Eight Days in Palestine – Day 2

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A new feature with excerpts from a Diary by “Ted from Liverpool”.

Day 2 – Abu Dis to Jerusalem

Monday 2nd November 2009

Went yesterday morning to Health Centre in Abu Dis, funded by Norwegian Government and up and running for 18 months. It was a joy to see as it was very well equipped and much used, mainly by women and babies while we were there. Very positive in a sea of misery.

Went to Jerusalem later but first looked over to the walled city with its prominent golden Dome of the Rock , across the ‘holy valley’.

Our guide showed us a photograph showing Israeli plans for development of the valley, presently Palestinian land. These consist of housing and a new Jewish cemetery – for which we saw, below our vantage point, the dead lined up in a huge number of stone sarcophagi. They are ready for the day of the creation of this cemetery; apparently millions of dollars are paid for this privilege.

The photos showed nothing of the existing Palestinian housing nor of the lovely looking mosque with its golden minarets, down in the valley near the Garden of Gethsemane, which matched the dome of the rock in the City above – perhaps they are to be swept away

We drove past East Jerusalem hospital – our guide told us that half the beds are empty – because of the difficulties which West Bank Palestinians have in getting through the various check points and not having the appropriate ID card.

We walked through the old city and were all moved by the sight of a Palestinian family who had been evicted from their house and had been living in makeshift accommodation on the pavement opposite their former home; the municipality had confiscated their blankets and cooking utensils three times in the past few weeks. They had been living on the street since August – winter was now coming on and it started to bucket with rain at 5pm on that day.

We went to stand outside the iron barred gate entrance to the house from which they had been evicted; apparently the UN had rehoused this family after their earlier eviction from Jaffa in 1948 – they had no papers of ownership and were thus open to eviction – as were several occupiers in the area who face a similar fate. It is not clear why settlers are entitled to live there.

Two Jewish men came and stared out at us, stonily, and would not say anything – although several of the women in our party castigated them in round terms. Later back at base all our women members told how moved they had been at this event.

Rob took an picture of a mother sitting on the pavement with a baby on her lap.

We went to a women’s centre in Jerusalem and were addressed by a formidable Christian lady who ran it; she told us of their harrowing troubles at the hands of the Israelis and asked us to help, saying she had given up on their politicians. She asked us to revisit the Balfour Declaration, on the anniversary, 2nd November, and ask what went wrong. Our guide spoke of annexation, that the Israelis don’t want peace they want Palestine, piece by piece. Most people we spoke to were critical of Hilary Clinton’s efforts who was meeting Netanyahu at the time – they seemed not to have much faith in Obama.

The law regarding movement to and from the West Bank is so restrictive; we were told by a student, later that evening, about Al Quds university which is regarded as the best in the Middle East in Abu Dis. Al Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem.

A holder of a blue id card and living in Jerusalem and electing to obtain a degree in Abu Dis, although regarded as being within the Jerusalem Authority, is not permitted to take a government or municipality job in Jerusalem.

Realistically he or she cannot get a job outside, and continue to live in J, as travel movement through the border crossings takes so long – if they go to live outside J they lose the coveted blue card entitlement – a catch 22 or impossible situation.

Ted from Liverpool – A visit to the West Bank
1st November to 8th November 2009

Arranged by Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association

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