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MPT presence at the Al Kurd's in East Jerusalem

The Fall MPT 08 team was asked to spend some time as a peaceful, protective, presence at the Al Kurd home in East Jerusalem. The home is part of the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood that was constructed in 1956 by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and the Jordanian Government for the Palestinians that were displaced after the 1948 war. There are 28 of these houses in the Sheik Jarrah area. When the homes were built, the refugees were offered ownership of the houses if they relinquished their food assistance from UNRWA for three years.

The Al Kurds are the owners of these two connected homes. The Israeli settlers have illegally occupied the part that is entered by the double doors to the left.

The father of Mohammad Al Kurd received the house and raised his family there. As a young man, Mohammad brought his 15-year-old bride, Fawzieh, home and later they inherited the house from his family. Fawzieh and Mohammad raised their five children in the house, renovated and planned to divide it into sections so one of their sons and his family could continue to live with them, as they grew old.

Fawzieh and Mohammed Al Kurd

Mohammad Al Kurd is now in poor health. He has diabetes, a heart condition, and is partially paralyzed after a stroke. While he was hospitalized in 2001, a group of Zionist settlers broke into part of the house and took up residence. The action was part of an ongoing struggle by a Sephardic Jewish organization to take over this area of East Jerusalem that is historically Palestinian

Another settler has come to visit the settlers illegally occupying part of the Al Kurd home.

After the six days war in 1967, a group of Jewish settlers filed false claims to the land and registered it with the Israeli Land Registrar. This began legal proceedings to determine who had a clear title to the land and if the Jordanian Government had the right to build there. There have been claims and counter claims, eviction notices for both the settlers and the Al Kurd family, and appeals as high as the Israeli High Court (comparable to our Supreme Court.) Intricacies of the legal details would interest only lawyers, but by 2006, after extensive legal proceedings, it was clear that the settlers did not own the land and the Land Registrar agreed to revoke the settlers’ 1972 registration of the land.

When an order of eviction was executed against the settler family, another Israeli Zionist family was installed in the house to replace the one just removed. This has continued for 7 years. The current family has four young children who are understandably confused and hostile to outsiders. The mother and father speak English and it seems they are American immigrants to Israel.

Settler children are sometimes used by their parents to harass others.

Visiting settler children near the "harvest tent" set up in the patio by the settlers for a Jewish feast.

Settlements in Jerusalem contravene both international law and the ‘Road Map” established in the Oslo Peace Accords. The United Nations recognizes East Jerusalem as occupied territory. Therefore, it is subject to the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and consequently rejects Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem. Israel signed onto the Geneva Convention in 1951.

UN Security Council Resolution 446, Article 3, “Calls once more upon Israel, as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to rescind its previous measures and to desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status and geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and in particular not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories.”

In spite of the Geneva Convention rules, international law, the US Government’s objections, and the UN Security Council Resolution, the Israeli government is moving settlers or “colonists” into areas that are occupied Arab territories. The settlers’ sold their claims to an investment company, Nahlat Shermoun. In February of 2008, the company filed a plan to the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem to demolish the 28 homes and build a commercial center and 200 settlement units for new Jewish immigrants. We gathered information from local and on-line sources that indicate the primary backer and owner of the company is Irving Moskowitz, an American millionaire based in Florida. He is the owner of Hawaiian Gardens, a casino in a small, poor, Latino town outside of Los Angeles. He transfers the gambling profits to a non-profit foundation that supports extremist views and opposes the peace process. According to the Jewish News Weekly (Sept. 1997), he is also a long-time friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to become the next Prime Minister of Israel. Therefore, we have a retired Jewish doctor, living in Florida, responsible for evicting an aging Arab family living in East Jerusalem, in order to fulfill an ultra-orthodox and extremist vision of what Jerusalem should become, and delaying the peace process in the interim.

MPTers enjoyed great meals with the family. This was a special breakfast in the patio.

The Al Kurd family has consistently worked through legal means and non-violent resistance to keep their home and maintain their family life and values. They gather with family and international support for meals in the courtyard outside the two rooms that are left to them. Fawzieh, or Kamal as she is often called, speaks to groups in that courtyard and tells of her long struggle to keep a piece of her heritage and identity.

This year and half year old granddaughter is the pride of her grandparents, the Al Kurds.

This is the first of four parts on the Al Kurd family accompaniment. Three blogs follow this one.

Security or Intimidation

To reach the courtyard of the house, you leave the sidewalk and pass a guard in a tiny boxlike room perched on the roof of a neighboring structure. You then go down a steep flight of old stone stairs, past the back of several homes, through a small playground, and down a long narrow corridor between houses. The blue and white flags of Israel mark the territory for the settlers but we did not see a Palestinian flag. From the moment, you leave the street you are under surveillance from either guards or closed circuit cameras.
Surveillance camera at the entrance to the Al Kurd's patio

Armed guard at the end of the entrance way to the Al Kurd's patio

For seven years, the Al Kurds have watched an armed guard walk past their house every half hour, day and night. These are private security guards, hired to protect the settlers. I spoke with one guard whose family brought him to Israel from San Francisco when he was twelve. They are young; many are students. They use the long, uneventful nights to catch up on their studies. They know the guns are unnecessary. They are there to intimidate, not protect. They know this. When stopped and informed that he did not need a gun, a guard just laughed. They have finished military service. Guns and intimidation are part of the culture to them. They are paid to provide security even though there is no threat.

Armed guard making his half hour rounds.

Armed guard. The apparatus on the pistol makes for more accurate shots.

Armed guard on the roof of the only Israeli settler home in the area.

Another view of the settler home above the Al Kurd patio. It was reportedly purchased for several million as a first step in gaining entrance into the complex.

In July, as legal pressures were mounting, and an order of eviction for the Al Kurds was issued, a group of international activists took up residence in the courtyard. Beautiful painted banners surround the area. The banners proclaim their determination not to be displaced again. They are committed to this place they call home. The Al Kurds have turned down offers of several million dollars, if they would sell and leave Sheik Jarrah.

The banner in the patio reminds all who enter that the family will never leave. The family gives hope and courage to the other residents in the complex.

Palestinians who continue to stay in East Jerusalem face a harsh struggle.

Home invasions, the illegal apartheid wall, and settler violence are part of the apartheid system.

There are two tents and mattresses to catch a nap between shifts. An international is on watch at all times. If the guards can patrol with guns, a peaceful presence should be as alert and available to people who want justice. We shared our space with activists from countries as far apart as Austria and Iceland and so many places in between. We learned that the Al Kurd’s story is being discussed internationally and indignation is mounting. Along with the United State, Mahmoud Abass, Palestinian President has denounced the takeover of Palestinian property. His aid wrote, “Such a development would deal a death blow to the peace process. http://www.palestine-pmc.com/details.asp?

Tents on the patio for internationalsTents on the patio for internationals. Chairs for the many daily visitors.


international visitors

MPTers in tent on patio of Al Kurd's home

While staying in the tent in the Al Kurd’s family courtyard, there were many visitors from a variety of countries. All came to hear the story of the occupation of the house and some came to support the family, spending time in the tent. Visitors came from Estonia, Hungary, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Austria, Germany, South Africa and the United States. Two groups of Christian pilgrims came to understand the suffering of the Palestinian people as part of the Way of the Cross. Some days there was a group in the afternoon and then another in the evening. One evening Harvard University student lawyers came with El Quds University law students and professors to investigate the legal situation. A Greek Orthodox Bishop came with members of his church to spend hours with the family. A group of Jewish people came with others from Israel, Europe and the United States. These groups were often accompanied by Palestinians, sometimes people of the neighborhood. The mother in the family graciously explained the story of their home again and again, often bringing thick coffee or tea with herbs for her guests. She repeatedly said she would be glad to share the neighborhood with members of any religion that were legally there but asked only for justice and her home to be returned.

Neighbors and Internationals were daily visitors to the Al Kurd home

Some people who came as peaceful supporters of the Al Kurd family, had been involved in the olive harvest had stories to tell us of Israeli settler and soldier violence. A woman who had been in Palestine about 6 weeks told us that in her time here she had known of at least one killing a week of Palestinians, either by Israeli soldiers or settlers. Some of those killed were children or teenagers. She had a good grasp of the political scene here, and what she saw and heard had a profound impact on all of us. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights does a weekly report on violation of human rights in Palestine. The week of October 16 to 22, was particularly bad. http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/W_report/English/2008/23-10-2008.htm

Internationals and Palestinians picking olives near an illegal Israeli settlement

There were visitors from different French groups who had been involved in the olive harvest. At a place where there had been particularly harsh treatment by the Israeli settlers, Israeli soldier arrested three international women of color (two women of Arabic family origin and one black woman from France) and an Israeli woman. They had been called racist names by the settlers. Michelle, the Frenchman, was irate about this kind of language and the physical abuse toward the women. The problems Palestinians have in harvesting the olives and a mention of the aforementioned incident was made in a BBC broadcast. BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/7679399.stm

This pleasant scene was unusual in a particularly violent season in the olive groves near illegal Israeli settlements.

A group of internationals, some of whom visited the Al Kurd family after being harassed and arrested when helping to pick olives with Palestinians near settlement.

Although the time in the Al Kurd courtyard was a bit secluded, we were able to listen and learn from others about their experiences in Palestine.

At the playground

On a warm Sunday morning, about 10:30, a Palestinian mother came running to the Internationals’ tent calling in Arabic and a few English words; “baby” and “camera” were understood. Our group from the United States, France, and Great Britain responded quickly. Arriving at the play lot, we found that a settler mother had shaken and frightened a small Palestinian child, in order to remove her from the swing set. The mother wanted her own children to use the swing and was swinging her own children while the little girl cried. It was another act of insensitivity and dehumanization faced by the Palestinian community but this time it escalated.

Zionist settler mother and children

Settler mother and children

Playground Dispute

Four of the security guards appeared and soon they were joined by the Army, Israeli police, and Border Patrol. We watched in amazement as a phalanx of armed men intervened in a playground dispute. The Palestinian children stood wide-eyed staring at the guns. The settler mothers began shouting and defending their position, saying that the land and the play area was theirs. The police and Border Patrol demanded the passports of a French Couple and asked why they were in the West Bank.

Israeli soldier and border patrol

Private guards at playground

The Zionist mother that is living in the Al Kurds house had not been present when the incident occurred. This did not stop her from joining the diatribe and insisting that she owned the house and that she had not hit anyone’s child. Mothers and children

The Palestinian women and police moved slowly down the hill and began negotiations to settle the problem. Soon, a compromise was reached and order was restored. It was awe inspiring to see a distraught mother speak quietly and persuasively to authorities and bridge the gap of such disparate power. She was hugging a frightened child and the army was hugging their rifles. It was a powerful reminder to us as Americans that we must always be Palestinian led in our actions. We have more to learn than to teach.

Palestinian mother negotiating


Two Demonstrations

Two Demonstrations in the two villages of Bil’in and Ni’in west of Ramallah October 10, 2008

Map of the area north and west of Jerusalem and Ramallah

Thursday, October 9th, the MPTers rode on a small bus to Bil’in a town to the west of Ramallah. To their surprise and delight there were nine French people singing lively music from their Provence region of France. We all spent the night on mats in Bil’in and the next day went together to the two demonstrations.

On the map above, first locate the dotted green line [along the western border] , which is the official 1967 boundary of the West Bank of Palestine. Then locate the red line to note the annexations of land that have been made inside the green line since 1967. [Dark red splotches indicate illegal Israeli settlements.] [A larger map at http://www.ochaopt.org/ or www.passia.org/palestine_facts/MAPS/newpdf/WestBankWall.jpg can be used for a more detailed explanation of the total situation.] Jerusalem is in the middle bottom of the map. Ramallah is northeast of this. West of the town of Ramallah, locate a ring like piece marked with the dotted green line. Above it is a large bite into the land, with large red splotches. The villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin are in the area just outside the red line near these splotches.
Thursday evening a principal organizer of Bil’in, Abdulla, gave our group the background on Bil’in. Bil’in is a small village of 1,800 people who in 2004 lost more than half its land to illegal Israeli settlements. Under the guise of security, an illegal apartheid separation barrier/wall was built to separate the confiscated land. Since 2004, the village of Bil’in has persistently and non-violently protested this illegal wall and the confiscation. Each Friday, protesters from the village and Israeli and international peace activists are present at the creative demonstrations against the barrier/wall. The village has persevered in the protests because they continually meet on Friday. They are united despite varying political party affiliations. They have youthful leaders with creative responses, and they have the continual support of the media and of Israel and international peace activists. During the protests, tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound bombs are repeatedly used. If Internationals are not present, live ammunition can be used. More than 60 villagers have been detained or arrested, some for several months, and there have been over 1000 injures – some to the same villagers. The village has been invaded by Israeli soldiers who have imposed curfews and destroyed olive groves. In spite of all the violence used against them, Bil’in has been recognized internationally for their continued use of non-violent resistance. They consider it “Gandhi style” resistance.

Flags with symbols opposing the illegal apartheid wall lead the march to the wall
Protesters move back up the hill after being tear gassed, but tear gassing continued. One feels unable to breathe with tear gas, but eventually the feeling leaves.

Israeli army jeeps patrol one side of the illegal fence/barrier. Protesters have cut the illegal fence many times.

Youth knocked out by tear gas. It took a long time for them to revive.

This young man needed special attention to revive from the tear gas. While being taken to an ambulance, the army fired tear gas at the ambulance.

The village of Bil’in has a case before the Israeli High Court, which declared the land confiscation and the barrier/wall illegal in September 2007. To date, Israel has done nothing to abide by the order of their own court but has continued to expand building in the settlement. The Bil’in villagers have legal proceedings in Canada against two Canadian construction companies which are building the illegal Israeli settlements on the confiscated land.


After the Israeli War of 1948, the village of Ni’lin lost 60 percent of their land to Israel. After the 1967 War, they were left with about 1/6 of the original land. The confiscated land was used for illegal Israeli settlements and the apartheid barrier/wall. A new wall being built now for more confiscated land will leave the village with about 1/30 of the original and the village will be encircled by the wall with only one entrance, giving full military control in and out of the area.

In the past few months, the village of Ni’lin has been the site of protests similar to that of Bil’in, but with even more excessive use of force by Israeli military forces against Palestinians, Israeli and international human rights activists. Scores of people have been arrested. The Israeli military shot and killed a ten-year-old boy with live ammunition and another seventeen year old boy with a rubber bullet, both at close range. Neither boy was armed nor stone throwing, but trying to hide. [There is no investigation of these August deaths] Numerous olive trees have been bulldozed.

MPTers walk with the French protesters to join the large Israeli activist group trying to pick olives near the illegal apartheid wall.

Journalists in a demonstration are of utmost importance for the protection of the Palestinians and other protestors. Video cameras are very important.

Illegal Israeli settlements on confiscated land. Olive trees on the village side of the wall are off limits for picking. MPTer video taping to the left. The “mist” is tear gas receding.

Protesters moved away from the heavy tear gas, but several suffered from gas inhalation. An ambulance was called.

Two Israeli activists were handcuffed behind the jeep for trying to pick olives on village land near the illegal apartheid wall.

An Israeli activist who persistently is at demonstrations was handcuffed and detained. Those Israelis detained are tried under the separate Israeli legal system and may spend a short time in jail. One Israeli man suffered a wound on the arm but luckily did not have a broken bone. This man spoke to us of the U.S. and Israeli collusion in the occupation.

The villagers of Bil’in continue to support the villagers of Nil’in in their struggle for survival. The villages are places of hope because of their ongoing struggle for their land and livelihood. Despite fear for their very lives and that of their children, the people of these villages continue the expectation that someday the Israeli occupation with all the oppression will end.


Kafka in Palestine

What if, one morning, you woke up to find that you were no longer in the same country in which you had fallen asleep? However, you did wake up in the same bed, in the same house, and it is your family gathered around the breakfast table. Your home is now in another country. The country where your property now exists is upset with you because you do not have a permit to be in that country. They will not issue such a permit because you are not of the same nationality as the people in the new country. Like it or not, because your home is now in the new country and your building permit was only legitimate for the old country, the government of the new country has issue a demolition order for your home.

You have been assessed a fine for building without a permit. The fine is equal to $5,346.82, (US dollars) payable at $53.47 per month for 100 months. If you do not pay the fine on time and in full, a warrant will be issued for your arrest and you will be apprehended and sent to jail. However, even if you pay the fine there are no guarantees that your home will not be demolished anyway. If your home is demolished, you will also be assessed a fee for the bulldozer which destroyed your home. If that fine is not paid within 91 days you will have to go to jail and the original fine will automatically double and become immediately due and payable in full!

View across the valley toward the original village

Even though, on paper, your home and most of your ancestral village has now been annexed to the other country, the official border crossing between your home and your work is still in effect. A wall with checkpoints, similar to airport security, is being built between your work and your home. There is no work on the side where you live because the neighboring country has slowly but steadily choked the economic life out of your original country. You suddenly have to cross a border to be in the country where, on paper, you live. Nevertheless, on this morning, when you try to cross the border you discover that your permit to pass between countries has been revoked. You cannot pass the checkpoint to work, even though you technically live in that country. So now, you no longer have the ability to provide an income to support your home and family. You have to pay to live in a country where you have no rights, only obligations: a country that will not provide basic services or security because their interests are to maintain ethnic purity.

This is not an unpublished story by Kafka, all of this is occurring with the knowledge, consent and financial backing of the government and people of the United State of America. As bizarre as it may sound, this is happening today between two cities many people consider sacred: Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

This is the plight of many Palestinians living in the occupied territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. What does a Palestinian do when his home, his land and his livelihood are stolen and life, as he knew it, is eroded slowly and methodically? All turn to resistance, a few to violent resistance but most to nonviolent resistance as in the case of Ata from the village of Al Walaja.

Even Kafka would be amazed at this entire scenario because Al Walaja, in fact, is not really Al Walaja. The original village of Al Walaja was on the other side of a deep wadi (canyon or deep ravine) to the northeast of its present location. The original village, which had existed for many centuries, possibly dating back to the time of Christ, was destroyed in the war with Israel in 1948. The residents were expelled and moved the village to its present location. Although on the other side of the valley, it is still on the village lands of ancient time. Therefore, even though it was a new village they kept the ancestral name of the old village. Both the village of old and new are located between Bethlehem, which is in Palestine, and Jerusalem, which is in Israel.

However, in 1967 Israel expanded the municipal borders of Jerusalem to incorporate about half of the new village including the portion know as Ein-Jweisa (which is where Ata’s home is located.) None of the villagers were informed of this annexation until 1985. This is why Ata woke up one morning to find that he wasn’t living in Palestine, as he had believed but was now actually an Arab resident of Israel. Between 1967 and 1985, Israel had given no indication that Ein-Jweisa had been annexed to Israel and no services were ever provided by either the Israeli Military Government or the Jerusalem Municipality.

The home in two countries

Since 1985, the Israeli government in their land-grab scheme has perpetrated a consistent program of harassment of the villagers in an attempt to force the current residence to leave their ancestral land to the Israelis for them to construct yet another new settlement. To this end Israel has already demolished 29 homes and the Israeli government will not issue new building permits so if the owners of a demolished home attempt to rebuild the new home it is automatically placed under a demolition order. Additionally, 55 homes are currently laboring under demolition orders and a number of animal sheds have also been destroyed. Exorbitant fines have been imposed on the villagers. Numerous arrests have occurred (initially 22 followed by another 84) resulting in convictions and imprisonment after being pressured to sign documents acknowledging that they were illegally present on Israeli land. The Israeli government is doing this to secure the village lands in order to expand the number of Israel settlements.

View toward Jerusalem

Israel has also discontinued issuing magnetic identification card to Ein-Jweisa residents. These are necessary to cross into Israel and to apply for permission to work in Israel. Buses and private vehicles have been impounded and the drivers arrested. Exorbitant fines and fees have been assessed to get out of jail and reclaim their vehicles. Israeli Traffic Police issue citations for actions which are legal in Palestine but which are not legal in Israel. More exorbitant fines follow. The Israeli military closed the main road from Al Walaja to Bethlehem which ran through a Cremisan Monastery and Winery. One month after the Italian government had paid to resurface the road the Israeli bulldozers arrive and completely destroy it forcing all transit between Al Walaja and Bethlehem to detour along a much longer route.

Olive trees in foreground, village in background

The residents are nonviolently resisting by hiring an urban planner to design a master plan for the village and surrounding area and an attorney has been hired to adequately represent the interests of Al Walaja in the Israeli court system. In response, Israel has threatened to impose the Absentee Property Law used to confiscate the lands of Ein-Jweisa, stating that the residents are not legally present.

Only the local Palestinian press covers these issues in any depth. The International Press does some unbiased coverage. The American press focuses on any violent resistance (e.g. rock throwing) and finds the non-violent resisters less newsworthy. Violence seems to “sell” in America better than content.

The youngest son, in the shadow of the wall

This narration could continue with more details about the difficulties and frustrations that these villagers live with on a daily basis. Appeals to international communities, especially the United State go unheeded. The power is on the side of the occupying nation, Israel. The United States, with large aid packages, has supported these actions without adequate criticism or demands for restraint and justice for the occupied. Since the Palestinian lobby is not as influential as some other lobbies, a change in US governmental policy will be difficult to accomplish. International law in this case is being ignored by Israel and the United States.


A visit to the sixty year old Deheishah Refugee Camp

The British issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, to create a homeland for the Jewish people. In 1922, The League of Nations supported the same idea. Then in 1947, a young international organization, the United Nations, replacing the failed League of Nations, declared there would be a state of Israel. This was not a new idea. Various factions of European Jews had been planning a homeland for almost a century.

After the 1948 Israeli war of independence followed by the Nakba (the expulsion of Palestinians from land taken by Israel) many Palestinians, were compelled to leave their homes. They simply locked the doors and left everything intact expecting to be back in a few months. Palestinians in the north went toward Syria. In the south, they traveled to Egypt. People from 42 villages and 10 cities moved to a “mountain” in Bethlehem. With the keys to their homes in their pockets, they began to form a community. They tried to understand what had happened to force them from property they owned. They looked for an explanation and a date when they could return.

Wall mural

As they began to congregate, there was no shelter. People slept outside doing their best to survive. After two years, the Red Cross provided one small tent per family, which averaged six to ten people. In 1952 the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was formed specifically for Palestinians. UNRWA stepped in to run the camp and in 1957, it began to build permanent structures - a room three meters square for each family. Now the families averaged ten people in a tiny room. Bedding and food piled against the walls, there was barely enough room to lie down to sleep. Communal latrines were provided for every 125 people. Women had their facilities and men theirs. However, the Muslim women could not walk to the bathroom alone and needed a father, brother, or husband to accompany them to the location. They waited in lines for the bathroom, they waited for food, and they waited to return home.

Outdoor privy

By 1967, houses replacing the 3-meter square boxes were going up. However, the Israeli government limited the height to one story. They could not spread out and they could not build up. Then in 1982, Israel built a fence topped with razor wire, to surround Deheishah.

The people were confined to one square kilometer with one gate to enter and one to leave. These two metal turnstiles were open from 7am to 7 pm. Armed soldiers were posted at the gate to check all IDs.. Israeli army invasions into the camp happened regularly day and night.

Turnstile formerly controlled entrance and exit

Jobs, education, food were all outside that one gate. Almost everything they needed was outside the gate -almost everything. Family, community and hope were still inside the gate. Lack of the basic amenities of life, overcrowding, and daily humiliation were and are a fact of existence for those in Deheishah Refugee Camp. The fence was removed after the Oslo Accords of 1995, but sporadically the army breaks into homes, beats the occupants, destroys property, and uses whatever means they can to intimidate and terrorize. There are no warrants, not even explanations in most cases. International law is broken and violations are documented by the United Nations, by Amnesty International, by scores of international and even Israeli peace groups. But nothing changes. The only noticeable improvement, with the help of U.S. aid, is in, the weapons of oppression.

Sixty years after its inception, there are 12,000 people (6,000 of them children) living on one square kilometer of land. They have built up but cannot build out. Israeli rockets were fired into Deheishah destroying homes that were rebuilt almost immediately. Some of the buildings seem to be held up with just the fortitude of the occupants. How many times can one family have its home taken without some form of reprisal? Yes, there is anger at the injustice. And yes, there is stone throwing. The response from the Israeli army, the fourth largest military power on earth, is not marked by restraint. The people resist the occupation by refusing to accept their loss as the final decision. They wait.

There are two schools for 1,800 children, 25 teachers, and 65 to 75 students in a class. There are no green parks or fields to fly kites, Small pockets of greenery are carefully tended The children play in the narrow lanes under the rubble left by the rockets and the pictures of martyrs.

A martyr is anyone who dies because of the occupation. Stone throwing by children and young men has been met with live ammunition returned by trained soldiers. Yesterday’s playmate can quickly become tomorrow’s martyr. A martyr could also be the baby that died without medical care at a checkpoint or the mother who lost a child while in labor at a checkpoint, denied access to medical care. These are documented occurrences. It is a community, and if you listen, the people remember the names of the dead and the cause of death, even though the American press does not.

The people of Deheishah organized a clinic sponsored by Japan with a minimum fee charged for services.

Within Deheishah, there is one free clinic with one doctor and two nurses for 12,000 people. If that is too crowded, and outside help is needed, young Israeli soldiers at checkpoints can be arbiters of who lives. This is not what a soldier is trained to do. It is not what a soldier should be asked to do.

Many Palestinians who worked in Israel before the illegal apartheid wall was built are unemployed. At times seventy five percent of adults are unemployed in the camp. How can you hold a job when you do not know if you will receive a work permit or if it will take a half an hour or four hours to get through the checkpoints to work? Curfews are imposed that can prevent families from leaving their homes for any reason. The longest curfew imposed in a camp, was in Deheishah. They were under curfew for 48 days straight in 2002. Leaving home for any reason, food, water, medical treatment, was reason enough for the military to arrest or shoot you. The curfew amounts to a de facto house arrest. Of course, some had to disobey the order and died doing so.

These refuges built an administration building, called Ibdaa’, meaning “innovation” or “something from nothing”. The walls are decorated with colorful murals and the names of their villages commemorating the fortitude and vision of the people. There are meeting and guest rooms. The new cultural center is four stories, the tallest building in the camp. There is room for a nursery, a kindergarten and gathering space for women and girls to meet with support groups. One space is dedicated to crafts and sewing. The top floor has a restaurant. There is music and dance. Their Palestinian dance troupe has toured worldwide.

Hand sewed cross-stitch embroidery

The people in the Deheishah Refugee camp have been confined, oppressed, and denied much by the Israeli occupiers. They are still a proud people, still carrying those keys in their pockets and in their hearts. They have built an identity in this refugee camp and they are a strong people who want to go home.