Tag Archives: Palestine

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.

“Law Enforcement” Destroys Prayer House, Homes, School – Just Because They’re for Arabs

Last Thursday, November 24, employees of the Israeli company “E.T. Legal Services”, hired by the deceptively named “Civil Administration” arm of Israel’s military Occupation regime in the West Bank, demolished a mosque. Among other things.

To add insult to injury, Occupation forces arrested two young women for passive nonviolent resistance (see the video below). This is not your vanilla American “Occupy” arrest-and-release, get lawyer-and-defendant-rights arrest. The girls were entered into a sealed military vehicle and carted off to an unknown location (which eventually turned out to be an Israeli jail some 3 hours drive away), without any means – or rights – to defend their obvious innocence.

On that very auspicious day, the Occupation goons also handed out demolition orders to an impoverished village’s schoolhouse. Yes, that is the very same, one-year-old school whose pictures we brought to you in the last Villages Group blog post.

Now look.

Many people are unnerved, confused, even offended, hearing the terms “apartheid” or “ethnic cleansing” with regards to Israel, or even only with regards to the Occupation dictatorship Israel insists to continue running in its backyard.

I understand.

But I also know that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. This is beyond disgusting. This is beyond apartheid and ethnic cleansing and squabbling over terminology.

In its actions, especially in “Area C” that comprises 60% of the West Bank, Israel’s government is trying to murder the soul of a people and wipe it out as a nation – leaving only “human dust” that can be blown hither and thither and molded into whatever shape its rulers feel like.

And you know what I, personally as an Israeli, find MOST insulting? Two things.

1. That all this outrage is carried out mainly in order to safeguard the petty thievery of some scraps of land and property belonging to people far poorer and less privileged than ourselves. While we have more than enough to live on, and enough places to live. A “luxury robbery”, if you will. And
2. That all the while, two generations and counting, mainstream Israel pretends that this kind of stuff is not happening on a daily basis, brushes it off, explains it away, lies about it with a straight face – and continues to maintain the ridiculous charade of cultural and moral “superiority” over the Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular.

If you are Jewish, and/or hold Israel dear, and/or don’t like reading this, WAKE UP. This is not about a specific politician, and certainly not about me or my choice of words. The actions described below are those of a fine-tuned machinery in operation for decades. It is ruthless, it is reckless, it is remorseless and it is soulless – and unless it is stopped, it will eventually leave nothing worth saving in Israel-Palestine, on all sides of whatever lines you choose to draw on that suffering land. So if you read this, you can say many things – but don’t say you haven’t been warned. Multiple times.

We will try and engage larger organizations for action on these matters. Meanwhile, you can start protesting this outrage with an email to Israel’s defense minister, sar@mod.gov.il or pniot@mod.gov.il, fax +972 3 6976711 (they are said to hate faxes), or the ministry’s US outlet (info@goimod.com, fax 212-551-0264). Besides the demolitions that already took place, don’t forget to mention the school that was just served with a demolition order.

The pretext for demolishing the school (“without permit”, of course – see above and below for the non-permit regime in Area C), is that it is claimed to be some 100 meters, maybe less, inside Area C, bordering on Area B. In Area B, the deceptively named “Civil Administration” has zero formal jurisdiction (don’t worry, then the Occupation’s other arms can come and carry out “security” demolitions if push comes to shove). In Area C, Israel is carrying out its newest social experiment and innovative contribution to the region in its role as “The Only Democracy”(TM): full control with zero accountability, with a generous helping of taxation-and-demolition without representation to the local Arabs. And of course, forget about building permits in Area C. Those are for Jews only.

I end my personal rant, and here is the report from Ehud, followed by some more background information for those interested and/or those in deep-freeze denial, who for some indecipherable reason still bother themselves with reading this.

Some of the events of the day have been filmed and uploaded to Youtube by Israeli activist Guy Batavia. Please watch it. There are more segments on his Youtube channel.


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The demolitions that the Israeli Occupation forces carried out in the the same day in South Hebron Hills (Thursday, 24.11.11) show that the duration of the bureaucracy leading up to the demolition itself changes from case to case: in the instance of Muhammad Mussa Mu’ghanem from Susya it was over within a few weeks. Without legal defense , no more than two months passed from the date the orders were issued to stop the works until Thursday, 24.11 when the bulldozer, escorted by army and police forces, arrived and demolished the two temporary structures that had served the Mughanem family in the past months.

On the other hand, in the case of the cave-dweller hamlet of Umm Fakra (sometimes spelled “Umm Faghara”), the same bureaucratic process leading up to the demolition has lasted much longer: in spring 2000, the inhabitants returned to their hamlet from which they had been expelled in winter 1999. According to a High Court of Justice ruling enabling their return, they were prevented from any construction work until the final ruling in their case. The years went by and the final ruling was not given. The freeze preventing any possible development at Umm Fakra (including the forbidden connection to the power grid) became a permanent fact.

About 4 years ago, the inhabitants of Umm Fakra began to breach this freezing order and dared build a small stone mosque for their own use. At the same time, the village elder, Mahmoud Hamamde, put up a structure with two dwelling rooms on top of his cave, for the use of his growing family. The following years saw some more structures built in Umm Fakra.

The Occupation’s deceptively named “Civil Administration” has issued work cessation orders against all of these additions, shortly after their construction. The lawyers hired by the owners managed to delay the Occupation bureaucracy’s inevitable action for several years, until last Thursday (24.11.11): two bulldozers arrived at the hamlet, escorted by Occupation agents, soldiers and policemen, and completely demolished the village mosque and the living structure of the Hamamde family that served as a rabbit pen. Only one of the two rabbits at the time survived, the other died in the process. While demolishing at Umm Fakra, the Occupation forces arrested two young women of the hamlet – the mukhtar’s daughter, Sausan Hamamda, a 21-year old student, and her 17-year old relative, Amal Hamamda. The two were taken to Tel Mond prison inside Israel.

From the little information we have at this point, apparently the Israeli police intends to accuse these two young women (whose professional and academic studies we have been supporting) of serious offenses, as might cause their relatively long incarceration.

Ehud Krinis
The Villages Group

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International scholar and Taayush activist David Shulman also posted a piece earlier this month – not on these specific actions, but on the South Hebron Hills regime in general:

The senior commander from the [deceptively named] Civil Administration turned up to inspect us, together with thirteen bored, awkward soldiers. He’s the same guy I met at [Israeli outpost] Avigayil last month– easy-going, fluent in Arabic, all charm and good nature; the one who put an end to the Jibrin family’s plowing that day. He’s done it again this morning, when the Jibrin farmers attempted once more to plow near the ugly outpost.

In fact, this pattern is now well established. They manage to plow for a few minutes, the settlers come out, then the army arrives, and the cheerful man from the [deceptively named] Civil Administration plays his inevitable role. The courts have confirmed that the land belongs to the Jibrin, but they only manage to plow it bit by bit, stolen moments before the machine stirs, an ungainly beast, and drives them away.

…I suppose we should be grateful. You get used to the whole lunatic business. It even begins to seem normal, the normalcy of the Pax Israelica in the territories. That is: you become habituated to a world dominated by outright theft and all that derives from this single, organizing principle.

…One can dither about whether the term “apartheid” is appropriate for the reality of the Occupation… But can Palestinians get on an Israeli bus passing their homes in the West Bank? Can Palestinian drivers use the roads built for settlers and settlers only? Can Palestinians get a permit to add a room to their house if it’s in Area C, or even to put up a tent or an outhouse? Can they graze their sheep on their own lands without being driven off at gunpoint by settlers or soldiers or both? Can they put down a gravel road that traverses their fields without the [deceptively named] Civil Administration stopping the work and impounding their tractors? Do they enjoy even the most minimal of civil liberties? Do they have legal recourse in the not uncommon event that they are suddenly stripped of their land, their possessions, and their freedom?

Regarding Area C in general, earlier this year Amira Hass reported that in 2010, demolitions of Palestinian structures in this region had tripled.

The UN OCHA wrote about the Area C no-permit-for-Palestinians regime,

In area C, a building permit from the Israeli Civil Administration is required for all types of construction including rudimentary dwellings, pit-latrines and even fences. According to OCHA, Palestinian construction is effectively prohibited in 70% of area C, while in the remaining 30% there is a range of restrictions and administrative requisites that greatly reduce the possibility of obtaining a permit. Given the difficulties in obtaining construction permits, many Palestinians living in area C take the risk to build without a permit, therefore facing the threat of administrative demolition by the Israeli Authorities.

There’s a wealth of information all over the Web – for example, a recent Btselem report about disposession in the predominantly-Area-C Jordan Valley.

Keep in mind that Area C was conceived under Oslo as a temporary staging ground, to be rather quickly transfered to Palestinian control – pending final outline of borders on the ground (those famous elusive few-percent “land swaps”). As such, the jurisdiction of any Israeli body to tell any Palestinian what to build in Area C, where and how, is extremely questionable.

Instead, when the process faltered, Israel started behaving as if the area was its own to keep. Except, well, the democracy, basic decency and rule-of-law parts of governing. Among other things.

The thick irony is that the knee-jerk reaction in Israel to any story of such demolitions is “What do you want? The Law must be upheld!” This stupid response would have been funny, if the reality they help hide wasn’t so sad and revolting.

Please help us stop this ugly, corrupt-to-the-core madness. Thank you.

PS: In case this is the first time you read of such illegal demolitions by the deceptively named “Civil Administration”, or have a short memory –

then just here on the Villages Group, just with respect to South Hebron Hills, we reported about such vandalism (demolitions, road blockages, and other “contributions” to culture and society)
here (2008 road blockage) and
here (2008 demolition orders to the mosque that was eventually destroyed last week) and
here (home demolitions, 2008) and
here (blocking roads again, preventing water supply) and
here (building settler-only roads that blocks and damages wells and shepherding) and
here (soldier idly watch as settlers attack people and vandalizes property) and
here (another demolition order, Umm Al-Kheir 2009) and
here (Palestinians finally return under court-order to a village that was ethnically cleansed, to see the scale of destruction there) and
here (student from A-Tuwani arrested, tortured, released) and
here (play-by-play description from Prof. Shulman, of how soldiers issue an illegal “Closed Military Zone” order to drive sheperds off their legally-owned land) and
here (soldiers try to halt public work that did have a permit; fortunately Israeli activists were present and prevented the stoppage) and
here (another Shulman description of the military harrassment sheperds undergo, after a new illegal settler outpost had been set up on their land) and
here (2010 demolition of water cisterns, some of them ancient) and
here (home demolitions, Umm Al-Kheir, 2 months ago) and
here (destruction of line connecting village to Palestinian power grid, see pic).

These reports come only from a tiny sparsely-inhabited piece of land. There are many, many more such “cultural activities” carried by the Israel government, showering freedom, democracy and progress on the Palestinian residents under its total control, all across Area C.

Also, I found some more phone and fax numbers for the Ministry of Defense. Phone: +972 3 6975349 Fax: +972 3 6976218 /691 6940 / 696 2757 / 691 7915/

South Hebron Hills Update

Dear friends and supporters,

About one month ago we reported to you on the state of the local schoolhouse in Palestinian Susiya as its second school year opened. Visiting the school on Thursday November 2nd, 2011, we witnessed an impressive development in the construction of the school’s permanent building. These works are undertaken as a joint initiative of the NGO Action Against Hunger/ ACF International, and the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees.


For our modest part, we brought the school a laptop computer that will serve the teachers from now on (we would be grateful to receive and bring the teaching staff additional laptops). We hope that soon we shall be able to meet the teachers’ request to receive Hebrew language lessons – Erella, of our group, is considering taking this task upon herself and we hope that within a few weeks we can report to you that a weekly Hebrew course for the school teachers is already under way.

A little while before arriving at the Susiya school, we learned of yet another act of destruction inflicted by the Israeli Military Occupation’s “Civil Administration” arm. A bulldozer destroyed the power pylons that have lately been installed between the village of Al-Tuwani and the cave hamlet of Umm Faqara, as part of the infrastructure that was to connect Umm Faqara with the regional power grid. This act of destruction by the “Civil Administration” is perfectly consistent with the long-term policy exerted by the Israeli Occupation authorities, in order to prevent the connection of the cave hamlets in the South Hebron Hills to infrastructure such as water and power. The motivation underlying this policy is to deny the legitimacy of these Palestinian communities and to eventually eliminate their existence.

Ehud Krinis

World-Class American Jazz Harpist Conducts Workshop at Salem Music Center

On Saturday, October 15th, 2011, American master jazz harpist Park Stickney visited the Salem village Music Center near Nablus. Stickney was in Israel-Palestine to give the opening concert for the new Jaffa Harp Festival. The Festival organizer, harpist Sunita Staneslow and her spouse Fred Schlomka informed Park about the Salem center, and he decided to include it in this – his first – visit to the country.

During his visit at the Center, Park held a two-hour study workshop that opened with a presentation of the harp, a musical instrument new and unfamiliar to both students and teachers.

Most of the workshop was devoted to learning a well-known jazz standard – “Cantaloupe Island”. It was the Center students’ first encounter with this musical style. In teaching the tune, Park was assisted by Center teachers and other musicians, among them Dr. Ruti Katz from the Arts High School in Tel Aviv who has maintained close ties with the Center for the past year, and Josh Smith, a new immigrant from the United States.

Itamar and Noam – both student musicians from the high school who have already visited the Center at Salem several times in the past – also took part in the workshop. In the closing part of the workshop, students at the center played some items from their own repertoire for the guest artist. They were joined by Yusef, the singing barber from Salem and his daughter Shireen (singer and student at the Music Center) in some Palestinian folk singing.

Park’s visit at the Salem Music Center joins a series of visits by musicians from abroad and from Israel. This activity aims to open and widen the musical horizons of the students at the Center, raise public awareness of the existence and activity of this small center and create new ties between the center and its teachers and musicians who show interest in them.

Ehud Krinis

Please Help Palestinian Community Organizer Follow His Dreams

From David and Ehud at the Villages Group:

Hi friends

I am happy to tell you that Ibrahim Nawaja, who has run the Susiya creative and learning center, with great success , for almost a year (see also video below), has been accepted to Dar Al Kalima college (Arabic link) to study Documentary Film Making. This is a great opportunity for him.

For those who know Ibrahim, you know what an exceptional, creative and sensitive person he is and the imagination and dedication with which he approached his role in the Susiya creative and learning center (see attachment).

Ibrahim is from Susiya, a small, rural village in the South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank. The area is a difficult one for its Palestinian residents because of the presence of the Israeli settlers and army, and the constant pressure on residents of villages like Susiya to move away from their land. Ibrahim and others have created the Susiya center as part of their attempts to resist this situation and for their community to flourish despite the difficult circumstances. A crucial part of such projects has been the engagement of people like Ibrahim in their communities to imagine something different.

Over the past few years Ibrahim has been writing poetry and running artistic activities such as theatre and improvisation workshops with the children in Susiya, bringing his creative skills in to his role as a community organiser. Ibrahim now has the opportunity now to develop his skills and to be creatively engaging in a new way.

We are trying to raise funds for Ibrahim’s tuition and part of his living expenses since he will have to move to Bethlehem. The overall cost is 3000 euros for a year. We are trying to raise 2000 Euros, and Ibrahim and his family will try and raise the remaining 1000 euros. As you read this mail, people have already pledged 800 Euros in the last few days, which will permit Ibrahim to register and be enrolled for 6 months.

If you want to help you can:

foward this mail to other people who you think want to help Ibrahim.

Give a donation –

You make a check to the “Villages Group” and send it to:

The Villages Group
po box 6023
Tel-Aviv 61060
Israel

Or make a bank transfer to the following account

Bank Name Bank Leumi
Bank Identification Code LUMIILITXXX
Routing Code IL010985
Account Name Villages Group
Account Number 98508670082
IBAN Number IL 67010985-000000-8670082
Bank Address: Ben-Gurion & Rashi, Kiryat Malachi 83036 Israel

If you make a donation, or further information, please contact David or Ehud

The Villages Group email – villagesgroup1@gmail.com
or you can contact David by phone +972-54-6597551

On behalf of the Villages Group

David

Ehud adds:

For the past four years, the on-going aid of US-Omen has enabled us to support about 20 students from South Mt. Hebron each semester. The great majority of these students study at the branch of Al-Quds Open University located in their near home town of Yatta. The cost of the scholarships provided to each of those students, one that covers most of their tuition fees, is 500 Euros (650 Dollars) on average.

As the case of Ibraim’s studies is different and exceptional both in terms of the location of the academic institute and the overall cost, we found ourselves this time in need to bring it to our friends’ attention in a separate appeal.

One of the important aspects of the work of the Villages Group is to strengthen the communities by enabling individuals to develop and realize their abilities for themselves and their communities. This is one of the Villages Group ways of defeating the Occupation – by encouraging inner strength.

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