Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Itinerary, Organisations and links

During the delegation with the Christian Peacemaker Team we visited and heard from a number of organisations. I also met others on days when I was not actually on the delegation.
There are many other groups who also do valuable work, but in order to keep this information more accessible I have limited this list to those I actually met or who are mentioned in my blog.
I was travelling to Jerusalem to meet the CPT delegation that I would be journeying with for the following 2 weeks so the first organisation to mention is:
CPT - www.cpt.org. Christian Peacemaker Teams. Ecumenical violence-reduction project started by the Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers with a presence in Hebron since 1995. Practises get-in-the-way of nonviolence. Also has teams in other parts of the world.

DAY 1

After arriving at the Golden Gate Hostel my first day in Jerusalem was free. Although some of my plans did not materialise I visited the Jerusalem office of EAPPI and climbed the Mount of Olives (See beauty, truth and good Wine) and met Pauline Nunu, owner of The Jerusalem Hotel (see details below), which has become a centre for the press, human rights workers and Alternative Travel. In the evening I went to see 'The Gatekeepers' at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

The Golden Gate Hostel - http://www.goldengate4.com/  A very good, clean hostel with both single rooms and dormitories situated in the Old City close to the Damascus Gate. A very good budget place to stay.

EAPPI - http://www.eappi.org/  Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel  brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace. When they return home, EAs campaign for a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.
I was an EA from October 2009 to Jan 2010 and was a member of an international team in Hebron during that time.

The Gatekeepers at the Jerusalem Cinematheque - http://www.jer-cin.org.il 'Charged with overseeing Israel's war on terror- both Palestinian and Jewish- the head of Israel's secret service is present at the crossroad of every decision made. For the first time ever, six former heads of the agency agreed to share their insights and reflect publicly on their actions and decisions. The Gatekeepers offers an exclusive account of the reasons that each man individually and the six as a group came to reconsider their hard-line positions and advocate a conciliatory approach toward their enemies based on a two-state solution.
Nominated for an Oscar Award for Best Documentary and well-worth seeing.
Beautiful view of the monastery and vineyard

DAY 2

Visit to Cremisan Vineyard - http://www.cremisan.org/ now under threat of being divided in two by the Israeli separation barrier with the Monastery and vineyard on the Israeli side and the Convent and school on the Palestinian side.
(See Posting 'Beauty, truth and Good Wine')



DAY 3

Our delegation leader Bob with Naim Atteek

This was the first official day of the delegation. As well as getting to know each other and look at the itinerary we visited the Jerusalem Sabeel Office and were taken on a tour of East Jerusalem by ICHAD.
Sabeel - www.sabeel.org  'Sabeel' means 'The Way' in Arabic.  'Ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians'.
(See posting 'What does it mean to hope?')
Ruth from ICAHD showing us maps as we
stand by the separation barrier that blocks
the road to Jericho in the heart of East
 Jerusalem.

ICHAD - www.icahd.org  Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (Jeff Halper). A direct action group that co-ordinates with Palestinian groups. It leads tours around areas of concern, especially in regard to house demolitions, evictions and land confiscation.

DAY 4

We stood with the women in Black at their weekly Friday vigil and attended a demonstration at Sheikh Jarrah.
Women in Black - http://www.womeninblack.org/en/jerusalem  These women, and some men, hold a weekly Friday silent vigil on a roundabout in West Jerusalem. They hold placards in Hebrew and English saying 'Stop the Occupation'. They are often verbally abused by passing pedestrians and cars.
(See posting '"He has buried his head in shit"')
Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity - http://www.en.justjlm.org/ 'The Solidarity Movement, which has grown from weekly protests in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, is a grassroots organization working towards civil equality within Israel and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.'  Sheikh Jarrah is in East Jerusalem where Israeli Jews are claiming that the neighbourhood was originally Jewish and are systematically ejecting Palestinians from their homes. The irony is that these Palestinians are refugees from 1948 Israel and Israeli Jews are living in their old homes. While the Israelis claim the right to return to their old properties, Palestinians have no right to return to their old properties!
(See posting '"He has buried his head in shit"')

DAY 5

We travelled to the Negev where we were taken to Bedouin villages under threat.
Negev Coexistence Forum For Civil Equality - www.dukium.org   NCF considers that the State of Israel fails to respect, protect and fulfill its human rights obligations, without discrimination, towards the Arab-Bedouin citizens in the Negev. As a result, the Forum has set out as one of its goals to achieve full civil rights and equality for all those living Negev.
(See posting 'When Bureaucracy is a Weapon of war')

DAY 6

This water duct in the Jordan valley supplies water usually only after the winter rains. Much of the year it is dry. It is damaged and needs urgent repair , yet Israel denies the Palestinian community living there the planning permission to repair it. If they touch it they risk arrest or worse. You can see that the water is splashing out of the duct and is undermining the structure further.
We travelled down to to the Jordan valley via Jericho and the Dead sea. The river Jordan is only a trickle in places as is full of effluent from the nearby settlements. Can I really blame Israel for that? When Palestinian communities are denied planning permission for improvements or even repairs to infrastructure on their own land, while the illegal settlements have all amenities supplied, but still pollute the water, then, yes, I can blame Israel. We also saw water systems that supply Palestinians villages that Israel does not permit the Palestinians to repair. 

This shows one of the springs that flows
into the Jordan river.



Auja Eco Centre - www.foeme.org & http://www.aujaecocenter.org/  'We envision the Jordan River Valley and the Dead Sea as a healthy ecosystem – one in which the water is shared in a just and equitable way between the people who live in the valley; in which the aquifers, rivers, and springs that support all life here are used in a sustainable manner; in which the cultural heritage is protected; in which biodiversity thrives; and in which human communities flourish.We contribute towards this by inspiring and educating people about the history and value of this landscape; by promoting a vision of the valley a whole and interconnected system of ecology and human culture; by generating income and employment for local people; and by advocating for the rehabilitation of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.'

DAY 7

We had very comfortable accommodation in the Bethlehem Bible College and then went on to visit 3 organisations situated in Bethlehem
Bethlehem Bible College - http://www.bethbc.org/  A very good place to stay.
Sami Award who spoke to our
group.

Holy Land Trust - www.holylandtrust.org   'Nonviolence is at the heart of Holy Land Trust's work and is incorporated into everything we do and strive for. We seek to live out nonviolence as a core spiritual teaching, not only as a pragmatic approach to dealing with conflict.  Our nonviolence projects, training and activities (for children, youth, and adults) provide participants with tools that assist them in building communities founded on the principles of nonviolence and develop strategies and actions that allow them to address all forms of oppression and violence.' Inspiring non-violence strategies.

                                                                                                                    


Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) - http://www.arij.org/  In its capacity as a national research institute, it frequently provides current data and research necessary to the formulation of position papers and policy strategies on such issues as land and water resources.
Badil - www.badil.org   Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and refugee Rights. very good source of information.

DAY 8

First thing at 5am we went to the Gilo checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Many workers gather there as early as 4am in order to get to their work in Jerusalem in time. Although it is only a short distance away these workers have no idea on any day as to how long they will be delayed at the checkpoint or indeed whether they will get through at all.

In the photo on the left you can see the queue of workers in the cage running along the wall towards the huge checkpoint building. The people on the right of the photo have given up on the humanitarian gate, which is closed and will have to join the regular queue. two men are seen jumping the queue by climbing in further up. This seems to be accepted by those waiting. Desperation to get to their work leads to desperate measures. Israeli employers can dismiss Palestinians even for sickness and that can lead to the loss of their permit to enter Jerusalem.


We then  travelled to Hebron via the Tent of Nations. Very well worth visiting.

Tent of Nations - www.tentofnations.org  'At Tent of Nations, our mission is building bridges between people, and between people to the land.  At Tent of Nations,  we bring people of various cultures together to build bridges of understanding, reconciliation, and peace. Inspiring creative non-violence.
(See posting 'this is your land, this is my land')

DAY 9 

Children in Hebron have to pass through these checkpoints every day.  Often young children have their bags searched and are sometimes detained. the headmaster of the school can be seen in the background near the barrier checking in case any of the children are having problems. CPT stands at 2 of the checkpoints and EAPPI at another to monitor and protect the children from both the IDF and settlers.
Each morning CPT attends the school patrols at 7am and then again at noon when the children come home. We accompanied them each morning at 7am.
We visited the soup kitchen in the Old City, which is an important resource providing food for many families in desperate need.  We learnt that despite being in Area A, Israel will not give it planning permission to build an upper floor so that they can provide enough food for all rather than having to turn people away. They asked for our help to contact the Israeli authorities to try to get them to change their minds. Can providing food for desperate people be a security issue unless you are trying to drive those people to leave the area?
In the Afternoon we had a very interesting meeting with Atta Jabber who told us his story.  (See posting 'We refuse to be Enemies'). Also mentioned Rabbis For Human Rights -  http://rhr.org.il/eng/ is the only rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel, defending human rights of marginalised communities within Israel and the Palestinian Territories.   The organization was founded in 1988, and today has over 100 members-all Israelis and all ordained Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Renewal rabbis as well as some rabbinical students.
You can see the tear gas clearly here.

We then witnessed a clash between Palestinians and the IDF with ample evidence of tear-gas, rubber bullets, sound grenades and even live bullets. Although it is counter-productive for the Palestinians to throw stones at the IDF, it is hard to prevent children who are brought up in such a violent and unforgiving environment, often who have been evicted from their homes or have family members in Israeli jails, from expressing their anger and frustration in this way. This has become almost a daily occurrence. 

DAY 10

We travelled to the South Hebron Hills. 
Our first visit was to the village of At Twani where CPT used to have a team, but now Operation Dove has taken over to live with and be a protective presence for the villagers.  The village has Israeli settlements close by with settlers who frequently attack both the villagers and the children on their way to school. The IDF have to provide the children with a military escort and just last week the villagers attempted to erect a tent for the children to wait in as the IDF are often late. Sadly, the same IDF force who accompany the children have destroyed the tent twice as it is considered a structure and the village has no planning permission for it!
The photo to the left shows an abandoned village. Israel would say it was abandoned voluntarily. The villagers would say that they were terrorised out of it and now live in At Twani with the international protection. 

A large swathe of the South hebron Hills has been declared a military firing zone by the IDF. Although there are many villages in the area the Palestinians living in them are now seen as a security risk and Israel is attempting to evacuate them! How can this be seen as anything but another ploy to take more land in Area C?


Operation Dove   -   http://www.operationdove.org   'We are people committed to nonviolence and to finding nonviolent solutions to conflicts and war.  The action aims to improve people’s everyday life in the area of the South Hebron Hills. The objective of the project is to support mutual trust through nonviolent shared actions, build capacity for nonviolent conflict resistance, empower marginalized parties, and support cooperative policies and strategies of civil societies present in the area.' Also has teams in other parts of the world.

We had hoped to be taken down to Jinba, a village in the firing zone, by tractor, but that did not materialise so we climbed down instead. On our journey down we were invited into the village of Bir El Id, which I had visited as an EA. We had helped Taayush another Israeli human rights organisation (http://www.taayush.org/), drive sheep across the the South Hebron Hills to enable the villages to return to a village they had been forced to abandon. the Israeli High Court had given permission for their return, but the IDF and settlers were opposed to it. 
I am pictured with a member of
the family that kindly lent us
their cave for the night. she was
very unusual in wanting to be
photographed.


We spent the night in Jinba where a family very kindly vacated their cave for us. 
This village is constantly under attack from the settlers, supported by the IDF, but is also fighting for its life through the Israeli courts as the new military firing zone is being given as the reason for Israel wanting them to leave their homeland, even though they have proof of ownership going back to Ottoman times.
The father of this child, now 13 years old, shows
the bullet wound in the boy's back, which he
received from an IDF bullet a year ago.

And back to Hebron






DAY 11

After the morning School Patrol I had arranged to meet a couple of previous contacts and friends;
Hamed who works as a Human Rights Officer for the UN and Naheel who also works for the UN distributing food aid. (see posting 'This is your land, this is my land')
In the afternoon we were expecting to join the weekly Saturday Israeli Settler Tour. Hebron is divided into H 1 and H 2. H2 takes up much of the Old City of Hebron and contains a number of Israeli settlements. the Palestinians living there have had their lives blighted by the very violent settlers. I will probably include another posting with the basic details of life in Hebron, but the weekly tour in which the Jews proclaim ownership of various building currently inhabited by Palestinians and often cause damage to the struggling Palestinian shops while protected by the IDF is an unpleasant affair. For some reason and most unusually, it did not take place on this occasion. 

DAY 12

After the School Patrol we travelled back to Jerusalem for the last day of the delegation.

Bob talking with Mordechai.

We had our last meal together as a team in The Jerusalem Hotel where we met Mordechai Vanunu. He is a former Israeli nuclear technician who, citing his opposition to weapons of mass destruction, revealed details of Israel's nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986 and after many years in solitary confinement in prison in Israel is now under a sort of house arrest, which means that he cannot leave Israel even to enter the West Bank.



The Jerusalem Hotel - http://www.jrshotel.com   This is a commercial organisation and the hotel is not a budget hotel and not where we stayed, but is a very convenient meeting place and restaurant close to the Damascus gate in East Jerusalem as well as being a good hotel for those who can afford it.
Alternative Tours - http://www.alternativetours.ps/ - The tours are designed to help you discover the most interesting places in the West Bank and Gaza . At the same time, they aim at providing you with background information about the life, history and current situation of the Palestinian people. ( I did not go on any on this visit, but have used them in the past).

DAY 13

Met a member of Combatants for Peace, visited the B'tselem office. In the evening another group had a member of Breaking the Silence come to speak to them and the 3 of us remaining joined in.

Combatants for Peace - www.combatantsforpeace.org 'The “Combatants for Peace” movement was started jointly by Palestinians and Israelis, who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence; Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army (IDF) and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. After brandishing weapons for so many years, and having seen one another only through weapon sights, we have decided to put down our guns, and to fight for peace'

Btselem - www.btselem.org the Israeli Information Centre of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, which produces excellent reports and provides video cameras to Palestinians to record violence and human rights violations against them.

Breaking the Silence - http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il   is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavour to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life.


I will probably add to this list and may also write further posts to explain how and when I came into contact with these organisations where they are not already mentioned in my posts.

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