A Day of Heartbreaking and Hope-filled Stories

Trip Start Apr 01, 2013
Trip End Apr 11, 2013

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Where I stayed
Atta's House

Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Sunday, April 7, 2013


We got up about 7:00 and had mass at 8:00.  Paul, who is a Quaker, joined us for mass.  For breakfast we had cornflakes and pitas and juice.  After breakfast we left to meet with Hani who is an activist for the resistance.  We walked to Hani's coffee shop and he told us about his activism. He taught us that being angry and revengeful isn’t as effective as non-violent resistance.  On this walk we went out of the Old City and through a very thriving market, not the Ghost Town that the Old City has become.  There were cars, and carts with donkeys, and we walked mostly on the street as the sidewalks were crowded with people.  Paulette led us in single file, fearlessly.  Hani took us to his home where we met his wife and children and we shared tea and juice.  We went through four checkpoints to get there and it was uphill all the way.  We took a detour to see the steep stairs where the Palestinians have to carry all their purchases.  They are not allowed to drive on the street there as they live in a mixed neighborhood.  The Israelis are allowed to drive there.  It is  so unjust.  The Israelis are doing this to drive the Palestinians out. 

Hani is a great storyteller.  One time he ran out of water and called the mayor to get a water truck sent.  But the mayor said the settlers would be violent.  He wasn’t afraid for the truck but for the driver.  So Hani said he would drive the truck.  He drove the truck but couldn’t get up to his house because they stopped him at the checkpoint.  So all the women and children brought containers and carried the water up the hill a little bit at a time.  He said most of the water probably got spilled but they made their point.  Another time there was a particular guard who was usually mean to them and he detained them when they came back from Friday noon prayer.  It is the tradition to have a big family meal, makluuba, after Friday noon prayer.  So the women and children brought the meal to the checkpoint and sat down in the street and had their meal.  They began to be harassed by settlers and the soldiers but instead of yelling back they invited them to sit down and share the meal.  The soldiers told them they could go home to eat.  They took their time, finished their meal, and walked peacefully home at the end of the meal.

We headed back down the road, through the four checkpoints, down Shuhada Street to Abed’s for lunch.  His wife had fixed???  MAQLUBA!  Everyone’s is similar and good, but each has different vegetables and slightly different seasonings.  While we ate Abed spoke passionately about his dream of ending the occupation.  We are finding out with each person we meet, that the occupation is worse than Apartheid.  The Palestinians do not have that fundamental right to citizenship, to a homeland.  We did some shopping at Abed’s store and those of his neighbors (the three shops allowed to be open on Shuhada Street).

When we left Abed’s we did a little shopping in the bazaar on our way back to CPT.  When everyone was back to CPT, some made the decision to stay at CPT.  The rest of us walked to Issa’s house.  The walk went through another part of town and up, up, up again through olive groves.  On the way we came upon a group of Palestinian women and their children.  When their children saw us they were afraid and ran back to their mothers.  Paulette assured them that we were Americans and no need to fear.   Issa is one of the most well-known activists in Hebron.  He has been in and out of jail many times.  The last time he was arrested was when Barack Obama was in Israel.  He and about 20 other people sneaked on to Shuhada Street wearing masks of Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama and where t-shirts saying, "We Have a Dream."  They were arrested for being on Shuhada Street.  His settler neighbors, in relatiation for his participation in the march lit a tire on fire at his front door.  The scar from the soot and the odor of the tire were still evident.   He told us about a nearby well that a radical Israeli woman had a dream about.  She dreamed that God was telling her the well was for the Jews.  So a bunch of settlers started cleaning it out and then they wouldn’t let anyone else use it.  Issa showed us a film summarizing all of the major incidents of Palestinians being harassed and arrested.  It was full of violence and screaming and we saw him handcuffed and blindfolded by the police.  He said he was detained like that for three hours. 

When we got back the van was waiting to take us to the South Hebron Hills to Atta Jaber’s House.  We had to really scrunch together to get all of us and our luggage into one van.  Luckily, the trip was less than half an hour.  When we got off the main road we were on a stone road.  Atta’s driveway was very steep and just two ruts up the hill. When we were halfway up the hill the driver told us that was all the farther he was going.  So we all piled out, gathered our luggage, and walked the rest of the way up the hill.  We were greeted by Atta and his wife.  We all went in and were served the usual tea.  Atta started talking to us about his situation.

 Atta is a farmer who owns 67 acres of the best farm land we have seen.  The broad fertile valley in front of his house is full of grapevines, olive trees etc.  His property has been cut in half by a road.  On the other side of the road, where most of his property is, there is now a settlement.  First they put in a gas station, then a road, then they started building settlements.  Atta told us about how he used to live on the other side of the road, but his house was demolished twice.  He had the help of many friends to build the new house on the other side of the road.  He is frequently harassed by settlers who come and tear up his plantings and his irrigation pipes and hoses.  He has built a cistern and there is a demolition order for that cistern.  He is building another cistern right by the front door.  He can’t use any large equipment or they would find out and come and fill it in.  He had another cistern that they did fill with rocks. 

Atta has four children, three girls and a boy.  His oldest daughter graduated with the highest honors last year but cannot go to college because there is no money.  His other children have to walk to school.  The oldest two walk to the Old City in Hebron, down the hill, across the road and over the next hill.  It is 6 km one way and takes an hour each way.  They leave before 7:00 in the morning.  His other daughter goes over the mountain behind his house to the school for younger students.  They walk whatever the weather and it does snow in the winter.  This is ludicrous as there are plenty of buses on the highway, but they are only for the Jews.

Atta, himself, has been active in the resistance and been arrested and beaten many times.  His driveway has been blocked many times.  Atta is 50 years old but he looks a lot older.  But he has the most wonderful smile,  his eyes sparkle when he speaks and he speaks great English, and has a wonderful heart.  We were shown a video filmed by his daughter of settlers harassing them.  There was a lot of shouting and threats and the settlers came right up on the porch.  The family went inside and shut the steel doors and continued to film.  It was really awful.   Now I know why Palestinians have steel doors, bars on the windows, and steel shutters that can be closed. 

Let me tell you a little about Atta’s house.  There is almost no furniture, plastic stacking patio chairs for groups like us, a big coffee table for spreading the meal, mats and a few beds for sleeping.   Atta’s wife served two main entrees, both with meat balls with 'mixed’ meat.  One contained potatoes and the other had tomatoes.  Both were scrumptious.  The salad was also very good.  There isn’t a normal toilet as they live in the desert and there is a scarcity of water.  So there is a porcelain basin mortared onto the floor with just a hole.  A pitcher of water helps with flushing.  And by the way, toilet paper does not go into the toilet but into a basket, that is true everywhere we have been.

We were really ready for bed!

Speech by Atta Jaber to the Norwegian Refugee Council at the Internal Displacement Centre in Geneva, Switzerland between 18 and 20 March, 2013.

Thank you Mr. President/Madame President for giving me this chance.

For the past 24 years me, my family, my house and my land were subject to several attacks by Israeli settlers and Israeli Occupation forces.  My house was demolished in 1998 which left my family homeless; me, my wife, my three children (3 years, 2 years 4 months old).  Red Cross provided us with a tent in which we lived for over 5 months.  In 2000, I rebuilt my house and lived in my land again.  After this we were subject to many attacks by settlers, after these attacks my wife went through 3 abortions (miscarriages), my father had his leg broken, and my niece (5 years old) had her eye injured by a shard of glass.  Nowadays, the settlements Harsina and Navi Mimera are expanding on my land, which prevented me from accessing parts of land.

My health was terribly affected by these attacks, my wife lived in constant fear for her children and their future.  My children were deprived of their childhood and lived homeless, my family went through psychological pressure.

This is the suffering of many Palestinians living under the Israeli Occupation for the past 45 years who are subject to discriminatory policies by the Israeli Occupation that target our presence and life in our country and are violations to our rights as humans and as a nation living under occupation.

I come here today to present my suffering and the suffering of the Palestinians,  I come here to ask from the UN to preserve and defend my humanity and freedom.  I ask that they protect my right to live safely in my house and in my land, with my family.  All I ask is to feel that I am a human who belongs to this world and universe and my homeland Palestine.
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Judy D. on

What an amazing trip you are having. I hope, Linda, that you will be prepared to share your groups experiences with others when you return home. Love the pictures and the stories. Thanks!

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