Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gaza: The Feast Day of the Slaughter of the Innocents, 2008

I've been struck dumb by the attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, completely unable to string two words together. I hope to write a few letters and make a few calls to Israeli and American officials tomorrow (probably while I sit in an airport going through the same holiday travel hell as everyone else), but in the meantime my friend Amy has some thoughts about the situation:

After watching the news in horror the last two days, I finally have found some words. Not too many, but a few.

This is reportedly the largest action on the part of Israel against the Palestinians since the 1967 war. There is some question of who, exactly, broke the cease-fire. But regardless, the toll is, as always, unbalanced. Over three hundred dead- three hundred- and maybe as many as 1,000 injured; there is no way of knowing how critical the injured are, or how many of them will die of their wounds.

Amira Hass, bless her soul, writes 'Gaza strike is not against Hamas, it's against all Palestinians'.

Today is the Feast Day in Western churches known as the Slaughter of the Innocents.

I am aware that not everyone in Gaza is innocent. But most of them are. Is it just to kill 300 in order to get a handful you were aiming for? Is it just to herd one and a half million people into a section of land, not let them leave, and then bombard them with missile strikes?

My values say it is not.

This is wrong. Very, very wrong.

Edit: Ali Abunimah gives us yet another stunning article.

Friday, December 26, 2008

This is just a little bit late, but check out this experiment: A BBC reporter travels to answer the question, "Could Mary and Joesph make it to Bethlehem on a donkey today?"
Santa sighted at a Bethlehem demonstration!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sami Awad on Anger and Nonviolence:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More from the Shministim

Monday, December 15, 2008

Petition to Free the Shministim - Israel's Young Conscientious Objectors: The Shministim are Israeli high school students who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in an army that occupies Palestine.

“I wasn’t born to serve as a soldier who occupies another, and the struggle against the occupation is mine too. It is a struggle for hope, for a reality that sometimes feels so far away. I have a responsibility for this society. My responsibility is to refuse.” - Raz Bar-David Varon, 18 year old member of the Shministim

Just for fun:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

So, I'm writing a novel set in Palestine. Yes, I might be crazy for attempting this, but I am. And I have a question and I figure some of you might know the answer:

When a Palestinian gets a permit, say to travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for one day, does said Palestinian recieve a little piece of paper that is his/her permit? Is it stored on file with the Israeli Army? Both? Something else?

I'm really kind of surprised that I don't know the answer to this question, but I don't. And one of you must.


Friday, December 12, 2008

A Dangerous Journey: Settler Violence Against Palestinian Children Under Israeli Military Escort.
This report also includes ideas for advocacy on behave of these children and is well worth reading. (Please, please, please, please, read it and post it.)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Just in case you were in doubt, yes I have opinions about Obama's decision to appoint Hilary Clinton to the position secretary of state.

I'm disappointed, generally. If this appointment means that Obama plans to take us back to (Bill) Clinton-style foreign policy, than this isn't change I can believe in. Clinton's policies were light-years better than those of Bush, but they weren't good for the Middle East. Through his sanctions, Clinton was responsible for the death of thousands of Iraqi children and for laying the groundwork for this current occupation of Iraq. Yes, Bush took those circumstances and ran with them to places they didn't need to go, but the basis of both the Clinton and Bush doctrines were fundamentally the same - both leaders believed that the United States has the right to shape the middle east to suit its fancy, supporting dictators when expedient and then turning on them when their usefulness has run out.

For Palestine, Bill Clinton's policy could have been better. It was during the Oslo accords that settlements expanded at an unprecedented rate. Clinton's diplomatic skills were as sharp in Palestine as they were any where, but he either wasn't able to understand the obstacle that settlements posed, or he decided to ignore them.

But Hilary Clinton shouldn't be judged by the policies of her husband, even though she hasn't differed with him significantly. Hilary's policy towards Palestine started to worry me in 2005 when she visited Israel while I was staying in Bethlehem. She was invited to see the apartheid wall near Jerusalem and learn about the damage that it is still causing. She declined to visit in wall in a Palestinian community, but still felt comfortable commenting on it. Sight unseen, Hilary Clinton told the world that she thought it was a great, "nonviolent" response for Israel's security:

"The top priority of any government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens, and that is why I have been a strong supporter of Israel's right to build a security barrier to keep terrorists out. I have taken the International Court of Justice to task for questioning Israel's right to build the fence, and on this trip, I wanted to see the fence with my own eyes. ... I stood on a hilltop in Gilo and received a detailed briefing from Col. Danny Tirza who oversees the Israeli government's strategy and construction of the security fence."

Clinton showed in her 2005 trip that she wasn't willing to listen to both sides and that she going to "take to task" anyone who calls for the rule of international law. These is not the qualities of a new and different "changed" secretary of state.

The truth is, Clinton's Palestine policies worry me because they are so much like Obama's. Both Clinton and Obama used to - even recently - support Palestinian national aspirations, in meaningful, gutsy ways. Obama particularly can't deny that he knows how Palestinians are suffering. But both of them have decided to sacrifice these ideals to get - and stay - elected. Both Clinton and Obama are courting APAIC. Both are courting Jewish supporters of Israeli polices. And both are getting winning reviews from pro-Israel lobbyists.

That Obama would chose someone for secretary of state who has sold out the same ideals that he has abandoned makes me worry that he really had abandoned them completely. The president we have just elected, despite he many strengths, is hard to imagine doing the difficult work to build a just peace process.

Many of my friends keep telling me that Obama is just doing this to get elected. Now that the pressure is off, he'll turn back to his ideals. Forgive me for saying so, but the pressure on Obama has never been greater. Nor has the pressure on Hilary Clinton. The only thing that will steer Obama's Palestine policy - and the rest of his foreign policy as well - back towards a "change we can believe in" will be a different pressure. A pressure from us. Right now, Obama is giving us a foreign policy that's better than Bush's. What a relief. But those us of who believe in peace in justice - all of us who want to live in a safe world - need to ask for more than that.
Do What You Will

Yesterday in Susiya, a village near at-Tuwani and one which has been razed by the Israeli army three times, Israeli settlers burned a Palestinian home to the ground. This incident was one of a long series of attacks Israeli settlers are calling a "price tag" campaign. According to the International Herald Tribune, settlers "say they're creating havoc to try to deter the Israeli security forces from future attempts to remove any of the dozens of squatter camps, or outposts, dotting West Bank hills." It seems as though the Israeli army is unwilling to take decisive action against the lawless elements of it's own society. Perhaps this "price tag" campaign has being proved successful.

According the International Solidarity Movement, during the last week alone, "settlers are attacking Palestinian residents and property around the West Bank in a coordinated outbreak of aggression following the eviction of settlers from the occupied Rajabi house in Hebron. Attacks against Palestinians have been reported from Turmas’ayya, Burin, Huwarra, Beit Iba, Azzoun, al-Funduq, Assira-al-Qabliya and Susiya, as well as the mass settler riots in Hebron."

In At-Tuwani, the same pattern has unfolded. Since the beginning of 2008, it's seemed as though the settlers of Ma'on and Havot Ma'on have been "on the move." By the middle of the year, settlers were attacking Palestinians with greater frequecy, even inside the boundaries of Palestinian villages. During almost every incident, the Israeli army stood by and watched while settlers did what they please. During one attack, an Israeli solider told a Palestinian resident of At-Tuwani that they would not step in to restrain settlers until settlers entered Palestinian homes. Now, as 2008 has drawn to a close, Palestinians, and to a much lesser extent international human rights workers like myself, undertake all of their daily activities under ever increasing threat.

According to a report prepared by an IDF consultant, much of the recent settler violence was fostered when extermist members of the settler movement saw an "opportunity" and were not met by an determined response by the Israeli army. In the South Hebron Hills, settler violence is generally met with no army response whatsoever. Even after settlers have repeted attacked Palestinian schoolchildren, ages 6 to 12, no settlers have been arrested. Perhaps even worse, the Israeli army refuses to insure the safety of these children, despite it's orders from the Israeli Knesset to do so. The message from the army to the settlers is clear - do whatever you will; no one will stop you.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Family Unification:

I've started doing some research about family unification for a project I'm working on and thought that I might as well share what I've been finding with all of you.

Here's how B'Tselem describes this video:

Since the beginning of the second intifada, Israel has frozen family unification in these cases. In addition, Israel has ceased issuing visitor's permits, which enabled families to live together legally in the West Bank and Gaza . As a result of the freeze policy, the foreign spouses of Palestinians, mostly women, have faced a cruel choice: leave the Occupied Territories and not be allowed to return to their spouses and children, or stay illegally and not be able to see their parents, siblings, and other relatives living in their native land. Many chose to remain in the West Bank and Gaza, and have thus been sentenced to a life of fear and constant threat of deportation; the problems inherent in moving in the West Bank without any valid identity document virtually makes them prisoners in their own

I will only add that's it's a great video for practicing Arabic. And it's unbelievably sad.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Full account of the incident: Israeli settlers attack Palestinian shepherds, kill donkey, injure internationals

On 15 November 2008, around 9:00 a.m., approximately fifteen masked Israeli settlers from the illegal outpost of Havat Ma'on attacked three Palestinian shepherds who were grazing their flocks in a valley south of the outpost. The settlers came running down from a ridge above the shepherds, hurling rocks. The shepherds were able to get their flocks away before the rocks injured them.

During the incident, the settlers were able to steal two of the shepherds' donkeys. The settlers killed one donkey with a knife wound in the chest area. They slashed another across the throat, but the donkey survived.

Settlers also hit two internationals from Christian Peacemaker Teams—who were accompanying the shepherds—with large rocks. One CPTer sustained minor injuries.

The Israeli police were called four times before responding to the incident. They did not initially respond to reports of settlers attacking Palestinian shepherds and internationals, but only responded when they learned of the attack on the donkeys.

The assault occurred on land the shepherds graze daily and which the settlers hope to take for the expansion of Havat Ma’on. Replacing the donkey will cost around 1000 NIS, or $265. The Israeli occupation has impoverished the shepherds of the area, and they are currently dependent on outside food aid.

For additional photos, see
Well, if you have been wondering why I've been quiet lately, this is why:
Yeah, I had some precious time to myself and used it to write a novel in one month. It was fabulous. But I'm back now. There is a lot of catch up on, but late me start here: check out SammerTime, a really wonderful new blog about At-Tuwani. Really wonderfully done.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My heart fell to read this. Especially since the headline is "Israeli settlers in south Hebron Hills kill donkey." Apparently it is so common for Palestinians in this area to be beaten by settlers that it takes a dead donkey to make the news.

From the PNN:

Ten settlers living in settlements built atop southern Mount Hebron assaulted a number of Palestinians on Saturday.

Farmers were near the southern West Bank town of Yatta this afternoon working on their land. Several activists from the Israeli left were accompanying the Palestinians as the settlers who imposed outposts nearby have a history of extreme violence.

Sources on the scene said that settlers from the Maon Settlement threw stones at the farmers and their supporters while screaming provocative phrases. The settlers referred to the Israeli activists as traitors and spies.

The Israeli settlers also stole a donkey from the farmers and shot him. His lifeless body was found nearby by Israeli soldiers to whom the leftists had filed a complaint against the settlers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Congressman Emmanuel and President-Elect Obama:

(Sorry I've been a little bit quiet. I've been busy)

Well, for Palestinians I fear that the bloom is already off the rose. President-Elect Obama has appointed Rahm Emmanuel to be his Chief of Staff. Emanuel's father's response: "Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he be? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

All right, then. That's not okay.

I wrote Obama a letter. You can too.

Dear Mr. President-Elect

I can't tell you how excited I was on November 4th to see you by elected our president. I'm living in Chicago right now and my friends keep bringing me to tears by telling me the stories of their night at Grant Park. I felt that it was inevitable that we would have one day a black person as our president, but I never believed that we could elect a community organizer. As some one who has done that sort of work myself, you've lifted my spirits in ways I never expected.

I'm writing you, though, because I am so profoundly sadden the statements made by Congressman Emmauel's father. "Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he be? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House." That's not appropriate. It has no place in your administration or any other. It's not why young people, like me, worked so hard to elect you. Please address this publicly and promptly.

I also want let you know that I am well aware that you know what is happening in Palestine, that you know that the way the Palestinians people are being treated is wrong, and that you want to see it stop, for the good of everyone in the region. I just want to remind you that because you do know what is going on, I sincerely believe you will be held morally accountable for what you do (or do not do) about this problem. You can't hide behind ignorance.

Thank you so much.

In hope,
Joy Ellison

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Over The Last Year:

I'll admit it, I'm procrastinating. While I was looking on my computer for a file, I found a list that I created in late August, as I was nearing my one year anniversary of working in At-Tuwani. This is a list of some of the things that I've seen over this last year, both terrible and wondrous. It doesn't pretend to be comprehensive, not nearly, but it does give a snap shot of how I see life in the South Hebron Hills.

There are pictures and videos of many of these events. If any of you of especially like to see something, I can see what I can do to fulfil those requests.

Over the last year, I've seen:

- Over a hundred children and their parents march to Tuba along a road Palestinian haven’t been able to use for 11 years

- The paramilitary settler guard of Ma’on push a pregnant woman and steal her zatre

- Palestinians organize the 2007 olive harvest so cleverly there wasn’t a single settler attack

- Settlers shoot three sheep and miss their shepherd. The next day, shepherds grazed hundreds of sheep in the same spot, clear up to the boarder of the settlement

- Palestinian children chased, cursed, threaten and attacked by Israeli settlers more times than I can remember

- Palestinian villagers from Tuba and Magher Al Abeed run through the hills to avoid being beaten by settlers too many times

- One teammate beaten by settlers, another
choked by an Israeli soldier, and another teammate arrested and faced with deportation

- Palestinians lock arms together and start walking forward to protect one from being arrested

- Settlers spray pepper spray into the eyes of a Palestinian and his elderly father. He was arrested. Ma’on’s paramilitary guard threatened to kill him, saying then “there will be no more problems.” When he was released from prison, he walk right up to and and then straight past the paramilitary guard, fearlessly.

- Five sheep ran over by a settler in a car

- A family in Susiya beaten by settlers

- Soldiers attack sheep and goats, kicking one in the teeth and another in the side, causing her to lactate blood

- Women remove a road block, opening the road to Yatta

- Three soldiers expose their butts to Palestinians, while the paramilitary settler “guard” of Ma’on stood next to them

- No settlers arrested for their crimes

- Illegal settlements expanding every day

- Palestinians, time and time again, walk straight up to settlers and soldiers and assert their rights

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This morning while I sipped my tea, I thought to myself, “It happens every day.”

Yesterday afternoon, October 14th, a group of six to twelve year old Palestinian children returning home from school were forced to run for their lives. Every morning and afternoon, these children must walk to past an Israeli settlement on their way to and from school in the village of at-Tuwani. Yesterday, two adult Israeli settlers waited for them near the end of the settlement, threw stones at the children and chased them towards their homes in the village of Tuba. Because these children have been attacked frequently, lately in this very location, the Israeli army is charged with escorting them each day. But yesterday, as usual, the Israeli soldiers drove away, abandoning the children while they were still in danger. “The children were very afraid when they arrived home,” said one father.

It happens every day. Serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams in At-Tuwani, I’ve born witness to more attacks on these children than I’ve been able to keep track of. The children are not attacked every day, but every day they face more danger on their walk to school than I have faced my entire life. We’ve sat together, the children, my fellow CPTers and I, and waited for the Israeli army to come for more hours that I care to recall. Sometimes we play together and manage to have a genuinely good time. One afternoon we played with my camera, the kids posing for me as they climbed trees, climbed on top of each other, giggled and danced. The next day, one of the older girls pulled on my hand and said to me, “I was so happy yesterday! Last night I woke up in the middle of the night because I had a bad dream about the settlers. But then I thought about all the fun we had and I fell back asleep.” Those words broke my heart and I can’t put it back together.

It happens every day. We all know the many ways, tiny and humongous , that our world is falling apart around us: polar bears who are losing their habitat, millions of parents who can’t feed their children, wars with no end in sight, petty meanness, decreased community, and children who are attacked on their way to school. It’s so much to bear. Too much.

It happens every day, but that’s not the end of the story. Lately my mantra has been, “It is as bad as you think it is, but that’s not all.” To paraphrase an old slogan, if your heart isn’t broken, you aren’t paying attention. But if you aren’t also filled with hope, you’re missing half of the story. In at-Tuwani, every day Palestinians are resisting a military occupation that is trying to crush them and their culture. They are grazing their sheep, building new houses, organizing nonviolent demonstrations, and sending their children to school. Now it’s time for the olive harvest and throughout Palestine, farmers will step out on to their land, sometimes risking arrest and attacks, to harvest a bounty of thousands of green, blue, and even purple hued olives. Here in my own pacific northwest, I’ve been thinking about the salmon who every year come down the river, offer themselves up to the people, and then swim back to their headwaters to spawn and die. For thousand of years, despite ever increasing odds against them, they’ve survived through this cycle. I can’t help but think there is something they are trying to tell us.

It happens every day. Horror and hope. They stand together, side by side, on the knife’s edge. And they offer us a choice, every day.

More Attacks on the School Children

Israeli settlers from the settlement of Ma'on in the South Hebron Hills attacked Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home from school yesterday, 14 October. The children were returning from school in the village of At-Tuwani to their homes in villages of Tuba and Maghaer al Abeed. Two adult Israeli settlers waited for them near the end of the settlement, threw stones at the children and chased them towards Tuba.

"The children were very afraid when they arrived home," said O, one of the children's fathers.

This attack happened in spite of the fact that the Israeli military is responsible for escorting the children past the settlement of Ma'on and settlement outpost of Havot Ma'on. Both the settlement and the outpost are illegal in international law and the outpost is also illegal according to Israeli law. Despite the fact that there have been repeated attacks on the Palestinian elementary schoolchildren, and despite Palestinian, Israeli and international representations, the Israeli military continues to fail to escort the children safely past the settlement.

Their vehicles almost always stop and turn before the end of the route, which leaves the children to walk alone on a part of the route where Israeli settlers have attacked them several times. Internationals monitoring the school escort cannot see the children in this area.

Settler attacks on the schoolchildren from Tuba and Maghaer al Abeed have been a recurrent problem for years, and the implementation of an Israeli military escort has failed to solve the problem. Last year, the 2007-2008 academic year, settlers attacked the children a total of fourteen times, as documented in the report "A Dangerous Journey: Settler Violence Against Palestinian Schoolchildren Under Israeli Military Escort."

Source: Christian Peacemaker Teams

Sunday, October 12, 2008

At-Tuwani Reflection: Swings and Roundabouts

By Jan Benvie

8 October 2008

This summer the at-Tuwani villagers organized a two and a half week summer camp for local children. The children loved the fun of the camp. New play equipment had been donated and it was sometimes difficult to tell who enjoyed the swings, seesaws and roundabouts more, the children or the adults!

However, under Israeli military occupation, summer camp is not all fun.

During the school year the Israeli army escorts children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer al-Abeed to school in At-Tuwani, because they are in danger of attack from Israeli settlers living in the nearby illegal settlement and settlement outpost. Prior to the camp, villagers contacted the DCO (the Israeli military division that administers civilian affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories) and requested an army escort for the children. They received an ambiguous reply, and some days the army escorted the children to camp, on others they did not.

On Friday 25 July, CPTer Jessica Frederick and I stayed overnight in Tuba. The following morning we left the village at around 7:30 am and walked with the children, aged between six and 15 years old, to the edge of the Israeli settlement, where they meet the army escort.

The children were happy as we walked along. It was camp day! They were all proudly wearing their summer camp T-shirts and baseball caps, given out the previous day. They ran and skipped along the road, laughing and joking. Suddenly, we heard shouts and saw Israeli settlers walking towards us from the outpost. The fun-loving atmosphere instantly evaporated. The children moved into family groupings, the older clearly taking on a protective role towards the younger. Only three days previously the children had been chased by settlers, one masked and carrying a stick.

We immediately called the army escort, but the soldiers refused to come because they did “not have orders." The settlers stood some distance away, but continued to yell. The children, although clearly petrified, told us they still wanted to walk to the camp – not by the shorter, direct route they take with the army, but a longer, slightly safer one.

It was shocking to watch the children as we made our way to at-Tuwani. Two older boys ‘scouted’ ahead with me, directing me where we needed to be more cautious. Jessica walked behind the children, still tightly knit in their family groups. When the path forced us to pass within sight of the outpost, the children almost crawled along the ground, anxious not to be seen by the violent settlers living there.

That day the settlers did not attack, but their shouts and jeers, their very presence, were enough to inflict horrific fear in the children.

Abusers do not need to beat their victims daily. They beat their victims often enough to intimidate and frighten them. Then a mere threat is enough to terrorize.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Support La Onf!

Iraqi nonviolence activists calling their network "La Onf" (meaning nonviolence) activists are launching the third annual week of nonviolence and are asking for your support.

You can sign a letter of support for their efforts. And equally important, you can let other people know about what they're doing, because it's really amazing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Obsession: The Oregonian Distributes Racist Anti-Muslim DVD as Advertisement

This last Sunday, my local paper distributed a DVD of "Obsession: Racial Islam's War Against the West inside of each of their papers. The trailer for this film is embedded above and you can watch it in its entirety on YouTube. If you watch it, you'll find what the American Muslim calls "hateful propaganda." According to the American Muslim, "The effect of Obsession is to produce anxiety, mistrust, and deep unease in the average American viewer about the presence, activities and attitudes of millions of their fellow Muslim American citizens. Obsession presents a mirror-image of Osama bin Laden’s world view, in which all conflicts involving Muslims are fronts in a global crusade. The film’s assertions are both a-historical and absurd, revealing a mindset of reductionism, chauvinism and paranoia." You can find a very helpful analysis of the film on their website, here, but I think that most of you will be able to clearly see the misinformation and hatred for yoursef.

Here in Oregonian a group called the Good Faith Coaltion has been organizing a response. They held a demonstration at which State Senator Avel Gordly said to Oregonian publisher Fred Stickel: “I also want to say to Fred Stickel, and I consider Fred Stickel to be a friend. You’ve made a mistake. There is a place for an apology...and I want to say to all of you, take your DVD and send it back to The Oregonian.”

The Good Faith Coalition is also asking people to call the Oregonian. I called them today and was forward to a comment line that they've set up for this issue specifically. I'd encorage all of you to do the same. I'm really not sure which number is the best to use, but you can call the publisher at 503-221-8140. I'm sure they will forward you to the comment line.

If you don't live in Oregon, you may in the future. Obsession is being distrubting battleground states across the country, 26 million copies total. I can't see to find a list of what papers have carried it, so keep your eyes open.

I have to say that I'm so disappointed that we are still at a place where businesses are willing distribute slander against people who are our neighbors and friends. Fear tactics may be powerful, but they are easy to spot and we can all help to render them ineffective.

Friday, September 26, 2008

An Open Letter to A Palestinian Child

Dear Sahmeha,

I’m writing you because your 12-year-old big brown eyes and serious mouth have made me feel as though there is something I need to explain. That questioning look of yours has made me wonder if I am not living up to the bargain I struck when I came to live in At-Tuwani.

When I arrived back in At-Tuwani after two months in the United States it wasn’t just my limited Arabic that prevented me from expressing how happy I was to see you. It was the beginning of June, just starting to become unbearably hot and dry, and you and your younger sisters came to visit with us on our patio. You sat down on the chair next to me, offered me your hand to shake and made me promise to come to your house for tea the next day. I know adults aren’t supposed to say things like this, but your parents would have been so proud to see you! My heart swelled and all of the reasons that I love my work and I love living in your village rushed in and filled me up. I know I smiled like a fool because you made me so happy. And then, Sahmeha, you said the words that have slain me.

“While you were in America, there were many, big problems in Tuwani.”

You told me the story of one of Tuwani’s worst days in recent memory. It was May 2nd, my birthday, and settlers came into at-Tuwani and attacked several of your neighbors. You and I both know what happened, so I wont write of it here. But Sahmeha, I pray that you forget the fear you described to me. Though I’ve heard many different tellings of the events of that day, your account was by far the most haunting. I want for you to forget everything that you told me - how you and your cousins ran back home, how you hid in your house, how you watched as Israelis settlers and soldiers hit people you love. I’d erase all of it, but I know neither one us can forget.

It’s September now and I’m once again far away from you for a spell. I keep thinking about how your father tells us that he is working hard to tell the stories of At-Tuwani under Israeli occupation. I know how right he is. The stories of what happens in your home every day are important and precious. Still, I can’t figure how to describe what the situation. Sometimes I’m feel as though I’m in a glass telephone booth, surrounded by raging violence. I’m trapped inside and I can’t do anything to help my friends outside. All I can do is yell down the line and hope someone is listening.

I know how my feelings pale to nothing in comparison for what you hold for each other, in the face this injustice and violence that sickens me, it’s only my affection for you and your family feels solid and describable. When am I away from Palestine, daily life in at-Tuwani seems so far away. My memories of the terrible things experienced by you and your parents - the stones thrown and the bullets shot by Israeli settlers, the closures, arrests, and harassment at the hands of Israeli army, the uncertainty that constantly lurks- start to blurr.. They linger like a half remembered nightmare that is scarier in waking than sleeping. This letter to you is the only thing that I can put on the page.

I want to tell you that I love you and that I’m trying. You, your family, and the rest of At-Tuwani have given me a gift - the privilege of living in your community. You’ve extended so much kindness and hospitality to me. I will do my best to tell to tell your stories while I’m away. In the meantime, Sahmeha, I know that while I am away many bad things will happen in Tuwani. There will still be big problems. And you are in good hands. Your mother, your father, your grandmother, and your aunts and uncles are taking good care of you. Take care of them too.

I can’t wait until I see you again.

With love and gratitude,

Friday, September 12, 2008

“She’s Driving Me Crazy, But this Girl is Going to Make a Great Resister.”

My friend and teammate Sarah just posted a really lovely story in her very lovely blog. It's a reflection the August 2nd action that I've spoken about. That action, in which over a hundred Palestinian children and their parents walked to the village of Tuba on a road they haven't been able to use for the last eleven years, remains one of the most incredible actions I've ever been a (small) part of.

Sarah's story talks about one of our favorite Tuwani kids, Amira. Amira's showed up in this blog before precisely for the reason that Sarah gives: "She's driving me crazy, but this girl is going to make a great resister." Sarah talks about how Amira's participation and you don't want to miss it.

Friday, September 05, 2008

430,000 Breaches of International Law

It's been hard to believe, but since the beginning of this year the situation in Tuwani has gotten much worse. The settlers of Ma'on and Havot Ma'on have attacked the Palestinians in tharea more frequently and more severely and no one knows just what accounts for the change. I still can't sayt hat I do, but recently an article published by the BBC at least managed to verify my own experiences.

Israeli officials have reported 429 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the first half of 2008, up from a total of 551 attacks in all of 2007. It should be said that these statistics are undoubtedly nowhere near comprehensive. In July CPT documented 7 settler attacks in Tuwani, only one of which was reported to the police. You'll see why Palestinians aren't making police reports in a moment.

According to Yesh Din (a wonderful Israeli organization), 9 out of 10 police investigations don't lead to anyone being charged. Yesh Din looked at 163 cases and found only 13 which ended with the attackers being indicted.

We found that even with overwhelming evidence - like videotapes of the crimes of settlers - Israeli police still refuse to take action. Going to the police is a nightmare, especially for Palestinians. My neighbors have told me stories of making police reports, only to be told that they would be arrested or fined. Why would you bother?

And here's my favorite part of the situation. Now that settler attacks are on the rise, the Israeli government has "postponed"the dismantlement of Migron, the largest unauthorized settlement in the West Bank. There are 430,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank in contravention of the Geneva Convention. Even when some of these citizens attack children, the Israeli government has shown it will do nothing.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Hi there. I just realized that I should probably mention that I've made it home and I am taking a little bit of a break. It's nice to relax.

This blog will be a little bit more quiet than usual over the next month. I find I don't have very many interesting things to say while I'm away from Palestine, so I'm not going to try to pretend I do. I plan to post a few articles over the next month and I'll be spending the rest of the time wrapping up some writing projects. If I finish them, they may find their way here. You'll just have to wait and see.

Part Wild West, Part Jim Crow

On July 27, the children and I were walking home when a group of Israeli settlers assaulted us from a hilltop with fist-sized stones. Some narrowly missed my head. Focusing my video camera, I recorded an Israeli settler flinging stones at the children from his long-range slingshot. When he saw that I was filming him, he struck me in the leg with a rock. He chased me, kicked me and screamed that he was going to kill me. Wrestling the video camera from my hand, he then repeatedly struck me in the face and upper body with a stone...The occupied West Bank today is like walking through a page from a different era - part Wild West, part Jim Crow - with one set of laws for Palestinians and another set for Israeli settlers.
Joel Gulledge reflects on being assaulted by Israeli settlers. Background on the attack here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Interview with H., At-Tuwani Nonviolent Activist

The people of At-Tuwani live simply and off the land. We depended on agriculture and grazing animals. Before the Israeli settlers arrived in the 1980’s and took land, Palestinian families were able to graze more animals. It was not uncommon for small families to have 100+ sheep and larger families to have 500+ sheep. As a kid I raised and grazed sheep where the illegal Israeli settlement, Ma’on is now situated.
People in this area want food for their family and want to simply live; to live without struggle. Some sheep and land, this is enough. But there is not much hope. We have lived under occupation we don’t want our children growing up under it. Israel took not only our land but our rights. We want our rights back.
For more of this wonderful interview, check out At-Tuwani Online

Monday, August 25, 2008

In the lawless South Hebron Hills, things are wild as usual: The settlers continue to attack shepherd children with clubs and stones, to steal their sheep and to make their lives miserable, while the Israel Police continue to abuse anyone who tries to file a complaint against the settlers.

Another excellent article from Giddeon Levy

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Well, it's been a while since I've posted. Sorry about that. It's been busy and I've been tired. I've been in the middle of one of those times when what I see has felt so overwhelming that I don't know what to say about it.

But Tuwani is still filled with new beginning and opportunities for change. A. had a healthy baby boy. His name is Tamar and he is one of those children who will be beautiful from his first breath. We sat and stared at him, the joy of his very existence was too overwhelming for words. Soon we found something to laugh about. A. told us that she drove to the hospital one the one day the when roadblock was removed and the road to Yatta open. She smiled and I shock my head with the wonder of it all.

So here are prayers for Tamar to always find open roads in his life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dear Israeli Military: Stop Toying with my Emotions!

It's a simple story. A couple of days ago (I've lost track of time, so I'm a little hazy. Sorry) the Israeli military took down the huge roadblock that has been stopping water delivery this summer. Everyone in Tuwani was happy. This morning I called a taxi and enjoyed waiting for it's arrival at my house, while I ate some breakfast. I hopped in and I enjoyed the wind coming through the window. I started to relax. But then we pulled out of the Tuwani road and I see a 3 ft. high mound of dirt blocking our path. While the driver pulled a few death-defying maunvers, I shock my head unable to process what I was seeing. A new road block. Not as bad as the last, but still enough to prevent water trucks. I picked up the phone to rely the bad news.

And this is all I have to say - I would apperciate it if the Israeli military would kindly keep the road open for more than 24-hours at a time. People need water. Moreover, people have a right to freedom of movement. And it would do my stress level some good too.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Israel's war by water

Ron, a good friend of mine and of Tuwani's, has written up a wonderful article published at the New Statesmen. He mentioned the situation in At-Tuwani specifically:

In Area C there are many villages and hamlets that, unlike the neighbouring Israeli settlements, are not connected to the water network. The people here rely on springs, wells and collecting surface-water in cisterns, but it is not enough. Connection to the mains would make a huge difference to life in these rural communities. But there is a snag. They need permission to build any kind of structure and even if their documentation is in order, the final say lies with the Israel Defence Forces civil administration. A recent UN report records that between 2000 and 2007, 94 per cent of building permit applications submitted by Palestinians living in Area C were denied.

One of the scores of unconnected villages in the south Hebron hills is at-Tuwani. A village leader, Hafez, is clearly worried. "The settlements are connected to the network but when we want to build new cisterns the Israelis won't give us permission. If we build them the army will knock them down."

Friday, August 08, 2008

Christian Destruct-o Teams!

The things that we overhear in the South Hebron Hills constantly astound and amuse me. But a few weeks ago, a soldier in a mushroom-shaped camo hat opened this mouth and topped everything I’ve heard so far.

We were standing at a flying checkpoint inside At-Tuwani that soldiers told us would last from 9 pm to 6 am and no one, Palestinian, Israeli, or otherwise, was very happy. The mayor of At-Tuwani, a man with far more patience than I have, was managing to have a discussion with one of the soldiers.

“Who are these people?” the soldier asked, indicating my teammates.

“You know, they’re hariket isalaam (the peace movement),” replied the mayor.

“No,” retorted the soldier. “They’re hariket il harb (the movement of destruction).”

But the soldier wasn’t done educating our Palestinian partners about us yet. “You know,”he said, “They only do this because they’re making lots of money.”

I think that At-Tuwani’s mayor cracked a disbelieving smile as he looked at over at us, in dirty clothes and holding bargain basement cameras. My teammates were busting up in the background, not even trying to contain their laughter. All I can say is that I’m still waiting for my check.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Excerpts from the excellent article: "Pictures from Summer Camp"

At 6:45 a.m. this morning, our friend, Joel Gulledge, called from At-Tuwani, a village in the West Bank where he and another Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) member were escorting Palestinian children to a local summer daycamp, protecting them from hostile Israeli settlers. A masked settler, carrying a slingshot, was threatening the children. While Jan Benvie, the other CPT team member, raced the children to safety, Joel paused to film what was happening. The masked settler caught up with Joel and attacked him. "He smashed my head again and again," said Joel, "with my video camera, and punched me in the face, repeatedly, with his other hand." Joel managed to remain standing. He didn't fight back, but he screamed for help. The attacker broke Joel's glasses, and Joel was bleeding from a gash over his eyes. When he called, he was waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

Earlier this week, CPT's website, reported that on Wednesday 23 July, "three Israeli settlers, one masked and wielding a stick, pursued fourteen Palestinian children who were on their way to a summer camp in At-Tuwani. The children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed waited thirty minutes for the Israeli military escort that should have accompanied them on the most direct road between the villages of Tuba and At-Tuwani. When the military failed to arrive, the children began walking along a long path through the hills to At-Tuwani. When the children neared the Israeli settlement outpost of Havat Ma'on, three settlers with two dogs came out from the outpost and began walking in the direction of the children."

More of this excellent article, by the always amazing Kathy Kelly, here.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Police Arresting Kristin Anderson

At-Tuwani: Urgent Action Update
3 Sunday 2008

On Sunday 3 August 2008, human rights worker Kristin Anderson was released from Israeli police custody, but the Israeli police have taken no steps to prevent setter violence in the South Hebron Hills. CPT urges you to contact the Israeli police at Kiryat Arba and demand immediate action to prevent further setter attacks on Palestinian school children. Over the last two weeks settlers have attacked Palestinian children on their way to summer camp four times. Settlers continue to yell, chase, curse, and throw rocks at the children, while Israeli police refuse to apprehend perpetrators. In November 2004 the Israeli Knesset declared that the Israeli police are responsible for apprehending violent settlers.

Please call the police and demand justice:
Kiryat Arba Contact Numbers:
(Add your applicable country code first)

Sunday, August 03, 2008


The Children's March to Tuba was amazing. Though the army prevented any internationals from walking with the children and their parents, as usual they certainly didn't need us. Palestinians marched up a road that they haven't been able to use for 11 years.

This was one of the most moving sights I've ever seen.

The march wasn't without is problems - the military declared the whole south Hebron hills a closed military zone (we're advised that was illegal) and attacked two adults. Also, police arrested a member of Operation Dove. She's been released - stay tuned for details.

Here's the press release we sent out:

On 2 August, more than one hundred children and their parents from the South Hebron Hills marched from the village of At-Tuwani to the village of Tuba, calling for an end to settler violence and settlement expansion in the area. The march was a part of the annual South Hebron Hills summer camp for children and a response to recent settler attacks on children walking to the summer camp in At-Tuwani.

The children and their parents, accompanied by a few Israelis and internationals, took the most direct path to the village of Tuba. For the past eleven years, school children escorted by the Israeli military have been the only Palestinians able to use this road. Palestinian parents organized the march to call attention to the violence faced by school children, the failure of the Israeli army to protect them and the effects of Israeli settlement expansion.

The march initially attempted to take the path that children use when unaccompanied by the Israeli military, around the settlement outpost Havat Ma’on (Hill 833)—which the Israeli government ordered dismantled in 2006. The Israeli military then declared the whole area a closed military zone and restrained the march with force, targeting leaders. Seeing a soldiers attack and try to arrest a Palestinian man, a CPTer tried to intervene. Soldiers knocked them both down and started choking the CPTer. Other participants in the demonstration then intervened nonviolently and stopped the attack. An Israeli and Kristin Anderson—who has worked both with CPT and Operation Dove (an Italian peace group that, with CPT, forms the At-Tuwani team)—were arrested.

Palestinian organizers negotiated with the soldiers, and the Israeli military agreed to accompany the children and parents on the short path, using the road between Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on (Hill 833).

A large group of settlers came out of Ma’on and harassed the marchers. A smaller group of settlers followed directly behind the marchers, but Israeli military and police prevented them from attacking the group. One village elder accompanying the children walked this road for the first time in years. Surprised by the settlement expansion, she shared with a soldier about how she plowed this land years ago.

Participating in the march were children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed, whom settlers have regularly attacked as they walked to primary school in At-Tuwani. The children rely on an Israeli military escort to accompany them to school and prevent Israeli settlers from attacking them, but the Israeli military has recently declined to carry out the escort for summer camp. The most recent settler attack took place on 27 July, when the Israeli military refused to escort the children. Settlers flung rocks at the children with slingshots and physically assaulted CPTer Joel Gulledge, inflicting a head wound requiring stitches.

For a photo of the march, see

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Wish Us all Luck! (Well, that's kind of an understatement.)

Today a group of Palestinian children will be marching from Tuwani to Tuba to call attention to the danger faced by children coming to school. The children, adult Palestinians, and internationals will take a route where the children have recently been chased by settlers brandishing sticks. Additionally, the group will deliver a demolition order to a new settlement house that is a part of illegal settlement expansion.

Here's to the bravery of these children and a successful march!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Release: Israeli Settlers Pursue Palestinian Children on Their Way to
Summer Camp; Israeli Military Fails to Escort Children

AT-TUWANI – On Wednesday 23 July, three Israeli settlers, one masked and wielding a stick, pursued 14 Palestinian children who were on their way to a summer camp in At-Tuwani. The children from the villages of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed waited 30 minutes for the Israeli military escort that should have accompanied them on the most direct road between the villages of Tuba and At-Tuwani. When the military failed to arrive, the children began walking along a long path through the hills to At-Tuwani. When the children neared the illegal Israeli settlement outpost of Havot Ma'on, three settlers came out from the outpost and began walking in the direction of the children. The settlers had two dogs with them.

International observers yelled to the children to alert them to the approaching settlers, who were pursuing them from behind. The children ran down and across a valley to a location further from the settlers. They continued to At-Tuwani. The settlers remained on a hill top near Havot Ma’on, watching the children as they walked toward the schoool.

The previous day, Tuesday 22 July, the military escort never arrived to escort the children to summer camp. Seven children took a long path to the school. They told international observers that at least eight other children did not attend summer camp because they were too afraid to come to school without an escort. The mayor of At-Tuwani spoke with Israeli military to coordinate the escort for the children. However, several military spokespersons and soldiers on the ground denied being ordered to escort the children.

In 2004 the Israeli Knesset recommended that the Israeli military carry out a daily escort of the children of Tuba and Maghaer Al-Abeed to their school in At-Tuwani in response to settler violence against them. In 2006 Israeli Minister of Defense stated that the illegal outpost of Havot Ma’on should be dismantled because of the settlers’ violence towards school children. During the 2007-2008 school year, settlers used violence against these children on at least 14 occasions.

Monday, July 28, 2008

RELEASE: Israeli Settlers Attack Palestinian Children, Internationals on
Journey Home from Summer Camp

AT-TUWANI – At 1:50 pm, on Sunday, 27 July at least three Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian children and two internationals as they walked to their village of Tuba. The children had been attending summer camp in the village of At-Tuwani. As the fourteen children and two internationals, from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), were walking in a valley south of the illegal settlement outpost of Havot Ma'on, one masked settler came down the hill, throwing stones with a slingshot. The children and CPTer Jan Benvie ran ahead, but other settlers were approaching them from the opposite side of the valley. None of the stones thrown by the settlers struck the children, aged between 6 and 15 years old, and they were able to run to safety.

CPTer Joel Gulledge was filming the attack. When the masked settler saw Gulledge with the video camera, he began directing his stones at Gulledge. The settler hit Gulledge in the leg with a rock and he was unable to run. The settler then ran to him, wrested the camera from him, and began beating him with a rock and the camera. After that, the settler ran off with the camera.

On 22 July, the military did not escort the children. Only sev en children were willing to risk walking alone to At-Tuwani. The children informed CPT that at least eight other children did not attend the summer camp because they were too afraid to walk without a military escort. On the morning of 23 July, the army again refused to escort the children. The children were chased by three settlers, one of whom was masked and carrying a stick, while they walked unescorted to the summer camp. On 26 July, a military personnel informed internationals that the army would no longer provide an escort for the children, who were waiting for the army to arrive while four settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement outpost of Havot Ma'on shouted at the children. The personnel would not give the name and brigade of the commander refusing to provide the escort. When the international explained the dangerous situation for the children, the military personnel said, "I don't think the settlers will attack the children."

In October 2004, Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian schoolchildren and internationals in the same area as the attack on the 27th. Two internationals were hospitalized and, after international media coverage of the attack, the Israeli Knesset recommended that the Israeli military provide a daily escort for the children to go to and from school.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Settlers attacked the school children on their way home from summer camp today. The kids were able to escape, but a teammate of mine was beaten. He's all right - check the CPT website for details as they are released.

Over the next week, this blog will continue to be automatically updated with entries that I wrote yesterday. Those entries will still be interesting but they wont be a relevant as they were yesterday.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Release: Armed Settlers Enter the Village of At-Tuwani, Threaten and Insult Palestinians and Internationals: Israeli Police Refuse to Come to the Assistance of Palestinians
At-Tuwani, South Hebron Hills: On Friday 25 July at 10:30 am, three Israeli settlers, one masked and accompanied by a dog, left the Havot Ma'on settlement outpost and followed a Palestinian shepherd and his young son into the village of At-Tuwani. Over to the next hour, the settlers remained in the village shouting insults at the residents of the village and threatened to shoot them.

One settler took photographs and video of Palestinians and members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and Operation Dove (OD). He shouted racist insults comparing Palestinians to donkeys and made sexist comments to a female member of CPT. He also announced that he was carrying a gun and would shoot Palestinians if his fellow settlers requested it.

A volunteer with Christian Peacemaker Team called the Israeli police to ask them to come to village. The police refused to speak to her in English. An Israeli lawyer with Yesh Din then called the police, but the officers never arrived in the village.

Both Palestinian residents of At-Tuwani and members of CPT and OD reported that these three settlers had repeatedly threatened and harassed Palestinians on previous occasions. Notably, two of the three were photographed inside the village on At-Tuwani on 29 April 2008. (See Release: Israeli settlers attack and intimidate Palestinians: Israeli authorities allow twenty Israeli settlers to remain on At-Tuwani land)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

At-Tuwani: The Ongoing Struggle

The best video about the situation here yet produced. (Just ignore me. No, really, please ignore me.) But a warning - it begins with a fairly graphic scene of Palestinians beating beaten at a nonviolent demonstration.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"School children threatened by Israeli settlers in South Hebron Hills"

The Right to Education Campaign, based out of Birzeit University, has just released a wonderful report on the situation facing school children in the South Hebron Hills. They explain:

Often, on their daily route to school, the children are subjected to threats and violence by the Israeli settlers. After a series of settler attacks on the children in 2004, the Children's Committee of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, ordered a military escort to accompany the children on their route to school every day. In spite of this, the military escort often does not turn up on time or escorts the children only half the way, which makes the children vulnerable to attacks. To make the situation more complex for the children, settlers have recently installed a gate on the road, which is sometimes locked and therefore prevents the children from going to school completely - and these children are therefore being denied their right to education.

The report goes on to give an example of the sort of treatment that the children regularly endure:

...on the morning of 17th March, 2008, the children were unable to meet the regular military escort. The escort jeep stopped well short of the appointed meeting place, and despite repeated calls to the military by the international volunteers and concerned Israelis, the escort jeep never came forward to meet the children. The children could not walk towards the escort jeep because of the threatening presence of a settler. The settler was near the military escort and was speaking with the soldiers. He shouted threatening remarks at the children, and also threatened them with a rock. Eventually most of the children decided to take the long route to school, walking unescorted through the hills and arriving in At-Tuwani at about 9.00am, about an hour after school had started. Four of the children returned home and did not attend school because of the problems with the escort.

This situation is not unusual; the military escort often refuses to accompany the children for the entire route, in spite of the law ordered by the Knesset, obliging them to do so.

Thank you, Right to Education, for your wonderful work!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hi readers. I'm in Hebron right now, enjoying a little break. I'm honestly completely exhausted, so I don't think there will be much content on this blog for the next week. I need to get some rest.

Life in the South Hebron hills seems to be getting harder all the time. Our landlord and his 12 year old son were detained without food for 14 hours last week. In the end, the army took away their car and now say that they will have to pay 3,000 NIS to get it back. I just can't express how upsetting this was. The women in the family decided to cheer themselves up by having a dance party. But, as it seems to always go here, most of their music tapes were in the confiscated car. But we all danced (or at least I tried to) and laughed. Sometimes that's all you can do.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dreaming of Paradise

"I had a dream last night," Shaadi told my teammates and me while we sat munching sliced tomatoes and olives one hot afternoon. Shaadi told us that in his dream he had climbed to the top of one of the pine trees at the edge of the Havot Ma'on Israeli settlement outpost. Below him, Shaadi said he could see Israeli settlers stealing the fodder that he uses to feed his sheep.

"Come down here," one of the settlers called up to Shaadi. "No, no" he said. "I'll up stay here." But the settler reached up into the tree and pulled Shaadi down to the ground. "They tried to kill me," Shaadi told us. He put his hands around his throat to show how the settlers had chocked him. "And then I woke up."

Shaadi says that his children often have nightmares like the one he described. They used to have even more, he told us, but now his village is more organized and more successful in nonviolently resisting the attacks of Israeli settlers. Still, to get to school in At-Tuwani, Shaadi's children have to walk through an Israeli settlement, along a road where adult Israeli settler have attacked them with chains and stones. Seeing Shaadi's children greet me with smiles and laughter is a delight, but also it feels strange, like a dream.

A week ago, I looked out on to Havot Ma'on from on a hillside where I had never sat before. As I saw on the settlement outpost from a new angle, I found myself filled with jealousy. Before me on the wooded outpost, in adjacent valleys, and in the neighboring houses of Ma'on settlement, settlers moved around freely, without inhibition. "They have so much space!" I thought. I envied all of room they had in which to walk without fear of attack or arrest. Certainly, the settlers of Havot Ma'on are afraid. But theirs are fears that born of prejudice and hate. And whatever their feelings, they are not enough to change the insistent reality of the South Hebron Hills – it's Palestinians, not Israelis, who run through the hills afraid for their lives.

As I sat watching dusk fall on Havot Ma'on, I thought back to another day I spent with Shaadi and his family. Shaadi asked my teammates and me to watch as he, his wife, oldest daughter, young son, and tiny baby made their way from to Magher Al Abeed. Sure enough, as Shaadi feared, as the family climbed over the hills a car left the settlement and speed after them. I called Shaadi to tell him that settlers were coming. "Thank you, thank you!" he said. Over the cell phone I could hear him calling to his family, telling them to run home. "What a nightmare," I thought.

Rarely do dreams of Israeli settlers and soldiers disturb my sleep, but I lately find it increasingly difficult to put my faith into a dream of a better future for Shaadi and his family. A taxi driver recently quipped to me, "If we have peace, we are in paradise." Sitting on a hillside watching the sunset stain the sky, I often imagine what at-Tuwani will be like when the occupation is over and Shaadi's family can walk over the hills without fear. Paradise is certainly the word for what I see. But everyday the Israeli government seems to have even less will deal with the extremist Israeli settlers who terrorize Palestinians like Shaadi. The longer that I live in Palestine the less certain a future of peace and justice feels to me.

But sometimes when I meet the children coming to school in the morning, Shaadi's daughters Manar and Diana catch my eye. They are still in elementary school, but the girls walk with commanding dignity. I stand beside Diana as she explains to the Israeli soldiers who escort her to school that they arrived late and did not met the children to the correct location. "You have to come by 7:30," she insists. And as I watch this little girl speak to the soldiers with such conviction, my sense of despair eases. For a moment, I stop wondering, "When will this nightmare end?" and begin to think, "How much longer can this injustice possibly continue?" In the face of Palestinian children dreaming of a better tomorrow, surely today's horrors cannot stand for long.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I've been talking about water quite a bit lately, undoubtedly because I find it impossible to drink enough in this heat. For the village of At-Tuwani, water is a huge issue. That's why I wanted to highlight this article, "Israel's Discriminatory Water Policies." It gives a great little overview of what's going on and why water has become such an important issue.

At-Tuwani, of course, is one of the 220 towns and villages that are not connected to a water network. The village is dependent on wells and cisterns, making it extremely vulnerable to droughts, like the one we are currently experiencing.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Buckets and Demonstrations

"Mumkin daloo?"

Every evening when the heat breaks and it's time to draw water from the well, the children of at-Tuwani come to our house and ask us for our bucket. Our bucket is small and gray and exactly the same as every other bucket in the village; I think it's purely the thrill of asking us crazy foreigners "mumkin daloo?" ("Can we have the bucket?") that keeps the kids coming. Usually we hand over the bucket and return to whatever we were doing. But last night, my teammate Sarah politely turned down our young neighbors.

"We're on strike today. We're having a demonstration," she explained. "I'm very sorry, but I can't give you the bucket."

The reason for our daloo (bucket) demonstration was simple. The previous evening, seven-year-old Samih never returned our bucket. He forgot it and left it to spend the night at the well, not making its way home until yesterday afternoon. My teammates decided to express our discontent the firmest and most easily understandable way we could - through nonviolent resistance.

The girls asking for our bucket knew immediately what we meant by "demonstration." Here in At-Tuwani even the youngest child can tell you about the violence and injustice that the village is facing. Children alert us when the army sets up a checkpoint at the entrance to the village and they have christened our frayed Oscar the Grouch doll "Gadalia" after the armed Israeli settler who threatens their parents routinely. But from the oldest man in the village to the young girls who asked for our bucket, everyone in At-Tuwani also understands how the village is resisting the Israeli occupation of their land. Children observe their parents nonviolently confronting Israeli soldiers. Little boys accompany adults as they graze their sheep on their land in defiance of threats made by Israeli settlers. Women clear away roadblocks knowing they might be arrested. Everyone is familiar with nonviolent demonstrations and our neighbors vigorously debate their strategies.

Recently Sarah interviewed one of my favorite little girls for a short video on life in the village. "My name is Amira," she explained. "I live in At-Tuwani. I love At-Tuwani because…no!" she declared. "I don't love At-Tuwani. There are settlers and soldiers and they always cause problems!" Amira may be well aware of the situation facing her as she grows up, but she is also learning what resistance means under the tutelage of her parents and relatives. A few months ago she sagely informed me, "Wherever they go, soldiers always cause problems, but they don't come to Tuwani as often now because the people here are strong." When Amira grows up, whatever challenges her village faces, I'm sure she will be ready to organize nonviolent actions far more powerful than a "mumkin daloo" strike.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I don't generally post fundraising requests, but I just heard that the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) is in dire need of funds. If you follow the situation in Palestine, you're probably familiar with IMEMC, but let me give you an insight into the role they play for organizations like CPT and communities like At-Tuwani. Every time the Israeli military violates international law or Israeli settlers harass Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills, IMEMC is the first news outlet we call. They've been an invaluable as we've tried to tell the stories of At-Tuwani to as wide an audience as possible. In addition to running a wonderful website, they produce a weekly radio show that can be heard all over the world (and downloaded through itunes.) So, think about sending them some cash - we desperately need news outlets that tell truth and cover overlooked stories, like those coming from the South Hebron Hills

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

So,What Do You Do, Any way?

It's been a while since I've described what my day-to-day life actually looks, but I understand that inquiring minds would like to know. So, here are the nitty-gritty details.

In the morning, around 7am, we've been accompanying Palestinian shepherds as they graze their sheep. Particially, that means we pull out video cameras and binoculars, sit on rocks and if settlers arrive or begin to attack, we document and follow the direction of Palestinians. The idea is to have record of what is happening here, to support Palestinians in reclaiming their land by grazing on it, and to be available to physically 'get in the way' during settler attacks, if Palestinians request it.

We finish up with shepherding by the time it gets unbearably hot, usually around 10:00 am. During the afternoon, we're on call for other emergencies - checkpoints, soldiers in the village, settler attacks - or surprise visits from the UN! We also give tours of the area and try to keep our tiny house neat.

And we play and chat with our wonderful neighbors, like these beautiful people:

Kids from the pink house at the top of the hill

Watching for Settlers

Harvesting Wheat

Climbing all over CPTers!

Monday, June 30, 2008

just wanted to re-post a lovely op-ed written by Celia Hassan, the daughter of a friend of mine. Nice job, Celia.

Detention offers student new outlook on Israel

Monday, June 23, 2008

What’s a nice, Reed College sophomore doing in detention at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport? I ask myself this during the hours I am held. What do I have in common with these dozen or so suspected security threats: the gray-haired women who whisper about their treatment, the 8-year-old girl, tears dried on her face and fear in her eyes, the 18-year-old traveling to see family? We have little in common except that virtually all of us are Americans.

But unlike Jewish Americans who breeze through customs in seconds, we are Palestinian-Americans. In treatment reminiscent of the Jim Crow South, we stand in a separate line, are harassed and intimidated. In Israel, the principles we cherish as Americans disappear; we are suspect because we are not the “right” religion or ethnicity.

During my interrogation, an Israeli officer grills me about everything from what classes I took last semester to what my parents do for a living. Another shows me pictures of people — my cousin in California, and my great-grandmother — and asks if I know them. When she shows me a woman I don’t know, she yells at me: “Don’t lie!” When I am allowed to leave the airport, I am advised to make this my “last trip to Israel.”

But this wasn’t a trip to Israel. I will spend my summer at Bir Zeit University in the Palestinian West Bank. Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank and Gaza for 41 years and controls all border crossings. Nothing gets into or out of Palestinian territory without Israel’s approval — not students wishing to learn, business people planning to invest in the Palestinian economy, parents hoping to visit their children; not food, medicine, or fuel.

Routine harassment

Israel routinely harasses Palestinian Americans traveling to the West Bank or Gaza. The State Department notes numerous reports of “American citizens, of Arab descent, subjected to harsh and degrading treatment at border crossings.” Many are denied entry altogether. Last month, a Palestinian-American filmmaker was prevented by Israel from attending the West Bank opening of her latest film. What threat can she — or I — pose to Israel?

Perhaps because we are not Jewish our presence threatens Israel’s system of racial segregation. In the West Bank, Israelis drive on ­separate (and better) roads than Palestinians. They have access to more water and enjoy freedom of movement. Palestinians ration water and are prevented from traveling freely without permits. In Israel, more than 20 laws privilege Jews over Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.

From my great-grandmother’s house in Ramallah, I watched Sen. Barack Obama’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He called Israel a ­shining example of democracy

and pledged unconditional support for it as a Jewish state. Palestinians were disappointed to hear him praise what others, like former President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, call apartheid.

When will America demand of Israel what we fought so hard to achieve at home — equal rights for all? Maybe we should start by demanding equal treatment for all Americans at Israeli airports.

Celia Hassan, a graduate of Skyview High School, is a sophomore at Reed College. She is currently attending the International Summer Program at Bir Zeit University in the Palestinian West Bank. If you’re a student with an informed opinion, send it to The Columbian, P.O. Box 180, Vancouver, 98666, or e-mail it to

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Kisses from At-Tuwani!

Photo from donkey-rider Laura!
Well, yesterday the Israeli army rebuilt the roadblock on the road to Yatta. You should have seen the faces of my neighbors and heard their sighs. Then, a couple of hours later, we discovered that the Israeli army had left demolition orders for the village's new well and at least four other structures in the village of Mfughra, a smaller village about 20 minute walk away from At-Tuwani. While all of this was happening, I was laying down, sweating and vomiting and drinking electrolytes. (I'm now in Hebron and feeling a little better, for those of you who are concerned.) Let me tell you, it was a great day.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Question and Answers

Back when I posted about the expanded (huge, honestly) road block that was blocking the road to Yatta, Alajnbiya asked some great questions. There less applicable now that the block has been taken down, but I'll answer them more generally:

So can you walk around it?

Well, at the time, I would have described what I did as climbing over it. Possible, not easy even for very able-bodied people.

Are there any health care facilities on the Tuwani side?

At-Tuwani has a very basic health clinic that's open once a week for most of the day. But all the major health care facilities are in Yatta.

Are there pregnant women who can't get to the hospital without walking through a field?

Well, I have to admit that this question made me giggle. At-Tuwani's a farming town, nobody can get any where except by walking through fields. :) But seriously, medical access for pregnant women is a huge issue, even when the road to Yatta is open. Because travel to Yatta is always chancy (due to flying checkpoints and poor infrastructure), many women who have family in Yatta simply stay there when their due date begins to approach. Women who live in the Tuba and Magher Al Abeed, two smaller villages of the South Hebron Hills near At-Tuwani, have to walk over the hills to get to the hospital. Settlers have taken over the roads to their villages -- the road to Tuba has been declared "public" by the Israeli high court, but the only Palestinians who are able to use it are school children and they have to be escorted by the Israeli military. This leaves all Palestinians being forced to hike through the hills, even pregnant women. Because of Israeli settlers regularly chase and attack Palestinians, Palestinian residents are forced to take further detours so that they remain out of sight of the settlement and are prepared to run at any moment. All of this means, as you might imagine, that many women are forced to give birth at home, inside the houses they've built inside caves.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Susiya Attacks Follow-Up

Thanks to everyone whose sent links to articles about Susiya. We're happily baffled - we can't figure out why this has gotten so much coverage. You can see video of the attack here and video testimony here. Here are a few of the article that have come out in English language papers:

There's a crucial follow-up story to this incident, however, that's gone unreported. Our friend Nassar who works for B'tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, was filming with a B'tselem camera a soldier struck him in the face and then commenced to destroy his tape. You'll have to forgive me, I really don't remember the date of this attack and I'm not near anyone whom I can ask.

Attacks like this seem to increase when settlers are feeling the sting of being held responsible for their actions. 2 people, I understand, have been arrested now for the attack in Susiya. Since then, we've been seeing more harassment from the Israeli army and settlers than usual. A shepherd from Magher Al Abeed have been has had a string of close-calls over the last week. It just breaks my heart and, honestly, makes me angry.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hi there, readers.

Taking a needed couple of days off in Jerusalem. I decided to prioritize writing a few emails to friends during this break, so there wont be as much here over the next week. Sorry. I do intend to answer the questions, including critical ones, I've received but I can't promise I'll get around to it before I had back to Tuwani. Any way, thanks for asking them.

I did want to give out some good news - the road block has been cleared! I drove straight to Yatta from Tuwani which was lovely. I really hope we can get through the summer without another.

Lots has been happening here - mainly settler and army violence/harassment that we think is in response to settlers getting arrested for attacks in Susiya. But that's for another post.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Nighttime Army Activity

Lately, the Israeli army has decided to harass at-Tuwani at night. The army has entered the village several times during after dark, scaring children and getting all of us out of the bed. I'm too tired to really describe all that's been going on, but you can consult the CPT yahoo group or for more information. For now, here are some photographs from a midnight checkpoint that took place inside the village. Nicely done, Jan. And nice to have a camera with a decent flash, huh?