15 July 2007

Summer Camp

Yesterday was the first day of summer camp for over 100 Palestinian kids, agess 7 - 14 years, at the Qurtuba school in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. We organized the kids into 5 groups of approximately 20 kids each. It's great to see so many kids coming out. The camp takes place outside on the school's campus. Tarps were used as tents and makeshift classroom and sprawled across the street tied to Palestinian homes. My yoga/ESL classes take place up the hill near the school's basketball court. I'll post pictures later.

The settlement is right across the street from the school. Although an Islamic cemetery and a high wall keep the view of the settlers limited, the settlers do pass by and stop and stare. Well, last night some of them decided to try to tear down the tents that are on Palestinian land. Fortunately no major damage was done and camp was held today with only one minor gliche in the morning.

In order to enter the camp/school Palestinians must either walk down the hill through the olive groves or down Shuhada Street and pass a checkpoint manned by armed IDF soldiers and sometimes armed settlers. Yes, that is right. Settlers, who are civilians, are allowed to carry weapons freely and walk the streets. However, Palestinians are not allowed any weapons at all. I'll blog on that later. Back to this morning. Children have to walk up a steep flight of stone steps from Shuhada Street to get to the school. Settlers were sitting on the steps trying to prevent the kids from going to camp. EAPPI support teams and ISM intervened. The principal even had a brief conversation with the settlers which consisted of establishing that arabs hate settlers and settlers hate arabs so they are equal. And that the school has done nothing to the settlers so they should leave everyone and everything alone. Camp continued for the day without a problem. Eventually the settlers got tired and left. You see it is our job to wear them out. Internationals are only here to help the palestinians so we have all day to sit and stare and wait. And fortunately this time the internationals were able to outwait them.

I taught one yoga class to girls and boys around the ages of 7-9 years. Then one class of basketball to all (wild) boys ages 7-14. They don't know the rules but seemed to have a really good time. And in the end, that is all that matters.

08 July 2007

By the ISM Media Team

June 29th, 2007. On Friday evening about 20 human rights workers including members of ISM, EAPPI and CPT went to the Jabari family home which is situated on land between the Kiryat Arba and Givat Havot settlements. Settlers have constructed a footpath crossing the Jabari’s land in order to connect Kiryat Arba to Givat Havot. In 2002, settlers erected a tent on the Jabari’s land which they call a synagogue. The tent was dismantled twice by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) but the settlers rebuilt it. Currently there are no plans to dismantle the tent, instead the settlers are not supposed to enter it. If this is not making any sense to you, then you are not the only one. I can’t make any sense of it either.

The Jabari family asked members of the human rights groups to accompany them to their land so they could clear the dried grass and prepare the land to be used agriculturally again. The family has not used the land in the last six years, because of settler harassment, especially from settlement guards who are stationed across the street. This is despite a court order allowing them to do so. In the past, the family grazed their sheep and goats and cultivated fig trees and grapes on the land.

We arrived on the land and began pulling up the grass and packing it into bags for the animals to eat. The family eventually plans to plant olive trees on the land. We called the Israeli police before we got there to alert them to what we would be doing so they would be present to prevent any mischief and interference from settlers. Last time the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) came here, settlers prepared breakfast in the form of eggs and tomatoes to the head. The army and police eventually showed up and stood around but did not try to interfere. Settlers came and went; one placed a chair on the footpath, produced a Torah, and began praying.

Working The Land Part 1.

The greatest thing about the action was that the family was able to bring their goats onto the land to help finish the work. Fear of settlers harassing the family and hurting the goats had prevented them from doing this for a long time.

Working The Land Part 2.

We left as it began to grow dark, but not before we had tea and snacks and some of use got to ride the Jabari’s Arabian horse!

The walk back to Tel Rumeida was chock-full of the usual settler and soldier shenanigans which Hebron is known for. Palestinians are prevented from driving cars on the road that splits Kiryat Arba and Givat Havot. So they walk, or ride bikes, or ride horses. Oops, wait, I take that back, they can walk their horses, but they can’t ride them. A couple of Palestinians on horseback rode down the street and were ordered off the horses by soldiers. It was like they were in the 6th grade and the hall monitor was telling them not to ride their bike in the hall. Except it was some teenaged soldiers telling 30 year old men they had to walk their horses.

Walking down worshipper’s way we were greeted by settler saliva and rocks as they passed us on the way back from the Ibrahimi mosque/synagogue back to Kiryat Arba. We informed the army of this and as usual they did nothing.

At the mosque, Issa, our fearless Palestinian ISM coordinator was detained by soldiers who asked for his ID and searched his bag. In the meantime, another soldier had spirited away a teenaged member of the Jabari family who had been accompanying us.

The soldier took him over to a dark corner and it was a minute or so before we realized that the soldier was violently searching the boy and punching him in the stomach. As soon as we noticed and started screaming at the soldier, he stopped and released the boy.

The is something I have seen quite frequently, soldiers in Hebron will not beat a Palestinian if they know human rights workers are watching, so they try to sneak them away to someplace where we can’t see and as soon as they are discovered, they stop because they know what they are doing is wrong.

In the future, the local human rights groups plan to continue to accompany the Jabari’s to their land so they can begin cultivating it once more.

05 July 2007

Safe in Palestine

I arrived safely in Palestine over a week ago. The experience so far has been wonderful, sad, depressing, and yet one that I will never forget. This post is going to be short because I have to prepare my English lesson plan for the three classes I'll be teaching later this afternoon.

I am teaching 3 hours a day with lots of other hours filled with preparation and planning time as well as helping out with direct action work such as helping farmers clear their fields for use for the first time in many, many years and witnessing the harsh realities of daily Palestinian life. I can honestly say though that I feel safe but I am vigilent. The IDF scares me more than the Palestinians and I will explain more about all of that later. However, I have not encountered many problems yet though I know many who have. It depends on the time of day and location when the problems occur.

Palestine is a beautiful country and its' people are equally beautiful, especially the children.

I have posted some pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/people/38523564@N00/ Please feel free to view often as I hope to update this blog weekly or as time allows.