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Video of the settler attack this morning

Video of the settler attack this morning is up at http://bit.ly/o7CszS

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The attack occurred in the same place wh

The attack occurred in the same place where, about two weeks earlier, 11 settlers with knives and rocks attacked the same shepherd’s brother

Three settler teenagers just chased a Pa

Three settler teenagers just chased a Palestinian shepherd off Palestinian land near #Havot #Maon by throwing rocks and yelling epithets.

Bedouins in the Negev

(written by Carol)

I’m holding a jagged chunk of tile in
my hand—the remains of a house from a Bedouin family in the Negev
desert.   Less than a year ago, there were 64 houses in this village,
along with a thriving orchard of olive trees and herds of sheep and
goats.  Now there is only rubble.  And 1 pieced together tent that
gets demolished every two weeks.

 

With the help of an Israeli peace
activist, Amos, who has worked in the Negev ten years, we are hearing
the stories of the Bedouin people today.  The Bedouins, who raise
sheep and goats and cultivate wheat and barley, have lived in this
region for generations.  Since Israel’s War of Independence in
1948, they have been citizens of Israel.  In the 1950’s, the state
moved them to a smaller area so much of the former Bedouin land could
be used for military training camps and bases.  The Bedouins built
villages in this space and continued to live their traditional lives.
However, in the last two decades, these rebuilt villages have been
labeled “unrecognized,” which means they are not eligible for any
municipal services—no water, no electricity, no trash pickup, no
road repair.  And now their houses are being named illegal, which
means they can be demolished. Generally, this happens in a piecemeal
fashion, one house here, one house there, but for this particular
village, it happened all at once, on July 27, 2010.

 

The villagers share some photos of
that day—bulldozers pushing over houses and barns, olive trees
chopped down, sheep slaughtered, masses of soldiers.  And we see the
remaining evidence, or at least part of it:  chunks of concrete, bits
of tile.  Most of the evidence has been carted away in dump trucks,
as if the village had never existed.  The government would like to
see the Bedouins moved into towns, thereby giving up their lands.
Some have already done so, but others are resisting, replacing
demolished houses with tents, or taking up residence in the local
cemetery, which the government is reluctant to invade.  We walk out
to the edge of the destroyed village to a windswept plain.  Amos
points to the ground:  olive branches are poking through the rocky
soil; the trees are still alive.  Our village host tells us he talks
to the trees when he feels discouraged.  Their new shoots make him
happy.  His relationship with Amos makes him happy, too.  “When I
see the future, I see Amos,” he says, pointing at his Israeli
friend and advocate.  Another green shoot in a brown land.

 

“We are a nation that suffered a lot
of persecution for only 1 crime—being Jewish,” Amos says in his
gravelly voice as we conclude our day with the Bedouins.  He shakes
his head.  “I see Bedouins suffering for only 1 crime—being
Bedouin.”   Each day we hear more stories.  Sometimes we think
there can’t be any new angles, but as we have heard more than once,
the Occupation has many faces.  Today it is the Bedouin face we carry
with us back to Jerusalem.

Soldiers, checkpoints, and oppression (by Rob)

Supper and discussion at Hami's house

We ate supper tonight at Hami’s house, which is right next to a Jewish settlement.  To get there, we walked with him on a street past the settlement.  He was not sure we’d be able to go that way, but the soldiers let us pass.  There is a long way around we could have taken instead.

            When we went through one of the checkpoints, we saw a young Palestinian guy (19 yrs old?) crouching down and facing a stone wall across from the soldiers’ station.  He was being detained and was not allowed to face away.  We stopped to observe.  It was a bit testy.  The young man began to turn and the soldiers yelled at him to stay turned toward the wall.  He did, but turned again in a bit, and finally sat down half-turned.

Soldiers/checkpoint on left, CPT members in middle, detainee against wall on right

Members in our group were asking the soldiers what he did wrong and how long they were going to hold him.  The soldiers were sarcastic – “we’ve held him 6 hours” said one, “no, seven hours” said another.  It is true that they do this sometimes, but the detainee said he’d been held about ½ hour.   The soldiers say that the man yelled insults at them, and that’s why they are holding him.
  I had my camera out to take a picture of the soldiers — something that’s always iffy, but an important part of documenting human rights abuses.
            “No pictures!”
            “Why not?  Are you doing something wrong?,”  I say.
            “Yes, we’re doing something wrong,” the soldier replies sarcastically.
            If he is, then the world needs to know about this. If he isn’t, it shouldn’t be a problem to have it documented.

Detained Palestinian man, forced to stay squatting and facing the wall

            Here’s a video taken by another international group  of a man being detained at a check point.  You need to know that this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians — this is not an isolated incident.  I’ve only been here a few days and I’ve have already seen this happen several times.
            Not all the Israeli soldiers are like this.  We’ve encountered a whole range.  Coming home tonight through a checkpoint the soldiers were friendly and laughing with each other.  Some are bored.  Some are happy to be here and see it as a high calling.  Some seem scared.  Some are indifferent.  Some will talk readily.  Some speak English, while others do not.  Some will speak with us, others won’t.  Some seem like they relish the power they have.  Others seem kind.
            These are not career soldiers for the most part.  These are young men doing their mandatory military service (3 years for men, 2 years for women – we don’t see many of the women soldiers here).  One states that he wants to be here.  One says he is just doing what he’s told to do.  One says he hopes he gets fired.
        These checkpoints are a constant part of life for Palestinians here.  Palestinians can be pulled aside for no reason, and held for as long as the soldiers want to hold them.  This can be a few minutes, or it can be hours.  From what I’ve seen, 10-20 minutes is common.  I can understand the fury that burns in the stomachs of young Palestinian men.  Nothing justifies violence in my way of thinking, but I can understand why a person would respond violently to this type of constant harassment and humiliation.
Back to tonight’s encounter: one of the soldiers tells us that if we’ll move on, he promises to let the guy go right away.  We move along.  When we pass back through the checkpoint later, the soldier tells us he kept his promise.  I hope so.

Tent of Nations

This morning we have a mountaintop
experience.  Literally.  We have come to the Tent of Nations, a
family farm on a hilltop in the South Hebron Hills.  Most Palestinian
homes and cities are in valleys, near the water sources, but this
family has lived in caves near the mountaintop since World War I,
where they raise sheep and grow olives.   We look out from the porch;
beyond the scrubby hillside, the farm is almost entirely surrounded
by Israeli settlements, towns marked by their red roofs.  The family
has had to battle in court to keep their land.  Unlike many
Palestinians, this family has official land registration, from all
the occupying authorities since 1916:  Turkey, Britain, Jordan.
While there have still been many challenges to keeping the land, with
expensive lawyer fees, the land registration has made this possible.

 

Yet all is not smooth sailing.  We had
to walk the last half mile to the farm because the road is blocked
with huge boulders.  Closed for security reasons.  The family now has
to travel over half an hour rather than 10 minutes to get to town.
The family has faced other hardships:  no electricity (the
settlements are all hooked to the grid) for years, settlers chopping
down olive trees, no building permits possible for barns or houses,
settler attacks in the night.

 

How has the family responded?  By
inviting the world to come visit them.  “From inside, I have to do
something,” Daher, one of the older brothers, tells us.  So he and
his family have created a kind of international farm here in the
South Hebron Hills, a farm dedicated to crossing national boundaries.

 

“This is a place of peace,” Daher
says, running his hands through his thick gray hair.  And indeed the
spirit of the farm breathes peace.  International volunteers help run
the farm; a German volunteer recently installed solar panels so the
farm can have electricity; an Israeli designed and built the
self-composting toilet.  Children from the refugee camps come for
summer camp to paint murals, make mosaics, learn songs from an
international staff.  Since no buildings can be constructed, the
children sleep in tents.  (There are demolition orders on the tents,
too, but so far they have not been carried out.)

 

Daher takes us to the chapel, a cave
built into the hill.  It’s wondrously cool, with a bright blue
ceiling dotted with stars painted by the children.  Resting in the
coolness of the cave, Daher teaches us a song in Arabic and then we
sing it in Hebrew and in English, throwing in German for good
measure.  “More and more Israelis are coming here,” Daher tells
us.  “This is good.  I want to make contact.  When you have a wall,
how do you speak to people?  We need a window.”  The Tent of
Nations is a window in a world of walls.

 

 

Dancing in the Midst of Violence

(written by Sam)

Pounding drums echoed against the
clapping of hands as approximately one hundred people gathered at the
Susiya village, celebrating the Susiya Creative and Learning Center.
Palestinian flags waved in the air as an odd combination of local and
international activists joined with the rural people of Susiya
for an evening of music, food, and dancing.

The center is located in the south Hebron hills, one of the most beautiful and
difficult parts of Palestine.  The residents in Susiya live in basic
conditions and extreme poverty.  The Israeli Occupation has made it
very difficult for their residents.  These difficulties include
settler harassment (beatings, name-callings, intimidation tactics) as
well as expulsion and destruction of homes by the army.  In contrast,
the Susiya Creative and Learning center focuses on a place of
learning and creativity, forming connections between Israelis and
Palestinians, as well as challenging the Israeli policies of
separation.

Christian Peacemaker Teams was among
the organizations recognized in the gathering among many others such
as the Dove Project, and the presence of the World Council of
Churches.  CPT member Laura spoke briefly, thanking the Susiya
project for the invitation to come and celebrate with them.

Music blared loudly in Arabic as dancing and laughter filled the square of
Susiya.  During the middle of the celebration, however, people began to sprawl
away from the festivities to look near the Israeli settlement.
Around 20-30 settlers dressed in white were making their way down the
hill of the settlement and towards Susiya.  People were afraid there
would be violence.   The Israeli military also began sending
soldiers.  A jeep was dispatched along with approximately 15
soldiers.  This was scary for the people of Susiya because the
settlers have been known to throw stones, threaten them, or beat
people up.

I didn’t understand the fearful realities of an
occupying country until I came to Palestine.  It appears that even
the most basic tasks to maintain a normal living situation for the
people of the south Hebron hills ( i.e. grow crops and orchards,
raise livestock, go to school) is disrupted.  If harassment is not
from the settlers, it can come from the Israeli military who make
life difficult by denying building contracts, or delaying production
on basic necessities like electricity or running water to the
villages.  This was another example of the forcefulness of
occupation.

The organizer of the center encouraged all of the
guests to return to their seats and try remaining calm.  Eventually,
the crowd slowly began returning to their seats, still with many
exceptions.  A group of young men began dancing vibrantly and
sometimes hilariously to the beats of Arabic music.  They wrapped
their arms together shifting their feat in parallel motion like a
sewing machine, each stitch another step.  They would crowd in and
out in circular patterns, and were completely ignoring the settler
threat.  The crowd began clapping along.  Parents began dancing with
their kids, and for a moment the settlers and military were lost in
the music, in the joy of dance.  Although I was concerned, I forgot
about them too.  The next time I checked, the settlers were being
escorted back to their settlement by the Israeli military.

The idea of dancing in the midst of
potential violence shows great courage to me.  It is faith put into
practice.  Although many of the participants are Muslim,
they reinforce my own Christian values
to not fear my enemy but to rejoice in the celebration that we
have nothing to fear because we are all God’s children.  We are
equal.  We are part of a bigger purpose.

“Therefore, since we have been
justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this
grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory
of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because
we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance,
character; and character, hope.”

Romans 5:1-4