Palestinian Protest in Bil'in

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

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Where I stayed
Iyad Burnat's House

Flag of Palestinian Territory  , West Bank,
Friday, April 5, 2013

It rained during the night and the wind howled continuously. When we got up the wind still blew and the clouds had descended onto the mountain.  We had slept in our clothes and had no chance for a shower etc.  We all stayed warm and dry but those who had slept in the cave awoke to water on the floor.  Fortunately there was a shelf on which they had slept during the night.  We gathered for breakfast in the cave meeting room.  We had the  usual for breakfast added to by homemade marmalade.   No pancakes today but pita bread with all the fixings.  After breakfast the group from France sang an Arabic song for us.  Then Amal, Daoud's sister, led us in a song in Arabic and in English to praise the Lord, Alleluia.  Then we all sang We Shall Overcome in English.  When we left to get in the taxis it was pouring down rain.

We proceeded slowly down the mountain because of the fog and rain and lots of curves in the road.  We retraced our steps back through Bethlehem and then around Jerusalem.  Outside of Bethlehem we stopped for Bedouin coffee at what I call the Starbucks of Palestine.  It was just a coffee urn by the roadside.  We skirted around Jerusalem and went through the city of Ramalah and finally arrived in Bil’in where the Oscar nominated film "Five Broken Cameras" was filmed.  Iyad Burnat was waiting for us in the middle of town to lead us to his house.  When we arrived we found a beautiful house with an even more beautiful family inside.  Tessahil (Tessa-heel), Iyad’s wife met us at the door.  We soon met the three sons, Majd (Madg-ed) 15,  Abdulkhalid 13, Mohammed 11 and Myard (my-yard) the 8 year old daughter.  They are handsome boys and a very pretty girl who are very polite and well-behaved.  I had a wonderful conversation with Majd who hopes to go to Oxford and study medicine or chemical engineering.  His eyes lit up when I told him I had taught boys his age.  When we arrived we had some time to sit and talk for a bit.  Then Iyad went to the Mosque for Friday prayer.  Friday is their holy day.  Iyad is the brother of Emad Burnat who made the film and besides Gibril, his son, Iyat’s  children were in the film as well as Iyad.

Behind Iyat’s house which is in a beautiful valley is the scar of where the wall used to separate them from the settlements.  Beyond that is the newer wall but it is much farther away.  Iayd told us that we would observe the Friday demonstration from a safe distance.  We walked through the orchard and up Freedom Street stopping at the shrine to the martyr Basser.  Then we walked across the scar and up the road.  We could see a cloud of tear gas over the tops of the trees.  When we arrived we could see some of the protestors and soldiers on the other side.  We saw the soldiers jeep and humvee.  On the other side of the wall were standing the children of the Orthodox Jews who live in the settlement which has 50,000 people.  We could hear them but they were there to cheer on the soldiers.  The whole settlement is Orthodox Jews who do nothing but pray and have very large families, 12 or more children.  They don’t have jobs at all but are supported by the government.  It is so paradoxical that they have luxury homes with swimming pools etc. and the Palestinians have to have water tanks on their roofs because they can only get water about every six days. 

As we got closer we started to smell the tear gas as the whole time we were walking toward the demonstration.  The wind was blowing toward us and soon we started feeling the effects in our throats and in our eyes.  It got to be quite intense and our eyes watered and burned and it made out throats hurt.  Iyad kept getting us out of the path of the tear gas.  We stayed and observed for about 45 minutes.  We met people from France and an old Jewish couple from Israel who came to observe the demonstration.  This is where we met Gibril from the movie who is very quiet and who said to us that he does not speak English.  His father was in Switzerland so we didn’t get to meet him.  As we headed back to Iyad’s house we stopped at his brother’s farm.  There was a tent in the field where his brother, Khalid, and his cousin from Germany offered us tea.  They spoke passionately about ending the occupation.

When we returned to the house a feast was waiting for us.  She made two traditional dishes, Kabsa and Maqluba (mack-loo-bah).  They were upside-down dishes with Egyptian rice in one and Basmati rice in the other.  They both had chicken and vegetables but different seasonings.  Of course it was served with yogurt and pita.  Beneath the house in what would be our basements, they have four sheep, a lamb, and a she goat with two kids.  The lower level opens out into the orchard where the sheep can graze as long as someone is watching them. 

After our meal and much conversation Iyad took us on a walk through the village.  We walked up, up  and up past Basser’s house and graffiti in memory of him.  We walked past the Mosque which is very big for village this size.  The grave yard is next to the mosque.  Just down the street is a grocery store owned by Iyad’s family.  They live above the store and until they moved into their own home Iyad and his family lived there too.  We stopped at the Community Media Center where we were offered hospitality again.  While Iyad checked his email, because the internet is not working at the house, we talked with the man at the center and the young man who had just uploaded his pictures from today’s demonstration.  They were amazing.  We walked back and had some time to play with the children and talk.  At about 7:00 they asked us if we are ready for another meal.  We hadn’t eaten until 3:30 so we just had pitas with condiments.  One of my favorite was fresh cut oregano with toasted sesame seeds.  You dip your piece of pita in olive oil and then in the oregano.  We ate this meal around a fire on the front patio.  We talked and talked and talked.  Other cousins of Tessahil joined us with their children.  Where the house is, in land given to them by Tessahil’s family.

When we came back in there were mattresses on the floor, men in the living room and women in the living room.  The children were still up and playing and we didn’t get to bed until about 11:00.
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Toni on

How fascinating to meet and eat with such interesting people. I pray every day that somehow all the fighting will someday end. ALso I pray for the safety of you and your companions on your journey.

Derek Haas on

It sounds like you got the full Bil'in experience. Cool!

Pam Smith on

It's a joy to "be there" via your writing and pictures Linda.

Mary Ellen Koenn on

Safe travels. Wonderful pictures. Such a great experience.

Sara on

Your blog and pictures are so helpful to keep connected with you. Know of lots of prayers surrounding you and those you are with.

Trina Shultz on

I was recently on a tour and never got to expereince what ou are getting to see (: So interesting and thanks for sharing. Please tell Paulette hello and keep up the good work! Peace and love.

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