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Tuba's Dangerous School Route

The morning of May 29th, MPT team members made a two-hour hike over rugged hills to Bedouins camp of Tuba, a place east of At Tuwani in the south of Palestine, not far from the Dead Sea and the Negev Desert.

A Bedouin cave home on a craggy desert hill ledge

The Israeli government is trying to force all Bedouins off their lands and livelihoods and into nearby towns. MPT (working with Hafez - the local Palestinian organizer, Christian Peacemaker Teams [CPT] and Operation Dove - an Italian peace group) was present in Tuba to monitor the Israeli military escorting the Bedouin children on their walk to and from the elementary school, a dangerous route which takes them through the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’on . [CPT has done monitoring here for more than three years.]

CPT recommended MPT walk the longer distance from At Tuwani to Tuba, because last week there were two attacks by the settlers on Palestinians in the area. In the first attack 6 Israeli settlers attacked 3 Palestinian shepherds watering their flock. After the shepherds fled with their sheep and goats, the settlers used large stones to do damage to the cistern. In the second attack, 4 Israeli settlers again stoned 3 Palestinian shepherds who fled with their sheep and goats. This continual harassment by the settlers makes the Bedouins constantly worried and vigilant.

Midday May 29th, MPTers monitored the twenty children coming home through the Israeli settler area. The army jeep took them through the most dangerous section, but did not continue the entire distance near the large settler chicken coops.

The school trail begins at the At Tuwani village school, continues to the distance hilltop by the grove of trees [top left], moves left around the chicken coops, then gradually leds to the right
[lower right corner]. An Israeli army jeep leads the children through the top area above
the coops protecting them from unpredictable Israeli settlers.

Children coming home down the trail.

MPTers visited two families on their way to a third family, where they spent the night in their cave-home. The first family offered them tea and rich sheep milk. The second family hosted them with tea, pickles, bread, and delicious fried eggs. MPTers communicated very simply using Arabic dictionaries and the little Arabic Martha has studied. Walt helped the young boy with his English lesson. The family asked about Nicole, an MPTer who had visited there last week. They were delighted when MPT reported that Nicole said her best time in Palestine was with them. The 21 year-old daughter used the team’s phone to call her brother in Yatta. The family learned he had been picked up by the Israeli military when the car he was in passed an Israeli jeep. The family did not know the reason for the detention. [The next day MPTers met the father on a donkey on his way to Yatta.]

The father, concerned for his son, goes to Yatta. [Walt to left]

MPTers spent a quiet evening with Omar, his wife, and their beautiful children. The boys took the team to the cistern that had been damaged by the settlers.

A Bedouin lad explains the cistern damage to Walt and Eric.

Settlers damaged the cistern with large rocks.
They also learned the high cost of animal feed before Walt and Eric watched the milking of the sheep and goats. The boys, Eric, and Walt finished the evening with a game of volleyball.

The next morning, MPT monitored the children en route to school.

Donkey school transport

The girls bring up the rear. Settler homes at the top.

After school patrol, the 3 MPTers again took the long route back to At Tuwani. Seeing a shepherd in white, who appeared from a distance to possibly be a settler, MPT made an anxious call to CPT, who advised them that a friendly greeting usually indicated a Palestinian. After this advice and visual confirmation upon moving close, the team walked over to greet the amicable shepherd. The shepherd told them that his mother has been shot in the leg by an Israeli settler six years earlier.

About 20 minutes later on the route, Eric spotted an Israeli military jeep on the ridge above them. Three soldiers got out and called for the MPTers to come up the mountain, and then two of them slowly proceeded down to meet them. The interchange was friendly.

Israeli soldiers on Palestinian land check out MPTers
MPTers told them that they had been to Tuba to monitor the children being escorted to school by the Israeli soldiers and were on their way back to At Tuwani. The soldiers recommended the shorter route, but the MPTers stated they preferred the longer. The Israeli soldiers watched the MPTers from the top of the mountain for the next twenty minutes or until they were out of their sight.

The lives of the Bedouin children are far from easy. They have electric lights run by a gas generator a couple hours a week, but can see the electric lights shining every night in the illegal Israeli settlement across the way.

Lights from the settlement burn brightly.
They have dirt floors and no running water, yet walk daily past modern Israeli settler homes, yet an occupying nation must provide for the occupied people according to international law.

Martha and Eric near the tent at the entrance of the cave.
Their parents haul supplies by donkey from markets about 8 miles away, over very rough mountainous terrain. Both children and parents are constantly anxious that they will be viciously attacked by Israeli settlers. Having armed soldiers daily escort the young students because of fear of settler attacks must be traumatic for the children. What is the future for the Palestinian and Israeli children? Peace with justice is the right of all children, and this continues to be the work of MPT in the West Bank.

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