Israel’s unrecognised villages

Something we found in the Guardian’s comments section:


But With Words Sharper Than a
Two Edged Sword


Memoirs of a Nice Irish American “Girl” in

Occupied Territory

On December 1st WAWA BLOG:

I offer you an excerpt from Chapter 1:

So, What’s a Nice Irish American Girl Like Me Doing in Occupied Territory?

In January 2005, during my second journey to Israel and Palestine, seven Americans and a Brit, rode in a van through the Kidron Valley on the un-maintained bumpy winding narrow roads that Palestinians must go, in order to reach Jericho and the Dead Sea. Our guide was from Beit Jala, a Christian community on the west side of Bethlehem who told us, “Do you know what is more dangerous to the Israeli government than a journalist? A tour guide, for we always tell the truth and cannot be censored!”

I know it sounds crazy, but on that bus trip through the Kidron Valley, I saw an upside down rainbow that was inverted above the mountain tops. I wondered if it were a sign from God confirming the fact that in this Orwellian world of Israel and Palestine: wrong has become right. After the rainbow vaporized from view, my traveling guide told me, “In Israel the only law is the law of the jungle. I have to apply for a permit on a monthly basis to enter Israel but any soldier can deny me access without giving me any reason. There are 190,000 Palestinian with Israeli ID s but they are all second class citizens. They can vote in municipal elections but not for Parliament. They cannot get a Passport; they must apply for Visa s…In July 2005 the first anniversary of the International Court of Justice s historic ruling affirmed The Wall and All of the settlements are grave violations of human rights and against International Law as well as obstacles to peace. Yet Israel continues to erect The Wall and expand its settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

On my second day of my second journey to Israel and Palestine, I rode upon the treacherous and the only way to the newly recognized village of Ain Hod, home to the locally famous Albeit Restaurant. The food is so good there that even the settlers will leave their smooth well maintained by-pass roads and travel up the mountain side upon a narrow winding rocky unpaved way that edges a cliff with a 300 foot drop.

The owner of the well renowned restaurant where many settlers dine on the weekend is Mohammed Abu Haija. Soft-spoken and patient, he explained the upside down illogic of the Unrecognized Villages. In 1948 when most of the indigenous population fled their homes and property, some citizens held their ground, dug in and nonviolently endured being treated like sub-human beings.

The Unrecognized Villages are not on any map and yet these people all have Israeli citizenship, pay taxes yet receive no services. The Israeli government had deemed these scattered villages as military zones and agricultural areas so homes were demolished, and people have lived for decades without water, electricity, schools or medical care. The Israeli settlers 400 meters away have swimming pools and every comfort known to man.

On the fortieth anniversary of The Declaration of Human Rights in 1998 Mohammed and others formed the Association of 40″ and they have worked in solidarity and nonviolently through the court system to be recognized, to receive water, electricity, roads and human rights.

In 2006, in Israel, there are still 100 Unrecognized villages with over 100,000 tax paying Israeli-Arab citizens who live in third world conditions.

While I was in Ain Hod, over one hundred residents from the Bethlehem district gathered in Beit Jala to protest against The Wall being built on their land. The building of The Wall in the city of Beit Jala had begun the week prior for “security purposes”, yet its route lies deep within Palestinian territories. A Coordinator of the Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance Conference and the former Director of Holy Land Trust, Sami Awad was detained and beaten by Israeli soldiers, he stated, “The Israeli occupation is sending a clear message to the Palestinian people, they don t want us to engage in nonviolent resistance because it truly exposes them and the injustice they are doing to the world.

The Wall is composed of 25 to 30 foot high concrete slabs with razor wire, trenches, sniper towers, electric fences, military roads, electronic surveillance, remote controlled infantry and buffer zones that stretch over 100 miles wide that deny Palestinians access to their land, families, jobs, and resources.

The Wall will completely separate Bethlehem and her sister villages of Beit Sahour, Beit Jala from the northern parts of the West Bank. Because of Bethlehem s significance to and historic ties with Palestinian East Jerusalem, Bethlehem s economic demise may well mark the beginning of the end of a viable Two-State solution. If The Wall is completed in this area, 4000 dunums of the areas most fertile land will be isolated in order to accommodate for the expansion and the building of the colonies/settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo. This means Beit Jala will have no potential for expansion.

This growing ghettoization of Bethlehem is not only destroying ancient communities, but the influx of nearly 900 new settlers, and plans for 30,000 new settlers to colonize the occupied West Bank, violates the Road Map, which prohibits settlement expansion. The Wall and all of Israel s settlement colonies are illegal under International Law.

Come, let us go and see this thing that has happened in Bethlehem

In 2000, during the Second Intifada, which is Arabic for Uprising photographer Debbie Hill captured George of Beit Jala, standing in the rubble of what had been his bedroom the night before. His photo ran in the Florida Catholic newspaper, and when I looked into his eyes, I heard in my heart: “Do Something.” It persists.

I had no clue what I could do, but I put a copy of that photo in a frame and set it upon my home altar: which is a bar high table in the upper room of my home, surrounded by candles and eclectic icons. I pass by his photo dozens of times a day, and all I do is sigh and groan, for I do not know what I ought to pray, but the Spirit intercedes with groans and sighs, deeper and more meaningful than any words. -Romans 8:26

In the year 2000, in Beit Jala, west of downtown Bethlehem some hopeless militants infiltrated the previously peaceful Christian village to shoot into the illegal colony of Gilo a few miles away. The Israeli Defense Force retaliated and the bedroom of George was decimated. The shrapnel that pierced the wall of his sanctuary read “Made in USA” and was delivered from American made Apache helicopters that buzzed over his head.

I first met George of Beit Jala in June 2005, shepherded by an Internet connection, George Rishmawi, a Palestinian Christian. My first trip to Israel Palestine was via my connection to the interfaith, non-profit Olive Trees Foundation for Peace, dedicated to raising awareness and funds to help replace the olive trees The Wall has brought down. I have been drawn to return three times since in less than a year since, to bear witness and report about the Christian Exodus.

During my initial visit with George of Beit Jala, I learned that he, his sister and mother all suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome, but most governments just consider that collateral damage. George s father told me he has no bitterness about what happened even though the snipers had not even been near their home. The most difficult thing for him was the lack of employment opportunities in Bethlehem and being dependent on relatives and friends to feed his children.

In June 2005, George and his sister Ghada were both painfully shy and neither was doing well in their school studies. But, when I visited them six months later, they both greeted me with the typical Mid East greeting to a friend; a hug and kiss on both cheeks. George was doing better in school, but Ghada was still frequently depressed and struggling. When I revisited them in March and November 2006 I was awed by the resiliency of childhood; both were laughing, playing with cousins and friends and making A s at the private Christian school they both attend, tuition paid by anonymous Americans.

The only way to security for Israelis and justice for Palestinians, is to end the occupation and ensure that all people have equal human rights. No enduring peace, no security, and no reconciliation is even possible without the foundation of justice. Justice requires mercy and is always nonviolent.