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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Education

Road closure between Palestinian neighborhood and lands
I don't want to write about teaching English.  I'm sure I will at some point, but not today.  I'm not going to write about the education system in Palestine or Israel.  I don't know enough about them anyway.  I am going to write about the education I got a few days ago as I took part in events organized by Ta'ayush, whose self-description is as follows: "Israelis & Palestinians striving together to end the Israeli occupation and to achieve full civil equality through daily non-violent direct-action."  If you want to check them out yourselves, their website is www.taayush.org. 

House demolished by Israelis on confiscated land
On Friday, after my first time walking through a checkpoint (which I'll also write about soon), another volunteer from Project Hope (PH) and I went to join a demonstration/action by Ta'ayush. In Jerusalem a road from a Palestinian neighborhood to Palestinian pasture lands had been blocked. The land that was blocked off had been illegally seized by the Israeli park system because they want to build a national park.  Incidentally, the land for the park effectively isolates the Palestinian lands and connects Israeli settlements.  Hmmm... Israelis don't have the right to take the land, but they did anyway.  They also destroyed homes, sometime more than once, on the land.  They don't have the right to block the road, but they did anyway.  Our task that day was to voice our opposition to the road blockage and begin to clear it.
Working to reopen the road on confiscated lands
  Being my first event, I did not participate in the direct action, but was there as an international presence, taking pictures, and trying to learn more about the people there and the work they do.  

While there, I was talking to one young woman and asked her how she got involved in Ta'ayush.  She said something like this: "When I was young I was really politically active, but then I got tired and stopped and tried escapism.  That didn't really work, so I started coming to protests again.  Then I got beat up by the Israeli police and that did a lot of good."  While the beating was meant to intimidate and make her stop, it seemed to only give her more determination.  

We stayed a few hours and some progress was made, but it would still be impossible for vehicles to pass over the massive pile of dirt, rocks, and trash that had been created...

Working to open road in south Hebron hills
On Saturday we again met with Ta'ayush people.  This time we went to the hills south of Hebron.  As a sidenote, Hebron is a unique Palestinian city because there is an Israeli settlement smack in the middle of the city.  Joining us from Hebron were a couple of volunteers from CPT, Christian Peacemaker Teams, another NGO (non-governmental organization).  CPT provides accompaniment and witness in various places around the world, Palestine and Colombia being two of them.  I'd also recommend checking out their website: www.cpt.org.  The volunteers from there were telling us about a special needs boy in Hebron who had recently been arrested, released, and later captured and tortured by the Israeli army.  The initial arrest was because he had "attacked" an Israeli soldier.  What actually happened was that he was knocked to the ground and beaten by the soldiers at a checkpoint.  When he tried to get up, he stumbled and knocked into one of the soldiers.  That was the "attack."  Sigh... It sickens me.  The full story is on the CPT website.  

Israeli soldiers wanting group to stop working; activists documenting
 Saturday our goal was to clear some roadblocks that had been created illegally, which effectively blocked off any road access to a number of Palestinian villages.   The reason given for blocking them: "safety."  On Friday the Israeli army had consented to re-open the roads, since by law they had no grounds to close them anyway and had even done some work to clear what they'd previously blocked Even with that being the case, we expected to encounter some soldiers while we worked.  So we arrived with pickaxes and hoes and began clearing what still needed to be done.  We also put down sand to try to even out the road.  We got one road in decent shape and moved to another spot. After working awhile there the soldiers showed up.  So we went to another spot that needed to be cleared.  The soldiers followed us.  At the time they initially showed up, I wasn't working and decided to play it safe, since I don't speak Hebrew or Arabic, the two main languages spoken by group members, and since I hadn't ever been a part of such an action before.  I did take pictures, as were a number of people from Ta'ayush and CPT.  In fact, several were shooting video.  At the third spot, the soldiers told people to stop working.  Most did.  A couple did not, so they were arrested because they didn't put their tools down.  They were Israeli activists, so they probably were either released after questioning that day or maybe spent a few days in jail.  I don't actually know.  At that point, the Palestinians left the work-site, since their fate could have been much worse than a few days in jail.  

Once the work stopped an amazing brave young woman started shouting chants, some in English, some in Hebrew, to call out the unjust actions of the soldiers in that moment and the Israeli government in general.  This standoff went on for awhile and then we left.  At that point, we walked to one of the roads we'd unblocked and started walking down it. 

At one point when we were walking, we walked along a road.
An Israeli army jeep drove right behind us.
This began a walk of several hours, during which we stopped at various villages and heard about their history and struggles.  We heard about home demolitions, the struggle to get water access and electricity to the villages.  At one spot we saw pictures of their struggles- animals that had been poisoned, home demolitions, road blockages, and other things, all done by the Israelis.  Sigh... The photos were in the village of Tuwani, a success story compared to other villages in the area, because it actually did have electricity and had water access at the entrance to the village.  It took them years to get to that point... Though the Israeli settlements in the area have access to both electricity and water, somehow it's too difficult to get them to Palestinian villages.  Did I mention that it's Israel who controls access to water and electricity?  

Pictures of abuses by the Israelis
While we were on our walk, we got news that the Israeli army had brought a bulldozer back to where we'd unblocked the road earlier in the day.  Let me say again that the previous day, the Israeli army had begun unblocking the road.  Now they were re-blocking it.  It was really pretty ridiculous.  We watched this happen, all the while documenting it.  

The bulldozer...
For me, this picture pretty well sums up the power differential between Israel and Palestine...
During that same day, other members of Ta-ayush were working in a different part of the Hebron hills, but I think the details are too sketchy in my mind to accurately give you the story. Eventually we all left the area and headed back to Jerusalem.  I know I have a lot to learn about what's going on.  Learning the names of the villages will be one good step... As I continue my education, I'll also keep you informed.  Until then, peace to you.  

2 comments:

  1. Excellent post Cory! You have helped educate us from your witness to what I've understood to be the many parts of the "matrix" of the occupation: land, roads, water, control, humiliation and intimidation.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, David! Still have a lot to learn, but slowly, I am learning and will try to keep sharing as faithfully as I can. Peace.

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