22-27 July: Debriefing and home to Norway

We left Bethlehem for Jerusalem Sunday afternoon and spent the next couple of days on debriefing and preparations for our return.

I had two free days in Jerusalem after this finished. The most notable thing to tell was a concert Thursday night with the Palestinian artist Rim Banna, who may be known to some in Norway for singing on a couple of songs on "Lullabies from the Axis of Evil". She has also released to solo albums on Kirkelig Kulturverksted in the aftermath of the Lullabies-project. The concert was really good, so I would recommend checking out her albums.

I was prepared for heavy interrogation at Ben Gurion airport, but was surprised that I was hardly asked any questions at all. It was actually almost the easiest exit of all the times I have been to Israel/Palestine. Almost a bit disappointing...

With this, three months have come to an end, and this blog is finished. Thanks for reading!

Trond.

Trakassering ved kontrollposten

Palestinere trakasseres daglig ved militære kontrollposter. Det tar timevis å komme på jobb - og i verste fall være dødelig ventetid om man trenger øyeblikkelig hjelp.

- Elsker du Israel? Soldaten i ID-kontrollen spør en tilfeldig mann fra køen av palestinere som venter på å slippe inn i Israel for å gå på jobb. Etter å ha fått et knapt hørbart "ja" får mannen ID-papirene tilbake og slipper igjennom. 

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Hallen med ID-kontrollen er overfylt av ventende palestinere.

Dette er bare ett eksempel på trakassering på den militære kontrollposten mellom Betlehem og Jerusalem, der mellom to og tre tusen palestinske arbeidere passerer hver morgen mellom klokken fem og åtte. Tre dager i uka i tre måneder har vi vært til stede for å observere og dokumentere trakassering, og for å forsøke å hjelpe folk som får problemer. 

Et ydmykelsesmaskineri
De første arbeiderne legger seg i kø klokka to om natta og sover tre timer på noen kartongflak fram til porten skal åpne klokka fem, noe vi aldri har opplevd at den har gjort. Når den omsider åpner, slipper palestinerne forbi inngangsporten etter å ha vist ID-kort og arbeidstillatelse. Deretter er det ny kø foran metalldetektorene, og til slutt en tredje kø foran en ny ID-kontroll. På hvert av disse tre punktene gjør soldater ofte sitt beste for å trakassere og ydmyke arbeiderne. 

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Hundrevis av palestinske arbeidere står i kø allerede før kl. 5 om morgenen.

Tidlig en morgen akkurat i det vi ankommer: Flere hundre mennesker står som vanlig i kø. Mens de venter kommer en colaflaske flyvende gjennom lufta og treffer gjerdet palestinerne venter innenfor. En rask undersøkelse viser at innholdet ikke er svart, men gult - flaska er halvfull med urin. Bare flaks gjorde at ikke korken falt av og innholdet traff de ventende palestinerne. En annen dag så vi et dusin palestinere som ble holdt innesperret i en innhegning i timevis midt på dagen - uten tilgang på verken vann eller skygge. 

Kvinner, barn og syke spesielt utsatt
Soldater - enten de er kvinner eller menn - plukker helst ut svake og utsatte grupper for trakassering. Kroppsvisitering av kvinner er spesielt populært, kanskje fordi de vet at i arabisk kultur er dette spesielt ydmykende? Mange barn blir nektet å slippe inn hvis de ikke har fødselsattest som kan vise at de er under 16, eller hvis foreldrene ikke har fått en spesialtillatelse for å være med dem. Skal noen på sykehus er problemet det samme, krav til dokumentasjon og spesialtillatelser gjør at mange aldri kommer seg dit. Vi klarer å hjelpe noen gjennom, men på langt nær alle. 

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Bare småfugler er uredde i møtet med gitter, piggtråd og betong...

En palestinsk venn av meg fortalte at en søndag morgen fikk svogeren hjerteattakk og hjerneslag. De fikk startet hjertet igjen med elektrosjokk og kjørte i ambulanse for å komme til israelsk sykehus. De slapp ikke gjennom kontrollposten, og måtte bestille en israelsk ambulanse som kunne overta svogeren på andre siden.Da den ankom nektet legen å ta ansvar for å flytte ham på grunn av hans kritiske tilstand. Etter over en halv time fikk de forhandlet seg fram til at den israelske ambulansen skulle eskortere den palestinske ambulansen til sykehuset og tilbake til kontrollposten. Mannen overlevde, men ligger fortsatt i koma og kan ha fått varig hjerneskade på grunn av forsinkelsen på kontrollposten. Slike forsinkelser er regelen heller enn unntaket.

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Den lange ventetida gir tid til refleksjon. Og hvem kan egentlig kreve å ha Gud på sin side?

19-21 July: The Final Countdown

I was going to have Thurday and Friday at days off to relax in Jerusalem, but before going there I went to a meeting between Ata al-Araj who had been banned from entering Israeli for 8 years and his new Israeli legal advisors. The meeting was also to have been with other Palestinians who had been banned for shorter periods of time, but someone had told them that they didn't have much of a chanc to win in court, so nobody showed up. So we were present when Ata talked with his legal advisor and they produced an affidavit to send to the High Court. According to this lawyer he would have quite a good chance in court and Ata - being an admirably stubborn man - is ready to go the distance alone. He also showed me the only information they had got from the police when they aquired about the reasons for the ban: a handwritten note with the date, his name, ID number and phone number.

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Exhibit number 1: The police file on Ata Al-Araj


On the way back from Jerusalem on Friday I tried to help some people who had trouble at the checkpoint. Three Arabs with Canadian citizenship were being denied entry into Jerusalem because they had no visa stamp in their passports. They explained that this was a mistake by the Israeli border officers at the Jordanian border, who had faild to stamp them. And for this mistake by the Israelis the Canadiens were now being stopped at the checkpoint. I tried to call Humanitarian Helpline, but they were not able to help. In the end they had to turn back. The great paradox, of course, is that I don't have a visa stamp in my passport either, but because I am a blond aryan-looking North-European I don't have any problems with this. An incidents which reveal the fundamental racist nature of the State of Israel...

There was also a 15-year old girl who was being denied entry because the copy of her birth certificate - which should prove that she was under 16 - was too bad. I inspected the certificate and her birthdate was perfectly legible. Other parts of the certificate were not readable, that is true, but there was no doubt about her age. Again, I was not able to help.

Saturday was basically spent cleaning, packing and finishing unfinished business, so nothing much to tell. I will leave Bethlehem around noon Sunday, and spend the last 5 days in Jerusalem before leaving next Friday. If something interesting comes up I will update the blog...

I work for The Norwegian Church Aid as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer The Norwegian Church Aid or the WCC.  If you would like to publish the information contained here or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Editor (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission.  Thank you.


17-18 July: Farewell to the Machine

First of all a link to an article which gives more detailed background information about the village Al-Walaja which was the topic of my most recent article (in Norwegian):
http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2007/07/16/bethlehem-rebuilding-homes-in-al-walaja/

On Tuesday morning I had my last early morning checkpoint watch. It was time to take farewell with "The Machine". And jus a my welcome to the Machine over 2 months earlier had been on a particularly difficult morning, this one was also one of the more difficult ones. The main problem was that only 3-4 ID booths were open at any given time (as opposed to the usual 5 or the maximum 6). This caused huge delays so the "rush hours" stretched over 3 hous instead of 2 hours on a "good" day. People got very stressed, and some turned back as they realised they would be too late for work. We also encountered a "new" problem on my last day. Some 10 Palestinian with "24 hours permits" who were supposed to be allowed through the "cargate" (the separate gate for vehicles which is open all night" were not allowed to pass, but told to wait for the pedestrian gate to open at 5 and go to the back of the line. Some had done so the morning before, and it took them 1 hr 15 mins extra to get through this way. So I called the "Humanitarian Helpline", and lo! and behold, 5 minutes later (i.e. 4:50 am) the cargate opened to let them through. A small victory on my last day at checkpoint watch!

I am now also working on finalising a statistical report on the extra delays caused by the introduction of new handprint machines which are tested at this checkpoint. This is a machine that reads biometric date from the hands of the Palestinians to veryfiy that they are the rightful owners of their permits. As this is already verified by the ID they have and a photo which comes up at the computer screen, it is an entirely unneccessary exercise, designed to make life even more difficult for the workers. Anyway, our date indicate that the introduction of handprint/biometric machines will increase the "processing time" by 75% compared to the previous system. With the current maximum of 6 ID booths it means it will be mathematically impossible to let everyone through within 2 hours. We will send this report to the UN, the ICRC and various human rights organisations so they can use it in their advocacy work towards Israeli authorities.

The rest of the day was spent on various smalle tasks and on some private meetings/visits as our time in Bethlehem is rapidly approaching the end.

Wednesday morning I went on a last visit to Al-Walaja to say goodby to Ata (the "Josef K. of Al-Walaja") and his wife, as well as Mundir and Siham, the couple whose house we recently helped rebuild. There was nothing knew about the process that has been initiated against Ata: he still doesn't know why he was banned from entering Israeli for 8 years.

In the afternoon I ran a workshop on conflict management for a crowd of about 20 participants in the "Lighting Candles" organisation in D'Heisheh refugee camp. As a one-off event of less than two hours (with half of the time being spent on translation) it was far from entirely satisfactory from a professions point of view. However, it was important to give moral support to this nascent organisation which is doing important work among the residents of the camp.

I work for The Norwegian Church Aid as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer The Norwegian Church Aid or the WCC.  If you would like to publish the information contained here or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Editor (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission.  Thank you.

Der ingen skulle tru at nokon kunne bu

- Ødelegger du et hus, ødelegger du et menneske! Vi er på åpningsseremonien for et gjenoppbygget hus i Al-Walaja, og Mundir Abu-Muataz forteller hvordan det føltes å få huset sitt ødelagt to ganger av den israelske hæren.  

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Huset er gjenoppbygd og alt klart til innvielsesseremoni

Huset til Mundir og hans familie er nå gjenoppbygd for andre gang med hjelp fra Holy Land Trust og den israelske komitéen mot husødeleggelser. De er lykkelige over å ha et hjem igjen, men samtidig livredde for at hæren skal komme tilbake og ødelegges hjemmet deres for tredje gang.  

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En lykkelig og rørt huseier er første taler under innvielsesseremonien

Tvunget på flukt
Landsbyen Al-Walaja lå opprinnelig i det som i dag er Israel. I krigen i 1948-49 ble beboerne tvunget på flukt, og gjenoppbygde en landsby med samme navnet på andre siden av dalen som i dag skiller dem fra Jerusalem. Da det ble inngått våpenhvile i 1949 ble grensen trukket i bunnen av dalen, slik at Al-Walaja ble en del av Vestbredden. 

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Sami Awad and Marwan Fararjeh fra Holy Land Trust taler på innvielsesseremonien

Delt i to
Da Israel okkuperte Vestbredden i 1967 annekterte de flere landsbyer på Vestbredden slik at de ble en del av Jerusalem. I Al-Walaja trakk de grensa midt gjennom landsbyen, slik at halvparten ble innlemmet i Israel. Innbyggerne fikk imidlertid ikke israelske ID-kort, og det har ikke blitt gitt byggetillatelser for nye hus eller påbygg. Da Mundir bygget sitt hus ble dette derfor registret som ulovlig og revet to ganger. I tillegg til å miste hjemmet sitt fikk familien tusenvis av kroner i bøter. Nå.er det over 60 hus som venter på å bli revet i denne halvdelen av Al-Walaja. Mange andre er allerede revet, og noen av dem er bygd opp igjen. 

Tegner og forteller
Adel Al-Atrash forteller om Muren og husødeleggelser i Al-Walaja

Omringet av Muren
Den siste spikeren i kista for Al-Walaja er at Muren er tegnet på en helt spesiell måte akkurat der. Den vil ikke gå mellom Al-Walaja og Jerusalem. Derimot vil den omringe landsbyen fullstendig, og eneste kontakt med omverdenen blir gjennom en liten port som israelerne kan stenge når som helst. Et av medlemmene i landsbyrådet, Adel Al-Atrash, forteller at de har funnet planer om å bygge en israelsk bosetting der landsbyen ligger. Han tror at husødeleggelsene og Muren er en del av en plan for å gjøre livet i landsbyen så uutholdelig at alle flytter. Dermed vil Israel kunne hevde at de bygger bosettingen på ubebodd område... 

Old Man Olive
Dette treet blir neppe så mye eldre enn sine 3.000 år...

Gir seg ikke uten motstand
Landsbybeboerne gir seg imidlertid ikke uten motstand. Huset til Mundirs familie ble gjenoppbygd på 14 dager med hjelp utenfra. Den første demonstrasjonen mot Muren fant sted sist lørdag. Det enkleste ville helt klart vært å selge eiendommene og flytte, men palestinerne er sterkt knyttet til jorda si. De forsøker derfor å holde ut så lenge som mulig, i håp om at omverdenen snart oppdager hva som er i ferd med å skje i Palestina. Adel Al-Atrash viser oss et 3.000 år gammelt oliventre. Det står omtrent der hvor Muren skal komme. Det slår meg at hvis ikke håpet om at verden skal våkne blir oppfylt snart, så vil treet neppe bli 3.100 år gammelt.


15-16 July: Handover to the new team

On Sunday we continued the handover process to the new EAPPI team. They got their first visit to the Gilo Checkpoint early in the morning, but with other members of the present team than me. In the afternoon we joined for writing the weekly log and the checkpoint log to show them how we do the reporting. Afterwards we visited our contact in the village of Battir.

Sunday I also met by chance at dinner with two of our main contacts in Holy Land Trust. Then I was told that the brother-in-law of one of them had suffered a heart attack and stroke the same morning and was still in coma. I would not normally mention this if it were not for the outrageous treatment they got at the checkpoint when they tried to get the comatose man - who had just been had his heart restarted by electroshock - to a hospital in Israel. At first the Palestinian ambulance was denied access. They then got an Israeli ambulance (which cost them 500 dollars) to meet them at the othe side, but the doctor in that ambulance refused to take responsibility for moving the man from one ambulance to the other due to his frail condition. After more than half an hours wait the soldiers finally agreed to let the Israeli ambulance escort the Palestinian ambulance from the checkpoint to the hospital and back again - only to make sure that the comatose man was not going somewhere else and that the Palestinian ambulance would return back to the West Bank. I am simply at a loss for finding word to describe such a treatment of a man in critical condition.

Monday it was my turn to do the checkpoint watch with the new team, and afterwards we had meeting with our most important contacts in Bethlehem - the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Arab Educational Institute and Holy Land Trust.

In the evening we had the so-called "handover party" were we invited all our contacts in the area to meet with the new team at our house. Of course all were not able to come, but it was a nice little party with most of our local contacts. In addition to introducing them to the new team (and vice versa) it was also an opportunity for our local contacts and friends to meet with each other in an informal setting.

I work for The Norwegian Church Aid as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer The Norwegian Church Aid or the WCC.  If you would like to publish the information contained here or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Editor (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission.  Thank you.


14 July: Start of handover to new team

I picked up the new Bethlehem team in Jerusalem at noon, and took them to Bethlehem. After introduction and some relaxation we went to Al-Walaja for the "opening ceremony" of the house that we have helped rebuild over the last two week. It was a really nice ceremony with speeches from the house owner, the international volunteers, the Israeli Committee Against House demolitions, Holy Land Trust, The Stop the Wall Campaign, and yours truly on behalf of EAPPI. The hosue has become really nice and the family was very moved and happy about all the help they have got.

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Preparations for the ceremony at the newly finished house

I work for The Norwegian Church Aid as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer The Norwegian Church Aid or the WCC.  If you would like to publish the information contained here or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Editor (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission.  Thank you.

13 July: The weekly demonstrations

After my return from Tulkarem Thursday evening, it  was time for the weekly non-violent demonstrations against the wall on Friday. We first went to Umm-Salamone, where things proceeded more or less as usual. The soldiers blocked our passage when we got to the route of The Wall, there were some speeches, some pushing back and forth, and two Palestinians got arrested, unknown for what reason.

After this demonstration we moved on to Artas. This demonstration was very peaceful this Friday, with no physical contact with the soldiers at all. Instead there were a few speeches, both by Palestinians and internationals. We were not allowed to enter the properties that were being destroyed, and after a while we returned back to Bethlehem.

Both demonstrations had about 50-60 participants and the number of soldiers was somewhat lower. This is probably the last demonstrations I will participate in, as I will probably not ben in Bethlehem next Friday which is my last Friday in Palestine.

Now it is time to go to Jerusalem for a free evening (and a free morning tomorrow) before picking up the new team in Jerusalem around noon and bringing them to Bethlehem for three days where the two teams are together - the so-called "handover days".

I work for The Norwegian Church Aid as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer The Norwegian Church Aid or the WCC.  If you would like to publish the information contained here or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Editor (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission.  Thank you.

10-12 July: Visit to Tulkarem

Tulkarem is one of six EAPPI placements. It is a city in the northern West Bank, just on the border to Isarel. It is only 13 km east of the Mediterranen and the Israeli city Netanya. I left Bethlehem around noon Tuesday and arrive in Tulkarem 4-5 hours and numerous checkpoints later.

After dinner we visited the only Christian family in Tulkarem. The most interesting thing about this was that 4 out of 5 of their sons had converted to Islam - not for religious reasons but in order to be able to marry Muslim women as there are no Christian women in the area.

Wednesday morning we got up at 4.30 and left to do a gatewatch. Tulkarem is an area were The Wall for the most part follows the Green Line, but there are a couple of areas were it swings eastwards and "traps" agricultural land between itself and the Green Line. We went to watch a gate in The Wall in one of these areas north of Tulkarem. About 100 farmers have to cross the gate in The Wall every morning to access their agricultural land. The gate is open from 6-7 am, 11-12 am and 4-5 om only. One by one the farmers go through the gate and have their papers checked. The amazing thing is that there is no form of metal detectors or other means of detecting bombs. Any of these 100 farmers could therefore easily bring bombs or material for bombs through this gate in the Wall and then continue unhinderede into Israel (their is no additional control on the Green Line). That the system works this way proves two things: (1) The Wall is not being built for security purposes; and (2) it would have been easy for "terrorists" to bring bombs into Israel if they really wanted to.

Later in the day we went to a meeting organised by the Palestinian Center (sic) for Peace and Democracy, but the meeting was mainly in Arabic so the informational value for us was low. We also visited to refugee camp in Tulkarem, including their youth centre, where I was soundly beaten in table tennis by the small kids. Doh!

Now it is Thursday and I am just relaxing in the house of our team here before starting on the journey back to Bethlehem. It has been a nice visit to a friendly city and good friends in the team here!

I work for The Norwegian Church Aid as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer The Norwegian Church Aid or the WCC.  If you would like to publish the information contained here or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Editor (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission.  Thank you.

8-9 July: - Do you love Israel?

We started early Sunday morning with checkpoint watch again and it was a pretty messy day, with many delays and unhappy workers who were worried about not getting to work in time. The main problem was that the metal detectors and ID booths closed and opened all the time so that people never new where to line up, and when it suddenly changed everyone rushed from one place to the othe to be first in the new line.

The rest of Sunday we spent mainly on administrative matters, writing reports and having a team meeting. And I had to clean the house...


Monday morning we had a new checkpoint watch. Although thing went relatively smoothly in total, there are always some single harassment episodes that stick in your mind. This morning, as we were observing the ID booths, one of the soldiers suddenly asked the person whose permit and ID he was checking: - Do you love Israel? The poor man, of course, didn't dare to answer anything but "Yes" although he probably had quite a different answer he wanted to give from his heart. This is just a small example of the daily humiliation people suffer at the checkpoint, and which they have to live with, not only because the soldiers have the guns, but even more so because they have the power to control the entry into Israel and thereby the livelihoods of the workers. So this even forces them to tell the soldies that they love the contry which has occupied and oppressed them for 40 years...in my mind it is like the rapist asking his victim: - Do you love me?

After the checkpoint watch I went to the house rebuilding site in Al-Walaja again and helpe for a few hours. The work ins proceeding nicely and it looks like everything will be finished by the inauguration ceremony on Saturday.

In the afternoon a few of us took a few hours off and went to the "Herodion", and artificial hill and fortress built by Herod (yes, the one that ruled here at the time of Jesus). This is also were Israeli archeologist believe they have found Herod's tomb just a couple of weeks ago. The hillfort was indeed impressive, especially an undergroun system of cisterns and caves. The cisterns were built by Herod (or rather, his slaves) to secure the water supply, while the caves where built by the Jews in the second Jewish rebellion 132-135 AD as a base from which to launch surprise attacks from the hill.
I work for The Norwegian Church Aid as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer The Norwegian Church Aid or the WCC.  If you would like to publish the information contained here or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Editor (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission.  Thank you.

Prosessen

Noen må ha baksnakket "Yussef al-K.", for en morgen, uten å egentlig å ha gjort noe galt, ble han nektet innreise til Israel. Han hadde tillatelse til å passere den militære kontrollposten ved Betlehem og brukte å gjøre det rundt klokka sju, men denne dagen fikk han ikke passere. Det hadde ikke skjedd før.

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"Yussef al-K." er utsastt for en hemmelig prosess der han ikke vet hva han blir straffet for og hvordan han kan finne det ut.

 "Yussef al-K." er én av omtrent 15 palestinske arbeidere som blir stoppet på kontrollposten mellom Betlehem og Jerusalem denne morgenen, og han spør oss om hjelp. Vi klarer etterhvert å finne ut at han - i likhet med de andre - var blitt svartelistet av politiet dagen før, og at hans tillattelse til å reise på jobb i Israel var kansellert. Ingen vil si hvorfor, han må selv reise til det militære distriktskontoret og spørre. 

8 år - men hvorfor?
På det militære distriktskontoret får han heller ingen svar. I mellomtiden har en israelsk fredsorganisasjon rådet oss til å kontakte advokat, for det er ikke uten videre enkelt å komme seg av en slik svarteliste når man først har havnet der. Særlig ikke når man ikke vet hvorfor. "Yussef al-K." setter derfor en israelsk advokat på jobben. Et par uker seinere får han svar. Han har forbud mot å reise inn i Israel de neste 8 årene, men selv ikke advokaten har klart å finne ut hvorfor. 

Uten jobb og inntekt
"Yussef al-K." er dermed plutselig uten jobb og mulighet til å forsørge sin familie. Arbeidsledigheten i Betlehem-området er høy, særlig i små landsbyer som der han bor. Han har kone og fire barn å forsørge, og vet ikke lenger hvordan han skal klare det. Han mistenker at utestengelsen fra Israel er hevn for at han tidligere har kjempet mot okkupasjonsmaktens husødeleggelser i landsbyen hans. Blant annet samlet han inn penger for å gjenoppbygge huset til en familie som fikk det revet for et par år siden. 

Bor ulovlig i eget hjem
Hjemmet til "Yussef al-K." ligger i en del av landsbyen som ble ulovlig annektert av Israel etter okkupasjonen av Vestbredden i 1967. I følge israelske myndigheter bor han derfor i Israel. Siden han ikke har lov til å reise inn i Israel de neste 8 årene bor han følgelig ulovlig i sitt eget hjem, og kan når som helst bli arrestert bare for å være hjemme.  

Høyesterett
"Yussef al-K." gir seg imidlertid ikke så lett. Eneste mulighet for å anke et vedtak om utestengelse er å fremme sak for israelsk Høyesterett. Han vil nå forsøke å samle inn 15.000 kroner for å kunne fremme sak. Men det er små sjanser for å vinne, særlig når han ikke får vite bakgrunnen for vedtaket. Livet til "Yussef al-K." og hans familie ble forandret tidlig en juni-morgen, og han vet ennå ikke hvorfor akkurat han ble offer for denne prosessen eller om han noen gang får fremmet sin sak for retten.

6-7 July: Back to abnormal

After having returned home from my days off Thurday night, it was to get up at 4 am and go to checkpoint watch at Gilo Checkpoint Friday morning. Usually, we skip Fridays because due to the Muslim holiday and the Jewish shabbath there are much fewer people going to work than on ordinary weekdays. But we had decided to do a Friday morning watch, in order to check the situation at the checkpoint and in order to be let the soldiers know that they cannot predict exactly which days we will be there.

There were indeed fewer workers, maybo 50-60 were waiting when we arrived at 4.45 am, when it is normally 350-400 waiting. What we discovered, however, was that the Israeli Army also had reduced their number of personnel, so that only one metal detector and two ID check booths were open. There was therefore still a considerable waiting time, in spite of the number of people crossing being much lower than usual. And people kept arriving all morning, so in total several hundred people were crossing.


Around noon we went to Holy Land Trust to go to the weekly Friday demonstration, which today took place at Umm Salamone. The plan was as usual to try to cross to road which has been constructed on the route of The Wall, and then to cross to the othe side. 60-70 demonstrators were met by about 50 soldiers, and we were not allowed to pass. And when we tried to move along the road, the soldiers blocked this opportunity as well. What they seemd to have forgotten, however, is that one can move in two directions along a road. So when all the soldiers blocked our progress along the road, we just turned around and walked in the other direction, leaving the soldiers behind. So we walked unhindred along the road for a while, before starting to walk up the fields between the road and the Efrat settlement. We saw military jeeps coming at high speed down the road between us and the settlement, obviously intent on preventing us from reaching it. It was decided not to challenge them, instead we picked som grape leaves on the fields and returned to the road. Soon a jeep and an armored vehicle came towards us. Some demonstrators blocked the road and forces them to stop. More demonstrators joined, and the two vehicles were stuck. The demonstrators then placed the grape leaves on the front of the jeep as a sign of non-violence. Shortly after, soldiers arrived on foot and pushed the demonstrators away, so that the two vehicles could proceed. The demonstration was then over, and we returned.

Drueblader på jeep
The activists draped the military jeep with grape leaves

We went straight from Umm Salamone to Al-Walaja, where we could see that the house rebuilding was going quickly. The wall and the roof was already finished, only 5 days after they started.

Huset etter 5 dager
The new house was almost finished (at least outside) after only 5 days

We were also taken on a tour of Al-Walaja by a mamber of the village council, who showed us demolished houses, rebuilt houses, and houses about to  be demolished. He also showed us where The Wall would be built, and how it would separate the villagers from a lot of their land. The tour ended by a huge olive tree, which he said was 3,000 years old according to some Italian experts. True or not, it was ceratainly a huge, old tree! And sadly, it would end up on the Israeli side of The Wall, making it quite likely that it will not become much older. Israel has already uprooted about 1 million Palestinian olive trees, and there is no particular reason to believe that this one will be spared if they want to build a road or a settle house there. Our guide told us that there is a plan to force the Palestinians to leave Al-Walaja by making the living conditions there too difficult, whereafter they want to build a new settlement with 10,000 homes for Israelis.

Old Man Olive
This olive tree is supposed to by 3,000 yrs old, but is not likely to reach 3,100

We got a visit from a colleague from our Tulkarem placement on Friday-Sunday, and I spent most of Saturday showing him around and visiting friends. We also had a short visit to Aida Camp, but nothing special to tell. In the evening we went to Alterantive Information Centre in Beit Sahour, where there was a very nice concert with a Palestinian group playing traditional and modern Arabic songs with an improves jazzy approach to it. Very cool!

I work for The Norwegian Church Aid as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer The Norwegian Church Aid or the WCC.  If you would like to publish the information contained here or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Editor (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission.  Thank you.

3-5 July: Wadi Qelt - St. George Monastery - Jericho - Ein Gedi - Masada

I took three days off Tuesday to Thursday to travel with three friends from the EAPPI programme to the Jordan Valley. The first day we planned a hike throug Wadi Qelt - via St. George's Monastery, to Jericho. It started a bit unfortunate when our taxi driver dropped us off in the wrong place. We had started from Bethlehem at 5.30 in the morning to avoid walking during the hottest hours of the day. As it took us about an hour to realise we where in the wrong place, and another half hour to walk the 2 km to where Wadi Qelt acutally starts, we did not succeed in avoiding this. And two of the others gave up the hike and decided to take a bus to Jericho instead. The hike itself was beautiful however, throug deep ravines, and rough deserts, but it was steaming hot when we arrived at St. Georges's Monastery at noontime. I was tired, thirsty and hungry and not at all happy when the guard at the door told me I could not enter the monastery because I was wearing shorts! What's next? Suit and tie? Turned down by the Christians I approached some bedouins sitting under a tree outside the monastery instead, and was welcomed to sit down with them and get some water. They also contrived to sell me their typical headgear as protection against the sun, something I was quite happy for. We arrived in Jerico to hours later, after a total walk of 7 1/2 hours, and by then it must have been more than 40 degrees. Happy to have finished the walk, I was less happy to learn that our hotel was of the more shabby sort: beds too short, no cold water in the shower (I didn't exactly feel like taking a steambath at the time) and no aricondition system except for a fan which blew the outside air (45 degress) through the room at about the speed of a minor hurrican. We survived, though.


The next day we took a taxi and a bus to Ein Gedi by the dead sea, and somewhat better accommodation. We spend most of the day at the beach, and those who had not yet floated in the Dead Sea did so. I did not. Not much more to say about a rather uneventful day, really.

Thursday morning we got up early to hake in the Ein Gedy National Park before it got too hot. We managed to get to the entrance at 8.30 am, "only" 1/2 hour later than we planned for. We took a hike of about two hours, up throug a fertile canyon with a river and some waterfalls, then up the mountainside to a couple of rather unimpressive natural springs. We also saw a temple from the Chacolithic period, 4,000-3,000 BC. Or rather, we saw the ruins of the temple.
As we then had different ideas about how to spend the rest of the time, I parted with the others and took a bus to Masada, which was only 20 kms away. Masada is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and it is not difficult to understand why. Build by Herod (or rathe by his slaves...) a couple of decades BC it is a gigantic Roman fortress on top of a cliff which rises more than 500 metres above the Jordan Valley. There is also a deep canyon separating it from the mountains of the Judean desert, meaning that the fortress was nearly impossible to conquer. The ruins were fascinating, but it was the nature which was really breathtaking: with a bird's eye's view to the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, high mountains, deep canyons and wide plains in all directions. I think it enters third in the list of most impressive places I have been to (after Angkor Wat and Petra), and I would recommend everyone travelling to the Middle East to spend a day at Masada. Because I arrived in the middle of the day in the summer heat I took the cable car up to the fortress, but the Snake Path winding up the hillside is certainly a good alternative for those visiting at more temperate times and who would like to enjoy the natural beauty of the place even more. Or at least take the cable car up and walk the Snake Path down...

I took the bus back to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem in the evening, and arrived back to our house - with a tired body but a well-rested mind - ready to face the reality of the occupation again.

I work for The Norwegian Church Aid as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer The Norwegian Church Aid or the WCC.  If you would like to publish the information contained here or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Editor (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission.  Thank you.



 


Kringsatt av fiender

- Dere slipper ikke inn. Dette er militært område! Soldaten ved porten i Muren nekter oss adkomst til landsbyen Al-Nu'man mellom Betlehem og Jerusalem. Vi skal besøke en familie og har med gaver til barna, men ingen andre enn de som bor der slipper inn i Al-Nu'man.  

image41
På vei til landsbyen passerer vi bosetterveien som er under bygging. Palestinerne får kun lov å bruke den lille tunnellen for å krysse veien

Roten til Al-Nu'mans problemer i dag startet i 1967. Da Israel okkuperte Vestbredden ble den lille landsbyen med rundt 200 innbyggere ulovlig innlemmet i Jerusalem og Israel. Men da Israel foretok en folketelling tre måneder seinere, ble alle innbyggerne registrert som innbyggere i en nabolandsby på palestinsk side av den nye grensen. Landsbyen ble en del av Israel, mens dens innbyggere ble borgere på Vestbredden. 

Glemt i 25 år
Fram til begynnelsen av 90-tallet virket det imidlertid som Israel hadde glemt dem helt. De kunne bevege seg fritt både i Israel og på Vestbredden, men de fikk sine offentlige tjenester fra Vestbredden, ikke fra Jerusalem. De fleste visste derfor ikke at landsbyen ifølge israelske myndigheter lå i Jerusalem/Israel. Problemet oppsto, som for så mange andre palestinere, først med Oslo-avtalen. 

Roadblock Numan
Veien til Jerusalem har vært blokkert siden 90-tallet (Foto: al-nueman.tripod.com)

Ulovlig å bo i egne hjem
I 1992 fikk landsbyen besøk av israelske myndigheter som fortalte dem at all nybygging var forbudt i landsbyen. Siden 1993 har Israel krevd at innbyggere fra Vestbredden søker om spesialtillatelse dersom de vil inn i Israel. Dermed ble det også ulovlig for innbyggerne i Al-Nu'man å bo i sine egne hjem uten spesialtillatelse! Fra 1996 fikk barna ikke lenger gå på skole i nabolandsbyen (Nu'aman har ikke egen skole) fordi de ikke var borgere av Jerusalem. De må nå passere muren hver dag for å gå på skole i nabolandsbyen på palestinsk side. I 2003 ble flere av landsbyene innbyggere arrestert for å bo ulovlig i egne hjem. 

233303-42
Dette huset ble revet i 2006 (Foto: al-nueman.tripod.com)

Avstengt fra utenomverden
To veier ledet inn i Al-Nu'man, en fra Jerusalem og en fra Betlehem. Den fra Jerusalem begynte den israelske hæren å blokker i 1994. I dag er den helt stengt. Den fra Betlehem ble stengt da muren ble påbegynt i 2003. I dag er eneste adkomstvei til landsbyen en port i muren som er bevoktet av israelske soldater og som bare landsbyens innbyggere får komme gjennom. Det er her vi blir nektet adkomst. Nektet adkomst til landsbyen blir også innbyggernes advokat, lege, dyrlege, familiemedlemmer og venner fra landsbyer i nærheten. 

Numan and Har Homa
Den israelsk bosetting Har Homa (i bakgrunnen) skal utvides helt ned til landsbyhusene (Foto: al-nueman.tripod.com)

Kringsatt av fiender
Muren tok en god del av landsbybeboernes land, på to sider av landsbyen. På den tredje siden har en vei som bare kan brukes av israelske bosettere, tatt enda mer. I tillegg har en militærleir og en kommersiell transportterminal tatt noe land, og siste nytt er at bosettingen Har Homa planlegger en stor utvidelse helt inntil landsbyen på den fjerde siden. Når dette blir gjennomført er landsbyen helt omringet og nesten all jorda er tatt fra dem. Denne torsdagen må vi vende tilbake med uforrettet sak, men vi føler oss tross alt heldige; for vi har et hjem å vende tilbake til.

Numan surrounded
Kartet viser Muren i rødt, bosetterveier i gult, og utvidelsen av Har Homa i blått. Al-Nu'man i midten... (Kart: al-nueman.tripod.com)

2 July: Rebuilding a house in Al-Walaja

We met with 4-5 international volunteers at Holy Land Trust and drove together to the building site in Al-Walaja. We were going to rebuild a house that had already been demolished twice. When we arrived at 9 am the hired work had already been going on for two hours. We started to help with carrying sand and bricks to where the house would be, while hired workes and volunteers from the village did the masonry work. We were positively surprised that we were not disturbed by Israeli soldiers - we had expected them to be waiting for us when we arrived!

In the middle of the day we took a break and I led the group of internationals on a walk on part of the route The Wall will take when it is being built around the village, completely encircling it. The Wall is consistently built as near as possible to the houses in the village, so as to take as much land as possible on the Israeli side, but leave all the people on the Palestinian side. The Crimisan forest, of course, will also end up on the Israeli side (where there are trees there is water, and Israel wants to control the water).

After this walk and lunch we continued to help with the building and the new house walls rose with amazing speed, so that by the end of the day perpahs half the walls were already completed.

At the end of the day we were visted by a member of the Village Council, who greeted and thanked us, and told about the history of the village and the situation today. I have already told bits and pieces of this story in previous entries, and I will write a complete article about it later on, so I give no details here. However, as The Wall is now in preparation around the village, they plan to start nonviolent resistant activities in two weeks time. The reason for not starting now is that they want to house to be completely rebuild before the draw the attention of the Israeli army and authorities to the village.

I am taking three days off from tomorrow morning, for a hiking trip in the Jordan valley, so the next update will probably be on Friday.

I work for The Norwegian Church Aid as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer The Norwegian Church Aid or the WCC.  If you would like to publish the information contained here or disseminate it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Editor (eappi-co@jrol.com) for permission.  Thank you.