From the hugely distressing situation, Ashar immediately started going into labour. “There was no help! everybody busy with demolishing”. Busy demolishing her home.
“When I arrived at Ashar’s home, there were 2 other women with her who welcomed us inside their tents. This was as the men came over and started having tea outside where we just were, as the women prefer private female company whilst discussing such issues.
Ashar is 18 and she is originally from Teisier. She has had 10 years of education. On the 25th March, the Israeli’s came to demolish her home. She was pregnant, and from the hugely distressing situation, she immediately started going into labour. “There was no help! everybody busy with demoliting”. She told me she was suffering considerably from the excruciating pain. They called the emergency services, and it couldn’t cross the checkpoint. The Israeli authorities at the checkpoint did not let the ambulance pass. All the while, Ashar was in tremendous amounts of pain. In desperation they started to call everyone they knew to find a car to take her to the checkpoint. Finally they arrived at the hospital. Because it took so long to get to the hospital on time, she became ill and had problems with the baby as she suffered from infections whilst giving birth. She was still in hospital a week after the baby was born. She constantly hears of others who have experienced recent demolitions. They also demolished the animal shelter they had to keep their animals.
She also told me about how the military kicked her neighbours out of their house – not giving them enough time to take their belongings with them – and they occupied the house with settlers. They just took their home until they finished their ‘military training’ last month. In terms of their water access, they told me they suffered a lot from the lack of water they have access to. They have to buy it from the Israelis in a tank transporter. It costs between 200 and 50 checkles. “It is so expensive” she tells me. They have many people in her family, approximately 30 people, and 300 goats. The goats are so they can earn a living, making cheese and milk. They need the water to take care of the children, animals, and to keep things clean. She described how its hard to also take care of oneself, as they have little time with all the other work they do.
The Israeli military train their army around this area. “We are afraid” she told me. They also damage their crops constantly with their ‘training’. Recently, there was a local woman who has recently had a baby. When they started to demolish her house, she told them “I have a new baby!” and they couldn’t care less. “They don’t care at all! She was left, in the sun, for many hours with the baby!” She told me they desperately need help with this problem from international activists. Her main concern was their access to water, as that is essential in maintaining their existence on their land. In such a hot environment, a huge amount of water is needed to keep their animals alive and to keep themselves hydrated. This is why the Israeli authority purposefully make it so difficult for them, to push them out of Area C and to colonise the land.”
“They came here to our house and crushed everything, they search everything! They took money if they found it. They beat my brothers” one of whom was 3 years old.
Jihan is 21 years old. She told her brother to fetch some tea as we sat down inside her home which was much cooler than the outside. A senior member of her family is the local mayor, and we sat around him as his younger family members gave us coffee, dished out to us one by one with one cup. As I finished mine, I handed it back to the Palestinian that was serving the coffee. Everyone giggled at me, and one of my Palestinian company whilst laughing told me I needed to shake the cup I had finished with before i gave it back. This was to indicate that I had finished. After learning a tiny bit more about their usual customs, which seem so different to mine, the women took us inside.
We interviewed Jihan as a couple of younger members of her family were gathering around us, curious to see what was occurring. As we were chatting, one of the little boys kept pressing the ‘enter’ button, ‘back space’ and ‘delete’, and kept laughing when he saw he was having an effect on my work. When we asked Jihan about her family, she told me firstly that she was not married. She hads 7 brothers, 2 sisters. One of her sisters is married, and two of her brothers are married. She has 4 newphews, 2 boys and 2 girls. When I asked if she had children, she said “No, as I said, i’m not married!”. I made a mental note of the cultural differences surfacing again as, unlike many Palestinians would, I didn’t assume she would be without children because she wasn’t married.
Johan is 21 years old, and from Irin Bedah in the Valley. She currently studies in university in and open university in Tubas. She studies economics, and does not have trouble with the transportation there. When we started discussing how the occupation impacted on their life, she told me how they could not build a good home, “with electricity and water in it”. This is because the Israeli military prevent them from extending, amending, improving their buildings and structures as they live in ‘Area C’.
3 of her brothers are employed in the Palestinian authority. 1 of them is in the police.. 22 years ago, the military arrived to demolish their house. They also demolished their animal shelters. “They came here to our house and crushed everything, they search everything. They took money if they found it. They beat my brothers” one of whom was 3 years old.” They do not bother with asking for permits as they know they will get no permission. “They prevent for anybody to build here. If they build anything they get a caution and a demolition order” They did not permit them to build again. A building they used many years ago not far was their new home which they can’t change, re build or add anything because of the building restrictions they – as they are Palestinians – are subjected to because the Israeli government put their land in ‘Area C’. If they anything, the Israeli military will demolish it. Additionally, the military prevent them from grazing their animals more than 100 meters away from their house. If they do, they are arrested and their animals confiscated – to be only returned by a large price for each one.
As for checkpoints, as they have proved their address here now, they have ID cards that Palestinians have to carry. Sometimes the checkpoints still cause her problems “They shut down, or don’t allow for everybody to cross. They look through our things”.
For water access, mostly people have to by from an Israeli company called Mekorot, This is 50 checkles for for 3 cubic meters. Also there’s a small spring that they can sometimes use for their cows, but not always. For health care, they have to travel to tubas to get any health care. She hears constantly about the Israeli military demolition houses locally.
“…and they beat them! They cover their eyes, tie them up, and take them away and throw them around.”
This woman did not want me to use her name because she was afraid of reprucussions form the Israeli authorities. She is 45, originally from Tubas but living in Ein El Hilwie. She has 6 sisters, and 2 brothers. She has 7 daughters and 3 sons. They all live here, and only one is married. Their day-to-day life is working in their home, cooking, cleaning and taking care of her sons, and taking care of the animals. With their animals, they make milk, cheese and yoghurt.
When I asked about her life, she replied saying that they were “very tired”. The settlers prevent them from grazing their animals and prevent us from moving. We can’t go anywhere!” Sometimes, she told me, the come to talk the young Palestinian men, their sons “…and they beat them! They cover their eyes, tie them up, and take them away and throw them around.” Two months ago, they took her son. They tied his arms behind his back and covered eyes; and then beat him. This is because her sons where grazing their animals, in land that is now closed to Palestinian access. Once, she told me, the Israeli Military took a young man from their neighbourhood, “and beat them very strongly, and left them to die!” The neighbours called the emergency services and luckily they managed to take him to hospital where his life was saved.
She told me that the reason they do these terrorising acts is because they want to put pressure on the Palestinians to leave the area so they can have it for themselves. They are always making problems for them, she says, so they can push the people to leave their area. When I asked about the settlements and military bases, she told me she is afraid of them. They tried to hide from them, as it’s difficult to face them, especially the settlers. She had settlements near her home and clearly felt threatened by their presence. When I asked about problems at checkpoints, she said she has had no serious problems they are led through after a while with their Palestinian ID. When we discussed demolitions in the area, she told me she had not had any, she heard of demolitions happening in fasayil, but this year she had not experienced demolitions.
The land they previously grazed their animals on is now classed as a ‘military training’ area or ‘firing zones’ which is a way of colonising the land – attempting to make it inaccessible for Palestinians. She told me the military didn’t ask them before they placed them all around her, “they didn’t ask anybody!” They demolished crops, and now people can’t graze their animals! Their animals are an important part of their live providing them with an income. Without a good income, this political oppression and ethnic cleansing tactics are causing Palestinians to be at risk of being pushed into poverty because of the occupation.
The army has given her husbands brother a demolition order on his house, giving him a caution.
Concerning water, there was a small spring but last year they started preventing Palestinians from using it. Now, people still use it – but in secret. This family, the woman told me, buy and bring their water from Ein El Betah. She told me it was approximately 250 checkles for 7meter cubic of water. For 20 days.
Surrounding Health Services, there’s mobile health clinic that came from the Ministry of Health. This travels around and they can access it 3 days a week. When I asked about emergency services for more serious health issues, such as women going into labour or someone having a heart attack, she replied saying they call the emergency services – but it is difficult for them to gain access here because of the checkpoints.
She received 6 years of education. Her chidren go to a school that is far away, which is around 20km away. A few months ago, the children used to go to school by walking, or by going on donkeys.
This year, the ministry of education gave the children a pass, where the bus collects te students and take them to school. However, this does not always happen, and they have to walk.When I asked about what the best way for international volunteers to help the situation, she said that if they can get the settlers to leave, that would be a big help. She has tried to get them to go away, but now she thinks that nobody can move them as they seem cemented here. Their existence here is confirmed and possible permanent.
“We live under military occupation, and we don’t want them to control us, we want to control ourselves, and we want to be free!”
We arrived at a house in Albereh village and went to Jamal amd Sahids house. Sahid has 2 sons, and 2 daughters who came outside where we sat on their front porch in a circle with the children keeping near their parents, occationally giving us a grin. They brought out the best coffee set which was beautifully decorated, and Jamals brother served us strong and sweet coffee as we introduced ourselves and what we were doing and started the interview. Sahid is 30 years old, 22 years younger than her husband. She is originally from Jordan, and 16 years ago she moved here and married. Her husband is from Albereh and has lived here all his life. Sahid has 7 sisters, and 2 brothers.
When I asked her about her life here, she told me she had a very “difficult life, very very difficult life”. Women like her who graduated from university have no opportunities because of the occupation, as there is no work suitable for their education. Now she is a house wife, and works for her house and her family. Her husband started working in a local settlement farm a year ago, on land which used to be his but now is confiscated, and now he works on it for the settlers. This land that he now works on was originally owned by his grandmother, and it about 56 square dunnams, 5km. He works for the settlers as this is the only way to earn a living. They offer no training, no contact, no rights, no insurance – and the work is dangerous.
Because of the occupation, they only have access to one clinic for small health problems. When children are severly ill they need to get through checkpoints to access health services – which can take a long time, simply because they are Palestinian. When women go into labour they need to get to Nablus, and a lot of women give birth at checkpoints because of the restrictions of movement.” They just keep us for a long time in the checkpoint, sometimes we have sick children, sometimes its so hot or too cold, but they don’t care about us”. No ambulances here. No emergency services. The clinic that deals with small health issues also closes at like 11 or 12.Their water is run by the Israeli Occupation Authority. When I asked what she felt when she saw the settlements and military bases around her, she said “We do not feel secure here; for me or for my children”.
Her sister in laws children were killed by an Israeli military car. We met this sister in law the next day for an interview, and the story made me very sad for them. Now she says she is afraid to go “with me children around the village”. They cannot build on their own land, or improve their current house. Palestinans in Area C have to apply for permits to build, Sadhirs husband applied for a permit over 20 times and each time they refused him.
Her husband told me that, because of the ‘military training areas’ and ‘firing zones’, those who have animals are not aloud to go military areas, which cover vast amount of past grazing land. They need to graze their animals. He also told me “they put fire on the mountains to prevent Palestinians to go on the mountains. And if Palestinians have land in that area, they make it a military training area and take their tanks and destroy it”.
Surrounding water access, they used to have a local spring that they used for free, but now they have to buy their water from the Israelis as all the main water resources are controlled by israelis. In the summer, she told me it can get very difficult with weak water resources and sometimes they just don’t have any. They do not have good access to water, usually it is just enough for drinking.
Her husband continues “Its our water, and our spring and we used to receive water for free, and the Israeli occupation authority, they promise to give us water for the cause, but no, they ask us to pay 3 checkles for each cubic meter. This is a poor community, who do not have a good house, of course they will not be able to pay for water.”
With the education for their children, sometimes the teacher arrive late because of the checkpoints, the Israeli military not letting them through. Sometimes they do not arrive at all becaseu they are not let through the checkpoints. When I asked them about recent demolitions, they said they have recently knocked down some of the Bedouin houses around them, only a few days ago.
When I asked how best international volunteers can help the situation, she replied that first of all “we need our own state. We live under military occupation, and we don’t want them to control us, we want to control ourselves, and we want to be free!”
The Bedouin women I had met the other day from Ein El Hilwie remembered me and welcome me with hugs and cheek kisses and smiles. They took me and another female volunteer to a separate tent to the men, even though my translator was a man and needed his company to communicate effectively. Even so, this segregation was implemented and they served us tea. This was in a tiny small tent with one chair, which they offered to me. After a little while, we all conjugated in the same tent to get started. I interviewed the oldest woman in the family, Rabirheh.
Rabirheh is 40 years old, and she is from Tubas but currently lives in Ein El Hilwie. She has 4 brothers and 3 sisters. She told me about how she earned a living, which was with their animals. All of her family work with the animals that they have, “we sell milk, we sell cheese, and I’m also working at the house doing domestic chores”. They milk the animals, graze them, make cheese, look after animals, it’s all hard work “Everything we do with our hands”
When I asked how she felt when she sees the settlements and military bases surrounding her, she said frustrated as they make life very difficult for them. “Because everything is not aloud, water is not aloud, feeding the animals in the mountain is not aloud”. If they graze their animals sometimes they arrest them and keep the animals until they pay a lot of money to have them back! They practically arrest their animals. The Bedouin need them back, this is how they make a living and each animal is worth a lot. She also told me that the military often beat the children. “They make a lot of problems for us. They prevent us from the water, from going to the mountain, from going outside our tents – they treat us like a chicken in a cage!”
She has water resources, 100 litres, and the IOF doesn’t allow her to use it. Currently, they bring it from the north of a Palestinian village, and pay 200 for each 10 cubic meter. There is a water spring in Ein El Helwait, and they are prohibited from using it. When I asked what would happen if she tried, she said the military would create a problem for them or the settlers. The military will arrest them, and settler or military may beat them. They need water, she said, for her animals to drink, for house use – everything needs water. The military also prevent them from collecting wood. Everything surrounding natural resources they prevent them from acquiring it – not aloud to use anything from their land surrounding them. When they graze their animals, the military set a perimeter of 1000 meters around their house where they can graze – this is simply not enough, and they know it is not enough.
When I asked Rabirheh about building restrictions, she told me that everything is not aloud – even the tent we are sitting in is not aloud – they have given her a demolition order and they will knock it down! They have also given one to my brother, who lives 300 meters away from me. She’s never paid for a permit to build, as she knows it will not be accepted and will be simply a waste of time. The ‘military training’ areas or ‘firing zones’ are huge areas that the military have classed as inaccessible to Palestinians, and have conveniently for them placed everywhere next to Palestinian communities on purpose, to cause fear and provoke them into moving. When I asked her how they affected her, she said “we are afraid for our children, livestock, and ourselves”.
When I asked her about health services, she replies, “Nothing, there is nothing, we don’t have electricity, don’t have water, and we do everything by hands.” Lastly, when I asked her what is the best way for internationals to help with the situation, Rabirheh replied that they have to help the Palestinians! To help manage their lives, which are full of such injustice. “They have to help us get rid of this occupation.”
We were invited inside the house by a Palestinian woman called Roussehn who was in her late 50s, and welcomed upstairs into her living room. It boiling hot outside, and her house was nice and cool, the living room was decorated beautifully with comfortable golden sofas, and after taking off our shoes we settled down to start our interview. Whilst I got my laptop out, her daughter served us delicious fresh orange juice and sat down to listen and take part in the discussion also. Roussehn is 57 and originally from Tubas. She has 4 sisters and 3 brothers, and her mother died a few months ago. She got married when she was 21 years old. She had 3 sons after she got married, and 3 daughters. Originally, she had four sons, but one of them died from Thalassemia – a genetic blood disease. Now, a 2nd son of hers has the same disease. She did not elaborate.
The Israeli’s, she told us, took a lot of their land in 1967 and caused them a lot of grief. More than 400 dunnams in Ein Bildah. They used to have a lot of land in the Valley, but now, their land is a part of Meholah settlement. On top of land which was once theirs, there is now Settlement houses. Then, Roussehn described how her oldest son was imprisoned for 9 years and he was released a few months ago. His release was because of an agreement between Israel and Hamass. His name is Mazen, and he was arrested in 2002. They claimed he was a potential terrorist, and that he was preparing bombs to kill people in Israel. She said, to be more exact, he was in prison for 9 years, 2 months and a few days. When he was first sentenced, they gave him 900 years, and transported him to Gaza. He currently lives there, he has no choice but to live there now.
Three days after arresting her son, she went on, the Israeli military demolished her house. This is because, she told us, they want to put more and more pressure on the families, and to terrorise them. Before his release, she visited him when she could – every time making the dangerous journey to Gaza. The 1st time she saw him after him arrest was 2 years into his sentence. When she visited him in the prison, she couldn’t touch him. She had to talk to him through this thick glass, and could barely hear him! She said he was “just like a picture”. And then she said to me, “they have everything under control”.
When I asked about his treatment, she replied that they treated him extremely badly, with frequent beatings and electricutions. But, apparantly this is normal.
Now, after his release, he is stuck in Gaza like a prisoner still. He cannot come back to his family. She said that in Gaza, at least he is in their country, he is still in Palestine. She and her husband last visited him 2 months ago where they stayed with him for 20 days. Her journey there was long and dangerous, to Arkaba in Jordan, to Akabey, and crossed Sinah. “This was the first time I saw him free after 9 years of imprisonment.” She says she can’t describe how she felt. She told me my friends from my country can help change the British perspective on the situation. “Because you come here and you see our situation, and you talk with people – you can take this information and bring it back to the UK and explain exactly what happened”. I said thats exactly what we hope to do by any extent. She said she thinks this way is perfect to try and correct what is going on, to create knowledge and reports about the Palestinian issue.
She then said; “I would like to ask you a few things”. She asked me what I would do. What would I do if I was faced with this; if my land was stolen, if my water was stolen, if my son was a prisoner and tortured, or what if perhaps my brothers were killed by the Israeli military – what would I do if I was treated like this. I said I would feel such complete rage and grief. My rage would be directed towards those who hurt the ones that I love. I said violence towards those who caused me pain would at first be preferable, but also irrational, as I find it self perpetuating. But – I would not be thinking rationally perhaps. I don’t know. I have not gone through anything remotely like this. I would try to organise some form of resistance – whatever I thought was most effective in terms of changing and imrpoveing the situation. To release some of the anger – engaging in what i thought was progressive action would be most appealing. This is why I’m a part of groups that support Palestinian existence on their own land. Because I already sympathise, I am already angry just by listening to her story, and I feel this is the best way that I can help.
Here I’m going to write down the interviews I’ve had in summary. I will write a more descriptive post when I have more time.
Hamdeh is 45 years old. She is a Palestinian Bedouin, and a single mum. The community have “no mercy”, because she spent 4 months with her husband, then she became pregnant, and he left. She says she has no man here to spend money or to help her with work and living, She has an only son. After the interview, me and him played football in the baking heat which he easily thrashed me at.
When we asked Hamdeh to tell me about her life, she told me that “All my life; is miserable”. She works in Ahaili, and all of her life she has worked, to build a good life for her son. She had to leave him with the neighbours when he was younger, whilst she had to work in settlements. She has to work in settlements just to have money to eat. “My life is very miserable” she says again.
She always worries about her son, especially when she was working in the settlements whilst the son was at their neighbours. What if he doesn’t sleep, or eat, or what is a snake attacks him? all the time she thought about him and his wellbeing. Now her son is 12 years old and doesn’t know his father. Because of settlement work, now she has injured her back and her foot
She told me that she has spent her life bringing in money, and therefore food, to keep herself and her son alive. “I am a worker, in the settlement, as one of the women. For me, I wish just for safety, not just myself, but for my son”. She gets paid 50 checkles a day, which is 7 hours of work and she has no insurance – no worker rights at all. The only reason we got to interview her was because it was Saturday and the settlements close on Saturday, so she doesn’t work. When I asked about the situation surrounding water access, she said water was a huge problem. They pay for water from tanks which is 100 checkles for 80 litres. She spoke again about the pain in her feet, back and hands, and describes how she has no medical services what so ever.
Her son went to a school in Elwai, a local one, and she wants him to complete his studies and go to university. She has had 9 years of education, and she went to the same school as her son.
When I asked her about recent demolition experiences, she says “I hear about demolitions nearly every day”. When I asked about Palestinians being forced out of their homes into refugee camps, she said everyone here in this village is a refugee.
When I asked her if she has seen children working in the settlement farms, she replies “no” and that she just goes there to do her specific work. She has her own car, and she travels alone to do her work and leaves again. She does not know if they come, perhaps she says, in the summer sometimes children work in settlements but she has not seen it. When I asked whether or not she received training or safety equiptment, she said they will show us how to do the work then they leave you to do it. The work is dangerous – but she has to work in order to get money. “If we don’t have money – we cannot live”.
When I asked her what kind of a movement she would like to build, she answered one so that women can live and not have to work in the settlements. Her child wants to go to university, but she does not have anything to protect her or her son from working in the settlements. If she does not work, he will spend his life here. He does not have any cousins. She said to me that she is not afraid of anybody – she’s just afraid of guns. Her heart is full and enough is enough.