Tag Archives: South Mount Hebron

Desert Snows

January 9, 2015

This time I am almost ashamed of the story I am about to tell, as the whole world is dealing with the unbearable mega-terror-attack on France, and while here in Israel people – even since before the attack – are still busy with the unusually harsh stormy and snow conditions here at the moment. And perhaps in spite or because of my shame, I should tell it.

I live in a farming community in the northern Negev, where the desert begins. A place not blessed with abundant rainfall or groundwater. The South Hebron Hills, too, lying about 60-70 km east of where I live, is an area even drier than ours. Some of my good friends live there, mostly farmers and shepherds. Year after year, as winter descends, I get a phone call from Nasser, Ali and Eid who live in various hamlets in the South Hebron Hills, asking whether rain has already fallen in our village and how our fields are doing. They tell me about theirs, and about their water holes – the main and sometimes only source of water for them for both human and animal consumption the whole year long – which the Occupation authorities repeatedly destroy, and do not even allow the Palestinians to connect to other water sources.

All of last week we exchanged reports of the plentiful rains that fell both on my village and on theirs. Today Nasser called to ask whether we were having snow. They – at the altitude of 800-900 meters above sea level – have been having snow for two days now, but they heard on the radio that snow was falling even at 400 meters. “We are at 200 meters’ altitude” I answered, “and snow is a very rare sight”. And since we were already talking, I asked Nasser whether Ahmad and Laish (his children) managed to put together the puzzle I had brought them last week. “Yes”, he answered. “It became a family activity”. We continue chatting. I even disclose that I did not take part in our weekly visit last Thursday because my back was giving me too much trouble. “I wasn’t home either”, he said. “I was working. I went to document the cutting down of olive trees in the area”. Shocked at the timing (not at the sabotage itself), I asked: “What!? Even in such freezing weather, in a snow storm!?” “All the better”, Nasser answered.

“Yesterday morning”, he says, his voice sounding as routine as if we are still talking about the puzzle, “during a brief pause in the snowfall, farmers of Qawawis near Susya, and farmers from Yatta whose lands lie close to Qawawis, went out to check the water situation in the water holes of their plots. The holes were filled with water. Then they noticed 42 olive trees, 32 years old, lying sawed near Qawawis on the side of the grove next to Havat Yair settlement, and some 200 one-to-seven-year old olive trees uprooted and broken near Qawawis across the road.” Thus Nasser. I remain silent.

The water in their holes was given them by God. The sawed-down trees they discovered were destroyed by men. With and without a saw. Thus I say to myself after we are done with our telephone conversation which was not at all meant to touch on this subject. One more banal story. Another abnormal episode that becomes normal in a reality where even the complaint about evil-doing comes like falling summer rain.

When the crimes pile up, they become invisible.

When the suffering becomes unbearable no one

Hears the cries any more.

They too fall like summer rain. (Bertolt Brecht)

This attack will not make waves in the media. The attack in France, too, will soon enough fall away like summer rain. They both belong to the blindness of their perpetrators.

And God? He is present in the waterholes. The God of small things…

Erella

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Another Thursday (12.12.2013)

Dear friends,

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

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

I called Sausan’s mobile phone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erella

On behalf of the Villages Group

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Report on the Recent Distribution of Demolition orders in Susiya

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

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

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The Border Policemen who “secured” the operation

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

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The Civil Administration officer places…

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… and presents the order

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Yours,

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

 

Detention on Saturday Morning

To our dear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In September each of us will have a trial.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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