ICAHD Summer Rebuilding Camp 2005

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”373″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


From July 17th to July 30th, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) coordinated a summer work camp to rebuild the home of the Hamdan family.

 

The Hamdan Family and Home


“Where are you from?” I asked Arafat Musa. “From Anata” he said. “Where are your parents from?” “From Anata.”Where are your grandparents from?” I was trying to trace the “origins” of his family…. “From Anata.” “And your great-grandparents?” “From Anata.” I couldn’t help feeling my intrusiveness at all levels. Here I was, a (Mexican) stranger asking questions like “How was your house demolished?” from the most convenient of standpoints: My parents have never even visited Israel or Palestine, and my grandparents couldn’t care less about this part of the world: all of my family is of Mexican Catholic background. Yet, because there is a paper (my conversion certificate) that says I’m “Jewish,” I can benefit from all the privileges of immigration under the “law of return,” enjoying economic and bureaucratic help to make this place my home. At what cost? At the cost of both oppressing and displacing the native population that has lived here for so many generations.

 

The land belongs to “the family,” I was told. This means that the deeds are in Arafat Musa’s great-grandfather’s name. The deeds of the land date back to the times of the Ottoman Empire. Arafat Musa was married in 1990 to Fateh Jamil. They started building a home on part of his family’s land. Yet, before the house was finished, the Israeli authorities came and demolished what they had built. What right does Israel have to do these things in a land that it has occupied by force and is obliged to leave untouched according to International Law? The excuse: the house was build without a permit.

 

Arafat Musa started building another house. This time he was able to finish the home and the family moved in. “It was my heaven” Fateh said. In 1999 Arafat Musa received a paper that requested that he apply to the Israeli authorities for a building permit. He hired a lawyer, and after two years of procedures the lawyer managed to delay the demolition but was unsuccessful in getting the permit. On the May 2nd of 2004, the border police raided the house, forcing Fateh and the five children outside. They were kept out in the cold for hours, until three in the morning when the Israeli authorities were finally convinced that there were no weapons inside the home. But a month later, they would return with weapons of their own.


The Demolition


At 9:00 AM, on June 2nd, 2004, approximately 100 soldiers, 20 police officers and four bulldozers arrived at the Hamden family home. The soldiers removed some of the furniture from the house; when the family refused to leave, the army used dogs to expel the family from their home. When Arafat Musa protested, they put a stick to his throat leaving him in pain for days. By midday, the house was leveled, a pile of rubble was all that remained.

 



Impact on the Hamdan Family


Arafat and Fateh have five children and a sixth on the way. The kids are 13, 11, 9, 5 (Jazmin), and 3 (Ahmed) The last year has been a difficult one: the family is in serious debt and, without a house of their own, the entire family now lives together in one room in Arafat’s parent’s house. Before the demolition, the children had plenty of room to play and grow; but with seven people in one room, there is little space to sleep, let alone have a normal childhood. Homeless, unemployed, and still traumatized from the demolition, the family has become embittered and depressed.

 

The Rebuilding


To provide the Hamdens with a place to live and assistance in resisting the inhumane policy of demolitions, we will come together to rebuild the home from July 17th to July 30th. ICAHD will be joined by Israeli, Palestinian and international volunteers, activists and NGO representatives to rebuild the home along with the family and the community of Anata. Additionally, participants will join tours of Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Negev desert, and the area of the “Triangle” in northern Israel discussing “facts on the ground” in respect to both the Occupation of the Palestinian territories and the consequences of the wall on each side. Discussions, dialogue, lectures and panels by leading Palestinian and Israeli NGO representatives will also take place at Beit Arabiya in Anata, the peace center rebuilt two years ago in ICAHD’s summer work camp.

 

 

The journal entries below were written by participants in the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions’  annual Summer Rebuilding Camp. The views expressed are not necessarily those of ICAHD

 

 

Day One – July 17th, 2005


 [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”374″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]] 

Yesterday the third annual ICAHD building camp started out beautifully. After a delicious breakfast at the Beit Arabiya peace center in the village of Anata, our group of over 25 volunteers was joined by Kathy and Paul from the Quaker Service in Jerusalem for a workshop in nonviolence. Under their guidance, we simulated possible responses and worst-case scenarios should the Israeli Army decide to visit during the coming weeks. With then walked down the hill to the past and future site of the Hamdan family’s home where our construction team was already in motion. Even on our first day, the site looks more like a house-to-be than like the pile of rubble it did yesterday, which is very exciting. After several hours of spreading concrete and other materials, we returned to Beit Arabiya for lunch and more nonviolence training.

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”375″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


We couldn’t build more this afternoon because the concrete was drying, so instead Jeff and Salim lead our group on a walking tour through Anata. We looked at and discussed the new Shabak (Israeli Military Intelligence) interrogation facility and walked along the future route of the Wall in addition to visiting with local community members and their children. We ended up in the center of town for a meeting with five representatives from the Majlis, the Anata Village Council. It was especially neat to meet one of the coucil’s two women representatives. Women were first elected to this council of 11 members during the most recent elections three months ago.

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”376″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


Exhausted, we returned to Beit Arabiya for dinner and to rest some. Before we went to bed, Salim shared a slideshow and told stories about the four demolitions and rebuildings of his family’s home, the Beit Arabiya Peace Center. The center was most recently rebuild two years ago during the first ICAHD building camp, at the same time that Shabak was building its interrogation center across the valley.

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”377″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


Building Camp participant Aaron writes:

“In the village of Anata, revolution is in the air. We are resisting the Occupation in a nonviolent way, rebuilding a home. We, as an international group, are sending a powerful message to our respective communities: a message of peaceful coexistence. The presence of Israelis, Palestinians and others working side by side to provide housing for a family who has lost their home to the Occupation allows me to see the future of Israel-Palestine as I have never seen it before.

If both Israelis and Palestinians can stand side-by-side and demand human rights and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians, there is hope for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.”


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”378″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


———————————————————————————————————————

 

Day Two – July 18th, 2005


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”379″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

 

There has been a complete transformation from the empty foundation we started with yesterday. Now half-finished exterior walls reach up towards a several ton ceiling of cinderblocks and steel mesh. Tomorrow morning we’ll pour the concrete which will hold the roof together. In the meantime, we’re enjoying our new shade under the many temporary support pillars which are keeping the surprisingly strong roof from collapsing on our heads.

 

Our morning was spent building the wooden shuttering that supports the roof. By midmorning, we sat in our now-shaded first floor, enjoying the first tea ever served in the new Hamdan home. We then moved and stacked cinderblocks for the walls. Over lunch at Beit Arabiya, Amir and Esti from Bimkom talked about how governments use municipal planning to pursue particular ideological goals. This is particularly true about zoning designations in the Occupied Territories and the placement of the Separation Wall which Israel is now building. Just a couple weeks ago, government attorneys admitted in court that the route of the Wall is determined not only by security concerns but also for political reasons.

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”380″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

Back at the building site for the afternoon, we split into two teams. While some of us continued working on the exterior walls, the rest of us climbed onto the roof and helped lay the cinderblocks and tie together the metal mesh supports. We were rewarded for our efforts with another delicious dinner, followed by a panel with three human rights activists and a lively question-and-answer session. Sarit from B’tselem described her organization’s work researching human rights violations throughout the Occupied Territories. One of the largest human rights groups in Israel-Palestine, B’tselem’s Jewish and Palestinian field researchers provide much of the data which other groups use in their analyses. Lucy joined us from Human Rights Watch, a group which deals not only with issues in the Occupied Territories but also with internal Israeli issues.

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”381″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]



Just this month, Human Rights Watch released a study about the Israeli army’s failure to investigate its soldiers’ actions on duty. Since the beginning of the second Intifada, the army has opened fewer than 150 cases investigating civilian deaths, accounting for less than 10% of the total in that period. Finally, Arik from Rabbis for Human Rights spoke about the need for a Jewish State to concern itself not only with adherence to Jewish ritual matters like Sabbath observance, but also with moral values. In one of RHR’s many programs, volunteers help Palestinian families harvest their fields and orchards, helping protect these farmers from settler violence.`

 

One last thought: To answer the question which has been keeping you up at night for years, the Arabic word for “cinderblock” istoob.

 

———————————————————————————————————————

Day Three – July 19th, 2005

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”382″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

 

I know nothing about house construction, but it seemed like we got a lot done today. We started this morning passing breeze-blocks to the builders (human chain style) for the outer walls, which are now nearly finished. The builders also put a metal mesh onto the roof, which was later covered with concrete by a huge concrete-pumping machine. I especially enjoyed when we inaugurated the house by engraving the family name and “ICAHD” on the doorstep in the newly-poured concrete.

 

There were lots of children on the site this morning who played with a few of us, which was really nice. Nice that our lack of Arabic didn’t matter for once. We are getting to know a few of them quite well, and they got us to swing them around and such. I taught this little boy Amir how to do the famous fish face — he was a natural. The children we met so far seem really friendly and also very independent. Islam and Ghassan (a sister and brother, both under eight) helped us to lift breeze-blocks yesterday!

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”383″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

The other major event of the day was someone reversing the construction company truck into a lamp post / electricity pylon, which pushed it over, pulling down the next post along. Two guys from the construction company (the driver and someone else) then broke this second post off of its base (with their bare hands) and attached it back on with some wire that they found so that it was at a better angle than when it collapsed. Frank, another volunteer, pointed out to me that if this was Britain, we’d have all stopped working and called an Expert to sort it out. I think it’s true that there’s much more of a “do-it-yourself” spirit here than at home, probably mostly out of necessity. If they don’t do it, noone will.I don’t know if this is fair, but since I’ve been here I’ve really got the impression that people are just “getting on with it” despite the circumstances.

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”384″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

Maybe because in the past I’d only really heard or read about this country with reference to the conflict here, I was half expecting suffering to be the most obvious component of the lives of people in Palestine, and for everyone to be thinking about politics all the time. But so far this visit has actually made me think about how resilient people can be. That’s not to underplay the profound difficulties people are facing here, but most people I have encountered here still had the energy and spirit to invite us into their homes or come and do a bit of shoveling at the site or play games with us, which says “hope” to me.

 


———————————————————————————————————————

Day Four – July 20th, 2005


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”385″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


Today we took a break from housebuilding and spent the day in Jerusalem. In the morning we had a guided tour of old Jerusalem where we explored the various districts of the city while Laura, our guide, gave us a very comprehensive account of the history of the city associated with the buildings and monuments we saw. The tour ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

 

After a delicious lunch at Daila, ICAHD’s cultural outreach center, we went on another tour, this time to see for ourselves the different ways in which the Palestinians are being marginalized and evicted from their areas and homes by the Municipality of Jerusalem. We learnt that 200,000 Palestinians (30% of the Palestinians in Jerusalem) have Jerusalem IDs (although they do not have Israeli citizenship) which entitles them to live and work in East Jerusalem, to receive state benefits as well as health and education services. Although they pay taxes and rates like all other residents, they receive only 10% of the city’s budget. By way of comparison, West Jerusalem has 36 swimming pools while East Jerusalem has none. In West Jerusalem there are 1,451 children’s playgrounds; East Jerusalem has two. In the Palestinian areas administered by Jerusalem, many streets are not named, houses are not numbered, there is a poor waste disposal service, no postal delivery, few post offices and schools and clinics are underfunded.

 

The most critical problem in East Jerusalem is the way in which Palestinians are being evicted from their areas and homes by the Municipality. We saw how new Jewish settlements were being established in Palestinian areas and how existing ones were being expanded. Palestinian homes are taken by various means:

 

    • Demolitions.

 

    •   By force.

 

    •   Forged documents.

 

    •   Payment of high bribes.

 

    •   Palestinian collaborators who offer to buy a house and then pass it to Jews for whom they are front men.

 

    •   Legal fines too high for the owners to pay.

 

    •   Legal cases where Jewish organisations claim land is originally Jewish and win it in court.
       

 

 

We saw one building, Beit Sumud, where there are 100 Palestinians (20 families) who have been squatting in East Jerusalem for the past five years, as they cannot afford the high rents which are a result of the huge shortfall in available Palestinian housing. We saw areas in the process of being taken over by settlers, including part of the Mount of Olives and the village of Silwan, where the Municipality wants to demolish an entire neighborhood of 88 homes and establish a national archaeological park.

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”386″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

 

We continued our tour with a visit to Ma’ale Adumim, a settlement built outside the city, with municipal borders extending far into the West Bank. We learnt how the settlement had been founded in 1975 after illegally taking land from the Palestinian town of Azaria. The settlement started, as with all settlements, with a few homes being built on top of a hill. It has expanded (especially during the “Osloâ€� years) from 15,000 inhabitants in 1991 to 30,000 today, with a projected population of 70,000 in 2010. Ma’ale Adumim’s expansion, like that of all settlements in the West Bank, is in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention which states that an occupying power is not permitted t
o put its civilian population in the land it occupies. It also contravenes the ruling in July 2004 made by the International Court of Justice that the Occupation, all the settlements and the wall are illegal under international law.

 

 

Everyone was struck by the stark contrast between the streets of Ma’ale Adumim, lined with flowers and shrubs, with their swimming pools, shopping malls and smart, well-constructed homes, and the litter-strewn streets and ramshackle appearance of Anata and the Shu’afat Refugee Camp with their broken power lines. In all three towns, the inhabitants pay rates to the Municipality of Jerusalem, but the difference between the well-serviced settlement and the neglect so evident in the Palestinian areas could not have been more evident.

 

The abundant use of water for landscaping in the settlements in this arid/desert region formed a contrast with the dry and dusty streets of the Palestinian towns. Many West Bank Palestinian villages have their water supplies cut in summer months or have lost access to their wells by the placement of the Wall. In addition to the abuse of the shortage of water, the consequences of settlement expansion and the building of new settlements have the effect of cutting off different Palestinian areas of the West Bank from one another. This will occur in the areas to the east of Jerusalem with the expansion of the Ma’ale Adumim Bloc, especially if the E-1 area is developed, as Israel wishes to do. This isolation of Palestinian towns and villages from each other is especially aggravated both by the settler “bypass” road system and by the over 600 different types of roadblocks in the Occupied Territories: checkpoints, gates, earthmounds, watchtowers, cement blocks and temporary “flying” checkpoints (which are effected by single roving jeeps which stop the traffic flow and check ID documents).

 

Angela, our guide for the afternoon, explained how the illegal expansion of settlements was accompanied by a system of new super highways which service only the settlements and which are used only by Israelis, especially settlers. We saw the new Qedar Road which cost millions of dollars to construct and which supports some 200 settler families (about 700 people). Palestinians are not allowed to use it. They are expected to use the old roads that are badly in need of resurfacing, and to take much longer routes with the constant humiliation of check-points, controls and other prohibitions.

 

The effect of the new apartheid superhighways and the expansion of settlements, together with the eviction of Palestinians and the destruction of their homes, with further refusals to grant permission to build, is leading increasingly to the creation of “enclaves” where Palestinians are expected to live in third-world conditions, restricted in their ability to travel and serving as cheap labor for the settlements and industrial areas attached to them.

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”387″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

In Abu Dis we visited the Wall, seeing first hand the brutal apartheid division between Palestinian communities or families and the denial to Palestinians of the right to the most basic aspects of day-to-day living and essential services. It has become a symbol of the violent repression, humiliation and marginalization of the Palestinian people.

 

In the evening we had a discussion with Shai, a socioeconomic researcher , at which two Palestinians were present. We touched on many subjects but concentrated principally on the questions of an economic boycott of Israel (about which there were differing opinions), and whether a two-state solution or a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural single state would be preferable.

 

———————————————————————————————————————

Day Five – July 21st, 2005


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”388″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]] 


This morning began like any other morning at Beit Arabiya. We all woke up nice and early, and everyone was visibly tired. Once again, this did not hold anyone back, because we find motivation in the fact that in nearly one week’s time we will be presenting the Hamdan family with a new home. It is very exciting for me to see how far we’ve come in just five days. The exterior walls are all up, as well as the roof. It’s really beginning to look like a house!


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”389″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


Following the evening building, I decided to take the longer, more scenic route back to Beit Arabiya. I met a young Bedouin man about my age on the walk back. His name was Mohammed and he came right up to me with a kind and open-armed greeting. “Welcome, welcome,” was what he said. This is a typical greeting that I have received from the Palestinians over the course of my stay here. Upon reflection, I think about how the media and government in my country, the United States, promote the idea that the people here hate and distrust the American people. After spending time here, and forming relationships with the people, I have found that this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. I have experienced nothing but love, kindness, and welcoming greetings from all of the people I have met here. They genuinely care for the people who come here from the States, and have the ability to separate the citizens from the actions of their government.

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”390″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

The evening activity was watching a film on the Jahalin, who are a Bedouin community that has been repeatedly displaced. The film was short, but interesting, and I think that everyone enjoyed watching it, although it was rather heartbreaking. The oppression and struggle of the Bedouin communities is a subject often overlooked in this conflict, but as an Anthropology student, I find their culture and situation fascinating. A quote that stands out to me from the film was, “We just want to live like any other people in any other nation.” This comes from an older Jahalin, who struggles just to live his daily life, and take care of his family. As an indigenous culture, these people must be cherished, and the only hope will come from the international community. Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom offered some of his expertise on the subject after the movie. I enjoy greatly the nightly events at the work camp, because it is where we can learn so much more about the intricacies of this captivating area of the world. With Rabbi Milgrom, we were able to open the discussion and begin to expand our understanding of the plight of the Jahalin. Once again, it was a successful and eye-opening experience at the work camp, and I look forward to the coming days.

 

 [[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”391″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

———————————————————————————————————————

Day Six – July 22nd, 2005


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”422″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]] 

 

Another day of the occupation, another day of checkpoints, of demolished houses, of illegal constructions and of fear on both sides.

 

Friday is a day of prayer both Jews and Muslims. It should be a day of peace, but there is no peace. What we saw today is an evil occupation, sophisticated and meticulously planned. It slowly and alarmingly suffocates the Palestinians. It skillfully indoctrinates the Israelis with fear of the “other” side and cleverly tries to hide it. Soon the Palestinians will be totally shut into a space with little water, few resources and no chance for development. A wall is being built preventing necessary human contact to the other side, reinforcing stereotypes and enemies.


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”423″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

Officially 600,000 Palestinians and Israeli Arabs will be stuck in between the new route of the ‘security fence’, which instead of running along the green line takes up a new road dividing Palestinians from Palestinians. Its concrete monstrosity is a frightening prospect for the future.

 

Driving along the newly built toll highway 6 we passed the vast expanding city of Modi’in, a fast growing and affordable town, moving many Israelis from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to the center of the country and therefore removing many Israeli Arabs from their land. The highway was sold as a means to control traffic, but it turns out to serve to divide many Palestinian farmers from their land, as the highway runs straight through their fields, cutting it off from their houses. All houses within 100 meters were served with demolition orders, clearing the way for new numerous Jewish communities scattered around the road.

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”424″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

Similar roads and constructions stretch throughout the whole country creating a network of barriers and invisible fences in order to prevent Palestinian towns inside and in the Occupied Territories from expanding. One of these towns is Baqa El-Gharbiya, a Palestinian town inside Israel, which has a population of about 20,000 residents. It used to be a prosperous city with a major market, but now it is surrounded from four sides by K
ibbutzes and by the Wall, separating it from its neighboring Baqa Sharqiya in the West Bank. These two cities used to have a flourishing connection, but the days of the market and shared businesses are left to memories and rubble. We met a young boy on the Israeli side of the Wall, who was now separated from his uncle and his mosque. Only with a special permit he is allowed to pass to the other side, but soon this boy will only feel more confusion and hatred towards the Occupation. In a few years Baqa Gharbiya will be a sight of poverty, isolated and forgotten.


Continuing along the highway the Wall was neatly hidden behind a large mount of dirt, allowing the Israelis to forget the Occupation, to forget the other side and the other people. We drove through the ‘Triangle Area’ in the Galilee where Sharon is planning to build seven Israeli towns in the mostly Palestinian populated area in order to create a Jewish majority and to prevent the development of Palestinian communities.

Our next stop was in the area near Nazareth, where in 1948 500 Palestinian villages had been demolished. We spent most of our time in the village of Safurri, which had been the largest Palestinian population center before the Naqba. Now it is the small Jewish community of Tzippori. Our guide was a man named Ziyad whose family used to inhabit this land. His performance managed to humanize the tragedy, which for many was long forgotten. He took us to the places where the village once stood, where their trees had grown and their animals had lived. Now only 15% of the original inhabitants still live in the area, who he called ‘internal refugees’. The majority ended up in refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria.

 

He told us that you may be able to demolish homes and bomb houses, but you cannot erase memories.


———————————————————————————————————————

Day Seven – July 23rd, 2005


 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”426″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

 

Today the Occupation.

Today the occupation — rebuilding the house.

Today the new day volunteers — the lessons in toilet etiquette.

Today after breakdast, the walk to the site.

Today the snatches of news — more bombings in London (1 wounded?) — a bomb in Sharm-al-Sheik (62 dead?) — settler supporters leaving, the orange tide ebbs.

Yesterday Nazareth and dispossession (55 years? 2000 years?)

Yesterday 2.5 millenia of struggle.

Today the struggle.

Today the Occupation.

Today the occupation — rebuilding the house.

Tomorrow Lod? Ramle? Tel Aviv? London? New York?

Tomorrow the struggle?

Today the children (all boys) eager to do our jobs — ‘gimme, gimme,’ and imperative Arabic, ‘you name is?’

Tomorrow the children eager — eager to live? to die? to kill? to love?

To do our jobs?

Come — do my job.

Today the Japanese Buddhists, master and disciple, Gyosei and Sabo.

Today the wherebe cows, today the laughter — ‘you remember?’

Milton Keynes against the wall!

Today the occupation — rebuilding the garden wall.

Today the misery of cement.

Today the morning tea break — the informal peace movement discussion — Jew and Arab, Israeli and Palestinian, English and French, Swiss and Swede, the Kiwi, the Americans — the Americans.

Seeds of hope.

Today the discussion, interrupted by work.

Today the Occupation, the occupation — rebuilding a house.

Tonight — the bloody mosquitos.

Today — the chatter.

Yesterday — the chatter.

Tomorrow — the chatter.

Today the language of hands, of hands and stones and cement.

Today the language of resistence?

Today the language of the daily report.

Today the occupation — rebuilding the house.

Today the occupation (occupation of the crease, text messages relay the score — England 420 needed to win!)

Today on the way back — the hobbled donkey. O Palestine!

Today the stomach troubles, the runs, the afternoon off.

Today the afternoon shift. Today the heat, the cement, the ISM volunteers, the heat, the dust, the cement, the planter, the dust, the head. The phrase ‘Kamakaze of the Peace Movement’ springs to mind.

Today the start of the garden — earth onto stone.

Yesterday the decision to tell the truth — ‘Why have you been in Israel?’ ‘To rebuild a demolished Palestinian home.’

Today the doubts.

Today the Occupation.

Today the delivery of the water tank.

The afternoon return of the olive tree planters, Pasquale and Tre.

Today Palestinian neo-realist cinema.

Today Palestinian Youth versus The Rest of the World football match (no score!)

Today the parental visit to the house.

Today the slow walk back to Beit Arabiya in the evening light, the Judean hills.

Today the panel discussion — PARC and Al Haq.

Today the economic strangulation.

Today the oppression, today the wall.

Today the laceration of communities.

Today the 10,000 unregistered children.

Today the tale of daily humiliation.

Today the losing of hope.

Tomorrow Hamas, tomorrow the Zealots.

No — today talk, Arab and Jew, Palestinian and Israeli, the internationals look on the heated discussion.

Today we refuse to be enemies.

Tomorrow the Occupation.

Tomorrow the occupation — the rebuilding of a home.

Tomorrow the dawn — tomorrow another day.

(With apologies to W.H. Auden, ‘I remember Spain’)


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”427″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

 

———————————————————————————————————————

Day Eight – July 24th, 2005


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”428″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


There can be few things more rewarding than building a house. Day eight and the house is growing, accumulating its layers of materiality. It is possible to picture the way this small house will be inhabitated and will support a complex network of relationships and communication between family members.

Today the building progressed through processes of layering. A covering of fine stones as a base for floor tiles, the finishing layer of plaster applied to receive yet another layer of paint. The international workers are also accumulating layers of experience. People learning about electrical wiring, plumbing, plaster and block laying. The Palestinian workers are the driving force. They work relentlessly long hours and at a fast pace. Western and European building processes and niceties of health and safety have little relevance. The emphasis is on speed. The building must be inhabited as quickly as possible to prempt the possibility of demolition without a court order.


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”429″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


 

In Israel we have experienced other types of layering. The ordered rows of suburban houses appearing over this beautiful and wild land. A colonist layer where the only concerns are occupying land and maintaining security. These houses present a fine face to the world but are built on fear of communication with ‘others’ and fear of touching. They iron out the complexity and richness of communication that humans thrive on as they level the land. Passing through the Israeli town of Modi’in on the way to the Palestinian towns of Ramle and Lod the comparison is striking. Even the most deprived of Palestinian areas exhibit more complex and rich networks of communication than these clean ordered suburbs. It is strange that cities over the rest of the world are turning away from such new suburban development as they are reliant on the automobile, require increasing support and are wasteful of scarce resources.

 

 

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”430″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

 

Then there is the many layers of impersonal bureaucratically organised administration designed to reinforce and maintain a colonial programme of occupation. The cruel and devasting consequences of t
hese bureaucratic layers is of little concern for those framing and carrying out the polices.

 

It is good to note that layers can and will be disrupted, broken and reordered. Today in the house, first the electrician, then the plumber smashed holes through the layers of plaster and blocks wherever they needed to. Such holes establish connections for pipes and wires to link the house with a wider network of services. There is something very human in this action of breaking or chipping away through layers. It can disrupt the closed nature of a structure and allow new ways of thinking and new and interesting connections to combat the blind stupidity of an organised state.

 

———————————————————————————————————————

Day Nine – July 25th, 2005


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”431″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

 

This was my first day at the work camp, having arrived half way through. I was eager to see the house so when I got my first glimpse I was excited by the progress.

 

Going inside I found a living room, kitchen area, bedroom and bathroom already defined by the interior walls. There was a wonderful spirit of cooperation as people worked in teams. A group carried buckets of stones that were emptied in the bedroom to level the slope. Young men working in the blazing sun had the unenviable job of mixing the mortar and plaster. Young lads from Anata joined our human chain as beige marble floor tiles were passed to the expert tiler whose goal was to complete the living room and kitchen by the end of the day.

 

We didn’t stay to see that because we left the site at one o’clock for the fifteen minute grueling walk over the “mountains” back to Beit Arabiya for lunch. Arriving with sweat running down our faces and clothes stiff with dust, everyone dug into Arabiya’s maklouba and raved about being provided with yet another fabulous meal.

Once replenished and refreshed, two mini buses arrived to drive us to West Jerusalem. We were given the opportunity to visit Jeff Halper in his home. Having witnessed his six and a half foot fall onto hard concrete, everyone was anxious to see him again. Arm in cast, scabs on head and arms, swollen ankle, ugly purple bruises coloring his body and still wracked with pain, Jeff welcomed us and shared how he couldn’t understand why his injuries were not more severe. Being with him helped those who witnessed his fall deal with their emo
tions.

Some free time had been scheduled and many from the camp filled it with a visit to nuclear whistle-blower, Mordeci Vanunu, in the courtyard at St George’s Cathedral. Later participants met up again at ICAHD’s Diala Center in West Jerusalem where we heard from four women’s peace groups: Maachsom Watch, Women in Black, New Profile and Bat Shalom. In Israel’s militaristic, racist society, these groups strive to challenge the injustice and help bring positive change.

As I reflected on the day, I knew that I was so glad to be here. I want to get to know everyone and find out why they are interested in this issue. I am glad that we have this opportunity to do something positive, to build a house as we stand in solidarity with those who suffer injustice and to support the Israeli’s who defy their government’s illegal policies. I have this overwhelming feeling that there is an element of “holiness” about this work.

 


———————————————————————————————————————

Day Ten – July 26th, 2005


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”432″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


 

The sun is cruel here. It rises early and demands that we do the same. The early light burns off the interrogation centre across the valley, reminding us of the injustice which brought us to the Occupied Territories. Today is different than most; instead of walking to the building site we load onto a coach and head for Bethlehem and Hebron.

 

The approach to Bethlehem was noteable for me in two ways. Firstly I am uncomfortable whenever I see a gun, particularly one in the hands of someone who looks younger than me; This was the case ith the IDF soldier at the checkpoint. The second suprise for me was the Wall. At Bethlehem is funnels nine metres high, redeemed only by the startling graffiti which adorns it. It begged the question of several volunteers: “How do the tour guides explain this away?”

 

 

In Bethlehem we toured Aida refugee camp. There are currently
a little of 100 residents of Aida incarcerated by the IDF, 70% of whom are under 18. We visited the Al-Rowwad Centre, a cultural andtheatre-training center which was raided in 2002. In the raid the centre’s computers were destroyed and two people were arrested, apparently for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After this we went to the Badil Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. Here most people the discussion on the ins and outs of the Palestinian Right of Return. I’m afraid I spent a long time in silence trying to come up with a less longwinded name for the organization. Neither dilemma reached a definite resolution, and suggestions on either are welcome.

 

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”433″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

 

The afternoon carried us to Hebron. My friend had read somewhere that at the tomb of Abraham, Jews and Muslims used to pray together. I hope it is not prophetic that this potential for integration was ended by extremism. In this case an Israeli by the name of Goldstein, highly educated, opened fire on Muslims at prayer, killing 29.

 

What struck me, and I think others, most about Hebron is the unabashed persecution by the settlers. There are four settlements in the area, generally above Palestinian areas. There are even properties where the bottom floors belong to Palestinians and the top floors house settlers. Waste from the settlements is cast onto the street. Nets have been set up to catch this, which results in a roof of refuseblocking the sun. The old market is almost deserted because of violence towards Palestinian traders. But still the people persist, fighting with tenacity.

 

 

———————————————————————————————————————

Day Eleven – July 27th, 2005


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”434″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


Around two o’clock in the morning Arabiya woke me up. She was very scared but I didn’t understand what she was saying to me (I guess it’s time for me to begin to learn some Arabic) “Police” she said, I guess she knows some words in English. Out of the window was Salim who explained to me that again the border police was wandering near Beit arabiya. “Be ready” he said, “I will call you when they get near.” After a while he said they had left and I could just forget about it. But in the morning, when we woke up Sara told me that they had raided Ahmed’s house se
arching for weapons around three o’clock in the morning. They didn’t find any weapons yet Ahmed was detained and taken to the police station in Jaffa road. He has been there since. We at the camp felt useless and frustrated. We wanted to help. “Does he need help to tidy his house?” the woman asked. The story is very similar to what Arafat Musa told me happened to him before they demolished his house.


As we woke up early again today, some of us found out that 10 days of building a house is not easy for your body. But after walking to the building site we were pleasantly surprised and full of motivation again. Since we were on a tour yesterday, we were unable to help with the building, but this doesn’t mean that nothing is happening on the building site. When we arrived, we found out that most of the floor in the house is finished, and the kitchen is installed. Today we’ve finished the floor, the windows and the bathroom.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”435″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


Being away for a day reminds you of the short amount of time in which we are building this house. When we arrived here ten days ago, there was nothing, and today there is a house that is almost finished.But in the morning something happened that made us realize why we are here. Near the Hope Flowers school in Bethlehem, three houses were demolished.


Though we are building this house in two weeks, which is indeed a miracle, as we have seen in the past it can be demolished in five minutes. This might sound a bit pessimistic, but that’s not the feeling I’ll be falling asleep with tonight. Because when I look around on the building site I see a lot of people who have not lost hope and are willing to resist the occupation.


———————————————————————————————————————

Day Twelve – July 28th, 2005


Today we visited the Negev and learned about the different issues concerning the Bedouins who live there. They are facing a lot of problems in their current situation. Only seven bedouin villages have been recognized, 45 are still unrecognized. This means that these villages do not receive any services like running water or electricity.


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”436″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]



We visited two projects that are run by women. The first project is about herbalistic knowledge of Bedouins applied to cosmetics. These women have set up a busines
s which is still in an early stage but already very successfull. The second project is Lakiya, were handwoven rugs and other products are sold. These projects empower women to contribute to their family’s earning power, and by this bring about social change and a stable foundation for the local economy.


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”437″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


We also visited a community center in one of the recognized townships. There are many NGO’s that provide services to the local community. The unemployment rate is very high, about 30 percent, but including women it reaches 66%. Only 2% of the Bedouins have graduated high school, and many services are not provided. For example, in the whole village there is no library. 


———————————————————————————————————————

Day Thirteen and Fourteen – July 29th-30th, 2005

 

In the last two days of the work camp the house was painted, plumbing and drainage were completed and the bathroom and kitchen were finished. The house was cleaned inside, the site was cleared and soil was spread around the yard to make a real garden. Then there was a wonderful dedication ceremony with speeches and dances by Palestinian children. The large number of people present at the ceremony inlcuded a mix of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals. This gave hope for a future of justice and freedom. Trees were planted around the house as part of the dedication.


[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”438″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]


 

This work camp has been a special experience for all participants. The following notes by many of the internationals at the camp have recorded this experience:

 

 

“Building the Hamdans’ house through ICAHD’s incredible Summer Camp gives me much needed hope in the face of such an oppressive occupation. I like to think of today’s heartwarming celebration a
s a small act of resistance. We will not allow the occupation to undermine these special moments.”


“The balance between productive good work and experiencing the outrage of the occupation has been invaluable. Today has been life affirming. Tomorrow we have much more work to do.”

 

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”439″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

 

“Hope is alive when people from around the world come together to rebuild a house for victims of brutal oppression. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to work with people who are willing to work for human rights rather than merely talk.”

“A great emotion this afternoon to see the house finished after two weeks, before which there was nothing on the site.”

“These two weeks were some of the most valuable I have ever experienced. Being together with amazing people, all who came here to do something good and who shared their thoughts and emotions together. I really hope more and more internationals, Isrealis and Palestinians will share more of these moments and at least create hope.”

 

“My belly is full, once again, with a good meal prepared by Arabiya and her daughters. I have received nothing but welcome greetings from all the men and women here in Anata. My experience has been indescribable, interacting with the wonderful people and educating myself about one of the world’s deepest conflicts. All of the hard work on the Hamdan’s home was worth it today, when we handed them the keys at the ceremony. I wish them and the people of Anata all of my best, and can’t wait to return next year.”

“The strangest thing about these two weeks has been the erb and flow of hope. Seeing the Palestinians suffer and the destitution which follows causes deep depression. Now I sit among many nationalities and religions, and I see promise in the future. All things come to an end, even occupation.”

 

 

“I feel very lucky and blessed to share this experience of resistance and love, in the form of a rebuilt home and in the form of deeper understanding.”

“It’s so simple yet impossibly and intentionally complex: get the governments and the powerful out of the equation and all would quickly resolve itself. The powers stoke the fear, and cause the distrust, hatred and persecution. It’s tr
ue, but if peace were given a chance, it would succeed easily. How can anyone fear these beautiful people? If the world can last a few more decades, change will have to come, because this climate of fear and persecution cannot last. It is wrong and unnatural. I’m not sure if I’m more hopeful or less so after the camp. I’ve seen beauty and I’ve seen horror. Silence is complicity, and us fortunates cannot be complacent.”


“My heart is very full….. So much love, so much goodness, so much hard work. May the Hamdan Home stand. May it be a solid statement of international opposition to Sharon’s occupation of Palestine.”

 

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”440″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”style”:”border-style: initial; border-color: initial; cursor: default; vertical-align: baseline; border-width: 0px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;”}}]]

 

 

“Imagine a town of fourty thousand: one bank, one post office and no library. Imagine: no library, no space in which to hear and participate in the conversation of humanity, no space in which to enlarge your imagination and sympathies with all the best. Much has been thought and said. How to rectify that? The young Bedouin woman we met on day 12, whose determined ambition it is to become the manager of the first library in Rahat, the largest Bedouin township in the Negev, made a very big impression on me.”

“I’m very impressed with what we can do without many tools available. I liked the working outside very much and I appreciated the balance between physical work and the information we received on the tours and by talking to people. I admire the resistance of the Palestinian people and their creativity to manage their difficult daily life.”

“It was quite overwhelming to see the finished house today. There is the occupation, there is the wall, but there is hope!”