Tag Archives: Ramallah

OCHA is a Truth Teller

This is the last in a series of blog posts sharing the stories of Palestinians who are living under occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. OCHA compiled 50 stories which can all be found here.

I divided them and shared five stories at a time because I hoped more Americans would take the time to read them if they were highlighted in smaller doses. (And honestly, I wanted to read each story more closely which this resharing allowed me to do.)

Congress and President Trump have been threatening to reduce funding to the United Nations in recent weeks because they claim the UN is biased against Israel. Telling the truth may not win popularity contests, but the work and the words of the UN need to continue.  These stories published by OCHA are the truth.

I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is … to tell the truth.

HOWARD ZINN, Marx in Soho

THE TARKYAKI FAMILY 

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THE Tarkyaki Family from EAST JERUSALEM (Photos by JC-Tordai, 2010)

 

The family home of Amjad and Asma’ Taryaki and their three children was demolished in 2009.

Shortly after, Amjad told us: ❝On 12 October 2009, at 7:30 in the morning, while my wife was taking the children to school and I was still sleeping, the Border Police woke me up and ordered me to get out.

❝When my wife came back and saw all the police and the bulldozer she knew what was happening.

❝The police wouldn’t let her enter the yard and she started panicking, thinking that I was sleeping while our house was being demolished.

❝She knew that the pills I take for my heart condition make me fall into a very deep sleep. She tried to call me but the police had confiscated my mobile phone…

❝[W]e had an emotional breakdown. The hardest thing was to protect our children. The youngest of them, Tasneem, wet her pants while watching the demolition.

❝Our son, when he came back from school, was asking about his chocolate which was buried in the rubble. He is having a very hard time recovering from the shock and I’m afraid he’ll lose this school year…

❝[W]e put up a tent in the yard and spent a month and a half there, but as winter was approaching it got very cold.❞

Amjad added: ❝One night we decided we couldn’t go on like this any longer and took the children to my brother. Since then, we’ve been going from relative to relative, and sometimes we split the family up as we can’t all fit into one house.

❝My wife was suffering from the lack of privacy and, as there were constantly a lot of people around her, she always had to wear her hijab.

❝The rubble from the demolition is still here, but getting a bulldozer to remove it requires a permit, and is very costly. Next to our house there is a little wooden stable where my brother keeps his horse. The police didn’t demolish that. I feel that animals are treated better than human beings.

❝Three months ago, we decided to build a small wooden room on the site where our house was located. We’ve put some mattresses and a little TV there.

❝This Saturday we’ll bring some of the furniture that survived the demolition from my wife’s sister’s house. We’re also building a little bathroom next to the room. Our cooking stove is outside but mostly our families provide us with food.

❝If our new shelter is demolished, we will build it again. We have nowhere else to go and no money to rent anywhere else.❞

KAREEM

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Kareem from NABI SALEH | RAMALLAH

In Febriary 2011, we met Kareem, then an 11-year-old boy, and heard from him about his arrest by the Israeli Police.

I was standing with a group of children near the gas station at the entrance to An Nabi Saleh. An Israeli police vehicle drove by and I threw a stone at it.

❝The vehicle stopped and several special police jumped out, chased us and took me into custody. A woman from our village tried to protect me, but the police shoved her to the ground. 

❝I was taken first to the military tower at the entrance of An Nabi Saleh, where the police forces kicked me in my leg and arm and my hands were bound behind my back with plastic ties.

❝Next, I was taken to Hallamish settlement and then transported to an interrogation centre about 45 minutes from my house, at Geva Binyamin settlement. There, I was taken to an interrogation room.

❝The interrogator asked me if I threw stones and I said ‘yes,’ and I told them why; ‘you arrested my 14-year-old brother in the middle of the night this week and now I have no one to play with. I was angry, so I threw a stone,’

❝Next, they showed me pictures of boys and asked me to identify them. I told them I don’t know these boys; they aren’t from our village.

❝The whole interrogation lasted around 15 minutes, but I spent another two hours waiting after the interrogation until my father came and picked me up. No one from my family was with me during the process.❞

AMNEH 

Amneh

Amneh from BIR NABALA / TEL AL ‘ADASSA | JERUSALEM

Bir Nabala / Tel al ‘Adassa is a small Bedouin community whose members have lived between Ramallah and Jerusalem for decades, after being displaced from what became Israel and then within the West Bank.

Since the mid-1990s, they have been settled just inside the Israeli-declared municipal boundary of Jerusalem.

Notwithstanding the proximity, since they hold West Bank ID cards, Israel considers their presence within the Jerusalem municipal boundary illegal, unless they obtain special permits.

By 2007, the Israeli authorities completed the construction of a Barrier in the area, with the stated aim of preventing attacks on Israelis. This has left the community on the “Jerusalem” side of the Barrier, physically separated from their service centre of Bir Nabala and the rest of the West Bank, and unable to legally enter East Jerusalem.

We met Amneh, then a 45-year-old member of the community, in 2013. ❝After the Barrier was completed in 2007,❞ she told us, ❝our living conditions deteriorated and our life turned upside down. We were isolated, stuck between two places, Ramallah and Jerusalem, able to go to neither.

❝The separation was difficult on everyone. All the while, we suffered harassment and intimidation from the Israeli authorities to leave our community.❞

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Forced displacement of the Tel al ‘Adassa Bedouin community (August 2013)

On top of the access restrictions, the community has also faced multiple incident of demolitions, due to lack of Israeli-issued building permits.

By 2013, all families left and went to live on the ‘West Bank’ side.

The community dispersed into two separate locations. Amneh described the events that led to their departure:

❝We had demolition orders for our structures and fines as well. After finally demolishing all of our structures, the Israelis threatened that if we do not move to the other side of the Barrier in the West Bank, we will be fined huge amounts of money and risk arrest.

❝To be honest, we just are not able to pay any fines. We have no money. I have two sons in the university and I still have not been able to cover their tuition. Any money I have, should go to them first, and not to the Israeli authorities.

❝So we decided to move, in hopes that we will find better living conditions and no longer be faced with the Israeli authorities’ intimidation.❞

❝Is this our destiny?❞ she asked. ❝Is it my fate to live in uncertainty, without even a hope of living in dignity and with respect?

AHMAD DIWAN

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Ahmad Diwan from BEIT IJZA | BIDDU ENCLAVE | JERUSALEM

We met Ahmad Jubran Diwan, also known by the name of Abu Al ‘Abed, in 2012, to hear from him – as head of Beit Ijza village council – about the farmers in his community, who own agricultural lands that are isolated following the construction of the Barrier.

❝The Barrier on Beit Ijza lands was erected in 2004, […] buried 340 dunums (85 akres) under its route, and isolated 860 dunums (215 akres) behind it,❞ Ahmad said, adding that the land was planted with many kinds of fruits and vegetables, including olives, grapes, almonds and tomatos.

❝This area was the ‘food basket’ of the region❞, he said, ❝feeding Jerusalem and its suburbs. This is a sample of grapes planted behind the Barrier, where the farmers cannot access. They cannot harvest these crops and they are eaten by boars, animals and birds.

❝Grape, olive and fig trees – the harvest season of which is now – demand daily visits, just like a spoiled baby in his mother’s bossom, who needs to be fed every hour or when she cries. We need to access our land every day, without any hindrance.❞

MUHAMMAD ABDEL AZIZ  
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Muhammad Abdel Aziz from QARYUT | NABLUS

A rough, winding uphill road leads to Palestinian olive grove in a remote and isolated area of Qaryut village, close to Eli settlement.

In this grove, dozens of ancient olive trees were cut down on 9 October 2012.

 Shortly after, we visited Muhammad, on his land, to hear from him on how this affected his family.

❝These trees are centuries old. I inherited them from my father who inherited them from my grandfather. It is the only source of livelihood. We have no more fallow fields to plant with wheat and barley etc. This tree is our sole source of livelihood.

❝A few days before the harvest some days ago, settlers came and, as you can see, cut down the trees; and those behind as well, which are hundreds of years old.

❝It is the settlers who came down from that settlement, close to us, a few hundred metres from here. They cut down no less than 140 trees.

❝Two days after they had cut down the trees, they came and poured gasoline on the trees, and also burned down trees in an area a little further down, nearby.

This naturally affects the farmers, their lives, their livelihoods, as these trees are their only source of subsistence.❞

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The best documented occupation … Palestine

As I’ve read through the 50 stories of Palestinians who have lived under military occupation for 50 years (each carefully compiled by OCHA), I’ve come to the conclusion that this must be the best documented Occupation in the history of international law. The evidence is meticulously preserved.

Why haven’t the politicians and world leaders been able to force an end to this occupation? (Books have been written in response to that question.) The short answer, the status quo benefits the State of Israel, and the U.S. helps Israel maintain the status quo.

All 50 stories can be found on OCHA’s website here along with the reports and additional documentation.  I’ve divided the 50 stories into groups of 5 to share them over time, hoping that Americans will spend the time to read each story if they’re presented in smaller bits.

MAHMOUD KA’ABNEH

Mahmoud

Mahmoud Ka’abneh from EIN AL HILWA | JORDAN VALLEY

When the Israeli authorities appeared at the Um al Jamal area of Ein al Hilwa (Jordan Valley) on 30 January 2014, they told residents to evacuate their homes as they were slated for demolition, said 43-year-old resident, Mahmoud Ka’abneh.

However, he added, little time was given to them to collect their belongings from inside the structures.

Mahmoud, a father of 10 children, said he pleaded with the authorities to leave at least one animal pen for the newborn sheep standing, to no avail.

That day, 36 structures belonging to a dozen Palestinian families were demolished, displacing 66 people.

When the community rebuilt one structure, Israeli forces returned and destroyed it.

Mahmoud told us that the authorities kept monitoring the area to ensure that no one rebuilds.

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YUSEF ALI KADOS

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YUSEF ALI KADOS from Burin with his grandson

In July 2011, an EAPPI team met Yusef, to hear from him about multiple incidents where his trees had been set on fire, reportedly by settlers.

Yusef’s family has lived in Burin for generations. For thirty years he worked as a primary school teacher, and raised ten children.

Between 2000 and 2010, his olive trees were set on fire on three occasions, following which he was left with only the 45-50 trees that are planted in front of his house.

❝For ten years now,❞ he said, ❝we have been suffering from settlers burning the trees. We have also been attacked when we try to harvest the olives.

❝When the trouble started ten years ago, we went to harvest the olives and we were told by the settlement security not to come there anymore.

❝When the olive trees were burned this last time [a few days before the meeting took place], I sent my son to see because I am too old. He told me afterwards that everything was gone, destroyed…

Burin

Burin (Photo by Patrick Zoll, 2010)

❝The army supports and provides cover for the settlers. We want them to arrest the settlers. They see the settlers and know what they are doing. If one of us hits a settler then we will be arrested, if a settler hits one of us nothing is done. To defend yourself you must stay silent.

❝I have not made any official complaints. The village council has taken the names of all of those who lost trees and report this to the agricultural ministry in Nablus in the hope of compensation.

❝These trees provided extra income for the family. We could produce 40-50 jerry cans (18L each) of oil, which we could then sell.

❝Every year, there is less oil produced as more and more trees are burnt. These trees took 60 years to grow, if we plant new ones it would take 10 to 15 years to have them mature enough for harvesting. But we cannot plant again because the land is so near the private settlement road.

Trees for me are life. I am 77 years old. I planted these trees myself in 1952. After school, I would go straight to the olive trees before I would go home.

❝It pains us in our hearts to see the trees destroyed. The earth is the life of the farmer. My blood is boiling with anger because I see my land burning and I can do nothing.❞

MANAL SUBAIR 

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Manal Subair from AL ATTATRA TENT CAMP | GAZA

We met Manal in a tent camp, in 2009, a few months after the “Cast Lead” offensive. She was 35 years old back then.

A year before, she still lived in a large house with many rooms and modern conveniences.

During the hostilities, she left her home after leaflets were dropped by the Israeli military warning people to leave the area.

The family took no possessions from their home except white flags that they waved as they walked to an UNWRA school to seek refuge. At the time, the family expected to return home shortly.

Once at the school, she had to use flip chart paper that she found in a classroom as makeshift blankets to cover her children: ❝I had nothing for my daughter, who was five months at the time,❞ she told us, ❝and I could not keep her warm.❞ The following day, food and blankets were distributed.

She heard stories of widespread damage to houses in her community, and she gradually gave up hope of returning to a house that was still standing: ❝We are grateful to UNWRA for providing us with food and water, but the conditions were very cramped and it was not home. We just yearned for home.❞

As soon as military forces had left the area, the family returned to their home to find that it had been flattened to the ground by rubble from a neighbouring apartment building that had been directly hit by an Israeli military strike. The blacksmith business of Manal’s husband was completely destroyed.

She then took her children to stay at her sister’s house. She registered with the local authorities and, two weeks after the ceasefire agreement, was told that she had been allocated a tent in the new tent camp in Al Attatra, several kilometres from her home.

Restrictions on the import of goods, including basic construction materials, imposed by Israel as part of its blockade, have complicated, delayed and, in some cases prevented reconstruction and repair of destroyed or severely damaged homes.

In other cases, where goods are available, families lack the financial resources to purchase them due to the poor economic situation in Gaza caused largely by the years-long blockade.

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School in Beit Lahia destroyed during the “Cast Lead” offensive (Photo by JCTordai, April 2009)

The family received financial assistance from UNWRA and the local authorities, and continued to reside in the tent camp, in very difficult conditions:

❝The first tent leaked and it was very cold, it was later replaced with a better tent, but it gets very hot and is full of flies.❞

The camp had temporary, pre-fabricated bathrooms, one for women and one for men, and water supply was sporadic.

For a while, her nine-year-old son continued attending the same school, but the distance proved a challenge. Manal told us that he also suffered from bedwetting and exhibited other psychological problems. His school work suffered, his grades were lower and he was disconnected from his friends.

When we talked to Manal, she no longer saw her friends and neighbours. Her social network and support system had broken down and she believed that she no longer had an existence.

❝My day starts with me hoping it will finish. I am worried and I don’t know what the future will bring.❞

She and her family were on the UNRWA shelter caseload list to have their house rebuilt. However, due to the ongoing blockade of construction materials, there had been no reconstruction by the time we met.

SA’EED AS’AD 

Saeed
Sa’eed As’ad from KHALLET SAKARIYA | BETHLEHEM

Sa’eed is the owner of a plant nursery near Bethlehem, in Area C.

On 8 September 2015, Israeli authorities demolished his business and confiscated most of the saplings and flowers.

The nursery lacked Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

About a year before the incident the Israeli autorities handed to him a ‘stop work’ order for the nursery.

As a consequence of the incident, 17 people, including nine children, from Sa’eed’s family and his sons’ families, suffered great financial losses.

This was their main source of income.

ZAKIA ABU ALYA

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Zakia abu Alya from AL MUGHAYYIR | RAMALLAH

❝This land was our only source of income. We worked hard on it, my husband, our sons, and I. We planted olive trees, almonds, figs. After 20 years of hard work, when it was time for our investment to pay off, the outpost was established and we began to suffer from recurrent losses.❞

These were the words of Zakia, when we met her in 2013.

Her village, Al Mughayyir, has faced humanitarian impacts as a result of the establishment of a nearby settelement outpost in 1998.

Palestinian families whose agricultural land is in the vicinity of the outpost have been subject to violent attacks by Israeli settlers when accessing their plots.

Attacks have included physical assault and the damage to trees and property.

The Israeli army has also imposed restrictions on the access of Palestinians to some of the agricultural and grazing lands in the vicinity of the outpost.

 

 

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Stuck on the wrong side of the Wall

I’ve been sharing the stories of Palestinians from OCHA’s 50 Years of Occupation project. All of the stories are available online here.

I decided to divide them into 5 stories each day spread over a couple of weeks because I hope Americans will spend the time to read each and really feel what life is like under military occupation. OCHA has done an excellent job of compiling all of these stories. Please share them.

ABBAS YOUSEF 

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Abbas Yousef from AL JANIYA | RAMALLAH

Abbas owns land located inside the perimeter fence of an Israeli settlement, with two plots of olive trees.

An understanding with the Israeli authorities that allowed him to continue accessing his land was suspended between 2000 and 2006, during which time most of the trees were reportedly vandalized or uprooted.

Since 2011, farmers from Al Janiya have been allocated 3-4 days during the olive harvest season, and 1-2 days during the ploughing season, to access their land, following prior coordination with Israeli officials.

The authorities prevent some farmers from using tractors to plough their land, citing potential damage to the settlement’s sewage network.

In 2016, Abbas reported that the 50 olive trees that remained in this area had yield an average of ten gallons of olive oil per season, generating an income of approximately US$1,000, down from 30 gallons generating US$3,000 prior to 2000.

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REMAS AL GHOFARY

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Remas al Ghofary and her sister from AT TUFAH | GAZA CITY (photo by UNDP)

Remas was three years old when the 2014 escalation broke.

Back then, she lived with her family in an apartment building, but it was destroyed in the hostilities.

Her mother, Afnan, told UNDP: ❝It has been almost three years now since we lost our home, our memories and my children’s first moments. Every day I wake up thinking it is a dream, but it is not. It is no longer my home.

Remas’ parents have no steady income. It has been difficult for the family to cover their basic living costs, especially now that they also have to pay for the house they are renting.

❝Our rent was covered by UNDP support for two years,❞ said Afnan. ❝Now we need NIS700 [US$190] every month to cover our rent. This has been going on since June 2016 when the funding stopped,❞ she added.

❝I am aware of the political situation and delays in funding, but it is becoming much more difficult to meet the needs of my children and my family. We did not get a grant to reconstruct our home, even though my husband’s family did. So, we are here with no cash assistance or hope to rebuild our home.

❝I do not envy anyone, but I am jealous of families like my husband’s who have the opportunity to go back to their homes.

I know one thing: unless my home is rebuilt, I am just counting the days with no purpose. I really miss my home!❞

Displaced girl

Displaced Palestinian girl in Gaza. (Photo by OCHA in February 2015)

Restrictions on the import of goods, including basic construction materials, imposed by Israel as part of its blockade, have complicated, delayed and, in some cases prevented reconstruction and repair of destroyed or severely damaged homes.

In other cases, where goods are available, families lack the financial resources to purchase them due to the poor economic situation in Gaza caused largely by the years-long blockade.

RIMAZ KASABREH 

Rimaz

Rimaz Kasabreh in BEIT HANINA | EAST JERUSALEM (Portrait photo by JC Tordai, 2010)

❝My name is Rimaz Kasabreh, I am 33 years old, and I’m from the northern West Bank. In 1996, I married my husband who is a resident of Jerusalem and moved to Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem.

❝We have three children. My husband and I were aware that family unification application was not going to be easy, which is why we didn’t submit an application for a few years. When we did, it took years for the Israeli authorities to process our application.

❝At the time I was working at a private school in the centre of the city although I didn’t have a Jerusalem ID card or a permit.

❝I needed to cross the Ar Ram checkpoint, located in Beit Hanina, to get to work and over the years, this became more difficult with my West Bank ID card: it happened many times that the soldiers at the checkpoint turned me back.

❝The school issued me a card to show I was employed by them but it didn’t help much. To avoid the checkpoint I used dirt roads and climbed over hills. I rarely made it to school in time. In winter I would arrive completely wet and cold, in the summer hot and sweaty.

❝In 2003, with the new (Nationality and Entry into Israel) law it became more difficult. It’s illegal for taxi and bus drivers from Jerusalem to take passengers from the West Bank. Taxi and minibus drivers would ask every passenger about their ID card. It became more and more difficult for me to go to work or anywhere in Jerusalem.

I couldn’t go shopping, I couldn’t visit my friends, I couldn’t take the children to school, or to a doctor or to summer camps where other children their age went. This affected my children. They were too young to understand why their friends’ mothers did things with them while I couldn’t…

❝Very often I took risks. One day, when I was nine months pregnant, the police stopped the mini bus I was on and when they found out my status they took the driver’s name and license number and warned him next time he was caught with someone from the West Bank they would confiscate his vehicle. I was released after they checked my records and found out I was married to a person from Jerusalem. They made me sign a piece of paper pledging I will not move or work within the State of Israel, which of course according to their definition includes East Jerusalem.

❝In October 2003, I was caught again in a taxi. It was the third time the driver was caught driving a West Banker so the police confiscated his taxi for three months and took away his driving license. The taxi driver blamed me and demanded compensation.

❝He used to wait for me outside the school gate and shout at me that if I didn’t pay him the money I would be in trouble. In the end, my husband paid him money. After this incident I quit my job. Most taxi drivers in Jerusalem recognized me and refused to take me. I was confined to the house and hardly ever left except to go to the neighbours’ house. It was very hard for me. I was not used to staying at home. My family could not visit me because they’re from the West Bank. They only come at Christmas and Easter, when Christians are given special permits to celebrate the feasts in Jerusalem.

❝About three-and-a-half years ago the Ministry of Interior finally accepted my application for family unification. They gave me a paper valid for one year, with which I could apply for a permit to stay in Jerusalem.

❝Although this didn’t mean I was a resident yet, at least it meant I could take a taxi and go places.

❝I’ve renewed this paper four times now. Each time my husband and I have to provide evidence that we’re living together in Jerusalem. We have to show that we pay water and electricity bills, the municipal tax and that our children go to schools in Jerusalem. It takes weeks, even months, just to get through to the Ministry of Interior for an appointment. They don’t pick up the phone. When delays in the permit renewal occur I

live in Jerusalem illegally all over again. I often took the risk and ask my husband to drive me around. I wouldn’t ask for rides from friends and relatives, as I know the consequences if they’re caught with me in their car

❝The third permit expired in December 2008. Although I requested an appointment in time and submitted all the evidence they requested, it took them months to get back to me. During this time I was confined to the house once again. They told me they were checking my security record and that of my family, including my parents, my brothers and sisters and their families, as well as my husband’s family.

❝The same happened in May 2009, when I applied to renew my permit, which I didn’t get until August. My husband and I employed a lawyer to speed up the family unification process.

❝After we paid him a large amount of money he told us the Ministry of Interior is not approving applications any more. I have no idea how long this situation will go on for.

❝My husband and I have been married for over 13 years now and I’m still unable to live a normal life with him and the children. When we enter Jerusalem from the West Bank my husband is allowed to cross by car, while I have to cross on foot. I can’t benefit from Israeli health care, so I go to Ramallah whenever I need health services. Luckily I have never been in an emergency while I was living in Jerusalem ‘illegally’.

❝I still cannot apply for a job. Nobody will employ me knowing that I am in Jerusalem on short-term permits which I have to renew every year.

❝Everybody knows that renewal is not guaranteed. It could happen again that I will spend months without a permit before the authorities process my request. I feel I am losing the best years of my life sitting at home. Many of my friends are in the same situation.❞

MANAL ‘AYYAD 

Manal

Manal ‘Ayyad from ABU DIS | JERUSALEM Western side of the Barrier

❝The Separation Wall has had a negative effect on our lives, impacting all the residents here. Prior to the Wall, we were one community, but the Wall has cut our community in two.

❝After the construction of the Wall, I don’t like to go to Abu Dis anymore (e.g. the eastern side). It takes more than one hour, and if the checkpoint is closed, ❝I need two or maybe three hours. I need to use two cars: one from our house to the checkpoint, then walk through the checkpoint, and finally take another car from the checkpoint to Abu Dis on the other side.

❝Once we were going to a wedding in Abu Dis, one of our relatives was getting married. But the Israelis closed the checkpoint. We were all ready for the wedding, but they prevented us from going to Abu Dis.

❝We stayed for one hour at the checkpoint, talked to them, to convince them to allow us through. In the end, we all became stressed and returned home. We did not attend the wedding.

❝Our location is very difficult. No one can visit us. Really, it’s very difficult for us. My hope is to wake up one morning to find that there is no Separation Wall.❞

 

SAMI AS SURKHI

AS SAWAHIRA ASH SHARQIYA | JERUSALEM

Sami’s neighbourhood of East Jerusalem was cut in two by Israel’s construction of the Barrier in the early 2000s.

His home remained on the eastern side while his daughter’s is located on the western side.

Recorded in 2014, this video was part of OCHA’s interactive map project, which marked the tenth anniversary to the West Bank Barrier by illustrating its impact on Palestinian communities in and around East Jerusalem.

Today,❞ he told us, ❝we find ourselves surrounded by a wall, which can best be described as a continuously bleeding wound.❞

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#GoingtoGaza – February 2016

In February, I traveled from Amman, Jordan to Jericho in the West Bank, and then to Jerusalem and ended on a kibbutz in southern Israel. I didn’t make it through the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza. I’ve been on this journey to return to Gaza for more than 500 days. Since the Israeli border security have taken an interest in my blog, in an effort at full transparency, my daily journal entries for the month of February are republished below.

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Lora and Anjon from Bangladesh

Day #518 – Thinking a lot today about the accident of birth. Human souls can be born in Bangladesh, in Amman, in Cairo, in Gaza and in Albuquerque. Each soul is given the same spark of life but planted in different gardens with very different opportunities. The differences would be so wonderful if only we all lived by the Golden Rule: “Treat others as I wish they would treat me.”  The world seems to have forgotten the Golden Rule.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #518 (again) – SCREAMING! Can anyone hear me?  When I arrived in Jordan, the US Embassy in Amman told me that they have nothing to do with the procedures to cross Erez into Gaza. They advised me to check with Israel. Today, an American carrying an invitation from Gaza tried to cross Erez. The Israeli military turned him away and told him he must first have approval from the US Embassy to travel to Gaza. Truly Machiavellian!  The governments of Israel, Egypt and the US are all playing us for SUCKERS! They just keep sending us in circles hoping we will give up. BULLSHIT!  #GoingtoGaza

Day #519 – Past midnight in Amman, Jordan and I can’t sleep. Late afternoon in Iowa.  That might explain it. I can #FeeltheBern half way around the planet. #GoingtoGaza

Day #520 – A good friend questions my “objectivity” about Israel-Palestine, and “holding firm opinions” and “not brokering disagreement.” I agree that I have firm opinions but I think I’m a good listener and willing to modify my opinions based on the facts. I don’t think anyone is objective – although it’s a noble goal, especially for judges and journalists. But my friend says it’s hard to give me “honest feedback” because I turn it around into an “abstract discussion of objectivity” and “deflect” the criticism. I’m having a tough time figuring out what to do with this information. #GoingtoGaza

Day #521 – I visited the Syrian Women’s Center in Amman. The goal is to help Syrian women learn skills to become self-sufficient and earn some $$ — cooking, sewing, hairdressing. Women learn to sew on a sewing machine and then the machine is theirs to keep.  They bring the clothes they make at home to the Center which buys them and turns around to sell them in Amman to support the Center. The refugees prefer this arrangement rather than handouts or gifts from donors. Self-respect and pride! The Center also has an after school program for 75 Syrian orphans. One of the volunteers at the Center has an Uncle living in . . . Gallup, New Mexico!  Again, I’m reminded how small this world is and how interconnected we are with one another. #GoingtoGaza

Day #522 – Jews, Christians, Muslims — it doesn’t matter in the eyes of the One, as long as you act in a way that is consistent with the teachings of your religion. There are too many Jews, Christians and Muslims who wear their faith on their sleeve for the world to see, but fail the test. Treat your neighbor as you wish they would treat you. #GoingtoGaza

Day #523 – Palestinians are on Amman TV tonight. The news includes extensive reporting about the violence in the West Bank and interviews Palestinians, not Israelis. Later, a singing talent contest includes a Palestinian boy from Beirut who has never visited Palestine. Even though I don’t understand much of the Arabic, it’s clear the Palestinians are not going to forget the Nakba and they’re not going away. Israel and Israelis had better wake-up.  #GoingtoGaza

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Star of David painted on the road in Amman, Jordan

Day #524 – Pondering the Star of David I saw painted on the street pavement in Amman yesterday. Clearly a sign of hatred and disdain towards the State of Israel. Israelis may not like the message but they really should listen to the messenger.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #525 – Watched a movie with my friend in Amman called “Face Off” starring Nicholas Cage and John Travolta.  The plot involves an FBI agent and a bad criminal surgically switching their faces and identities.  Wonder what would happen if Netanyahu and Abbas switched their identities so the world was fooled? That would shake-up the status quo!  #GoingtoGaza

Day #526 – Sometimes a writer’s pen can strike the perfect prose — as in “the convenient rapture of Orwellian realities.” I read this today and it has stuck with me. Thanks to Noura Erakat who was writing about Israel’s argument of “Legitimate self-defense” when it’s bombing the shit out of a defenseless civilian population in Gaza. #GoingtoGaza

Day #527 – Read a report today that Netanyahu plans to surround the entire State of Israel with a fence to keep the ‘carnivorous animals’ in neighboring countries out. I think he’s building his very own prison to keep the Zionists in.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #528 – Can Gaza be a Livable Community? That’s the $10 million question. And the one I’ve been pondering for awhile. #GoingtoGaza

Day #529 – Do you know who Ash Carter is? I didn’t know until a Jordanian friend pointed him out to me on TV news in Amman. Hint: It was a long segment about Daesh. I’m certainly feeling humbled. #GoingtoGaza

Day #530 – One of the most frustrating experiences about traveling abroad is watching TV news while images of tanks & the military dominate the screen for 15-30 minutes but I can’t understand the Arabic except for Daesh “this” and Daesh “that”.   #GoingtoGaza

Day #531 – My desire to travel and see “the world” began when I was a child, continued as a young adult, through middle age, and was constantly postponed because I never had time, never had $$, and never had the courage I thought I needed. Still no $$, a wavering courage, and plenty of time = the 3 perfect ingredients for experiencing “the world” in a much more meaningful way.  #GoingtoGaza

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Day #532 – After 5 hours (about 3.5 hours of questions) I finally was given permission to enter Palestine – Israel. My notoriety preceded me … my name was flagged in the computer at the border with Jordan. And the Israeli security officials were aware of my blog … WHY GAZA?  Thankful to all the friends who helped me and my red suitcase get to the West Bank. #GoingtoGaza

Day #533 – My first full day in Jericho; visited the waqf office and learned about the Islamic legal system of perpetual trusts. Cannot sell Waqf land. My host keeps the TV turned on to the recitation of the Qur’an when she’s away from home. #GoingtoGaza

12748143_10208766190218001_4289558625012703185_oVisiting 3 sisters who are Catholics and have lived together their whole lives in Jericho

Day #534 – We are one! Three elderly spinster sisters living together in Jericho are Catholics but obviously feel at home in a Muslim-majority community. The caretaker at the small mosque shows me his hand and fingers. He tells me that just like the 3 joints in each finger, the 3 religions are attached as one. The hand works because all 3 joints work together. Same with Judaism, Christianity and Islam. #GoingtoGaza

Day #535 – Time slows considerably. There is time for sitting with neighbors, with friends, with family and drinking coffee, tea and sharing stories, lessons, and gossip. Making time for each other might be the key to their resilience. Their sumud. I’m learning to slow myself down and just listen. I learn a lot even without understanding Arabic.  Ramallah, on the other hand, is full of youthful frenetic energy. And everywhere in the West Bank I see construction. The Palestinians are building. The Israelis are building. And I think all of the Holy Land is under construction. I wonder what it will look like when (if) it’s ever completed. #GoingtoGaza

The next generation in Jericho, Palestine

Day #536 – Friday is the day focused on the family in Palestine. I spent the day sitting and listening to lots of conversations in Arabic, wondering if there will ever be a breakthrough when I understand the language. Babies can pick up the language. Why not me? #GoingtoGaza

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The Grand Mufti of Jericho taught himself how to stitch while he was in Israel’s prison for 6 years.

Day #537 – Saturday we visited extended family and I saw old photographs on the wall that reminded me of my ex-husband’s family in Maxwell, New Mexico. The big difference: extended family in the US can hop in the car, bus, train, plane and visit each other.  Not in Palestine.  I have friends in Gaza who haven’t received permission from Israel to visit family in Jericho for many, many years. So I’m taking photos to share with them.  #GoingtoGaza

The Israeli checkpoint between West Bank into Jerusalem & the Old City

Day #538 – Today I traveled from Jericho to Jerusalem, as the crow flies maybe 25 km, but it’s not easy. Two cars, one taxi, a tram and much walking, I finally made it to Ecce Homo Pilgrim House in the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. Listening to the Muezzin Call to Prayer followed by many bells calling Christians to pray. What is everyone praying for in this militarized city that looks like a prison when you cross the border control?  Everyone I’ve asked (Palestinian – Israeli) says they believe the situation is going to get worse.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #539 – Always need a Plan B. Today it is raining and chilly in Jerusalem – not good for walking through the Old City as I had hoped. So I’m going to sit inside the warm Ecce Homo Pilgrim House and read and write. Listening to the Call to Prayer, the bells ringing for the noon mass and the Israeli jets flying overhead. Life is about being flexible and going with the flow.  #GoingtoGaza

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Laila and Lora with the red suitcase of books headed to Gaza

Day #540 – The red suitcase full of books made it to Gaza yesterday. Al-hamdulillah. I wish I was with the suitcase. Friends from Gaza are asking me to take a picture of Al Aqsa. A Jewish friend from Australia is posting exuberant messages on FB about raffling off free tickets to Israel.   Jerusalem is a special place for so many people. I think it’s easier to travel from Australia to Jerusalem (13,707 km) than it is from Gaza to Jerusalem (97.2 km). #GoingtoGaza

Day #541 – Visited the Town of Abu Ghosh today near Jerusalem. An Arab town with a very interesting history. My friend introduced me to a number of interesting people in the community. Perhaps the one who struck me the most was a young Palestinian Christian woman from the Galilee who is a mother of 3 young children, married to an American Jew. Both are lawyers. They’ve decided to leave Israel and move to DC this summer because they believe the situation in Israel is too dangerous for them to raise a family. #GoingtoGaza

Day #542 – Rode the light rail around Jerusalem today to see different parts of the city.  General impressions: guns and uniforms everywhere; motorized bikes are the rage with both the young and the old; the Jews and the Muslims inhabit very different parts of the City for the most part; and everyone I spoke with (Muslim and Jew) felt “the situation” will not get better.  Bibi and the country’s leaders are not instilling hope. I wonder if the IDF “regrets” the loss of life in Gaza as the Irgun did with the 92 people they killed 70 years ago at the King David Hotel?  #GoingtoGaza

Children in Jerusalem are growing up with mixed signals 

Day #543 – Going on a 4-hour tour today in East Jerusalem organized by Ir Amim. I wish my Zionist friends and family could join me. When they visit Israel, I feel they are protected from the truth in their bubbles of denial, but I understand that denial better now. Even some progressive-leftist American-Israeli Jews prefer to avoid the “discomfort of discussion.” I want to yell – “What about the discomfort of death and dying under occupation?” #GoingtoGaza

Day #544 – Watched “Inherit the Wind” tonight with an Israeli friend who lives on a Kibbutz. The 1960 film is about the true story of the 1920s Scopes Monkey Trial where a young teacher was put on trial by God-fearing ignorant bigots for teaching about Darwin’s theory of evolution.  My friend and I noted the similarities between the USA of 1920s, the USA of today, and Israel today. Freedom of thought and critical thinking skills seem to be dangerous commodities. #GoingtoGaza

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Day #545 – Walked around this kibbutz in southern Israel surrounded by two barbed wire fences. My Kibbutz friend shared a poem with me. It’s called “Walls”.

Man is

a great wall builder

The Berlin Wall

The Wailing Wall of Jerusalem

But the wall

most impregnable

Has a moat

flowing with fright

around his heart

 

A wall without Windows

for the spirit to breeze through

 

A wall

without a door

for love to walk in.

-Oswald Mtshali, Soweto poet

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And Lora’s poem:

Walls or bridges?

Walls divide, bridges connect

Walls despair, bridges aspire

Walls close, bridges open

Walls inhabit the small minds of the rejectionists,

Bridges fill the creative dreams of the future.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #546 – Some friends are asking why I was so bummed out about my visit to Jerusalem.  I suppose part of the reason is because I got so close to Gaza but still didn’t get permission to enter. I’m also shocked with the level of denial that is so pervasive in the City. I would expect the orthodox and conservative religious Jews to turn a blind eye to the injustices in their midst because they are the privileged beneficiaries of the occupation. But even the self-identified left and progressive Jews prefer to avoid a critical discussion. They tell me they have no hope. And some prefer to leave Israel rather than try to change the horrid situation from the inside.  #GoingtoGaza

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Palestinians at the cafe talking about their future

Al-hamdulillah!  A discussion amongst Palestinians in a Cafe in Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank was filmed in August 2012. Their conversation ranged from the divide between Fatah and Hamas, about the “peace process” and Israel’s Occupation, and their future.  British political journalist, Mahdi Hasan, moderates.

Mehdi Hasan, British political journalist

Mehdi Hasan, British political journalist

If you’re a Zionist, you should watch this 47-minute video to hear what these Palestinians think about the future because it’s YOUR future too.

If you’re a member of the U.S. Congress, you need to listen to these Palestinians describe the important issues that obstruct any future peace in the region.

If you’re an “activist” looking for justice for Palestinians, you might pick up some nuances that help your work.

If you think you know the future and what the Palestinians want, think again and watch this video.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Occupation, People, Politics, Video