I've cheated a bit and jumped a few days ahead. I haven't written for about 4 days so I have some catching up to do but there's so much, and we've done so much so I haven't had the emotional energy to write until tonight, so I'm giving you today and I'll catch up with the last few days in a while and re-post everything in order. Today is important so.....
Oh man! What a day. We were feeling a bit like we weren’t in Palestine last night after we checked into the hotel in Bet Jala and found ourselves in the hotel bar with about 100 teenage Catholics from France dancing to Euro Techno. We came back to Palestine and the issues with a bump on our trip to Jerusalem.
The morning was lovely. A spot of shopping in the Christian quarter of the city. A wander around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A walk around the old city, through the Arab Quarter and the Jewish Quarter with the views of the wailing wall. It’s a bit mad that the Jews are apologising to the Temple of Solomon for destroying it yet they feel no remorse about the destruction and misery they are currently causing. I wonder what they will be crying and wailing to as a monument when as a population they finally open their eyes and realise what zionism has done, and when that moment will finally arrive.
One of the striking things is that as you walk around the city the Jews actually don’t make eye contact with you, which goes back to one of the themes I wrote about earlier in the trip. Now instead of hearing it third hand, I can actually tell you that it’s true. I walked past a side street in the centre of Jerusalem today and realised that a young man, probably in his twenties, had purposely held back from walking past me and rather than walking out of the side street with his head held high he looked down and towards the wall on his right as he made a move to round the corner. Where does this come from? I can only speculate. I’d like to think it’s shame, but I didn’t get that feeling. Once realising what had happened I started to look around me a but harder and realised that it wasn’t just him. It was all Jews. It had happened slightly earlier when, as we walked through the gate that seperates the Arab Quarter from the Jewish Quarter (and it’s actually an ugly iron gate with a camera and a padlock which they close at night to keep people out and them in) a couple stood discussing (I imagine) when this group of tourists might pass. It wasn’t until we had cleared the path that they passed, charging ahead like they couldn’t wait to get past. The avoidance and lack of eye contact continued throughout the time we were there. I’m not sure why, but I can speculate. It could be shame and knowing what they do, but having seen it for myself I don’t think it is. I get the feeling that they see non-Jews, and contact with them on any level, as something that might dirty their soul. Perhaps they are encouraged not to have contact with non-Jews. I have heard today that young children, without knowing why, are taught to hit out and shout insults at Palestinians. By the way, the Zionists don’t call Palestinians by their rightful name but call them all Arabs. By doing so it neutralises the problem for them. They claim that there is no such thing as a Palestinian and that they have no history or culture despite families being able to trace their family history back by a thousand years, and each one of those years they have been in the city where they are now in some cases. By calling Palestinians Arabs they make the Palestinian problem the issue of the Arab world and not their own problem. It’s clever semantics used to distract from the problems.
We headed over to Dar El Tiffel Al Arabi for lunch. In 1948, despite an agreement with local Jews that the Arabs of the village of Dar Yasin would not fire on them if the other party didn’t fire first, the Irgun, Stern Gang and Hagana of the zionist organisation raided the village at 2am. They threw grenades through the windows and put bags of explosives at the front doors of houses, killing and injuring families in their homes and without warning. It was the start of the occupation and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Of the 750 villagers of Dar Yasin 1/3 were killed, 1/3 were injured and 1/3 ran away. The Israeli’s gathered up the children they could find and dumped them at Jaffa Gate where the late Hind Al Husseini found a large group of them. A nine year old boy explained what had happened and Hind immediately took them all in. She found two rooms, rented them, installed the children and stayed with them for nearly 2 weeks. After 10 days the Israeli’s bombed Jerusalem and bombed the two rooms. The children survived not one, but two attempts on their lives within 10 days. Hind took them to her home, and Dar El Tiffel was born. Today, what was her house is now one of several buildings on the grounds of the orphanage. There are 40 orphans that board with them permanently and another 40 that come from other orphanages for their schooling each day of the school year. There used to be just under 150 but the Israeli’s have made it impossible from the children that used to come from the West Bank to come any more.
We walked of the school grounds and down to one of the areas that Israeli settlers have recently taken over. A woman, we didn’t meet her because she is in Jordan talking about her experiences, had been forcibly removed from her house just up the road. She was forcibly evicted from her house in East Jerusalem by settlers several years about, and in November of last year, she was evicted again. She has built herself a tent to live in where her friends are sitting every day and staying in over night to ensure that her “home” isn’t destroyed and she is evicted for the third time. The confounding thing is that when the Israeli’s come in, they don’t provide anywhere for these people to go. They are literally and figuratively kicked out onto the streets. They get told that there is an eviction or demolition order on their homes but not when it will happen. They dont’ get time to pack when the eviction or demolition finally comes. They ask for the Israeli government to rehome them before the eviction and the Israeli’s offer to send them to Ramallah, for example, but there are people already in Ramallah and Jerusalem is their home and often the seat of their family for generations. It’s all very well to offer somewhere else, but they are offering the somewhere else when it doesn’t belong to them to offer it and the Palestinians want to stay where they are. It’s their right.
The Israeli’s are not just committing genocide, they are committing spaciacide. They take land in the name of the Israeli state, in the name of Judaism, whatever the cost to human life. The problem is that they don’t see Palestinians has human beings. They see them as less than animals. In the name of our Jewsish neighbours and friends around the world, those that are happy to coexist alongside Muslims and Christians in New York, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Toronto, Montreal and all over the world they are committing heinous and unforgivable crimes against a defenceless people. All the media report are the kids with belts made of bombs that go into town and blow themselves up beside a restaurant because they are not allowed to be armed and all they have is rocks to throw. So the world is left with a one-sided view of the situation and blaming the Palestinians for being violent. It’s not violence, it’s despair, anger, frustration and stupidity. It helps no one for a young Palestinian to do that and I certainly don’t condone it, but I understand why they do.
Whilst at the tent we met a woman, a neighbour of the lady that lives in the tent, who settlers had attempted to remove from her home. In the process this woman of 45 or so had her hands tied behind her back and was dragged from her home. Her husband had a heart attack that night and after a long wait for an ambulance, delayed on purpose she thinks, her husband was taken to an Israeli hospital. She wasn’t allowed to see her husband until the next day and one week later he died of a second heart attack. Her five year old daughter witnessed the entire event. Her neighbour is now an Israeli settler who is utterly convinced that the house is rightfully hers. We saw her and had an exchange with her as she pulled her children away from the door. She really believes that she has a right to be there and that she owns the property. Over the footpath from the house is a playground about 5m2 that is locked and with an iron fence around it. It’s only for Israeli children. My question are, if they really are in the right why does she feel the need to shout people down when questioned over her right to be there?; Why do Israeli’s feel the need to fence their children into a playground?; Why are there security guards with uzi’s patrolling the area and whispering into their walkie talkies?; If they are right, what do they have to fear?; If they are right why do they need to be protected?
The last stop for the day was at a village in the valley, overlooked by the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. In 2002 the Israeli’s issued demolition orders for 88 houses. They issued them in Hebrew so that the Palestinians can’t read them. The demolition is to build a park for the memorial of King David. The irony is that in Islam the Muslims revere David as a Prophet (there are lots of parallels with the Jewish and Islamic faiths – a good read to discover more is Fighting for God by Karen Armstrong if you are interested). They are fighting the demolition through the courts, but the problem is that when the Israeli’s decide to do it, they will do it so really there is no court. The children of the village are afraid to go to school every day because they fear that they will have no home and parents to return to. The reality is that when the demolition comes it will start overnight when the children are also in their home. The reality is that when it happens the media across the globe will not report it. We asked the man presenting to us what he will do, and they plan to stay and resist. The only defence they have, he said, is their bodies. The reality is that when the demolition comes, it is likely that he and the other 1300 people or so in the village will die under the rubble of their houses and the Catterpillar trucks.
It was a sober and somber trip back to the hotel this afternoon. I’ve had to come out tonight to write. I haven’t written for several days (I’ll be catching up soon and still posting in order) because I’m tired but I need to get this off my chest today. It’s been my trigger for overwhelming emotions and an afternoon of grief – for what has happened to these people, and for what unfortunately seems inevitable. How can you be hopeful when there seems to be no hope? They take great strength from visitors like us as it helps to spread the word. We are their media since the media don’t do their own jobs. So here I am, spreading the word to my friends and family and hopefully others too that find this, in the hope that they have the stamina to read this far. I know I’ve been a bit long and boring at times, but there really is so much to say. I apologise for my length, but I don’t apologise for the message I’m trying to get out.
Our guide today is a Palestinian and I asked her how she keeps the strength to go on. She says that she has dark days where she doesn’t know how she is going to get out of bed, but her inspiration is the people she works with – she’s a social worker. She also cries a lot. I can relate to that today.