Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A day in the life of a CPTer living in At-Tuwani

Five A.M.

For a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, a day in Tuwani starts at about 5 am. It's time to crawl out of the sleeping bag, dress, grab a cell phone and video camera and don a red baseball cap emblazoned with "CPT." (Yes, the hats are embarrassing, but they immediately identify us an international human rights workers and that's important.) Then it's time for school patrol.

School Patrol?

Tuwani is a tiny village located in the south Hebron hills and it has a big problem. On Tuwani's land, Israeli citizens have erected a small illegal settlement and an outpost.

Every morning CPTers wake up at the crack of dawn to accompany Palestinian children who must walk near the settlement.

Numerous times, Israeli settlers have attacked these children without provocation. CPTers, along with members of Italian nonviolent intervention organization Operation Dove, are committed to intervening when settlers attack these children and reducing the incidence of attack by providing an international presence.

Joy, what on earth are you doing? Is this safe?
In separate incidences, four CPTers have been attacked by Israeli settlers. Members of Operation Dove and a human rights worker with Amnesty International have also been beaten.

After these incidences, the Israeli Knesset, in an unprecedented decision, ordered the Israeli army to accompany the children of the South Hebron hills to school. No where else in occupied Palestine are Israeli soldiers charged with protecting Palestinian children.

Now, instead of walking the children to school themselves, CPTers now wake up at the crack of dawn to ensure that the Israeli army shows up on time, or at all. Here's what happened one day in 2006:

After School Patrol: Additional Accompaniment Work

After getting the kids to school, CPT responds to requests for accompaniment from villagers in at-Tuwani and the surrounding area. A soldier informs a Palestinian farmer that he can't tend to his olives, a CPTer might accompany him, documenting the situation, talking with the soldiers, and maybe calling Israeli supporters. Or a CPTer might join a shepherd who has been threatened by settlers. CPT accompanies Palestinian upon request because we've found that the presence of international reduces the likelihood of violence and helps Palestinian to be able to go about the business of their normal lives.


Harassment and attacks at the hands of Israeli settlers are a pressing concern for the villagers of At-Tuwani, but violence is not their only problem. Like all Palestinians, they must also contend with systemic injustice, like movement restrictions, land confiscation, and the Israeli built annexation Wall. To resist these human rights violations, Palestinians have used nonviolent resistance methods. CPT is honored to participate in demonstrations, press conferences, and other forms non-cooperation organized by the villagers of at-Tuwani.

Villagers have resisted land confisciation, the destruction of their olive groves, and home demolitons, but most frequently they have worked to slow or stop the construction of the Annexation Wall.

In many parts of the West Bank, the Wall takes the form of a huge cement barrier.

But in Tuwani, it's just 2.5 feet high, just tall enough to prevent a donkey with a cart from crossing.

Villagers have held international press conferences, built bridges of rocks over the wall, and used their physical presence to slow down construction. Demonstrations like these are dangerous for Palestinian - they risk being tear-gassed or beaten by the Israeli army, or even arrested and imprisoned. When internationals, like CPT, and Israeli peace activists attend demonstrations, the Israeli army is often less inclined to respond violently because their actions are carefully documented.

7 P.M.
When night begins to fall, CPTers enjoy a couple of hours of electricity. (No, there's no internet access. Nor is there running water. Yes, that means no flush toilet.) Reports are written and cameras charged. In a 10 ft by 10 ft house, four teammates snuggle into sleeping bags, dreaming of justice and peace.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Remembering the Children of 40 years of Occupation

A few nights ago, I read out loud 7 or 8 pages of names, names like Khaled Adli Bassem al-Bazyan and Sara Abdul-Azim Abdul-Haq Hasan, and names like Shalhevet Tehiya Pass and Naftali Lanzkorn. These children were among the 943 Palestinian and 118 Israeli children who have been killed since 2000.

Khaled was 14 and lived in Nablus. He was killed when an Israeli soldier shot him in the abdomen during a demonstration on the Nablus-Ramallah road. He died in September of 2000. Sara was 18 months old. She lived near Salfit, in the same area where I used to live. She was killed by an Israeli settler who shot her in head while she was riding in the car with her father.

Shalevet Tehiya Pass, was 10 months old and lived in the Avraham Avinu settlement. Shalevet was shot by a Palestinian sniper while playing on the playground. Naftali was killed by a Palestinian sucide bomber near Kfar Saba. She was 13 years old. Both Naftali and Shalevet died in March 2001.

On Wednesday, we read all 1,063 names of Israeli and Palestinian children killed since 2000 outside of the Northwest Convergence, a conference featuring members of the Likkud party who strongly advocate the continuance of the Israeli occupation. While former Prime Minister Netenyahu spoke about Israel's glorious fight against terrorism, we read names. It took us an hour and a half to finish.

It's was easy to lose myself in the complex task of sounding out names like Shalevet and Khaled. It took all of my concentration to stumble my way through unfamiliar sounds and multisyllabic surnames. But then I would come across a name I knew well - Fadi, Jamil, Bassem, Huda, Mohamed, Rachel. I can't help but picture other children I know with those names and wonder if they're still okay.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip. Our congress has chosen to mark this week by congratulating Israel on its military might. I wish that they had instead read out the names of 40 children killed in this conflict or listened to the testimonies of 40 families whose homes have been demolished or looked at pictures of 40 olive trees uprooted or 40 lines at checkpoints.

How many more years? How many more children?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's a zine!

(Actually, this zine isn't available quite yet. But it will be in the next two weeks or so. So hang tight for the moment, but be prepared to be excited!)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Starting on the 27th of June, this blog will be updated less frequently as I travel before beginning my work in Palestine. Hopefully, by September, things will be back online.

Until then, if you're interested in other ways of keeping track of me, take a look at the sidebar to the right. The first four links should be very helpful.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Hello. My name is Joy and welcome to At-Tuwani!

This is a short video that I've put together introducing myself, Christian Peacemaker Teams, and the village of At-Tuwani, where I hope to be working. (It's my first video editing project, so be kind.)

I'll be working in Palestine with CPT full-time for the next few years. I will be returning home periodically and when I'm here, I'm always excited to speak. If you're interested in scheduling a presentation, send an email to bltreyn AT hevanet DOT com

Monday, June 04, 2007

An Open Letter to Michael Moore: Please Ask Oprah to visit Palestine

Hi Michael! My name is Joy Ellison and I'm a long time fan. When you came to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, before the release on Bowling for Columbine, I was in the audience. That night you said something that I still remember clearly.

You said that all of us like to believe that if we were in Nazi Germany, we would have been brave enough to hide the people targeted by Hilter's death machine - romaine gypsies, people with disabilities, communists, gay people, and Jews. You said that today we had another opportunity to speak up for justice by speaking out about the situation in Palestine.

I took your words to heart. I currently work in the West Bank with an organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams. CPT accompanies Palestinian children on their way to school, because even these kids are the targets of violence under the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

I'm writing you today because I recently learned that you will be on the Oprah Show. Congratulations! I also understand that Oprah has been invited by Elie Wiesel to visit Israel on a "solidarity" visit. I want to beg you, Michael, to ask Oprah to reconsider her decision to visit Israel. Right now, the Palestinian people need leading public figures to carefully consider all of the facts before choosing to stand in "solidarity" with one side over the other.

I realize that Oprah is unlikely to cancel her trip to Israel. Please, ask her to include a visit to Bethlehem or another community in the West Bank. I've been working with two other organizations called Open Bethlehem and the Holy Land Trust that I know would be happy to host her in the city of Jesus' birth. In fact, CPT itself has asked Oprah to come and visit us in the village of At-Tuwani. I know that many other Palestinian and international organizations have written Oprah asking her to visit them. Palestine wants Oprah! Tell her that we all say "Ahlan wa Sahlan!" Welcome to Palestine!

Thank you, Michael, for all of the work that you do. I hope that you will be able to speak to Oprah about this important issue.

Joy Ellison

To write your own letter to Michael, send an email to I think that several hundred letters to Michael might make a difference!