Hope in the Midst of Oppression
Trip Start Apr 01, 2013
10Trip End Apr 11, 2013
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In Gaza there are 1.6 million Palestinians, 70% being refugees. There are 4,500 persons/Sq. km and 54% are under the age of 18. Israel controls the movement of people in and out as well as air space and sea space
There are land and sea restrictions in Gaza. You are allowed any closer than 300 meters from the wall that surrounds Gaza but farmers are allowed recently within 100 meters. Fishermen used to fish out to 20 nautical miles but now are restricted to 3-6 miles. In these waters the fish are less numerous and of less quality so the fishing industry is decimated. In Gaza there is 35% unemployment, 39% in poverty, 44% have food insecurity, and 80% are on some kind of food aid. There is also a housing crisis, 71,000 housing units are needed as the population increases. There are lots of social concerns with 3 families sharing an apartment with three bedrooms, one kitchen and bathroom
In the West Bank there are different problems but some of them are similar. I’ll just mention a few things as this is getting long. In addition to the Palestinians the West Bank also has Bedouins who suffer from the same restrictions. The West Bank is divided into Areas A, B, and C. Areas A & B has 40% of the area and 80% of the population. The Palestinian Authority which is pretty much a puppet government, has some control in these areas
The physical restrictions on movement in the West Bank include 532 types of restrictions including: checkpoints, earth mounds, road gates, earthen walls, trenches and road barriers. The barrier wall separating the Palestinians from the Israelis is 60% complete, 8% in process and the rest is approved. The barrier wall is 700 km long and 85% of it is in the West Bank. Of the landowners in the West Bank only 20% still farm and 40% are denied access to their land. The Israelis have declared much of the West Bank as Closed Military Zones and Nature Reserves. In these two alone, is 24% of the land in the West Bank. There are lots of displaced people, planning/building restrictions, lack of access to services like schools and hospitals, and water etc. There is physical insecurity because of the military and the settlers. There has been an 118% increase incidents from 2009-2012, 500 Palestinians killed, 11,000 injured, 250,000 are food vulnerable of which 76,000 are highly vulnerable. 90% of complaints from Palestinians are closed. All of these statistics are gathered and verified by OCHA
Next we went to B’Tselem which is an Israeli NGO working for peace with the Palestinians. Our presenter was Noam and she told us that they do a lot of research and produce reports on all the aspects of the Palestinian problem. They also do public outreach and international advocacy in the form of site visits, briefings, recommendations, crowd control issues and helping with the right to demonstrate. They have an interactive website, a media presence, and online presence (facebook etc.). They also deal with specific incidents and work for accountability. They are also an information center on all the issues facing the Palestinians.
The most exciting project they told us about is their Video Project. They have purchased over 200 video cameras which they give to those most harassed by the military and settlers and they teach them how to use them and what to film. In fact, Atta’s camera came from them. They have over 4000 hours of documentation. This and people using smart phones for videoing helps the public see what is happening and helps with accountability,
When we left B’Tselem, Tarik took us to a fast food Shawarma Place
Next we headed for Sheik AlJawa (sp?) to pick up Angela our next guide. She took us through the area where she lives which is very nice with lots of old villas. Then we went through a neighbor where the settlers are trying to drive out the Palestinians. We drove past a house where settlers came in the middle of the night and forcibly evicted the family living there, throwing a 2 year old and a 5 year old out the second story window. She told us of an old, almost blind and deaf woman, 80, whom they are still trying to get out of the neighborhood. Her grandson, I think, was riding his bike and Angela called out to him, Mohammed, who seemed about 12 or 13. He came over to the car and talked with Angela. He has been featured in a documentary about what is happening in his neighborhood. Next, Angela took us to a Jewish Settlement and we drove through the streets and stopped where there was a great view of the Kidron Valley. She got out her maps and started showing us the strategy for the taking over East Jerusalem by the Settlements. East Jerusalem is supposed to be for the Palestinians. From our view of the valley we could see a huge pond with a huge fountain in it. I kept thinking of all the Palestinians who do not even know when or if they are going to have water
Next we drove out of Jerusalem, I think about halfway to Jericho. Our driver turned around and headed back to Jerusalem, then he stopped along the side of the road and told us to get out quickly as it is against the law to stop on a four lane highway. We scrambled over the guardrail and entered a Bedouin Camp. Angela works with the Bedouins and other groups for their human rights. She told us not to photograph the women. The Bedouin houses are made of wood and cardboard with corrugated tin roofs. There were a couple of little girls who greeted us but they were rather shy. We went to the home of Eid and his wife brought us tea. As we drank our tea Eid spoke to us in Hebrew and Angela translated into English. Eid spoke eloquently about the plight of the Bedouin. They are being displaced by Closed Military Zones, Nature Reserves, and Settlements. He spoke of not being allowed to build from stone and cement. He spoke of the decimation of their herds from thousands to around 300 goats and no camels because of the killing of their animals and the lack of access to good grazing land.
He spoke about the education of the children and how the Israelis tried to thwart their efforts to educate their children
On the way back we stopped at the Mount of Olives. It was too late to get into Gethsemane but we had a great view from the Mount of Olives.
Talik dropped us off near the Damascus Gate and we bid him and Angela goodbye. We walked back to the Golden Gate and had a little time before supper. For supper we walked out the Damascus gate and to a pizza place that is Paulette’s favorite. We all ordered slices of pizza and got drinks. As we ate we started processing all that we had seen and heard. We talked for a long time and then had ice cream for dessert. We headed back to the Hostel and got ready for bed.