Category Archives: Other communities

A Jubilant Ramallah and Reality on the Ground

It’s UN vote day and, as I leave Ramallah to go to stay with my friends Boshra and Nargi in Nabi Saleh, the atmosphere is already festive in Ramallah. Pal flags waving, a stage going up in Arafat Square, a woman leading a small chanting crowd, boys wanting their photo taken. After the sombre grief that accompanied Rushdi’s funeral procession, when even the traffic was halted, and the demonstrations for Gaza, the Ramallah mood has changed just in the space of two weeks.

Announcing the new Palestinian state in Ramallah

Announcing the new Palestinian state in Ramallah

Palestinians happy about the new state of Palestine

Palestinians happy about the new state of Palestine

Being interviewed about the new state of Palestine

Being interviewed about the new state of Palestine

Later in Nabi Saleh, there is elation too as some shabbab* and family watch the news as the UN vote is announced. Ba’ha, the village’s best singer and a stand up comedian to boot, is practising new lyrics for the next day’s demo.

'Shebabb' (youth) cheer the UN vote

‘Shebabb’ (youth) cheer the UN vote

But the vote makes no difference to the Israeli Occupation Force’s behaviour at the Friday Demonstration, where the new lyrics celebrating the UN success are jubilantly sung to traditional tunes. Skunk water is in more abundance, there is no wind to carry it away, and we all run up the road as usual, while the shabbab take up their positions. The tear gas firing is relatively brief so everyone repairs to the hill (or mountain as they call it) overlooking the highway, Halamish settlement, and the village spring, to wait for the solders to disperse the crowd, which they eventually do. (Apparently they are going to train US troops with urban tactics…..I could do it at half the price – just make stinky clouds by shooting tear gas and add some rubber bullets for good measure. Then of course show them how to demolish houses, raze fields, and beat people up!)

Regular Friday protest about settler land seizures in Nabi Saleh

Regular Friday protest about settler land seizures in Nabi Saleh

Israeli army attack demonstrators, skirmish with local youths

Israeli army attack demonstrators, skirmish with local youths

But, no live ammo today.  We watch as one car below with an Palestinian flag waving from its window is stopped by the army below… this really the true picture? Statehood in name only?

The ‘demo’ ends, and the shabbab play football in front of Boshra’s house, she cooks a brilliant meal and we all sit on the floor to enjoy, spilling out in to the next room – no one is ever left out. It is the Palestinian way.

Friday meal, after the protest

Friday meal, after the protest

So what are the Palestinians thinking about the UN vote? I hear different opinions all round : from positive reactions or cautious approval to: ‘it’s a joke’. The last was from a taxi driver and probably reflects the cynicism of taxi drivers world wide!

Back in Ramallah, my heart lifts every time I see a Pal flag streaming from a shop, car, or servees, but the reality could be that it’s just a hollow victory. More importantly did it take another Gaza atrocity to give the Pals a limited entry to the international political circus?

Sorry, it’s the taxi driver coming out in me.

I leave Palestine with a heavy heart, but knowing I have learnt some amazing lessons in how to be human from the Palestinians; I am in awe of how they cope with the occupation of their land and their suffering brought about by denial of their human rights.

Stay human!

*’shabab’ is what Palestinians call the boys who harrass the occupation army by throwing stones at them. Shabab mean ‘youth’ in Arabic.

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Filed under Hastings Friends of Yatma, Other communities, Yatma

Gill Attended a Vigil for Gaza, in Ramallah

Gill writes from Ramallah:

“…..tonight  there was an impromptu gathering for Gaza In Manara square. I was the only foreigner there, but a candle was passed to me….

Vigil for Gaza in Manara Square, Ramallah

Candlelight Vigil for Gaza, Manara Square, Ramallah

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Filed under Gaza, Other communities

Beautiful Resistance – found in a Bethlehem refugee camp!

Bethlehem is a grim experience, as the tourists pile out of luxury to visit the religious sites whilst the Wall and the three refugee camps nearby continue to portray the reality of the Occupation.

Apartheid wall watchtower at Bethlehem

*Aida Camp – Alrowwad Centre

60% of Aida Camp’s 4,000 inhabitants are under 18, an extra growing pressure on the camp’s facilities. They suffer from lack of water and sewage networks, unemployment and overcrowding.

BUT in the midst of narrow cramped streets, with the omnipresent Wall, a Beautiful Non-violent Resistance can be found in the organisation of Al Rowwad – meaning ‘Pioneers for Life’.

“We do not have the luxury of despair, but the steadfast hope that we can make a beautiful change for our children and the generations to come”.

Alrowwad, is an independent, dynamic, community-based not-for-profit organization which strives to empower children and women by targeting behaviour, knowledge, concepts and practices through beautiful and non-violent means.

The centre provides art, drama, film and animation; arabic, maths and english lessons and women’s groups. They reach out to other communities with a Play Bus, hold summer camps and international cultural tours.

Lajee Centre

Another gem is the Lajee (meaning refugee) Centre focussing on training young people in arts and media skills and human rights workshops. They too have travelled abroad with their cultural shows and hope to go to Canada next year! At present they have a brilliant photography exhibition, the photos taken by teenagers, the youngest aged 11.

Anasta’s Guest House

We stayed in Anasta’s, slap bang in front of the Wall. The Christian Palestinian owners Johnny and Clare are determined to make the best of it.

Clare has harrowing experiences to tell especially from the 2nd Intifada. The guest house was going to be completely surrounded by the Wall with an electronic gate entrance, but when the diggers turned up (totally unannounced) they discovered a sewage pipe … the Wall had to be re-routed and the guest house is only surrounded on three sides!!

Her well-stocked shop includes traditional embroidery produced by women in the refugee camps – including one aged 80!

A vibrant fighter (non-violent!), she says that her faith keeps her going. Her children are still harassed by the army and the threat of eviction hangs over the whole extended family in apartments in the rest of the building.

Claire, opposite the guesthouse/shop

The Shop

*The Aida Refugee Camp was established in 1950 on 16 acres of land between Bethlehem and Beit Jala. Its name originates from a popular coffee shop of the same name located nearby. The camp’s 4,000 residents came from 17 destroyed Palestinian villages, largely from the western Jerusalem (Beit Natif, Deiraban, Ras Abu Ammar, Allar, Malha) and western Hebron (Beit Jibrin, Ajjour) regions. After the 1967 occupation, virtually all the camp’s residents were within a half-hour’s drive of their former homes, but none were permitted to return.

Entrance to Aida Refugee Camp, at Bethlehem

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Filed under Aida Refugee Camp, Al Rowwad, Lajee, Other communities, Refugee camps