Sunday the 14th until Saturday 20th of September was the scheduled Mid-Term break for Group 53, the current EAs in Palestine and including our Team South Hebron Hills (SHH). It is a time scheduled for providing updates and new information as well as an opportunity to take a break.
In our absence there are a couple of incidents worth noting. One of the shepherds we had been providing protective presence for right up until we left was attacked on his pasture by two Settlers. They also attempted to scatter the shepherd’s sheep. The two Settlers then attacked two volunteers from an Italian humanitarian organization “Operation Dove”, who were providing the same protective presence that we normally do. Their video cameras were taken, and one smashed by the Settlers. Afterwards the two volunteers and the shepherd were taken to the Police Station, subsequently being released five hours later without charges. They had been accused by the Settlers of throwing rocks at them, which they had not done. To our knowledge no action has been taken to date against the Settlers involved.
A second incident that occurred while we were away involved eight sheep belonging to two Palestine shepherds being struck by a vehicle on a highway that connects eight Israeli Settlement killing six sheep and injuring two. The police were summons to investigate. Nothing further to report at this time. Appreciation to Operation dove for the information on this incident and the assistance they have provided in our absence.
EAPPI Office in Old Jerusalem
For me the most compelling presenter was Michel Warschawski, co-fonder of “Yesh Gvul” which translated has three options for meanings; 1) There is a Border, 2) There is a limit, 3) Enough is Enough. He was born in 1949 in Strasbourg, France, the son of a Rabbi . Warschawski emigrated to Israel at 16 year old in 1965 and has led an active life as a leading Jewish activist against the occupation of Palestine. I took seven pages of notes of his presentation which I will make available to anyone that interested once I have had time to transcribe them. There are many sites to visit on his intriguing life on the web site which I won’t begin to list.
A representative of EWASH gave an overview of the critical water situation in Palestine due to Israeli diversion and control of all the water in the Palestine Territory. I have a power point presentation that I upon request I will email.
We also had a presentation from Shay Davidovich, a former soldier with the Israeli Army and co-founder of “Breaking the Silence”. This organization has recruited many former Israeli soldiers who tour and give presentations of the atrocities committed by many in the Israeli Army and the Settlers. He is also involved with the web site “+972” which exposes many issues from the Israeli movement to end the occupation and to tell the real stories on the occupation and oppression of Palestine. One has to really appreciate how courageous Davidovich is to have spoken up realizing that he could destroy his relationship with his family, friends and former comrades in the army, only because he knew what was happening was totally wrong and had o be exposed.
We also travelled to Haifa where we visited the Dheisheh Refugee Camp where we given a tour and treated to a very entertaining dance and musical performance performed by a camp’s youth Drama and Choir group. These youth later joined us for a traditional dinner which certainly capped off the evening. This refugee camp is actually similar in size, history and overall appearance to Fawwar Refugee Camp in the South Hebron Hills area which has been talked about in previous articles in the blog.
Dheisheh Refugee Camp
Path along crest of hill at Stella Maris Resort
A visit in the morning to the Baladna Centre, an Association for Arab Youth in Israel located in downtown Haifa in the morning finished off the morning explaining many of the International award winning programs that they have created and are running. I certainly encourage you to visit their web site at http://www.momken.org for full information of this inspiring organization.
On the return trip to Jerusalem we toured Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom, a community founded in the early 1970’s to show that Jews and Arabs could live together. Again I direct you to their Web site at http://nswas.org. This “Oasis for Peace” currently consisting 50 families, 50/50 split Jewish and Arabian offers many programs in the pursuit of peace for particularly youth but are branching into programs for adults. They expect to soon offer a Masters Degree program for Peace. A truly beautiful and tranquil haven for peace.
We also attended a Friday evening service at Kehillat Kol Haneshama, a congregation associated with the Israeli movement for progressive Judaism http://www.kolhaneshama. We were certainly made to feel welcome by the Rabbi and the congregation.
We have now returned to work where in the first couple of days it has been relatively quite. We provided 4 hours of protective presence to a community that had received information of a pending encroachment by nearby Settlers. Although many were observed around the perimeter, only one Settler Shepherd with his flock of sheep actually intruded onto the Palestine community’s property.
So all in all that was the highlights of our mid-term week break.
A little of the Beauty that we got to Appreciate on the Break