ICAHD

Living Under Occupation

A third report from an ICAHD member who is currently in Hebron with the Christian Peacemakers Team and reporting back on their experiences...


The village of Um al Khair in the South Hebron Hills is still standing but Uncle Suleiman was slightly injured a few days ago when trying to stop bulldozers tearing out a few ancient trees on the edge of the village. But a Master Plan has been submitted and the court costs paid and, if the Plan is accepted, the village will be safe for 2 years. Inshallah.

Life under Occupation in Hebron continues too. I feel glad (most of the time, and in my better moments!) that we, as CPTers, experience some of the frustrations and intrusions of the way of life imposed upon the Palestinians. The difference is that they have to live under Occupation all the time, not just for 3 months. Although all Palestinians living in Hebron and on the West Bank suffer greatly from the Occupation, the experience is even worse for those who live in the Old Market part of the City and its surrounding area. Hebron is divided into 2 parts - HI which is under Palestinian control and H2, where we live, a small, densely populated area, intruded into by a number of small Jewish Settlements, and completely controlled and supervised by the Israeli military. Checkpoints, road closures, curfews, identity checks and restrictions of all kinds are regularly and randomly imposed, making it difficult to conduct daily life in any normal way.

There have been no clashes for a few days and the ordered life of CPT has resumed. The day begins with a Reflection time followed by a check in as to how everyone is feeling and then a team meeting to review ongoing work and allocate new tasks. Since the primary purpose of CPT is to both witness and witness to human rights abuses perpetrated against the Palestinians, a lot of time has to be spent on analysing figures and then recording and writing up incidents for the UN, NGO’s and other international agencies. A monthly Newsletter is published and a Quarterly Review compiled.

Regular meetings take place with the many agencies working in the OPT’s and with the other monitoring groups. Six months ago the Scandinavian group Temporary International Protective Presence was expelled by Israel and, since then, the other monitoring groups - the Ecumenical Accompaniers, the International Solidarity Movement and ourselves have been hassled by the IDF more frequently. We are also trying to operate less openly and no longer wear the distinguishing vest and red cap of CPT. We all undertake weekly patrols to monitor the way the IDF behave at the checkpoint outside the Ibramhimi Mosque on Friday mornings and then stand alongside the Palestinians on Friday evenings when the Settlers move down to the Synagogue for Shabat. They are often armed and aggressive. Another regular duty is following the very provocative Settler Tour that moves through the Old Market every Saturday afternoon, when Palestinians have their trade disrupted and sometimes their stalls upset. We watch both the Military and the Settlers and monitor their behaviour and feel glad of the obvious appreciation given us by the Palestinian traders.

Part of the work of CPT is to accompany children to school, through the checkpoints and safely past the soldiers and settlers. But at the moment, it is of course the summer holidays and I feel disappointed not to be able to take part in that activity. But school resumes in the third week of August and so I may be able to do so for a couple of weeks at least. Being the summer holidays, a lot of visiting groups come to the CPT House and we offer presentations of our work and shew an
excellent film made by one of the Palestinian members of the team, about daily life in Hebron.I wrap myself round with the erroneous belief that knowing no arabic doesn’t matter as long as my smiles and body language are good and I regret not applying myself to the efforts to teach me some arabic by two delightful young Syrian women, who were re-settled in the UK last year!

M. has just finished her 3 months service with CPT and must move on before her visa expires. I miss her terribly already, the only compensation being that I have moved into her bedroom, a much nicer room than mine! It is a bit further away from the military watchtower that still stares down at me, but there is a curtain that allows me to block out some of the bright and glaring security lights that are on all night.

It is a matter of continual wonder to me that a group of seven complete strangers, of vastly different ages, different genders, religious beliefs and nationalities can bond together so closely in such a short time, so as to provide the security and containment needed to live and work in these unusual circumstances - and to find parting from one another quite hard. Much chocolate and other treats help too as well as the immediate warmth and generous hospitality of new Palestinian friends in the market by whom we are surrounded.

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