|Nawal looking very fed up in her shop|
|A neighbour's shop not so well |
I could see the damage to theirs and other shops and you can get some sort of impression from the photos. The sadness was palpable and like everyone else I have met in both Israel and Palestine on this trip, they say as one, that they have no hope and that the so-called peace talks are making things worse for them.A good rhetorical question they ask is, if Israel says it is willing to make land swaps and evacuate some settlements, why is it spending so much money building more of them on stolen land? In all my time here I have never felt so much despair.
|You can see the Rajabi building in the |
|That is not just water flowing down |
Israel always goes on about their security, yet no one seems to care a jot about the security of the Palestinians who live here by right and have never hurt anyone. There are also reports of 5 Palestinian deaths just today. 3 in Gaza and 2 in the West Bank, not to mention the Jordanian judge who was shot at the checkpoint coming in from Jordan. Whatever you may read, there were witnesses and the truth is that the Judge told the IDF off for the way they were treating the Palestinians so they just shot him 3 times and then said he had tried to grab their weapons!
|Rabbi Ascherman and others climbing|
down to the cave
|The cave dwelling in Beir il Id where|
the meeting was held
Hamed had also taken me to a very interesting meeting in Hebron in the morning. It was at HRC in Hebron and was a multi agency meeting that was instigated by the Christian Peacemaker Team, because of the recent school invasions, detention of children, teacher and other staff, and even tear gas and stun grenades thrown into schools by the IDF for no obvious reason, if there ever can be a reason for such behaviour. On one occasion a cleaner was abducted and just abandoned in the Negev to try to find his way back. Even head teachers have been detained for short periods. Children are frequently detained and some arrested and this is happening in regard to many schools and not just those whose pupils and teachers have to use checkpoints 209 and 29, which were of particular concern to CPT. We were told that children from Cordoba School suffer from nightmares and bed wetting because of the stress. The purpose of the meeting was to look at ways of dealing with all the issues. There were people from the Ministry of Education, DCOs from the Palestinian army, a lawyer, Betselem, EAPPI, CPT, ISM, TIPH and others. It was a useful meeting and there seems to be a united effort towards rights information for pupils and parents as well as contacts for the various organisations to ring when events occur. The fact that these are basic human rights violations were not something that could be addressed realistically.
|Andrew addressing the gathering|
In the evening a very enjoyable 50th Birthday party was given by Andrew Ashdown in Beit Sahour. Delicious food and great company.
|Some of the American Jewish 'Encounter'|
group listening to Hamed's talk
It was also wonderful to have Andrew's company with Hamid from rather too early the following morning for a remarkable meeting with a group of American Jews who were on an 'encounter visit' to the West Bank. Their party also included some local Jewish settlers.
|Hamed and the head of the village|
Since 1948 the village has been refused any building permits or infrastructure improvements by the Israeli government, who have civil responsibility for the village.
|The all-purpose village school|
with demolition order on it
We had a moving speech from the Village Council leader in the small, poorly equipped all-purpose building that the village has built themselves without permission to act as a school, clinic, and meeting place. This building has now received a demolition order. Meanwhile, on the hill overlooking the village in the illegal settlement, you can see the 3-storey new school that has been built for the settlement along with all other modern facilities. When the village children ask why they cant have a nice school like those on the hills around them, their father does not know what to tell them. It was fascinating to see the reactions of the group, most of whom were clearly moved, and who asked some very good questions. Hamed explained the situation so well to the group and in answer to questions, that I was able to learn a great deal from being part of this gathering..
|This is what the entrance to the Gilo|
checkpoint looks like when empty
|This is what it looks like when safely|
through to the other side.
I was thankful to arrive safely back at the very comfortable Austrian Hospice. When I stayed there a few days before, I had been given a room on the ground floor without a view. This time I had an amazing balcony on the second floor! Last time I was woken at 4.30 am with a beautiful call to prayer. This time the same speakers were on a level with my window - perhaps a little too close for comfort, but I certainly didn't complain. The view from my room was a real tonic. All I needed for my last day was a little sunshine and warmth.
|My wonderful balcony view in|
|Manar and Palestinian feast for two!|
I had thought the 2 hour plus journey from Jerusalem by bus via Ramalla had taken a long time, but the return journey was much worse, because of the checkpoints, particularly the entry to Jerusalem. The traffic was almost at a standstill and all Palestinians under 45 have to automatically leave the bus and go through on foot. Not only did some of them not return to our bus, but the IDF came onto it asking questions of us all and thankfully they accepted my explanation, but 2 German tourists were not so lucky and were removed from the bus. We continued with only half the passengers. After a relaxing day, it was a final reminder of what the occupation means to every Palestinian and anyone else who dares to visit the West Bank!