Posts Tagged ‘journey’

Eight Days in Palestine – Day 8

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

Day 8 – Dead Sea to Tel Aviv Airport

This is about travel – we 4 men in a Ford Transit bus – the colour of licence plates identify the nationality of the driver, blue for Israeli, yellow or white for Palestinians. This makes all vehicles readily identifiable to the police and army. When we were nearing the Dead Sea, 400 metres below sea level, we were overtaken by an unmarked car, executive class, something like a Vauxhall Omega. This car pulled in, in front of us, and we then proceeded at a more leisurely pace behind the car and a large goods vehicle in front of that. We were late and our driver saw an opportunity to overtake and did so – we could see it was a bit dodgy as the road unaccountably narrowed just then – but he did it. The driver of the unmarked car, which turned out to be an Israeli policeman, overtook us and flagged us down. Our driver got out and having spoken to the policeman was fined 500 shekels.

This apparently is a routine procedure, not performed upon Israelis, perhaps part of the morale sapping routine – and the creation of income. Abed later asked for a whip round for the driver and we having put up 450 shekels suggested that the driver should pay something as he had been over-ambitious. Abed replied that the driver could ill afford even that and that his brother had been killed by the Israelis – so we put up the full amount, the equivalent of about £90 for a bit of dodgy overtaking.

The day was very warm, something like 350, and we much enjoyed our soak in the Dead Sea. Like an idiot Ted plunged into the sea and swallowed some water and got some in his eyes. I had never tasted anything quite so salty and the salt in my eyes was akin to teargas. Beth was kind enough to pour water from her bottle onto my forehead and this washed out the salt. The women had caked themselves in the mud from the sea bottom and they looked gorgeous – when I got the salt out of my eyes.

Back at Friendship House we were told to be ready to leave at 3.30 although the coach driver had wanted to leave for Tel Aviv at 3pm and was very restive, if not angry. It was clear why when we got to the town of Aizaria where the traffic snarl-up was horrendous – the result of a lack of traffic lights or any traffic control was very clear. However, with great skill, our driver who was also an ambulance driver (he also had been in prison) weaved his way through the traffic and across traffic lanes to find a quiet route and we arrived at Ben Gurion airport in good time.

It was fortunate that we were in good time as our passage through immigration was tortuously slow. In the initial queue we were each asked where we had been and where we had stayed and our passports temporarily taken away – our bags were then given a sticker. On arrival at the usual belt-drive through a scanner our bags went through and we followed them to a rectangular area of desks, inside which were an array of x-ray and other machines, with their operatives. Rob, who is tall and lean and 29 years old was told to put his bags on the desks when a lengthy period of taking out all his clothes, cameras and laptop followed. Ted put his bags on the desk but was told, ‘no need’. Apparently our stickers showed a number – in Ted’s case ‘2’ and in Rob’s case ‘6’. A minute search of all of Rob’s belongings ensued, followed by his being taken away for a strip search – down to his underpants – it took 2 hours from entry into the first queue to our sitting down to a coffee inside the airport. The women of our party fared even worse, all 14 of them – their ages ranging from 22 to 65 – were put through the same rigorous procedure as Rob, but in their case taking 2¾ hours; we later found they all had a ‘6’ sticker on their bags.

Why the rigour – in the case of Ted who got away scott-free, it may have been his age of 74 – in the case of Rob, well he was of an age and strength to be a terrorist? But was anyone less likely to be so than our group of women – they did go through as a group who had attended a Women’s Conference on the West Bank and this was perhaps their undoing. We two men had been told to have no connection with the women at the airport and had been careful not to claim to have stayed in the West Bank.

It was good to get on a BMI flight home and return to Heathrow with no fuss or harassment – but what an adventure.

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

Arranged by Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association

Eight Days in Palestine – Day 7

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

Day 7 – in Bil’in

Saturday 7th November 2009

Ted, representing Liverpool Friends of Palestine who are twinned with Bil’’in, together with Rob a photographer, Phil who represents a Harringey organization which is twinned with Aizaria and Jon who at his own expense has volunteered to teach English in Abu Dis for 3 months, left Al Sawya by taxi. We were hoping to catch the start of the protest demonstration which begins immediately after midday prayers each Friday. Although our taxi driver stopped at the previous village, thinking we had arrived he went into the mosque and stayed for prayers, we arrived at Bil’in in time and were immediately contacted by Sareem, who was to prove so helpful.

We joined the 200 or so marchers from all over the world but primarily Europe and Israel, with the majority of the rest being boys and young men from the village. It was half mile or so to the barrier which is not yet a wall.

Bil’in turned to the courts in the autumn of 2005. In September 2007, 2 years after they initiated legal proceedings, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that due to illegal construction permits for part of the settlement Modi’in Illit, unfinished housing could not be completed and that the route of the Wall be moved several hundred metres west, returning 25% of Bil’in’s land to the village. To date, the high court ruling has been ignored – settlement construction continues and the barrier remains in place.

On 17 April 2009, Bassem Abu Rahme was shot in the chest by Israeli forces at the fence with a high-velocity teargas projectile. He subsequently died from his wounds, at a Ramallah hospital – we were later to find out much more of this incident.

On our way to the barrier fence, at the end of a rutted farm road, there is a flanking fence to the side and it was here that young village boys of 14 to 17 were hurling stones at the Israeli side, after cutting a large hole in the security fence. They were running into trees out of the path of the retaliatory tear gas being fired at them. They appeared to be very brave and this was to be the pattern for their elders who were at the gated entry through the fence at the end of our road.

Notwithstanding the repeated barrages of 7 or 8 grenades at a time Eyad, with a brother of Bassem who had been killed, was leading an attack on the barrier fence. They eventually cut through and pulled back the barbed wire and Eyad went through to the Israeli tar-macadammed road on the other side but shortly returned. Every so often 3 Israeli soldiers would come out onto this same stretch of road and return stones at the protestors – this semed to be more effective than the tear gas. We could hear and then see the grenades coming and could by and large step out of the way; the wind was blowing strongly towards the Israelis and as long as we stepped upwind most of us could avoid the tear gas most of the time. Each one of our party did get caught twice at least – tear gas is extremely effective and unpleasant in closing down one’s eyes and breathing; fortunately we got only a mild whiff but Eyad really caught a packet which put him out of action for 15 or so minutes, he then returned to the front line, calling on all to join him at the front fence.

The demonstration finished after about an hour at which time we all made the return to Bil’in. Sareem – Eyad’s second in command who had met us from the taxi and had been extremely solicitous and caring throughout, particularly for Ted’s welfare – took us to the Association’s HQ. Here Eyad was interviewing people and we were given facilities to clean up and given refreshment. We were introduced to their photo-journalist, Ashail Yusri, who began editing his video of the day’s event – for YouTube. Ted had been caught on this film three times and it is of interest to note that his daughter in Liverpool was able to see the edited version a few hours later – he only appears once on this edited version, at the end.

We later repaired to Eyad’s house where we met his family – his wife prepared lunch for the four of us. Ted handed over our contribution to the office expenses of the Association of Friends of Freedom and Justice – Bil’in and also bought some fine needlework for his colleagues in Liverpool; he understood that this had been made by Eyad’s wife and a colleague from the village. We also met the local school science teacher Al-Katib Haitham who runs the sports club, together with Eyad’s brother – all of whom made us extremely welcome.

We left at 4pm to visit a couple of homes, again led by Sareem, the first being a house which the Association lets out to visiting activists, mainly from other countries – this contains about 15 beds, complete with kitchen, living room and bathroom.

We then moved on through the village past the cemetery where Bassem had been buried , his grave being decorated with Palestinian flags and flowers which we photographed. We then moved on to the house of Bassem’s mother and family. Here we met two of his brothers and his mother, where we took mint tea. Rob our photographer recognised Bassem’s brother in his red tee-shirt; he had been prominent in the earlier demonstration. When Ted expressed some concern regarding this brother’s involvement, his mother – who did not speak English – merely lifted her thumb in a gesture of courage. We are forever being impressed by the Palestinians’ display of indominatable courage, from the teenagers and young men at the fence to their elders in the besieged towns and villages.- the Israelis will never conquer them.

Baseem’s mother and brother told us how Baseem, apparently a very big man in stature as well as in his nature, was much loved throughout the village. He was always at the forefront of the marches – which he insisted should be peaceful, with no stone throwing – and he spoke quietly to the IDF soldiers. They must have known him well and fired at him directly and deliberately.

We then returned to Eyad’s house, up the hill to get a taxi to Abu Dis. In a surprising gesture, the hawklike moustached younger brother of Baseem, who had been so prominent in his red tee-shirt, noticed Ted was walking with a little difficulty on the uneven pavement up the hill – he immediately took his arm and they walked together to Eyad’s home.

We then returned to Abu Dis to a much needed Saturday rest day. I am however typing the last 2 day’s reports here in the Friendship centre, in a now noisy atmosphere of a rehearsal. Teenage boys are rehearsing a song about the Palestinian troubles and the invasion of Gaza which they will sing in a Concert tonight – the tune is good and we hope they are successful in making it into a hit. We attended this concert, where the boys also performed the traditional ance we had seen in Asawya, which was held to mark the opening of a diabetes clinic – apparently diabetes is on the increase, thought to be as a result of stress.

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

Arranged by Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association

Eight Days in Palestine – Day 5 continued…

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

Day 5 – Arrival in Al Asawyia

Thursday 5th November 2009

We had a warm reception from the mayor of this small village at the local community centre/ council office – he was accompanied by other leading men and a group of women who had been involved in the twinning appeal. After a speech from the Mayor, translated by Abed, we retired for a meal and were then entertained to traditional Palestinian dancing, something akin to our Morris dancers. This was performed by eleven boys whose leader Isaac, a boy of about 14, performed with great skill and elegance in a routine of about 20 minutes. The tone was a little lowered when he invited Ted to join them in an intricate stick and arm routine.

The Mayor told us that the village formerly occupied an area of 11,500 dunums (3,000 acres) but more than one third of its farming land had been confiscated for settlements, Like Azzoum, this had also been an agricultural community, the main source of income being its olive and fig trees, renowned for decades

Further land (and produce), he said, has been destroyed – the settlements use it as a dumping ground for sewers and garbage –forming a health hazard.

Formerly recognized for its interest in education and farming, but relatively poor, because of its location far from major towns and cities and lack of industries, the confiscation of its farming land along with natural demographic growth had caused a severe rise in unemployment.

Afterwards we were again addressed by the village elders who spoke of the loss of land to the settlements and also how the IDF regularly entered their school to cause disruption, bringing trauma to the children and teachers also. On one occasion a teacher had been killed. After nightfall, we went onto the roof of the Community building and were shown the brightly lit settlements which ringed the village

We stayed the night at the house of Arafat’s father, a local former landowner – a man in his late sixties. His wife told us of a harrowing experience at the hands of a security guard from one of the nearby settlements. She had gone with her daughter and donkey to their remaining olive grove (the bulk was on the wrong side of the settlement security fence) to gather in their olive crop. When the guard saw them he shouted at them to leave – the wife said it was their own grove and that they were entitled to be there. Nevertheless he went to them and ordered them again to go, whereupon the wife started to lead the donkey away – the guard then started to pull the donkey the other way. She still resisted whereupon he hit her with his baton and she fell to the ground where he then proceeded to kick her viciously. He left with the donkey and she has never returned to the grove.

This procedure seems to be a pattern with settlers on the West Bank – not content with illegally occupying the villagers’ lands – perversely preventing the Palestinian from utilizing those remaining lands which lie immediately adjoining the settlement fences.

This attack on the Palestinians appears, in microcosm, a replica of what seems to be the Israeli tactic of seeking to lower the morale and to break their spirit. In this they seem not to be succeeding in that perhaps shared adversity is strengthening the bonds which tie these villagers together – they are also much tied together by family relationships.

In the morning Mary and Karen, the Llanidloes ladies, with Ros who was to find a twinning village at Yatme, left to look more closely at the village and the two schools, together with Rob who would take further photos. The Mayor also wanted them to look at the 68 homes which the Israelis had scheduled for demolition – these plans are currently being resisted through legal action, although destruction of part of some of these homes has in fact commenced. One is occupied by a carpenter who makes goods for sale in his home – apparently IDF soldiers enter and break up these goods regularly. The reason for the demolition order is that these 68 houses have been built without building permission – notwithstanding demographic growth none has been given since 1992. This is an Israeli decision and if implemented will leave several hundred people homeless.

There are two schools – long established; we later saw, when leaving the village on the main road to Nablus, how the main gate approaches off this road had been bashed and padlocked by the authorities.

Jon and Ted went for a walk round the village which consists of widely scattered houses on these hillside sites and we were warmly met by Isaac and some other boys with whom Ted had danced their traditional Palestinian dance the previous evening.

We later made our way to the Council offices where Ted wanted to email the Arabic version of the Mayor’s address to Nahida for translation. However the offices were not open, it being their Sabbath. Whilst we sat outside we spoke with a man who had been collecting some litter in a bucket outside the newly built mosque which lay opposite. He told us he had been working in Kuwait for 20 years as a production manager and had returned 5 years earlier to live in the village and build his own house.

Opposite the mosque there was a fine looking stone faced house which belonged to his brother who was working in Saudi and behind which lay his own equally fine house; these were men who were of some substance and our new friend told us how he helped to build the mosque by bringing in the materials and also in organizing the work.

We also met a well dressed man, Abdulrahim Khalil, who told us he ran a ‘human rights and women empowering’ group in Ramallah.

We were later invited to a nearby house where the owner showed us a traditional bread oven in an outhouse and we then took tea with him and some of his neighbours. He also had worked abroad, as a tiler, and spoke good English. He had returned to the village to raise his 7 children, 4 of whom were at university, the eldest going on to train as an anesthetist. The fifth daughter was handicapped in that she was either deaf or dumb, I am not sure which, but who attended a special school in Ramallah. Her father proudly showed us her exam results for the year end, she being 16; her overall mark was 98% and her headmaster had written to say how exceptional were her results.

This man was very good company being resilient in the light of his troubles; he had damaged his back and could not work full-time – resulting in a much reduced income – his wife was in hospital, having lost a breast to cancer. Everywhere we went we were struck by the resilience and fortitude shown by all to the daily misery administered by the Israelis = in addition to the normal ups and downs of life. Perhaps his clever daughters, particularly the fifth, will in future keep him in the luxury which he presently does not have.

Another man joined us at this house, he had been successful in an import/export business until the 2nd Intafada – it was he who spoke of the Israeli down-grading of Nablus as the power-house of the West Bank

During the morning we left for Bil’in.

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

Arranged by Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association

Eight Days in Palestine – Day 5

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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.

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

Arranged by Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association

Eight Days in Palestine – Day 4

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

Day 4 – Hebron to Azzoun

Wednesday 4th November 2009

We went to Hebron in the morning, the second largest city after Jerusalem, there we walked from the city centre into the old city. Some 2 or 3 years ago BBC TV showed how militant Jewish settlers were taking over Palestinian homes whenever they were left unoccupied and were refusing to leave and were constantly intimidating their Arab neighbours.

This they seemed to do with impunity, being given the protection of IDF soldiers. Now this movement has resulted in virtually the whole of the old city being vacated by its original inhabitants (reduced from some 40,000 to 3 or 4,000) and 400 settlers moving in. Result – swathes of empty houses and the stalls lining the passageways vacant and shuttered, giving refuge to drug dealers and other criminals – Palestinian police are not allowed into the old city.

The 400 settlers are protected by Israeli Governmentt. and are guarded by some 4000 IDF soldiers who even accompany individual children to the shops – we understand that the soldiers regard themselves as Govt. appointed slaves.

The old city contains the Ibrahami Mosque/Cave of Machpela, dedicated to Abraham, the patriarch of both Arabs and Jews. In 1994 it was the scene of a massacre by a Brooklyn-born settler of 27 Muslims – the assassin is regarded as a hero, a tower has been built to his memory – he was killed by one of the faithful who had been at prayer. It is a major religious centre for both Jews and Arabs as well as Christians but it seems as if the Zionists want it for themselves. Abraham is believed to have bought his first piece of land in the Promised Land, here; it is revered by Muslims as the Ibrahami (Abraham) sanctuary.

Hebron is itself a busy and economically important city – we visited a glass blowing factory, very old established, where we bought a good deal of lovely glass and ceramic ware.

We left Hebron for Azzoun and met its civic leaders in their recently built municipal building which had been funded by the Japanese government. The deputy mayor welcomed us; in his speech he explained how 4 Israeli settlements had been built on the hills which surround the town; where previously the village stood on 24,000 dunams (5,000 acres), it was now reduced to 8K dunams, a third of the size. This has created mass unemployment in what had previously been an agricultural community and had also split the town into 2 villages with no access one to the other.

We then heard the horrific story, told by his brother, of a 14 year old boy. With 2 others, the three were confronted by settlers who bashed in his brother’s head with a stone, he was then kicked to death and the settlers took the body into their settlement. Three weeks later the boy was returned – his body had been cut open and then stitched up – all his organs had been removed. These ghastly crimes are committed with impunity, under the protection of the IDF – a microcosm of what Israel is doing in the occupied territories is done by the settlers from within their stolen land.

Following this meeting, we were taken to see the valley land between the town and the security fence of a settlement, on higher ground above the valley. It was a lovely warm and sunny day and under other circumstances idyllic – the fields were intensively cultivated, some with polytunnels and large pvc greenhouses We walked through this area to rougher higher ground as we approached the fence – here we came across the farmer who owned this land. He showed us a stream running down the hillside to the valley floor between his olive trees. The water looked clear and bright but it was the sewage run-off from the settlement and had not been fully purified. It had run into his well and polluted it to the extent that the Health Inspectorate had instructed that it had to be chlorine treated; 2 of the olive trees were dying and a large and very old tree was also in the danger area. The farmer told us how he believed this tree to have been planted by the Romans and although quite hollow was prolific in bearing fruit. He told us that his large olive grove, which his grandfather had planted some 60 years previously, now lay behind the settlement fence.

We then went to the other village, Dark Azzoum, against which a settlement has been built. This has meant that the village is itself surrounded by a fence and all who enter or leave have to pass through a rigorous check -point. We went in but had to get out of our bus and pass, 5 or 6 at a time, through a turnstile into the guardhouse. Here our passports were slowly examined and after scrutiny we were allowed through and the next 6 or so were let through. Eventually the bus and its driver came through (the Palestinians had to surrender their passes for the duration of the visit) and we drove to the other end of the village and then out by the way we came in, without alighting this time. This system applies to all the villagers – whilst the settlers drive through on their own road, without let or hindrance. It is a repressive, morale destroying world.

We had supper in Beit Leid in Sameer’s house. Lovely food, a mixture of onion and spices with chicken pieces (all cooked in olive oil) laid on 30 or so huge 80cm round platters of wonderful bread. His wife told us she had been up since 6am and had peeled 20kg of onions as well as making the bread for about 30 people. At 2pm she had completed her cooking. She is also chair of the local women’s association which makes the traditional needle/beadwork and she had then demonstrated to most of the women of our group the making of bead work and chaired a discussion of the local women’s day to day to day lives. The men (4 of us and our 3 guides) slept in Sameer’s brother’s house (he is away working in Saudi); Sameer also slept with us as his house was entirely given over to women. A quite exceptional couple.

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

Arranged by Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association

Eight Days in Palestine – Day 3

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

Day 3 – Abu Dis to El Birah

Tuesday 3rd November 2009

We had an extremely busy day on Tuesday – before leaving Abu Dis we stopped and took photographs of the Wall which here runs alongside the road out of the town. Between the road and the wall was a half-built house, overlooking the Wall. The municipal authority had given building permission but the Israelis had now issued a demolition notice; presumably too near to the wall.

On the way to our next visit we were stopped at a checkpoint where we were instructed to pull over and an IDF soldier instructed the Palestinian sitting next to me, behind the driver, to open the sliding door. This he did but the soldier went to the back and opened the rear door where he examined the contents. As the soldier returned my neighbour provocatively slid the door shut – the soldier gestured for it to be opened, which it duly was, and then the two eyeballed each other for a couple of minutes with neither giving way. The upshot was that both the driver and the Palestinian were taken to the checkpoint hut for questioning – where they stood and waited for a quarter of an hour or so – it transpired that both were known to the IDF, having served time in Israeli gaols. Back in the van we four UK men hotly discussed the merits of passive resistance or whether discretion was the better part of valour. There could be no conclusive answer although later it occurred that the rockets of Hamas were similarly ineffectual and that perhaps the guile of a serpent and the wisdom of Solomon might be more effective.

Our next visits were to a women’s centre, the Society of Inash El Usra, at El Birah, then the Palestine Medical Relief Society followed by a centre to protect women in Israeli gaols. We are getting a insight into what is an oppressive occupation

The Women’s Centre at El Birah was most impressive, established in 1965 to empower women and teach them skills, now grown from small beginnings to a large modern complex. The current president, who is the daughter of a former mayor of Jerusalem – a Palestinian born in BethSheba, spoke of their success and this growth at some length.

She then spoke about the troubles and appealed to us that they should have world wide assistance. She introduced a Palestinian lady of about 70 who had lost one son, killed by the Israelis and who had a further four sons in Israeli prisons. We were later to learn that 1 in 4 men have been in Israeli prisons; of the 3 men accompanying us, 2 had been in prison, the Palestinian of whom I spoke earlier (clearly a born rebel) on 8 occasions. On enquiry, we found that most men with whom we met had been in prison – all of them seemed kind and thoughtful men. For Israelis to say that returning 1000 prisoners for one captured Israeli soldier is too great a sacrifice is arrant nonsense – in any event, we were told, the 1000 who will be chosen will be those coming to the end of their sentences.

Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) is a grassroots, community-based Palestinian health organization, an extremely large NGO working in healthcare all over Palestine. A vast majority of PMRS’ work relies on the help of local and international volunteers – working with approximately 40,000 volunteers, 3,500 of whom are health professionals, in order to accomplish nearly 50% of its work. It was interesting for me to note that the deputy director of the Medical Relief Society had been trained at the Liverpool School for Tropical Medicine.

At the centre to protect women in Israeli gaols, we were informed that there were currently 27 women in prison, mostly for providing accommodation or food for their husbands when the latter were being sought by the Israelis. It was their children and families that the Society helped.

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

Arranged by Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association

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

Eight Days in Palestine – Day 1

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

Day 1 – Tel Aviv Airport to Abu Dis

Sunday 1st November 2009

Abu Dis

Wall through Abu Dis

Abu Dis is a large suburb of Jerusalem and contains Al Quds university

The bus journey to Abu Dis was an eye opener with the driver describing the conditions on either side. It is clear that the Palestinians are living in a 3rd World whilst the Israelis live in a world class state – the equivalent of the UK or any European state for its infrastructure.

The airport is like a palace and the Palestinian buildings are so worn and ramshackle in comparison.

Checkpoint Bottle Neck

A clear indication of the 2nd class citizen status were the traffic lights at an entry point into Jerusalem. At the entry road from Israeli settlements they allow 20 to 25 cars in at a phase, whilst the Palestinian entry allows 2 to 3 – meaning hours of delay, particularly at morning and evening rush hour.

On our return to Tel Aviv through Ayzariyyah (Bethany) there were impenetrable traffic jams – the driver explained that Palestinians were not permitted to install traffic light systems within their cities, nor roundabouts, to control traffic. We had seen this phenomenon in Nablus, a hugely busy metropolis without any traffic lights.

We saw the light tramway system being built – largely on Palestinian land – to reach the settlements. Palestinians will not be allowed to use it.

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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