Eight Days in Palestine – Day 5
A new feature with excerpts from a Diary by “Ted from Liverpool”.
Day 5 – Nablus to Al Sawya
Thursday 5th November 2009
We went to Nablus in the morning where we walked from the modern city centre into the old city. The whole economy of Nablus has been downgraded as a a result of Israeli action following the second intafada. Check points are positioned at every entry and exit point resulting in considerable delays to movement of traffic – added to check points all over the West Bank the result is a huge escalation of costs. The business man we later met in Al Sawya told us that what had previously cost 200 shekels to move could now cost up to 10 times as much. Nablus used to be the power house of the West Bank economy but is not now as effective – a deliberate ploy?
After the 2nd intafada, IDF soldiers took over the old town of Nablus, not with conventional street to street fighting but by entering a first house and then moving from house to house, blasting holes through separating party walls. Repair of the wanton destruction is ongoing even now; we visited a restored office building where the EU has committed funds to this restoration work
Unlike Hebron, the economy of the old city remains in far better shape with all the roadside stalls open and ready for business. There was a proliferation of vegetable and souvenir stalls and a turkish bath which we examined in some detail although we did not participate.
We then went to a media learning centre where the dynamic principal, who lived in the nearby refugee camp, his family having fled from Jaffa in 1948 and he still remained, spoke of the refugee problem generally and afterwards took us to the camp, where we walked through and saw something of the drab conditions they live under, with no amenities or green areas. There was one new building in the centre; some 6000 people live there but they have only just got their first school – paid for by the Norwegian government. The atmosphere throughout the West Bank seems characterized by rubble and rubbish – municipal authorities appear not to be interested in street cleaning.
After a very late lunch at a restaurant renowned from 1960 for its Nablus kunaffa, a mixture of fine ground wheat on a bed of cheese, topped with a sugar composition , we left for Al Asewyia a village whose people had recently invited twinning from a UK town.
Two ladies from Llanidloes in mid-Wales, accompanied by Ros, a Jewish supporter of Palestine from Hastings which was looking for a twinning opportunity, responded to the invitation. They had recently heard a disturbing lecture given by Ed Hill, a filmmaker from Bristol and ardent activist for Palestine. This had awakened them to the dire conditions under which Palestinians on the West Bank were living. The twinning host was Arafat, a photo-journalist, who gave us all a very warm welcome and in whose house we stayed, 4 men and 3 women. It was his mother who had the distressing encounter with a settler described below.