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.


Anonymous said...

That was very interesting. I liked your annotated pictures. I have to ask though, what's with the neon sheep? I'm guessing it's two herds combined, so the farmers can identify which are theirs?


in sackcloth and ashes said...

I was going to ask the same question... it's very tempting to make a crack about tie-died sweaters.

joy_in_palestine said...

I'm actually not completely sure what's with the tie-died sweater sheep. I think it's two herds and it's also to label the sheep as belonging to Palestinian owners so that Israeli settlers have a harder time stealing them.

Anonymous said...

(This is Katherine, BTW)

I know that in the UK, people put different colored dyes on the bellies of the male sheep, so that they can tell from the colors of the backs of the female sheep who has been most ... productive.