|Nonviolent direct action at Sheikh Jarrah|
|Photograph of Jewish settlers settling in to another family's home|
Although they live in Israel and are Israeli citizens, many of the Bedouin communities who are Palestinian Muslims are being displaced in order to make way for a new Israeli settler village that is being built. While for decades they have been denied basic services and infrastructure such as roads, medical care, schools and garbage collection because they are “too remote”, the new settlement will have all these services, and a shopping mall what’s more!! Many have solar panels on their roof, which is a great way to demonstrate self-reliance. One guy told us that his camels had been stolen, and taken to an Israeli camel farm. Upon inquiry, he learnt that if he wanted them back he would have to pay for the food and accommodation they were given while under the care of the camel farm. He couldn’t afford the price, and so had to go home without his camels. He now buys milk from the camel farm, instead of selling it as he used to.
Although we visited Hebron, where the Christian Peacemaker Team house is located, our plans were changed due to a the political situation, which was compounded by a CPT team member being arrested and refused entry to Hebron for two weeks. Her crime? Posting a picture on instagram. Read this article for more detail, as it shows quite directly what was going on and what challenges the permanent CPT team members face. 11 young Palestinians were killed in Hebron by settlers and soldiers just in the week or so that we had been in the country. It was considered particularly volatile last October when I was there.
Most distressing was the murder by soldiers of a girl aged 17 years, who was going through the checkpoint at the Ibrahimi Mosque. Witnesses say that the soldiers accused her of having a knife. She became fearful and backed away, and then they shot her. We’ve heard that no knife was found, although the story from the soldiers is always that people have knives and are stabbing the soldiers. As far as we know, there has been no investigation or justice applied to the soldiers and settlers committing these murders, and the bodies have not yet been returned to the families. What many of us found most difficult to comprehend was the idea that a fully armed soldier would feel so threatened by the possibility of a teenage girl with a knife (assuming she did have one), that he would choose to kill her first and ask questions later. That the soldiers and settlers can act with almost complete impunity is equally unbelievable.
|Boarded up shop fronts in Hebron|
It might seem from this report so far that everything is doom and gloom. The situation is grim, but we experienced the most wonderful hospitality, and had conversations with some incredibly inspiring people while in the Palestinian Territories. After our brief visit to the CPT office and rooftop tour of Hebron, we had lunch with an impressive Palestinian woman who lives in the heart of the souk. She served up a traditional dish called Upside Down Maqloobeh, with an adapted version prepared for the vegetarians, and served cups of tea and Arab coffee. On the way back, we stopped at the Al Aroub refugee camp, just outside of Hebron. One of our team members had friends in the camp, and they welcomed us into their home and we shared more tea, more coffee and more delicious food.
|Palestinian hospitality in a refugee camp outside Hebron|
On our return from Bethlehem to Jerusalem we were in a public bus full of Palestinians. Amid the chatter of young people on their way home from work or school, the bus cruised past the villages and came to a standstill at a checkpoint. As has become the norm, all the Palestinians on the bus were required stepped off when we reached the checkpoint. We were told that there was no need for us to get off the bus, as we are foreigners, but we explained that we wanted to do so in solidarity. Sure enough, though, when we reached the front of the queue the Israeli soldier who had checked the bags of every Palestinian before us simply asked if we were enjoying our stay. Our bags were not searched at all. This is just a very simple example of how Palestinians are treated as second class citizens while foreigners and Israelis are given special treatment. Some of us began reflecting on how groups like Christian Peacemaker Teams use this privilege to stand in solidarity, to get in the way of violence and to bear witness to injustice.
Probably the most encouraging aspect of this trip was the visit to the Tent of Nations, a 100 acre farm on land which has been continually owned by the Nassar family for almost 100 years. Unlike many Palestinians, this family had paperwork relating to the official legal title for the land that they own, and so the Israeli government was not able to kick them off their land, as has happened to so many other families. This family has continued to face a number of hurdles, however, as new laws have refused permission to build new dwellings, and they have been denied access to water and electricity.
A large pile of rocks blocks the main entry road to the farm, a very physical representation of the obstacles people face in retaining ownership of their land. Yet, they have found creative ways to resist. They have installed solar panels, begun to capture their own rainwater, built composting toilets, and all their dwellings are caves rather than formal structures (because caves are not prohibited). They continue to find creative ways to resist the settlers and government who are trying to steal their land, and bear witness to the idea that “existence is resistance”.
|Entrance to the Tent of Nations farm|