Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Google Earth

By the way, you can now search for "At-Tuwani" and "Al-Tuba" on Google Earth! They've been sitting marked on my computer for 4 months now, but thanks to Alajnabiya I've finally posted them. You'll also find some other sites that I've talked about on this blog marked and labeled. Have fun.

And thanks again, Alajnabiya. Your blog is very beautiful, not to mention informative.
This Land was Theirs
By Hannah Mermelstein

In my name, and in the name of Jewish people throughout the world, an indigenous population was almost completely expelled. Village names have been removed from the map, houses blown up, and new forests planted. In Arabic, this is called the Nakba, or catastrophe. In Israel, this is called "independence."
Read the rest of Hannah's article here

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Calling All Artists! Looking for A Collaborator

This is my tongue-and-cheek personal ad.

Writer-Activist Seeks Artist Soul Mate/Partner- in-Crime for Collaboration on Illustrated Storytelling/Journalism (And Pina Coladas)

Aspiring writer seeks:
Cartoonist, illustrator, creator of pictures, artist-magician who can weave together words and images and save the world from my stick figures. For: Artistic-literary collaboration. I'll write the words, you draw the pictures for a graphic novel or series of illustrated short stories. I live, work and write in the occupied Palestinian territories, so willingness and ability to illustrate Palestinian life is a must. (But I like writing about other topics too!) Willing to take it slow- I'm still learning to write for graphic novels and I work long hours and have internet access only rarely. I produce new material slowly and steadily, but have quiet a backlog. So, for a good, strictly literary/artistic time, comment.
Video: "This is Not a Game: Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance in the South Hebron Hills"

This 8 minute video gives a raw look at how Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills are using nonviolent resistance to respond to harassment, attacks, and land confiscation at the hands of Israeli soldiers and settlers.

It's also my baby- I did the editing. It's been degraded by being uploaded to google video - I strongly recommend listening with good speakers or headphones. If you'd like to see a version in higher quality, I'd be happy to send you a CD.

PS: There are lots of sheep in this film, as well as one donkey.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee Action Alert

Today, April 22, 2008, the House of Representatives will consider H.Con.Res 322 , a resolution celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the founding of Israel and reaffirming the friendship and cooperation between the United States and Israel. A vote is expected before 7:00 PM this evening. The resolution is sponsored by Majority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and has over 200 cosponsors. It is expected to attain the 2/3 vote need to pass under suspension of the rules.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is urging everyone to contact the House of Representatives and ask your Member of Congress to oppose this resolution because it fails to present the reality of the consequences of the birth of the State of Israel (And because the resolution is meaninglessly provocative and just plain stupid. But that's my opinion, not the ADC's).

I just wrote the following letter to my congressional representatives, using the ADC's nifty sender-thingy which made it alarmingly easy. I would encourage you all to do the same!

I am contacting you to express my opposition to H. Con. Res. 322, a
resolution recognizing, "the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the State
of Israel and reaffirming the friendship and cooperation between the
United States and Israel."

Too many of the my friends will be mourning the sixtieth anniversary of
the creation of the State of Israel for congress to pass this resolution.

The creation of the State of Israel meant the destruction of over 400
Palestinian towns and villages and the forced expulsion of 711,000
Palestinians. I know personally many Palestinian families who still hold
on to the keys to their homes that were overtaken in 1948. I've walked
through refugee "camps" where generations have been trapped in the small
cement boxes called UN "temporary housing" that they were given 60 years
ago. The refugee population now numbers 4.5 million Palestinians.

If congress wants to reaffirm its friendship with Israel, it should do so
by supporting a just and lasting peace. I know from personal experiences
that Palestinians take resolutions like this one as further evidence that
the United States congress is ignorant of their story and the US is not a
honest broker.

Instead of passing meaningless resolutions that make the conflict worse,
please support dialogue, diplomacy, and the efforts of everyday Israelis
and Palestinians to make peace and justice.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.


Joy Ellison

Monday, April 21, 2008

Palestinian Children Abandoned by their Israeli Army Escort

I just completed an orgy of video uploading, at long last. So here is the first of several wonderful video from Tuwani and the surrounding area.
Publish Post
Tractors are Awesome:

Warning: This post has no political content. It's about my everyday life in Tuwani.

I keep a running list of things in Palestine that might kill me. Until yesterday, the list read as follows:

Israeli settlers
Israeli soldiers
Palestinian taxi drivers
Poisonous spiders
Poisonous vipers
Feral dogs
Smoke inhalation (from our rickety wood stove)
Falling into the well

Then yesterday I was walking home to Tuwani from the village of Karmel quietly minding my own business. I watched a tractor drive past me and then stop in the middle of the road. The tractor wasn’t pulling any cargo; the drive was just sitting comfortably in the seat driving the engine back home. A Tuwani resident hopped on the back and gestured for me to follow. I climbed aboard, hooking my backpack over the back of the driver’s seat, and perched myself above one of the down over the opposite wheel. The driver gunned the engine and we started trundling down the road towards Tuwani. Immediately, I realized that ridding over the wheel of a tractor was much more dangerous than it looked. Coming over the remains of the roadblock, I realized that it might even be a good way to die.

When we arrived in Tuwani, the driver stopped the tractor at the base of the hill to our house. I must have been grinning like a fool as I climbed down. Definitely the coolest way to die in Palestine.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

On Friday April 25th, at 6:30, please join the BroadArts Theatre artists, board and volunteers for the first in our series of "Conversations With Extraordinary Women" Salons. BroadArts is creating this series of Salons, featuring local 'wonderbroads' who are making our world more equal, peaceful, compassionate and just.This first Salon will focus on community peacemaking and peacemakers, and will feature members of BroadArts Theatre's BroadBand singing satirical and serious social justice songs, along with conversation with the audience and our special guest.

Our special guest April 25th is Joy Ellison, of Vancouver, Washington, who is currently serving her second year as a Christian Peacemaker Team member in the south Hebron hills of At-Tuwani. CPT in At-Tuwani. CPT accompanies Palestinian shepherds, farmers and school children in the area around Israel's Ma’on settlement and its outposts.

The first "Conversations With Extraordinary Women" Salon will be held at the St. Francis of Assisi Parish Center, 1131 SE Oak at SE 12th and Pine Street, (in between Burnside and Stark Streets) in the Che' Room. The event is a potluck- please bring something to share that doesn't need to be heated nor kept cold. Recyclable plates and flatware, and locally produced juice will be provided. There is a wheelchair ramp into the building and an accessible parking space in the church parking lot. Street parking is also available: St Francis is also accessible by bus.

Other "Conversations With Extraordinary Women" Salons will be held in May and June in various quadrants of the city.

Please join us, meet this remarkable young woman and join in a conversation as to how Joy and others are participating in creating a more peaceful world.

Friday, April 04, 2008

More Good News! Adam's father has come home!

Well, two reports of good news in one week? That's unprecedented. And such good news I have to share with you. Just before I left for the airport, I received word that Adam's father is out of jail and back in Tuwani, safe and sound! Humdulilah! I couldn't be happier, or more relieved.

I'm now also home safely, in the United States. I'll be here just for a brief visit. Hopefully, I'll be able to upload some of the wonderful video we've been taping and editing, but youtube has been refusing to upload. We truly need a better internet connection, but I'm rambling. Ah, jet lag...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Good News: The Return of Shaadi's Shoot Sheep!

Well, I have good news to share for a change. Shaadi's big ram, which I had thought was dead, returned home to Magher Al Abeed and Shaadi. Humdulilah!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"Momma, when I'm big will I go to jail like Daddy?"

That was little Adam's question for his mother when I came to visit their house, just before leaving Tuwani for the United States. Adam is 3 years old. His mother tells me that he wants his father to come home from jail and bring him ice cream. "Adam is upset," she says. Looking at her eyes, I can tell that she is too. So am I.

Adam's father was arrested on March 28th, just a few days ago. A group of 8 to 10 Israeli settlers came inside the village where they found Adam's father and his grandfather. The settlers sprayed them with an aerosol substance, which I can only imagine was pepper spray. They hit Adam's father in the eyes. Soon, the settlement guard arrived, a man everyone in Tuwani knows all too well. He was followed by the Israeli army and total chaos began to unfold. The security guard accused Adam's father of breaking his sun glasses. While the settlers who attacked Adam's father and grandfather stood by, Israeli police arrested Adam's father. They didn't listen to the Palestinians who witnessed the settler attack. They didn't question the settlers. The police forced Adam's father, still seriously injured, into a police van and took him away. There was nothing anyone could do.

Sitting in Adam's house, I try to find a way to convey my feelings of anguish in my limited Arabic. Adam's mother is unfailingly gracious. Making terribly situations seem funny is an art practiced by many Palestinians and perfected by Adam's family. Somehow, we laugh while we drink our tea. Then Adam's mother tells me how the settlement guard threatened Adam's father, "If he sees him again, he will kill him," she says. "Then, he said, there will no more problems." My mouth dropped open upon hearing this threat on Adam's father's life. My Arabic fails me utterly. "Really? That's bad." Adam's mother laughs.

"Momma, when I'm big will I go to jail like Daddy?" Adam asks.

"No, when you are big, God willing, this will be Palestine." she answers, smiling.

I wrap myself in the words of this beautiful and strong woman and praise God that she still has hope.
Quawayiin! Standing with the Women of the Hebron Islamic Charities Girls School

Last night I attending what can only be described as a nonviolent resistance slumber party. Facing the closure of their schools and orphanages, the students and teachers of Hebron's Islamic Charities invited us to stay with them as they waited for the Israeli army to invade their school and home.

Declaring that the schools are fair game in its only going war on Hamas, the Israeli army has decided to shut them down and confiscate their property. On 25 February 2008, the Israeli army raided all of the buildings and institutions funded by Islamic Charities and gave orphanages and boarding schools until 1 April to evacuate students. On 6 March 2008, the Israeli army again stormed storage buildings of Islamic Charities, confiscating food, children's clothing, and kitchen appliances used to prepare meals for the orphans. These centers house, feed and educate 6000 children in Hebron. Juts two nights ago, soldiers entered the girls school again in a late-night action designed to terrify and harass them.

Last night, the girls, their mothers, and their teachers were not about to be cowed. We stood with them outside in the cold and rain until midnight. The girls shouted slogans demanding that their school be left alone. They were a beautiful and formidable sight. While I stood freezing and exhausted, they were on fire, ready to resist if Israeli soldiers came.

Around midnight, they heard a rumor that their school, along with other properties affiliated with Islamic Charities, would be given 3 more days before soldiers would come to take it. In the morning, the rumors were verified by the high court - the school now has one more week before a final decision is handed down.

The night taught me three things. One, I'm still not much for slumber parties. Two, Israel and the United States' efforts to fight Hamas truly knows no boundaries. Anything and anyone, from children in Gaza to schools in Hebron, are acceptable collateral damage. Thirdly, I've seen that like the people of Tuwani, the girls of the Islamic Charities School are determined to resist.

Release: Israeli settlers attack, harass, and intimidate Palestinian schoolchildren on their way to and from school

On 29 March, Israeli settlers harassed, intimidated, and attacked Palestinian children on their way to and from school in the village of At-Tuwani. In the morning, settlers yelled and threw stones at the children coming to school from the villages of Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed. The military escort in the area, which is to take the children to and from school to ensure their safety, did nothing during the attack. Fearing for their safety, the children were forced to take a different path to school, doubling the walk from 20 to 45 minutes. On their way home from school, one adult Israeli settler and four children followed the Palestinian children and military escort. They were soon joined by two adult settlers, and a large group of adults and teenagers. The settlers yelled insults and threats at the school children, but the Israeli army kept them at bay.

An adult settler displayed his buttocks to international observers monitoring the escort.

About twenty children from the villages of Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed walk to school in At-Tuwani each day. The Israeli military, under orders from the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) Committee for the Rights of the Child, have accompanied the children past the illegal settlement outpost of Havat Ma’on since 2004 because of settler attacks on the children.

Release: Israeli settlers attack and intimidate Palestinians: Israeli authorities allow twenty Israeli settlers to remain on At-Tuwani land

On the morning of 29 March, twenty Israeli settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement outpost Havat Ma’on entered the village of At-Tuwani. Throughout the day, groups of four to five settlers entered the village three additional times. While in the village, settlers harassed

Palestinians, twice displaying their buttocks to Palestinians and internationals in the area. Israeli authorities did nothing to move settlers away from the village. Israeli military spoke and joked with settlers when they entered the village, allowing them to stay on land owned by Palestinian residents of At-Tuwani. Palestinians report a military commander threatened to tell the settlers to attack the village after the military left the area.

These incidents were preceded by settler attacks and intimidation on 28 March. In the morning, settlers attacked two Palestinians in the face and eyes with aerosol spray. Later that day, masked settlers drove through the village, shouting insults, and throwing stones at Palestinian children and a woman carrying a baby. The masked settlers retreated into the trees of the illegal settlement outpost of Havat Ma’on, but remained visible until Israeli military arrived.

Tuwani Time line: 26-28 March 2008

When this blog fall silent, like the last month, generally it means that too much has been going on for me to catch my breath. Here's a run down of the last few days. It's

On Wednesday the 26th settlers shoot Shaadi's sheep (see previous entry)

On Thursday the 27th, shepherds from all of the surrounding villages come to the valley where the shooting took place and stand with Shaadi as he grazes he sheep. Together, they graze up to the settler road just before the settlement tree line, in other words, to the edge of the settlement itself. The action is, as Tuwani actions are, completely nonviolent. We all celebrate a small victory.

On the morning of Friday the 28th, a shepherd and his elderly father graze their sheep inside the village of Tuwani. A group of 8-10 Israeli settler attack them, spraying an aerosol spray on the face of the father and in the eyes of his son. A hour later, the son is arrested by the Israeli police, after a settler accuses him of breaking his sun glasses. Police do not arrest the settlers or even tell them to leave Tuwani's land.

In the evening, 3 settlers drive through the village of Tuwani. They throw rocks at children and a woman carrying a baby. Then they put on masks and stand at the edge of the settlement easily visible from Tuwani, until the Israeli army arrives in the village. Palestinians spend the night worrying about a nighttime attack.

On Saturday the 29th, the Israeli army and police allow settlers to spend most of the day in Tuwani, where they threaten, intimidate and moon Palestinians. It's frankly impossible to describe the terror that this group of 20 settlers inflicted on unarmed Palestinians just trying to live in their homes. The settlers attacked and harassed Palestinian children on their ways toand from school. More details are available in the next two postings.

From Sunday to today, things have been quiet. I've spent my time waiting for the release of our friend and praying that some how things will get better for Tuwani.
Over the last week, a Che Guevara quote has been running through my head, much to my surprise: "At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that a true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love." I do feel ridiculous saying it, but as I've been preparing to leave Tuwani once more (I'll be back so enough, mind you) I keep thinking about how much I love the people of the South Hebron Hills and how natural it feels to stand with them as they nonviolently resist all of the terrible violence and injustice that faces them.

I don't feel like a revolutionary, unlike Che. Lately, the ways that our work usually is described feel hollow and twisted. I've been thinking of myself just as part of the revolution's camera crew - because Tuwani's revolution will be uploaded to youtube! It's clear to me that the village has it all organized - to stay on their land sheep need to be grazed, crops planted, clothes washed, food cooked, children sent to school, and the violence of Israeli settlers and soldiers endured. Demonstrations have to be planned, lawyers called, relationships with the media developed. Ad the foreigners can film, just so everyone else can get on with the resisting and the living that needs to be done. We do so little. "Really, you are witnesses. You can just film," as one friend of ours says.

It's trite, but I'm so blessed to be able to live with people that I love so much.