated requests by the women to turn it off were refused by their jailers. Amal’s stay in this room lasted five days, whereas Sausan spent a whole week there (she said it felt like a year).

On November 28th the two youngsters appeared at the Occupation’s kangaroo military court in the Ofer base. We have a full account of the proceedings, thanks to a Machsom Watch volunteer being present. Here are a few excerpts:

…the charge [for both girls] is: attacking a soldier. While the representatives of the Civil Administration, together with soldiers and Border Police came to demolish her house, Sausan picked up a stone [later described as a ‘rock’] and hit a BP officer on the hand. Sausan was arrested. Then Amal came on the scene and poured water on the officer.

This is the prosecution’s version. A CPT observer who was on the scene issued quite a different report (.doc file):

The second family’s [whose home was destroyed] 21-year-old daughter confronted the Israeli soldiers when they marched into their home and began throwing the bedding outside. When she asked what they were doing, one soldier said, “Get out of my sight.” The daughter refused; in response, the soldier threatened, “If you don’t move, we will do even more,” and sprayed her in the face with tear gas. The other solders began kicking her as she fell to the ground.

…The 21-year-old’s cousin, who is 17, tried to bring her water to soothe her eyes. The soldiers arrested them both…

The Machsom Watch account continues:

The prosecution agreed to Amal’s release that day (perhaps because she is a minor, or because squirting a soldier with water is not such a serious violation) in return for a 4000 shekel deposit. The defense explained that Amal cannot afford to pay such a sum: she is the daughter of a destitute shepherd, and besides, her house has been destroyed.

The judge’s decision: He’s willing to consider reduced bail, plus third person Israeli guarantor (me) to insure that the defendant shows up for a hearing, should one take place on 21.12.11. …The judge also ordered the Prison Authorities to provide Sausan with a coat, after seeing the girls shiver, since they were wearing the same clothes they were arrested in 4 days earlier.

I wondered how the released underage girl was going to get home that day, with no money and no proper clothes. My concern proved well founded: She was released from the Russian Compound detention center in the evening. An Israeli friend of the family who inquired where he could pick her up was told to wait for her at Qalandiya Checkpoint [north of Jerusalem]. The man waited for 5 hours only to learn later that the girl had been released at Bethlehem Checkpoint [south of Jerusalem]. Amal reached home at 10 PM.

In the end, Sausan was released on Thursday evening [Dec. 1]. This time two activists waited for her at Bethlehem Checkpoint to drive her home. But they waited in vain, because she was released at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem (thus turning her into an “Illegal infiltrator” into Israel). A taxi driver took her home.

Today, Monday December 19, Sausan’s case reached a verdict. As usual in the Occupation’s kangaroo-court system, it is based on a plea bargain, whose terms are negotiated based on whatever confessions or negative testimonies the interrogators managed to get out of the defendant, vs. the level of success by the defense to demonstrate how ridiculous the original charges were (Occupation charge-sheets are invariably inflated). In Sausan’s case, the overall balance yielded a relatively mild outcome. Ehud just emailed me the verdict (pdf file, Hebrew).

I sentence the defendant to:

A. 8 days arrest, as many as she had already spent imprisoned.
B. One month arrest in the event she repeats the offense within two years.
C. A monetary fine of NIS 3,000, to be taken out of the bail posted on behalf of the defendant…

So Sausan is back home. A proper court would have thrown out the case, based on abuse in custody, lack of access to legal counsel when a (partially retracted) confession was elicited from the defendant, conflicting testimonies of the event, and several other reasons. The heavy-handedness in treating Sausan and Amal stands in glaring contradiction to the numerous assaults on soldiers by the Israeli settlers whose interests these soldiers serve – assaults that usually go unpunished. We should also call out the routine dirty trick of over-arresting and over-charging Palestinians, which then helps the judges of these kangaroo courts appear enlightened when they encourage more lenient plea bargains – when in fact, the judges have not lifted a finger towards carrying out their duties of overseeing true justice and guiding a search for the truth about events.

The fine, and the lawyer’s fees, are a very steep sum for the Hamamdeh family to pay. But at least Sausan is home and facing a relatively benign fine. Moreover, the charges against her 17-year old Amal are now almost certain to be dropped.

Finally: this story has struck a chord among people in Israel’s social-justice activism community, shinining a light upon the woeful injustice in Occupation in general and South Hebron Hills in particular, and inspiring solidarity action among female activists. Last week, after reading Ehud’s account of Sausan and Amal’s arrest on the Rabbis for Human Rights website, several organizers of this summer’s mass rallies in Israel for social justice visited the region with Villages Group activists. They filmed an interview with Sausan, and decided to take further action.

These activists are organizing a fundraising concert on Sausan’s behalf, on December 28 2011 at Beit Ha’am, 8:30 PM, in Rotschild Avenue Tel Aviv – the epicenter of the summer’s protests and the resulting movement. Top-notch Israeli Singer-songwriter Rona Keinan, a consistently brave and outspoken voice for justice and human rights in Israel-Palestine, has already pledged to appear. Emerging musician Ruth Dolores-Weiss will also appear. We will post an update about the event within a few days.

Susya Elementary School – Second Year Opens

The local school of Palestinian Susya, founded last year, has opened its second year of activity this month.

On Thursday, September 22nd, we visited and met the school staff: Principal Muhammed, and the four teachers – Amjad, Nizar, Ahmad and Hima. Our expectations and hopes that the Susya school will be growing vigorously and that the number of classes will increase from year to year, have been put aside as of yet: this year, too, there are only four classes (1st through 4th grades). The limited budget allotted to the school by the Palestinian Authority does not enable it to recruit new teachers. Hence, adding classes and expanding the school’s framework are still impossible. The number of pupils remains small – 32 in all.

Parent involvement in the school is highly visible. The school infrastructure has developed greatly with their help: walls were built with doors and windows, replacing the initial tents that collapsed during last winter’s storms. Still, the material circumstances of the school remain very challenging: it is not connected to water and electrical power supply, and lacks toilets and a playground.

The Susya local school’s potential is strong: the teaching staff is dedicated and serious, and the pupils’ achievements have improved considerably, compared with their own progress at previous schools they attended.

We of the Villages Group are very interested in helping the Susya School progress further. Danny, one of our members, has contacted the Al Zahara Elementary School in Tira (Palestinian town inside Israel, 20 km NE of Tel Aviv). This bond has already led to donations of books and study materials in Arabic and English. Moti, another member, contacted several Israelis willing to help the school with donations and equipment for several years. Jessica, a British volunteer, is at present giving the school teachers an English workshop. At the principal’s request, we are now trying to find a volunteer Hebrew teacher for the school’s teachers themselves.

We wish the pupils and teachers of the Susya local school a calm and fruitful school year, and hope to tighten our cooperation with them.

Ehud Krinis
The Villages Group

Another Round of Israeli Military Vandalism at Umm-Al-Kheir

Yesterday morning, Thursday September 8 2011, around 7 AM, the IDF military regime’s “Civil Administration” officials arrived at Umm-Al-Kheir, accompanied by a bulldozer and military forces, to destroy homes.

The residents of Umm-Al-Kheir – situated in the West Bank, roughly 8km north of its southernmost border – are Bedouins, originally living on land that became part of Israel. They were driven out following the 1948 war (see more details here), and in the 1950s purchased the land on which they live, which was then under Jordanian rule.

the 1980s the nearby Karmel settlement was established and subsidized by the Israeli government. Like all settlements, Karmel continues to expand and encroach on more and more Umm-Al-Kheir lands. The “Civil Administration” – which, on land matters, is little more than the executive arm of the settler movement despite being formally part of the IDF – always does the settlers’ bidding. Controlling the vast “Area C”, about half of the West Bank, it issues virtually no building permits to any Palestinian. And for Umm-Al-Kheir, like in other places, this “Administration” has done nothing except to inflict repeated rounds of destruction – in 2007, in 2008, and a demolition order the residents have been fighting since 2009 – which is apparently the legalistic pretext for the current destruction.

The damage done this time around: an outhouse

(see the linked story, for a poignant description of what happens after Karmel settlers succeed in depriving their neighbors of their sanitation infrastructure)

A family’s living tent (note the Karmel settlement’s houses in the background)

And a tin shack that was home to ten souls.

The state-employed vandals notified residents that they will be back in two weeks to destroy some more. Following yesterday’s demolition, the same crew attempted to destroy a nearby power line installed by a Palestinian company. In the process, one of the vandals fell off the electric pole and he is now fighting for his life at the Beersheva hospital.

Please write to the Israeli Ministry of Defense – either directly (pniot@mod.gov.il, fax +972 3 6976711) or to its Mission office in the US (info@goimod.com, fax 212-551-0264).

Ask them to stop these criminal, indefensible demolitions, and to compensate the victims.

Thank you.

Report on Summer Camps at Susya and Umm-Al-Kheir

The summer camps at Susya and Umm-Al-Kheir have just ended. Both camps are organized locally, and funded with the help of outside donors. Villages Group activists help arrange these funds, work with organizers to help meet their needs, and – most rewardingly – visit the camps to interact with the kids.

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At Palestinian Susya, this has been the third consecutive year for the camp. As mentioned above, this has been a homegrown local initiative from the start. This year has seen an impressive increase in the number of participating children: more than 100 children took part each and every day for two weeks. They were divided into several groups, all led by local counselors. Many other Susya residents pitched in to help when needed, and contributed much to the camp’s success.

From our perspective, having accompanied the camp for three years, we at the Villages Group are especially impressed and encouraged this year by the widespread local mobilization, by the range of activities, by the strong organizational skills and by the spirit of participation and enjoyment prevailing among both children and grownups during the camp.

It was a time of pleasant respite for the residents of Susya, who face daily struggles with the Israeli Occupation forces, and especially with the settlers of Israel-established Sussya – who are doing all they can to embitter the lives of their Palestinian neighbors and drive them off their ancestral lands.

Funding for the camp was obtained from many individual donors, most of them Israelis, whose soul has been attached – from anear and afar – to the fate of Palestinian Susya.

Ehud Krinis on behalf of the Villages Group

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In mid-July, for the first time, a two-week-long summer camp was launched for children at Umm al Kheir, a Bedouin hamlet in the South Hebron Hills. The camp is organized and directed by the younger adults of this community.

Several families at Umm al Kheir have suffered extreme hardships due to their proximity to the settlement Carmel that was built on their lands thirty years ago. Heavily subsidized by the Israeli government, Carmel has continued to expand in recent years, including its chicken coops and new neighborhoods (one already constructed and populated, the other in its planning stages). The settlement has been closing in on the Bedouin families from all sides, threatening to strangle them – a process backed up by intense house demolition actions carried out by the Civil Administration and the Israeli Occupation authorities.

In view of these aggressive dispossession processes, the young educated generation at Umm al Kheir, supported by groups, organizations and individuals from the outside, has been taking measures such as founding a community center and organizing this summer camp. They hope to give the local residents, especially the children, a sense of creativity and vivaciousness facing the brutal pressures constantly exerted upon them by the Occupation apparatus.

The activities of the Umm al Kheir community center in general and the summer camp in particular are supported by the
British-Jewish fund ‘British Shalom-Salaam Trust.’

Here are a few photos from the closing day of this new summer camp. The potential here is great. Indeed, the five-women team of Umm al-Kheir’s summer-camp: Naama, Sara, Ikhlas, Thaghrid and Dalal, did their best and proved once again that by working together they are capable of doing many wonderful things for their community. We hope that the next years will show that Umm al-Kheir’s summer camp will grow to become as successful and enduring as the one at Susiya.

Yours

Ehud Krinis, Erella Dunayevsky (on the right in the last image) and Efrat Nakash (who took all the pictures featured here)
Villages Group

Susya Creative and Learning Center: 1st Anniversary Celebration

On Saturday, May 28th, 2011, a celebration was held at the Palestinian village of Susya to mark the frist anniversary of the Susya Creative and Learning Center’s activity. Four hundred guests took part in the festivities – half of them Palestinians from Susya and the area, and the others – Israelis and internationals who reached Susya from various places in Israel and the world.

The Susya Creative and Learning Center, a joint initiative of local residents and the Villages Group has held a wide variety of activities this past year, among them classes in Arabic and Hebrew, Dabkah dancing, art workshops etc. These activities have made a significant contribution to the process of consolidating the community of families living at Susya.

One part of the celebration took place in the area of the Creative and Learning Center tent where the central assembly was held as well as kite-flying and Dabkah performances of local youth and children’s dance groups. In the nearby tent a sequence of short films was being projected about Susya and its people and about the Creative and Learning Center and its activities. Another part of the event took place at family dwelling tents. Each presented to its guests a display of photographs taken by the women of the family.

A samba players’ group and the Clown-Army group from Israel performed both at the central celebration area and in the family dwellings.

Several settlers from the Israeli settlement of Sussya tried to come in and spoil the fun. In this case, unlike others, army forces present kept charge of the order around Palestinian Susya and prevented the settlers from actually reaching the celebration centers and disrupt the events.

Among the organizations whose support made this celebration possible are The Villages Group, ActiveStills, COMET-ME, Breaking the Silence, Taayush and the Alternative Information Center.

Among the many volunteers who helped make this festivity a success, special thanks go to Ibrahim, Abd al-Rahman and Ahmad of the Susya Creative and Learning Center Committee, Mahmud and Ala from Yatta, David of the Villages Group, Keren and Mareike from ActiveStills, Dolev, Neriya and Tehila of Taayush, and the international volunteers Kate, Fiona and Victoria.

Ehud Krinis, The Villages Group

Restrooms and Sanitation at Umm-Al-Kheir (a story for Shavuot)

Mohammed Salem is about 30 years old. He lives in Umm-Al-Kheir, in a home inherited from his late father right next to the fence of the Carmel settlement (sometimes spelled “Karmel”; see picture on right).

In 2005, when Carmel built an expansion neighborhood, Mohammed was beaten by settlers involved in the construction. Since this assault, he has suffered from post-traumatic stress (PTSD). He has stopped functioning, fears and runs away from any stranger, and even from some family members.

Mohammed’s home, one of the few still standing in that part of Umm-Al-Kheir – a village suffering continual destruction from the Occupation authorities – does not have a restroom. Therefore, residents must perform their bodily functions outdoors. On Wednesday, May 25 2011, while Mohammed was outside for that reason, he was harrangued by settlers yelling, cursing and making threats. These new, government-backed residents living in fully-connected homes have had enough with this ongoing sanitation problem placed not far from their doorstep.

This story crosses paths with another story: about two years ago, Ta’ayush activist Ezra Nawi initiated a campaign to build outhouses at Umm-Al-Kheir. Shortly after work commenced, Carmel settlers complained to the Occupation’s “Civil Administration” about the travesty of restrooms being built for their neighbors. The “Administration” quickly geared into action, its men arriving on site, confiscating materials and posting work-stoppage order signs on those structures already standing. This government action has caused a European organization that provided most of the funding, to pull out of the project. In particular, Mohammed’s outhouse had never been completed; the floor was laid out, but the walls and ceiling are still missing (see pictures).

In these days, in view of the plight of Mohammed and his family, we intend to resume Ezra’s initiative, completing that one outhouse and building a second one in the same part of Umm-Al-Kheir. Cost is estimated at NIS 4,000. For details, feel free to contact Ehud Krinis: ksehud “at” gmail.

We hope that this time around, the good citizens of Carmel will allow the residents of Umm-Al-Kheir to complete the construction, and thus resolve the sanitary problem that is so irritating to them.

[ A note from Assaf
Ehud sent me this story with the title mentioning Shavuot, a Jewish holiday taking place right now, from Tuesday night through Thursday. He did not explain why the reference, but here is one possible explanation:

On Shavuot, we read the Biblical Book of Ruth. Ruth was a foreigner – a Moabite widow who arrived to Bethlehem, Judea, with her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi. Naomi’s family had lived in Moab for ten years, and then all men in the family had died. Naomi, about to return home, offered her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab with their families. Ruth refused and accompanied Naomi to Bethlehem, where she – a young foreign widow living in a man-less household and having no male offspring – would find herself on the lowest rung of the social ladder.

They lived in poverty subsisting on aid. Then, the wealthy landowner Boaz got to know her, fell in love and they lived happily ever after. King David is said to be descended from them.

The settlers of Carmel, observant Jews sitting in Judea, no doubt read the story today. They also spend – as is the custom – all night in Tikkun studying and discussing the ancient scriptures and their moral lessons.

All the while, they are willfully blind to the plain fact that they are playing a lead role in a twisted parody on the story of Ruth. Like Ruth, Mohammed and his fellow villagers are Gaerim – non-Jews in a territory controlled by Jews. Unlike Ruth, the villagers have lived there long before the Jews came. Like Boaz, the settlers are wealthy. However, unlike him their wealth has no legitimacy save in their own blinded eyes. The government robbed the land from the locals, handed it over to them – and they, supposedly moral and observant, couldn’t care less. They believe in a different law for Jews and for non-Jews, rather than in treating Gaerim with justice.

Finally, unlike Boaz who opened his heart to the foreign woman and went through all the legalistic moves, some of them unpleasant, in order to make her his lawful wife rather than exploit her as a mistress – the Carmel settlers manipulate and control a “law” enforcement apparatus, the “Civil Administration”, whose chief purpose is to keep non-Jews discriminated, humiliated and robbed of their rights and property. In short, the Book of Ruth is about individuals doing the right thing under difficult circumstances imposed on them. The settlers and the Israeli government, by contrast, impose themselves on the locals, and insist on continuing to do the wrong thing at every turn, as long as they can get away with it.

The settlers assauge their doubtlessly unclean conscience, by occasional acts of charity – all the while complaining about their neighbors’ unsanitary ways and low morals.

Happy Shavuot. Please help end this disgrace to Judaism and to Jews everywhere, before our lifetime is over.]

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.

Sincerely,

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