Video: A brief 9 minute montage of clips from the July visit by a delegation from CT to Palestine. It includes video at the borders, and in Israeli occupied Bethlehem, Hebron, and Jenin.
+ More videos of the colonization and resistance in Bilin
Back safely after over three weeks of bittersweet experiences in Palestine, it is only proper to start by telling you about how I felt on touchdown at JFK Airport in New York. My mind was swimming in a set of emotions ranging from positive anticipation of being back to our house in CT (harvesting our tomatoes, checking on our cat etc) to thinking about accumulated work that has to be cleared (both professionally for my job to all the needed stack of work for human rights issues that went unanswered as we were away). My thoughts were interrupted as the Royal Jordanian airline captain announced that passengers must prepare passports for inspection at the airplane door's exit. We recalled the unforgettable experience of three years ago when I was unfairly detained after precisely such an announcement (details of that incident are posted at http://www.qumsiyeh.org/caseclosed/). My wife and I quickly consulted on how to respond if I was the target in this case. We decided that I was to again (and even more forcefully) insist on my rights as a US citizen and she was to try to document (including photograph if possible) the event. My wife was questioned on why she had a video camera on but then let go to proceed with detention of the wanted man. At first I felt a relief that it was not me they wanted but then I felt bad for that Palestinian man who they might try to intimidate like they did me three years ago and who may not pursue his rights as vigorously as I did then. It would be good for ADC, CAIR, ACLU and other groups to gather stats on this kind of questioning. It is also important for all US citizens to get involved and informed about the increasing attempts at what can only be described as the Zionization of the USA (slowly turning it into a police state while draining its resources; see action alert below).
On the drive back to CT from NY, there was lots of time to think of all the brave and honest people we met along the way. Here is just a sampling of those:
* The great folks at Romana Charitable Association (in a village in the northern tip of the West Bank) who gave us a tour of villages impacted by the wall and who delivered services that focused on education to their community.
* The Tayba village folks who get "visited" (i.e. harassed) after we left by the Israeli army for letting us tour their land which comes close to the apartheid wall. (An Israeli army jeep stopped and asked us forcefully to leave at the time of our visit).
* The doctors at Jenin hospital who work tirelessly under unimaginable conditions.
* The few remaining shopkeepers in Hebron who try against all odds to resist the Israeli ethnic cleansing of their neighborhoods. A recent story on this appeared in LA Times, see
* Marwa AlSharif's wonderful family in Dura, Hebron area who were so hospitable to us. Marwa was a girl who came to CT in 2001 to remove a bullet from her head (see http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1141/is_38_37/ai_78728672 )
* George Nimr Rishmawi of the Rapprochement Center and George Saliba Rishmawi and Michel Awad of Siraj Center for their selfless dedication to giving internationals a good program on Palestine
* A 9 or 10-year-old girl at the bridge from hell (Allenby Bridge which is the only border crossing open to Palestinians from the Southern part of the West Bank). She wore a map of Palestine as a necklace and patiently helped and consoled her younger siblings through the ordeal that lasted several hours.
* David, a US citizen who painted murals for a school, designed a logo for Siraj center and did countless other tasks of kindness to local Palestinians in the Bethlehem district. And to countless other internationals like him who selflessly bore witness (even occasionally taking risks at certain cites) and volunteered their efforts in countless ways (especially working with young people).
* Hanna and Dunya and the team of Birthright unplugged who bring Jews to visit the occupied areas and the ethically cleansed villages and learn first hand what Zionism is all about and also take young Palestinians (in the re-plugged programs) to visit their ancestral depopulated villages
* Dr. Walid Albasha in Jenin and Dr. Bashar Karmi in Ramallah who managed despite all odds and restrictions by the occupation authorities to set up excellent private scientific laboratories.
* Hundreds of individuals (relatives, friends, and new acquaintances) who kindly hosted us, fed us, and/or attended one of the 12 lectures I gave.
I could go on and on about all the positive and energetic people we met (literally hundreds over a very short period of time). Naturally, there are those fewer individuals (Israelis, Palestinians, Internationals) who are despondent or have even given up. But even among those, we find so many who continue to do their work for peace or at least "do no harm" (and that must always be the golden rule for all of us). And naturally, there are yet smaller numbers who indeed do harm: they include not only the Israeli Zionist elites but also their Palestinian collaborators who profit from the system and from endless conflicts. All of that still confirms what should be obvious by now: the struggles are not between Israelis and Palestinians or Shi'a and Sunni etc. but has always been between those with greed for power and control (a mean "do-harm" minority) and the rest of humanity (the have-nots, the oppressed majority etc). It is the latter who pay the price.
It was nice to have a chance on our way back to spend a day in Jordan visiting the ancient city of Rekem/Petra, carved of solid rock by our ancestors the Nabatean canaanites (see "Who made the Desert Bloom" http://www.mediamonitors.net/mazin16.html ). It was almost a magical time riding a donkey in the valley that used to be a busy marketplace in a thriving city dotted on the side by what were homes, tombs, courts, palaces, an amphitheater, water canals, and triumphal arches. All carved in sandstone with brilliant colors. No wonder this cite was voted recently as one of the Seven Wonders of the World (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra
and http://ce.eng.usf.edu/pharos/wonders/Forgotten/petra.html ).
In a few days and as I manage to find time, I will post some pictures of all the above on my website. In the meantime, please also read Stanley Heller's report from the Land of Apartheid published in Counterpunch
Nablus, Ramallah, Bilin, Abu Dis, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour
Wednesday July 18
Talked to author Susan Nathan. Unfortunately we cannot meet as Israeli authorities prevent Palestinians from Bethlehem and most places in the West Bank from traveling to inside the Green Line and also to areas of the West Bank that are now off limits to us (like Occupied Arab East Jerusalem). Israeli authorities also prevent Israelis from visiting us in our increasingly shrinking ghettos. But other visitors in our team (US Citizens without Palestinian backgrround) were able to travel to the areas occupied in 1948 and visit and interact with Israelis and Palestinians inside the Green line. Our slimmed team traveled to Nablus, the largest current Palestinian city, a distance of some 45 miles but a world away. To get to Nablus is an amazing, depressing tour through the lands of the west bank devastated by colonies, bypass roads, economic destruction of one community to benefit colonial ruler’s vision of a new functioning apartheid.
I read text of George Bush’s a “speech” that supposedly follows-up on his 5 year old “vision” (visions are dreams of prophets and Bush is todays false prophet) of a Palestinian state if Palestinians become quislings. Here good Palestinians are those who accept apartheid and fully obey the master race command while those resist are the bad Palestinians. The Zionist controlled mainstream media would not dare challenge the mythology. It is up to us ordinary citizens who are not brainwashed to point out that this emperor has no cloths. Afterall it is a simple thing to flood the media and ask the obvious questions: how come the “road map to peace” (2218 words) and Bush’s latest speech (2173 words) both lack the four key words: human rights and international law.
Anyway, I go to Abu Dis to check out AlQuds University which sits now at the apartheid wall (literally the wall sits on university land and cus its soccer/football field). Met with the Vice President (the president was out of the country) and the Dean of the Medical school and a couple of faculty members. We discussed medical genetics and what it would take to establish modern laboratories under the current Israeli apartheid system. For example, students at the medical school used to go to Al-Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem for practical training. Now that East Jerusalem is split by the wall, the area where the university is and most of its students (except those lucky enough to have a blue Jerusalem ID card) are prevented from crossing over into the areas of Jerusalem now illegally annexed by Israel (contrary to International law). This has a devastating impact on Palestinians on both sides of the wall. In this case Al-Makased loses patients and doctors and AlQuds university loses its training hospital.
In the afternoon I gave a talk to 30 teachers in the Bethlehem areas, listened to their travails, and exchanged views on what is happening. The conversation lasted two hours and could have gone on for many more if we had the room booked. Just a glimpse of things discussed:
- the plight of freedom of movement preventing kids from getting to their schools
- the economic devastation that reduced motivation to go to school and decreased the graduation rates
- home demolitions and even school building demolitions carried out by the Israeli occupation authorities (e.g. in the area of AlKHader).
- Western media (with Zionist impact) distortions about educational systems, curricula, about Palestinian lives etc.
Accurate analysis based on documents like this one from Ali Abunimah titled “Overcoming the conspiracy against Palestine” remain in the realm of alternative media:
Read “Meet the New Goliath: Israel is Bad for Jewish Ethics,” By SAUL LANDAU
and “Israeli Apartheid” by Bruce Dixon
Thursday, July 19,
Most land stolen from Palestinians in “Israel” are the land of the 530 villages and towns ethnically cleansed between 1947-1949. Most of this land was turned over to the Jewish agency to develop for Jews only. The JNF decided to profit by selling some lands to pay its ever growing bloated budget. In 2005, a surprise ruling by Israel’s court said that sale of this land can not be retricted to Jews as this would be discriminatory (racist). A bill in the Israeli Knewsset (parliament) just passed first reading that would overrule the court and add to the body of racist Israeli laws. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/883536.html
The Israeli company for computer security Check Points has been appointed as the official supplier to the American Ministry of Defense. In particular, the company will supply American Federal agencies with a protection system for data stored on laptop computers. (Guysen.International.News)
We travel to Nablus after reading this morning news and comments both positive and negative such as the above.
The road to Nablus from Bethlehem is a winding road that goes through all the turns and pains of the occupation. In the golden olden days before Zionism, Nablus was the commercial center of Palestine just like Jerusalem was its political and spiritual center. The trip to this largest Palestinian city was also a relatively smooth and straigt road north through Jerusalem. But now Palestinians have to ,maneuver their travels on the allowed roads around Jerusalem and between the illegal Israeli settlements dotting the landscape of the occupied West Bank. At the village of Huwwara near Nablus, sits the large Israeli checkpoint (mahsom) called by the village name. Nablus bore perhaps the second largest burden after Gaza in the most recent uprising. We visited with Saad, Alaa, Nabil and others at Al-Najah university (see http://www.najah.eddu ) who work with International Visitors. We visited with the amazing President of the University and the dean of Medical School. We visited the new campus, the laboratories, the classrooms etc. I gave a talk to about 50 students and faculty on media and mass communication issues in the US and the struggle for freedom in Palestine. A long discussion followed that covered positive/direct actions ranging from loading videos on Youtube to writing letters and op-eds. I was truly impressed by the progress of the university, its leadership, and especially the enthusiasm and interest of the students we met.
Upon return from Nablus, I gave a talk in Beit Sahour to about 30 people (mixed visitors from abroad and locals) on what can be done around the world for Palestinian freedom. I used many examples of successes with limited resources ranging from Sommerville Divestment Project to the picket of the misnamed “New England Celebrates Israel” to the Wheels of Justice bus tour etc.
Friday July 20th
We drove to Ramallah where I gave a talk to the medical doctors in Ramallah on Medical Genetics while others in our team went to witness the celebrations of the release of 250 prisoners (out of 11,000 political prisoners held by Israel, >100 arrested every week). The Physician Union that invited me are developing continuing education programs, housing programs, and many other services for their members besides the usual union activities.
We then all drove to Bilin for the weekly demonstration against the apartheid wall (see http://www.bilin-village.org/ ). We first gathered in and around a building near the mosque. Worshippers leaving Friday services mixed with anarchists, leftists, and people of vartious faiths and national backgrounds. Italians, French, Americans, Spanish, and Israelis mingled with Palestinians. All in all over 300 people (about half local) began the short march towards the apartheid wall built on village lands. One of those marching with us was Rani Burnat in his wheel chair (he had been shot by the Israelis and bullet lodged in his spine making him partalyzed). His cousin Iyad Burnat was the informal head It is a team effort) of the local committee for non-violent resistance. As we approached 200 yards away from the wall, the amassed occupation soldiers from at least three positions began their volleys of “teargas”. For clarification, Bilin village lands sit on both sides of the wall and soldiers were on both sides of the wall and the occupation soldiers declared a closed military zone on both sides of the wall. The tear gas they started with is nothing like the tear gas I inhgaled in demonstrations anywqhere else around the world and even in my younger age growing up in Palestine. This gas had extremely potent chemicals that really caused not only the usual tearing eyes, lung irritation, sinus effects, etc It also caused dizziness, muscle fatique, buzzing headaches, and overall dreadful feelings that lasted for many hours (in my case I was not feeling well for over 36 hours afterwords).l At any rate, the soldiers started shooting first this thing and then rubber coated bullets. Rani Murrar (the guy in the wheel chair) was hit by a gas canister in his foot and was also overcome by the gas. As he was being trended to, his brother Ibrahim was hit in the head with a rubber coated steal bullet. Iyad (his cousine) and two other young men carried the injured Ibrahim and ran back up the hill towards the village. The volleys of tear gas canisters and occasional “zing” of the bullets continued. Some tear gas canisters ignited fires in the dy summer brush under the olive trees. I was called by a 10 or 11 year old to help him put out one of the fires. But then soldiers started aiming at us and other teams putting out the fires. Soldiers also started to move from both directions and that kid and I, exhausted and gasping for air walked up the hill. We stopped at a house that offered us water, coffee, and onions (the theory is that smelling onions help with tear gas inhalation). Soldiers closed in and the mother asked her young daughter to close the windows and retreat into the house. We thanked them and walked towards the mosque. Later we stoped with Iyad at his house and he explained to his wife what happened and that the blood all over his T-shirt was not his but his cousin’s. The amount of blood that spilled from Ibrahim and his head injury made us all fear the worst but a few phone calls assured us that he was not critical and in fact we could visit him in the hospital. We gave out some bandanas made by friends in the US that had “We will not forget you” written on them and then we were off to the public hospital and by the time we arrived we found out that that he has regained consiesnous. His mother, other relatives and friends were also there as were a few internationals. The doctors said he will stay in the hospital for some time but should be OK. For video of Bilin demo, see http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=emadbornat
We went to a Ramallah restaurant for dinner and to give a talk to a group of mostly young Jewish Americans participating in the program “birthright unplugged” (see website at http://www.birthrightunplugged.org/ ). The evening went well despite the throbbing headaches from the tear gas. We decided it was too late and we were too tired to leave for Bethlehem and we spent the night in Ramallah at a friend’s house.
Saturday July 21, 2007
In the morning we talked a bit with Sam Bahour and Anees Barghouthi on the issues especially dealing with the right to enter campaign. Then it was off to Beit Sahour. For the rest of the day, I decide to lighten up my schedule by concentrating on family issues. My extended family like all families in Palestine suffers tremendous stresses that are brought about by the colonization and occupation authorities. Besieged and impoverished Palestinian families face significant physical and emotional hardships. We feel their pain and can offer them so little. But perhaps we need at our meetings abroad to think collectively what we can do to enhance the quality of life for people who are here. I asked that question of audiences where I talked and people we met everywhere and several ideas came from them. If you can help, let us know and we will hook you up with the right people. Examples of ideas discussed:
- Twinning of schools (e.g. a US Middle School with a Palestinian Middle School)
- Teacher to teacher and student to student contact
- Having a summer camp for 30 Palestinian American children with 30 children of Palestinians under occupation
- Establishing a fund for home renovations/painting and recruiting activists to do so in the summer along the same lines as Habitat for Humanity. Thousands of families would love to help in the manual labor to fix their own home with simple training and some supplies provided.
- Providing training for healthcare providers in the US.
- Marketing of products (embroidered stuff etc) made by people at the elderly center and some cooperatives
- Bringing more tours coordinated
- More coordinated BDS actions (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanction)
16 July 2007
Report on the last few days in Palestine
Friday July 13: Most of the day was spent at Siraj Center where we met a lot of active volunteers as well as visitors and participants in the Palestinian Summer Celebration (see http://www.sirajcenter.org/). We also started to plan the projects and schedules for the next three weeks. We did take time to visit Bethlehem University (http://www.bethlehem.edu/) established by the Catholics in Palestine but open to people of all faiths. A majority of its students are Muslim and it has over 50% female students. We stopped by to visit research and teaching centers. As a medical geneticist, I was impressed that it was able to accomplish much in the fields of molecular biology, biotechnology, and genetics all despite the occupation, the limitations on movements etc.
Saturday July 14: Jet lag made us wake up early at 4 AM and we watched a documentary broadcast on Palestine TV on the life and struggles of famed Palestinian writer and artist Ghassan Kanafani (see http://www.qumsiyeh.org/ghassankanafani/ ). We then toured my hometown of Beit Sahour meeting many old friends and family members, eating some great Palestinian food at my sister’s home. We stopped by Maan News agency (http://www.maannews.net/) and we will be developing some collaborative media projects. They have a huge collections of photographs and video of life and of events in Palestine. In the evening we attended a program at the Palestine Heritage Center (see http://www.palestinianheritagecenter.com/ ). The center was established in 1991 by Maha Saca who is doing a great work in promoting awareness of the rich Palestinian heritage that goes back thousands of years. Visitors experience traditional embroidery that is unique to many localities to music to food to folkloric dances to Zajal (Palestinian Arab melodic poems) and on and on. In attendance at this event were many members of the Bethlehem Association (http://www.bethlehemassoc.org/) from the US. Palestinian Children from Dheisheh Refugee Camp danced the dabka. Village women cooked classic Arabic Shrak Saj (thin bread on metal over fired coals), Arabic Coffee, thyme, olive oil and on and on. Poets and artists played classical instruments, improvised musical poetry (Zajal, in one poem about the need for those in exile and diaspora to return). It was a beautiful evening and we made lots of new friends as well as renewing acquaintances with older friends. Later at night we went to a wedding party which had over 200 people packed in a hall with good food, drinks, music, and dancing.
Sunday July 15: Still got up early at 4 AM (Jet lag) but managed to go back to sleep a couple of hours. Then on to visit the abandoned Israeli military camp in Beit Sahour that is now being developed into a community area for the town that when finished will house a playground (already partially built), a nature center, a restaurant, an outdoor theater, a public garden, and much more. (We need to raise funds for this). Then we visited the Palestine Wildlife Society for conversation about their previous great projects that involved education and conservation. Visit their website to see http://www.wildlife-pal.org I was particularly impressed with their impact on the Palestinian curriculum. The “Health and Environment” track is taught in all public schools and it includes things almost like classic social science classes in the US but a lot more practical things that helps people survive, know more about themselves and their environment (and here I use this term in the widest possible sense). In terms of future projects, we talked about expanding programs of bringing Palestinian children awareness of their heritage and their environment. We talked about bringing US students to Palestine and we talked about networking with the Wheels of Justice (see http://justicewheels.org). Late afternoon was spent in conversations with locals (political and other issues) and night at a social gathering in the “Tent Restaurant” (yes it is under a very large tent). Then a formal wedding ceremony in Bethlehem.
Monday July 16: We went back to Bethlehem University and discussed more details with the Dean of Science possible project development. My wife also talked with the Business school about getting a job there although we are still unsure how we can get her to stay here as the Israeli occupation forces are making life very difficult for souses of Palestinians to live here (they gave her a three month “tourist visa” last time and a one month visa this time). We then went to visit Hebron old city. Along the way from Bethlehem to Hebron we witnessed the extent of the growth of the illegal colonies of the Gush Etzion block (Gilo, Har Gilo, Efrata etc), which now slice up and destroy the ancient landscape. The ugly concrete buildings, modernized highways and bypass roads (not open to Palestinians) create a surreal situation where native Palestinians and Israeli settlers live in two different worlds yet share the same tiny landscape. A settler can literally live in subsidized western style house built on stolen Palestinian land less than a mile from the poor native neighborhoods and villages of places like AlKhader and Beit Ummar (and that settler can do so and drive to Western Jerusalem without ever seeing the victims or noticing their plight). This is the season of fruits and vegetables in Palestine. Many of the villagers still try to sell the products from their dwindling lands on the side of the roads or in shops. But this brings much less money than in the old days when they were free to move and sell their products in large cities like Jerusalem or Jaffa or Nablus (or even to other countries). Life is slowly being squeezed out of these areas while the cancer of the settlements built on Palestinian lands grows ever more destructively. The old city of Hebron near the Ibrahim Mosque (the mosque of Abraham) is just as abandoned as it was last year. Most shops are closed. Tens of thousands of local Palestinians (and thousands of foreigners) used flock to this busy commercial district until the few extremist Israeli settlers (with Israeli government support and protection) literally just moved in uninvited. They took over whole buildings or in some cases upper floors. They go on rampages making life impossible for the native Palestinians. From the upper story rooms they squat in, they through trash at shops and pedestrians below. They routinely shot and destroyed shops. Thus some 400-500 colonial racists (under the protective eye of over 5000 Israeli occupation soldiers, many of them from the settlements) control the lives and destroyed the livelihoods of tens of thousands of native Palestinians. It is as if 400-500 KKK members where put in the middle of Harlem and were given permission and protection (with 5000 White soldiers) to do what they want with the black population. Anyway, we were successful to cross one checkpoint (with two metal turnstiles and metal detectors) but not allowed into the Ibrahimi mosque at the second checkpoint by a squad of Israeli soldiers. We went back to the old alleys of Hebron (the ones with mostly closed shops) did some shopping at the few open shops to encourage their trades and witnessed an aggressive squad of soldiers file through the narrow ally pointing their guns at people (including us) as they moved briskly towards the mosque.
Later, I gave a talk to some Palestinians in Hebron on the situation in the US, on BDS (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) and we exchanged views on what can and should be done to bring peace with justice. 80% of the males and 30% of the females in this audience did time in Israeli jails (political prisoners, many without ever being charged with any crime). Statistics show that > 1 million Palestinians have served time in Israeli jails (in Gaza and the West Bank half the people between ages 25-55 served jail time). As I sit and write this, the sounds of the call to evening prayers and other people hustle in the streets to go home for family and dinners reminding us that despite all, life goes on.
To be continued later this week.
Report from this trip into Palestine: Right to enter Palestine
After much touch and go (trying to keep my wife out mostly) and three days, my wife and I are finally in occupied Palestine. Experiences so far are bitter sweet and range from meeting Kathy Kelly (of Voices for Creative Non-Violence) in Amman to being tormented by Israeli border officers. I will take time to only describe the experiences crossing from Jordan into the occupied West Bank. My wife and I both have US passports but I also hold residency "rights" in the occupied areas. 5 million Palestinians live outside Palestine and are denied entry. Roughly five million (of which nearly 2 million are refugees or internally displaced people) live inside Palestine: 1.5 million Palestinians live inside the Green line and are given (10th class) Israeli citizenship while 3.5 million live in the occupied areas of the West Bank (incl. East Jerusalem) and Gaza. I happen to belong to the latter historically created category. My wife has no residency Papers and it has been now fairly common for Israeli's to deny "tourist" visitor visa to spouses of Palestinians if they do not carry the residency papers. This applies even if those spouses are born and raised in Palestine (mine is not). This is a method to thin the population as any marriage like this means that both the resident and their spouse are excluded because the only way they can live together is live somewhere else. Of course such restrictions do not exist to Israelis or even to Jewish non-Israelis. Any Jew in the world can become an automatic citizen and bring his or her spouse whatever their nationality happens to be.
To go back to my story. Some of you may wonder why I come through Jordan. West Bank residents cannot fly to Palestine (which became Israel) nor can we cross into our homeland except through one entry point only. In the case of Bethlehem area that is the King Hussein Bridge (Jordanian Name), AKA Allenby Bridge (Israeli Name), AKA Al-Karameh Bridge (Palestinian Name). Hence, we must fly to Jordan and the next day travel to that thing which may better be called hell.
On the morning of July 12, 2007, we said goodbye to our kind host in Amman and embarked to the Bridge border crossing. The taxi driver has six children; four of them graduated from college and one is in the army. He said the economy is poor but people are surviving. He earns about $450 a month driving the taxi. This leg is about one hour, but we had to switch to a second taxi for the last three-minute ride because the first taxi does not have the special permit to operate in the area nearby the border crossing. The terrain along the taxi ride is hilly, brownish dry landscape without much vegetation. In a distant hill, we can see the site of one of the many ruling family palaces. A herd of goats in a seemingly no-man's land facing the Jordan river and in the distance the Israeli colonies dotting the landscape that is only 3 miles away and yet hours away (if we were lucky to get in). Bags and luggage go through security checks (to protect Israel even before the border crossing). My wife had to stop and get her exit visa in a different building of the Jordanian terminal and get a special slip to say she can ride on the “Arab bus” (i.e. Those like us who go through the more rigorous examinations). I had to wait in long lines to get my papers finalized and then onto the “Arab bus” which had one mile drive to the Bridge but that mile took about one hour including two or three stops to wait for instructions (I assume from the Israelis who like to pace the arrival of us Arab hordes). At the immediate line of the border right after the bridge the bus stops and everyone disembarks for initial Israeli checks of luggage, people (including documents) and to make sure the bus has no one unaccounted for. Back on the bus and onto the border terminal where there are areas for “foreigners” and for Palestinian residents. So my wife and I go to two different areas. The lines are long and yet almost half the people (in all lines) do not get approval at the window counter (their passports taken and they are told to wait). My wait was relatively short (about one hour). My wife’s on the other hand got rigorous questioning for 10 minutes at the counter and then told to wait. Some four hours later, they come and call her and ask more questions (many of the same questions they had asked her earlier). Then she is told to wait again (more hours). Here are some of the questions:
- What is you relationship with Mazin?
- Is this the first time you visit here?
- What was the purpose of your last visit?
- What is the purpose of this visit?
- Where are you staying (A: Beit Sahour)
- Where is Beit Sahour? (!)
- When will you leave?
- Show me your return flight ticket?
- Give me phone numbers and names of people you will stay with (your in-laws)?
- Will you be traveling to other cities/other areas?
- Who will you be meeting?
The total time to traverse the 3-mile border area (Jordan/Occupied territories) for us was about 9 hours. Getting out would also mean going either to Jericho in the north then taking roundabout ways to get to Bethlehem area or taking a taxi (expensive) with a change in Al-Aizariya (named for Lazarus’ Tomb) and still going through the Wadi Narr area. Got home around 9:30 PM. But we were the lucky ones. Some visitors were denied entry including a Palestinian family. The father, the mother and their son who were going into the West Bank for the Son’s wedding. Both mother and father were born in the West Bank but were outside when Israel occupied it and thus had no ability to get back. All three carried American passports and have done a tremendous amount of work and preparation just for this problem (they had spoken with lawyers, US State Department, Israeli and American Consulates and Embassies etc). Ultimately it is not what Israeli or International law says or even what the State Department informs you, it is essentially up to these low level Israelis who are at the border crossings. The idea is to make Palestinian natives strangers and unwanted in their own lands (lands coveted and stoilen by these colonial settlers). The one who was supervisor of the team that denied entry to that family and delayed us was a middle-aged woman with European features (not Semitic) and a strong Russian accent who felt in full control. Her employees were mostly young Israeli recruits (serving their compulsory military service). Those young ones ranged from those who seemed to like to boss around Palestinian old women and children (one wanted all children picked up to show her so that she does not have to get up from her chair and look down at them) to what looked like teenagers trying to bide their time doing unpleasant work while sneaking time to hook-up with others for love relationships.
The hours and days of travel are fortunately filled with meeting very interesting and thoughtful people and by reading all sorts of interesting material. I met young Doctors in training, great drivers of many vans, buses, and taxis, old folks who tell us they have seen it all. I read a book by Abdullah AlTal, the Jordanian commander of the Arab Army in the Jerusalem area in 1948. The latter book was very fascinating. It corroborated the material presented in Avi Shlaims’s book “Collusion across the Jordan” about collaboration with Zionists before and during the establishment of Israel on Palestinian land. The documents that AlTal show are rather devastating to the role of King Abdullah and his Army’s commander (a British by the name of General Club) in
1) strictly forbidding units from fighting Zionist forces (AlTal disobeyed orders in the Jerusalem area) and eventually went into exile in 1949.
2) After the hostilities ended, the Jordanian Army was ordered to vacate and give the nascent state of Israel some areas in Jerusalem (June 1948, Mt Scopus, parts of Sur Baher and Beit Safafa), Lod and Ramla areas (July 10-12, 1948), the Galilee, areas near Hebron, and areas of South AnNaqab/Negev (in March 1949). Palestinian inhabitants of Lydda (“Lodd”) and Ramla were then driven out (after all hostilities have ended). The Galilee, which was designated to be part of the Arab state continues to be Judaisized to this day. Those Palestinian refugees in Lebanon from the Galilee and those in Gaza and the West Bank who came from Lydda, Ramla and villages south were then denied their basic human rights to return to their homes and lands.
Anway I digressw but it did seem history repeats itself and those in power never learn that it is far better to have peace than continuing injustice.
We need to push our government, embassies and foreign officials on this issue of right to enter. Please take a few minutes to jot a note to those people to complain about this. For more information on right to enter issues, please visit http://www.RightToEnter.ps
Today’s Israeli paper Haaretz had an opinion piece by Dr. Ghada Karmi on the use of academic boycotts (posted at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/881390.html ). The fact is that not a single Israeli educational institution has complained about the right to enter or move around (which obviously also is intended to cripple Palestinian educational institutions). This alone justified the boycott of Israeli institutions (see also http://www.pacbi.org).
I will continue to update you from our trip as in previous trips as time and access to internet permits.
========================= February 23rd, 2005
I am in Palestine in the best time of year. The new blossoms of spring are here, the wadis are Green, the trees are beginning to blossom, the domestic animals are in their best physical shape and thus giving the best products like eggs and milk. Because my previous visits were during Summer and early Fall, I had missed some of the more specialized products of this bountiful time of year (like goat milk and butter, huweira herb dip etc.). The landscape ofcourse is being suffocated by the apartheid wall. It was most offensive in the area around Jerusalem as we drove up from Jericho during the winding and lengthy roads. It is what most people here realize directly impacts them. Any casual conversation here either starts with politics or quickly drifts in that direction after a few niceties. Having engaged in thousands of conversations in America and around the world, one is struck by how no one here talks about the weather today (yes it is nice and warm relative to the freezing New England weather). Politics dominate everything. It is also more now geared towards internal Palestinain politics beyond the usual discussions of the occupation, checkpoints, lack of employment, and the bleak future prospects.
The local Palestinian politics deal with:
- the elections (who voted for Abbas and who voted for Bargouthi and why)
- the current crop of nominees for PA ministers (some technocrats versus old guard politicians vs new young faces)
- the corruption among many officials and leaders of some NGOs
- what is the future (most people are pessimistic about prospects of ending the occupation and many have reached points of fatique/exhaustion and even cynicism about many, many things).
- how best to get Israel to comply with basic humanitarian issues like political prisoners (incl prisoners of conscience), stopping settlement activities and land confiscation etc.
Besiides the cynics (even some "war profiteers"), there are certainly many good "cloud-seeders" in Palestine working for peace with justice. In the next few days I will have a very busy schedule meeting with people of all persuasions and many, many of those good people.
There is no dearth of ideas and opinions here. Everyone has something to tell us. I will try to write good notes, take videos and still photos, and mostly listen and exchange ideas with all. I will also get a chance to visit and speak at Universities in Nablus, Beir Zeit, and Bethlehem.
====== February 24th, 2005
Our day today was in Nablus and Bethlehem and contained a quite a plethora of experiences both positive and negative.
Wadi AnNar and Huwwara Checkpoint
Leaving at Dawn is necessary even though we are told things are easier these days in crossing checkpoints. In normal times travel between the Northern and the Southern parts of the West Bank is quick and straightforward. But these normal times are long gone. Jerusalem is already insulated from its suburbs and outlaying Palestinian areas by the apartheid wall. Further, the only remaining link between the North and South of the West Bank (excluding Jericho and Jerusalem which are isolated) is a long winding treacorous road called Wadi An-Nar (literally valley of fire). It is really rather dangerous and not suitable for commercial travel. Even then, the road also has a checkpoint located at the top of the hill, replete with a fortified tower, cement barricades, and moody soldiers.
The checkpoints are numbered stations to Israeli soldiers and these are not publicized so each checklpoint is somehow traditionally christened with a Palestinain name. This one is the container checkpoint (located next to a truck container which is convered to a convenience shop by a Palestinian owner. Crossing the container checkpoint is only a first stage in getting to Nablus in the North. The checkpoint at the entrance of Nablus is called Huwwara checkpoint (after the nearby Palestinian village). This checkpoint is the only exit out of this besieged city of nearly 200,000 Palestinians. Palestinian cars are not allowed through so you get off one car, stand in long lines, go through two sets of metal gates, get "inspected", and if you are lucky maybe allowed to go to the other side to take other public transportations. Few people venture the adventure and only if they have to: students living in nearby villages attending schools, farmers going to sell products in the city, tired men trying to get the few jobs that remain, and so on.
The surreal landscape along the ways is pastoral Palestine at its best in blossoming almond treas, grean grass, but pot-marked with European-style Jewish only colonies and roads. The Israeli presence is felt through their military and colonial settlers and there is a complete and forced isolation between Israeli population areas and Palestinian population areas. It is rather artificial since spacially the areas are very small and only brute Israeli force keeps people apart. Rather blatant apartheid with no attempts to hide it.
In Nablus we visited a cultural center, Balata refugee camp, and Al-Najah University (see below).
The return from Nablus is even more stressful to the local people. One said to me that it is a different world out of the Huwwara checkpoint. Ironically, when we left later in the day and crossed out of the checkpoint, there was a guy selling maps of the world and "Buy the map of the world for 10 shikels" was his words said to me in Arabic! Indeed for people of Nablus, the world revolves around the checkpoint (two weeks after promises of good will peace jestures about checkpoints).
Al Najah University
This is the largest university in the Wast Bank in terms of student enrollment (over 14,000). It is the most crowded University campus I have ever visited. But is also a modern campus with state-of-the-art facilities created with minimal resources. I was invited to speak by the international cooperation group called Zajel (see http://zajel.org). It is a great group which does all sorts of projects ranging from educational events to bringing Internationals to visit and taking Palestinians to visit abroad to their Palestine Oral history project (see http://www.zajel.org/oral_history.asp?cat=24 ). The conference room (a modern facility with excellent audiovisual and teleconferencing equipment) quickly was filled beyond capacity with eager young students. Their questions were intelligent and indicate an eagerness to learn and to help (48 signed for our email list). Some students eagerly showed us their media projects (including videos and
pictures). They were professional. Al-Najah's Zajel and the ministry of culture were also putting together an event later in the day on Palestinian refugee experience. We observed part of this and then had to rush back to get to Bethlehem for another program.
Bethlehem Peace Center
On the same evening Bethlehem Peace Center hosted a screening of Control Room (the excellent documentary about Al-Jazeera coverage of the Iraq war) and we had a discussion involving the audience with me and the writer and editor of CR, Julia Bacha. The Bethlehem Peace center is a building erected in the same location of the Police center that was bombed by the Israeli apache helicopters during this latest uprising. A very beautiful building with an excellent auditorium. The attentive and great audience (including a couple of reporters) was mixed local and international and George Rishmawi provided translation.
Despite the checkpoints, it was a productive day focusing on media issues but especially rewarding in the quality of people we met who do great work.
========= February 26th, 2005
Many in the US media again claim that the killings in Tel Aviv shattered a period of peace and quiet. Yet, in the past month of so called cease-fire and period of peace, Israeli occupation forces have killed over 25 Palestinians, continued choking off the life of Palestinians by checkpoints and walls, and have continued unrelented colony building on Palestinian land. The hypocricy of counting violence only when it effects Israelis is a crime against truth just as killing is a crime against human beings (regardless of their religion). But all of these are symptoms of the underlying disease of apartheid and colonization which is unrelenting in its intensity on the ground. Here is more on that from the ground.
A day in Bir Zeir, ElBireh, ad Ramallah
The drive to Bir Zeit in the morning was marred by news of two Palestinians murdered (for supposedly being too close to a forbidden area) and for us an Israeli soldier who just did not like the face of our taxi driver. When it was finally our turn to approach, the soldier ordered the driver to take us back to the end of the line of waiting cars. This added another 40 minutes to our trip. We were late for our meeting which was basically abbreviated to 15 minutes because of the class I was scheduled to run to. Bir Zeit University is a very modern and progressive university which requires students to get some credit by volunteer community work. The campus of glistening white buildings is located among the great pastural hills so characteristic of this part of the country (lots of blossoming almond trees here). The class I spoke to was a political science class taught by Prof. Hisham Fararjeh. He is a real scholar, published many research papers and books (ranging from Political Biography of Dr. Ibrahim Abu-Lughod to political development of Hamas). He stated that he was my student in Biology when I taught at Dheisheh Refugee Camp in 1978-1979. He received all his higher education in the US (BS, MS, PhD) and then decided to return to Palestine even though he could stay in the US. IMHO, his inability to see through his physical eyes made him far more sensitive and far-seeing with his great mind and spirit.
I urge everyone to visit the the right to education website of Bir Zeit University to get a taste of what students go through to get to go to school in occupied Palestine (and yews please help and act or at least email them with your encouragement). The site is at http://right2edu.birzeit.edu
We spent nearly three hours with Abdul Jawd Saleh, a member of the Palestinian Legistlative Council (author, intellectual, previously mayor of El-Bireh who was deported by the Israelis and return to become minister of Agriculture). He was so kind with his time inviting us to a great meal and he stayed with us the whole time and we were interrupted only for his brief interview with Sky TV network. His insight into the elections and history of the Palestinian struggle was especially poignant (he is 73 years olds so he has seen a lot).
Later we visited with Jean Zaru and her guest Cathy Bergen (American Friends Service Committee, http://www.afsc.org). The Quakers had an uninterrupted presence in Palestine for over 100 years. Palestinian Quakers have been leaders in non-violent resistance to colonization, occupation, and segregation/apartheid. I first met Jean face to face a couple of years ago in a Sabeel conference in North Carolina where I was impressed by her ability to speak passionately, eloquently, and effectively for Palestinian rights especially the right of Return.
Ramallah had so much to offer us but we had to go back to brave the checkpoints (which doubled on the way back!). At one point it was interesting to see a traffic accident and observe how settlers could not bear the idea of being stuck in traffic like every one else. Jewish settlers with their yellow licence plates wiz right through checkpoints while Palestinian cars arte held back for examination not really searching for weapons, simply harassment). In this case of a car accident you could see their exploding frustration to be treated equal to non-Jews. Ah, a glimpse of what it would mean to have no discrimination based on religion (in either privilege or hardship)!
On the same day I heard the good news that the World Council of Churches, the main global body uniting non-Catholic Christians, ?has encouraged members to sell off investments in companies profiting from Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories? (Reuters). This follows on the heels of similar calls by the Presbyterian General Assembly. For lists of companies human righst activists think should be boycotted and encouraged to divest, see http://boycottisraeligoods.org
There is so much to see, so much to do and so many people to meet in occupied Palestine and yet I am soon to leave to Jordan.
On Friday morning, I met with the folks at Beit Sahour municipality. They explained to me the complex issues of internal and external politics that effect citizens of this and similar villages/towns in Palestine. Issues ranging from the siege and suppression of freedom of movement to healthcare to corruption were discussed not only here but in many places we visited. People Are far more candid and open in dealing with daily challenges. The challenges are ofcourse monumental and fall nothing short of a challenge to their very continued existence in Palestine. I wish we could have continued the discussion at the Municipality but we had to head to Ramallah for a meeting with Hanan Ashrawi (of MIFTAH, a Palestinian initiative for transparency, democracy, and peace; see http://miftah.org) and also meeting with journalists and editors. Wafa of Miftah gave us a very cogent description of what the situation and of Miftah before, during, and after the elections. We spent then private time with Hanan. Like other times with this brilliant woman, I am always awed by her insight into what needs to be done, her positive energy, and her complete dedication to Palestine.
We then moved to the meeting that Miftah organized with about 15 key media people. We discussed media coverage both inside and outside of Palestine. We delved into opportunities and challenges facing all of us in relaying the reality of Palestinian life. The meeting was very productive with our shared experiences (both in and out of Palestine) used to develop good strategies. At various departments of Miftah and beyond, we learned about some of the current initiatives dealing with fighting corruption, encouraging political participation, and challenging apartheid and oppression.
We visited the Muqata? (part of it still in ruins) including the grave of Yasser Arafat. We then headed to the Qattan Foundation (see http://www.qattanfoundation.org) which does excellent cultural work with Palestinian youth. Their new center for Children in Gaza city will be a tremendous boost to cultural/artistic life in that besieged city. Unfortunately, we could not learn much more because we received word that the occupation army was closing the exits from Ramallah and we needed to rush to see if we can get back to Bethlehem. Indeed, the clampdown was there and the trip took us nearly four hours through hills and checkpoints. This 4 hour trip would be half an hour without the occupation and colonies around Jerusalem and even with ?standard? Jerusalem bypass/occupation conditions through the valley of death/fire would be less than two hours. (Ofcourse Jewish settlers living in the settlements around Ramallah zip right through and can be in East Jerusalem in 10 minutes and in settlements near Bethlehem in another ten minutes). Even then I understand we were the lucky ones as some struggling to go from one part of the West Bank to another simply can?t. Anyway, our delay made me miss an interview on a Bethlehem TV station (a live program that had to be canceled). That is the abnormal existence that passes for ?periods of calm?.
On Sunday morning, I attended religious services and reception performed in memory of a deceased relative. Early Sunday afternoon was dedicated to a dinner and conversations with family and friends. We then went to a hike in the few remaining and accessible natural wooded hills. We did not want to get close to the confiscated lands of Beit Sahour and Bethlehem or to the apartheid wall and Israeli colonies. It was still one of the best moments of this tour with clean, fresh air sitting among the flowering and green hills. I found myself looking more towards the beautiful landscapes of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour and Al-Ubeideiya and (perhaps unconsciously at times) trying to avoid looking in the direction of the colony of Har Homa on the other side obstructing the view of Jerusalem.
In the evening I attended as an observer a meeting of those interested in democracy and reform (it included people of various political leanings). It was a preliminary meeting and it was encouraging to see such gatherings for democracy and to deal with issues like political corruption taking place at the grass-root level. Ofcourse much more is needed and I believe will be done in this critical period to come. I wish I was allowed by the Israeli authorities to visit inside the so called Green line or even in East Jerusalem. There are many good institutions and individuals (e.g. Jeff Halper of ICAHD) there I would like to have met with.
One thing I did learn from those who do travel there frequently is that there are also a myriad of Zionist institutions that gather donations from abroad especially from the US and bring visitors/donors etc. Many of them are one man dictatorships with corruption rampant; corruption in governments and non-governmental organizations is found in all societies. But at least in Palestine I do know now so much more about so many more people who are not in the limelight (many unknown to people outside of Palestine) and who do great work.
========== March 2nd, 2005
The last two days in Palestine were the most poignant of my trip and I decided to write about them only after I left Palestine. The tours of the wall in the Bethlehem/Jerusalem area is one of the most revealing aspect of life in occupied Palestine. The wall snakes its way isolating downtown Palestinian Jerusalem from its suburbs such as Bethlehem (7 miles), Eizariyaa (less than a mile), and Abu Dis. The Palestinian University of Jerusalem (Al-Quds University) has lands and properties on both sides of the monstrous wall. The wall cuts Palestinians from each others even in the same street and neighborhoods (e.g. in El-Eizariya). The wall is built obscenely on the Islamic cemetery grounds separating it from Qabr Raheel (biblical Rachel?s tomb). In turn the cemetery (which was forbidden ground for months by Israeli soldiers who made this sacred ground into established military base replete woith watchtowers, heavily armed occupation soldiers stationed on nearby buildings taken over from Palestinians (this is still true today).
The wall snakes through separating Bethlehem?s Christian and Muslim residents from their holy places in Jerusalem not to mention their workplaces, schools, and centers of economic life. That is precisely the intention is to ?thin? the Palestinian populations of East Jerusalem (after removing essentially all Palestinians from West Jerusalem between 1947-1949) and destroy Palestinian Jerusalem as the historical, economic, political, and cultural capital of a multiethnic Palestine while strengthening its new role as the capital of a growing Jewish colonization efforts both East and West of the so called Green line. This latter of ?Zionification? is evident in the huge and ongoing investment (supported by the US) in infrastructure and buildings in the colonies now ringing Jerusalem on all sides. Colonies like Maale Adumim (East), Pisgat Zeev (N), and Har Homa (S) grow unchecked while politicians like Blair, Bush, and Sharon claim they are interested in a road map that supposedly calls for a freeze on all constructions in settlements/colonies. Meanwhile Abu Mazen obediently calls for ending all forms of resistance and begs those who violate international law and human rights and who hold most of the cards for ?resuming negotiations? hopefully leading to ?agreements?.
On the positive side, while we were in Aida refugee camp on Monday, we dropped by unannounced to the Lajee (Refugee; see http://www.lajee.org) center where some Children were busy playing on the computers. I asked those who were volunteering at the center to send me some info and appeal for support and below is what I received.
On the same day we stopped by the Union of Medical Relief Societies new offices in Bethlehem where workers were busy unloading and organizing medicines, booklets (e.g. on diets, pregnancy, dealing with occupation etc). See http:// www.upmrc.org/ In the afternoon, we met with a coalition of Christian associations listened to their concerns, exchanged information, and planned some possible programs to develop collaboratively. In the evening on Monday, I visited the Nature Education center at Talita Koumi, a Lutheran school whose campus is now divided by the infamous Oslo accords to areas A, B, C. Area C is Israeli control and is too dangerous to visit. For a process that divides a school campus into three distinct areas to be called a peace process is an abomination. Thousands of school kids have already been inspired by visiting the collection (some of it collected by my late uncle Sana Atallah and some of it my own collection of animals). See http://www.eecp.org On Tuesday morning we visited a future nature reserve near Jericho where birds were being ringed and released by a different group (http://www.wildlife-pal.org). This is intended to become an active Environmental Education center in Palestine.
Through many more checkpoints and fences we finally left for Jordan. In Jordan we visited with Daoud Kuttab (http://daoudkuttab.com and also http://ammannet.net), the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature, and Jordan University of Science and Technology.
The Aida Refugee Camp was established in 1950 by families of 27 depopulated villages, mostly from the Jerusalem area. It is located only about 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem at the northern end of Bethlehem. Nearly 4,500 people (55% are children) live in the camp, confined within less than 600 meters square. On the hilltop overlooking the camp is the large Israeli settlement of Gilo, from which the Israelis operate a military base.
In the last four years, all the camp?s residents have faced increasing levels of violence from the Israeli military. Soldiers routinely enter the camp, brutally beat civilians, raid our homes, and arrest our sons and daughters. Three months ago, these invasions intensified with the construction of Israel?s separation wall only 20 meters from our homes. This completely cut us off from the neighboring olive orchard which provided agricultural income to the people of the camp and was the only open space in which our children could play. People who have houses in this area have been threatened with expulsion. With the construction of the wall, a large portion of the camp will be encircled by military watchtowers. This will inevitably mean constant tension, confrontation, and clashes.
Our young people are especially impacted?both physically and emotionally?by these hostilities. There are no play areas for children. Even UNWRA has placed its school facilities off-limits so as to avoid soldiers tear gassing and firing on the playground in off-school hours. Instead, our children play in the streets and in the alleyways among the high-density housing units, vulnerable to patrolling military jeeps and armed Israeli security guards. The presence of these invading forces in their neighborhoods often provokes our young people into throwing stones, partly as an _expression of outrage for the injustice of their situation and partly as a passing game to break the monotony of their lives. However, the reaction of soldiers to this ?game? has had terribly high costs during this Intifada, leaving many of our youth injured, disabled or even dead. We are seeing increasing signs of despair resulting from chronic trauma, even among our youngest.
For many of the children of Aida Camp, the Lajee Center is their only refuge in this hostile climate. Lajee Center?a registered, Palestinian non-governmental, non-political organization?was established in September 2000 by a group of young women and men from Aida Camp. Its founders recognized the urgent need to provide the new generation of refugee children with opportunities to gain the skills and judgment to build a new future for themselves and their society.
In addition to enrichment and recreation opportunities, the Center also aims to develop social awareness in refugee youth. In particular, we structure and implement our activities in such a way as to eliminate discrimination against women. Activities are organized with the goal of fostering in the participants a wider understanding of the world in which they live, focusing on issues relating specifically to their own society, culture and history, as well as the global context. Our hope is to develop the social awareness of the children, deepen their education and provide them with the critical skills necessary for them to take on an active role in their society. With these goals in mind, Lajee Center organized the following programs and activities for its youth:
? Scout Group of 65 children between the ages of 7 and 14 (temporarily suspended for security reasons)
? Dance Troupe of 12 children from 9 to 15, specializing in folkloric dancing
? Choral group consisting of 6 boys and girls and two musicians, between the ages of 10 and 16. The group has already performed and recorded 8 songs, written especially for them by Lajee?s own poet and musician. In September 2002, eight of the girls were invited to Cairo where they performed (singing and dancing) in the prestigious Cairo Opera House
? Cultural Activities: establishing a traditional dabkeh dance troupe, putting on original theatrical performances, and recording a CD of original songs.
? Oral History Project: recording grandparent stories of their refugee experience and publishing these and current and historical photographs in a CD format.
? Arts & Crafts: teaching painting, drawing, craft projects and traditional handicrafts; conducting youth art contest and show, and creating a child-designed community mural depicting scenes from their lives.
? Supplemental academic classes: offering after-school study sessions and tutoring to support regular classes.
? Annual Summer Work Camp with cultural, athletic, educational, community improvement and recreational activities.
? Civic education courses, including democratic principles, children?s rights, community leadership-building, and civic responsibilities.
? Library of multilingual books from around the world for all ages.
? Computer Lab with Internet access and computer skills training.
? Sports Hall: providing space for recreational activities and dabkeh practice.
? Know Your Country this project consists of a series of trips for youth of the Center to cities, villages, or organizations in Palestine, with the aim of giving them the opportunity to learn about their society, its history, and resources in a tangible way.
All our activities are organized by concerned members of the community, and our programs depend entirely on the voluntary efforts of our members, with some support from related institutions and interested individuals. There are currently 21 volunteers, each of whom pays a nominal monthly fee of 20 NIS. These fees go towards supporting the costs of the activities and of building maintenance. The idea of the nominal fee is also to encourage a participatory and co-operative spirit in serving the community.
While our activities are currently concentrated in Aida Camp, we already have some participating children from Dheisheh and Azza Refugee Camps, and Bethlehem and Beit Jala cities. We hope to expand our activities to include more children from the surrounding area. We hope also to increase the number of volunteers from outside of Aida Camp; currently our outside volunteers include one person from Bethlehem, one from Azza Camp, one American, and one living in Jerusalem.
Al-Najah University Campus, Nablus with activists from Zajel.org
Balata Refugee Camp, Nablus
Container Check Point, Wadi Al-Nar
Container Check Point, Wadi Al-Nar
Colony of Har Homa, Isolating Jerusalem from its Bethlehem suburb
Meeting with Journalists organized by Miftah (Dr. Ashrawi & staff) in Ramallah
Jean Zaru and Cathy Bergen of the
American Friends Service Committee, Ramallah