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Yesterday, MPT had the chance to visit Al-Walaja, a village just northwest of Bethlehem. MPT had formerly been based in a town nearby, and has written several reports about the situation in al-Walaja.

The trip from Huwwara to Al-Walaja was 3-4 hours on the way there, and the same on the way back. The distance between them is only about 30 miles. Due to all the Israeli military checkpoints, roadblocks, and the Separation Wall put in place by Israel for “security reasons,” travel in the West Bank takes much longer.

Al-Walaja as it is today is “new.” “Old” Al-Walaja had been confiscated by the Israelis in 1948 for the Gilo and Har Gilo settlements. The number of Palestinian refugees today tracing back their origin to “old” Al-Walaja is estimated to be above 11,000. Some of the residents of “old” Al-Walaja built “new” Al-Walaja nearby, and we could see “old” al-Walaja from the home of our friend Ata and his family.

Al-Walaja, with the settlement of Gilo in the background (click to enlarge)

Ata related a number of stories to us about Al-Walaja, especially stories affecting “new” Al-Walaja today. The present community of Al-Walaja is threatened constantly with the demolition of their homes, for example. His home has been threatened for several years (though usually the families only have 18 months). He told us about how his neighbor’s home had been demolished by the Israeli army, but also how the community worked together and rebuilt the house. They worked day and night during the winter and were able to finish it within 23 days after the demolition. Ten months later, the new home had been demolished.

The residents of Al-Walaja also have to endure harassment. Ata’s son, Muhammad, 15, had been arrested when he went down into the valley for water after the water in Al-Walaja had been turned off. Just recently, he was arrested again at a checkpoint near Jerusalem. On top of that, the planned construction of the Separation Wall will enclose and trap the village.

Yet Ata and his family have been able to remain cheerful, and were very gracious to us. Ata lightened the mood with a number of jokes, saying that he wanted to make us laugh because he knows how hard it can be for young people like us to come and see what’s going on.

Watch for more to come about the situation in Al-Walaja . . .

Burin: Settler Vandalism

24 June 2009--Zakiraya, our Palestinian contact person in the area, called MPT mid-day on Wednesday to alert us that Settlers from an illegal outpost near the West Bank village of Burin had vandalized a Palestinian home. As three summer team members arrived at the scene with Zakiraya, two Israeli DCO’s (District Commanding Officers) were showing up as well.

Israeli DCO talks with owner of house

The Settlers had broken three water tanks, demolished the wood frame of the house and another wooden structure, and ripped open large bags of cement with pieces of metal broken off of the house’s foundation.

The 3 barrels which were wrecked

Broken wood frame

These metal rods were used to rip the cement bags seen in the picture below.

Whitney and Beth listen to owner tell what happened

Construction on the house began twenty days prior. During this time, settlers have demolished the home three times. First on June 10th, then again the morning of the 16th, and once more two hours before MPT arrived in Burin on the 24th. The owner of the house told MPT that on the 16th, some citizens of Burin came to help him when the Settlers were destroying his construction site. The Israeli Army came to the scene and used gas bombs and bullets against the Palestinians. Luckily, there were no injuries. On the 24th, while MPT was present, the owner of the home was making his statement to the DCO. He explained how the Settlers had come into Burin and vandalized his home. However, the officers told the owner that the Settlers come into Burin to pray.

The Settlers came from a nearby outpost, which is located close to the Israeli settlement of Barakha (UN map Barcha or Har Barcha). Outposts are roughly constructed houses or structures built in order to claim Palestinian land for a new Israeli settlement. The Israeli government does not authorize them. Settlements on occupied land are illegal under international law. Outposts are illegal even under Israeli law. Yet they are rarely evacuated by the government. The Israeli group Peace Now just published their annual 2008 Settlement report, which reported that 261 new outpost structures were built last year. The government did not evacuate any of these illegal outposts.

There are many settlements in the area surrounding Huwwara (where MPT lives) that take the land of Palestinian villages and provide regular harassment and violence against Palestinians. In the nearby village of Jit, the Settlers from Havat Gilad had uprooted and burned the seedlings of Palestinian residents the same day MPT visited Burin.

After MPT investigated the vandalized home, we went to the Office of the Burin Village Council. The head of the council, Ali Eid, told us more about the problems of Burin. It is a village of 3,500 people who are bothered daily by Settler and soldier harassment. When there are issues with Settlers, the residents are told to call the Palestinian DCO, who then calls the Israeli DCO. The head of the council said that after Palestinians have made a report with the Israeli DCO, nothing ever comes of it.

[For more information about Burin please see past MPT report—“Burin: A Beleaguered Village” May 13, 2009]

Jerusalem: Third Temple March through Jerusalem

21Jun09 – Three MPT members witnessed a march throughout the Old City of Jerusalem today by members of the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement. The march demonstrates their desire to erect a third temple on the Temple Mount, a spot held sacred in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as the respective site of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac.

Contemporary Judaism developed a belief from ancient scriptures that in total three Temples would be constructed. However, the location, the Temple Mount, is highly contested due to its added importance in Islam as the site where Mohammed ascended to Heaven. The Temple Mount also contains 2 of the holiest buildings in Islam: the Dome on the Rock, and the Al Aqsa mosque.

Once a month, the members of the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement march through the quarters of the Old City to the Wailing Wall. They do not go up onto the Temple Mount, as many Orthodox Jews forbid it, believing the site should not be visited until the final temple is built.

Our MPT members witnessed the march outside of their hostel, in the Islamic Quarter of the Old City. The soldiers first cleared the street, and then the marchers came. One child, around the age of three, attempted to spit at one of the members of the Peace Team. In the Orthodox view, Jerusalem should be an all-Jewish city, and as MPT team members were sitting outside a convent, they were subject to harassment of this nature. Before the march began Israeli soldiers moved all spectators to an alley, and put them behind a security gate.

The march lasted for about thirty minutes. As far as the MPT team knew, there were no injuries reported. However, as MPT members talked with an employee of the hostel, they found that the march can cause a disturbance for citizens of the Old City on a monthly basis. During this particular march, the sign of the hostel had been ripped and torn down.


At Home in the West Bank

Just a short note to let our readers know that the MPT Summer Team has arrived at their home-base location in the West Bank, and is currently settling in at the MPT house there.

Watch for Blog reports on their work soon!

In the meantime, here are some photos of the MPT House-- keep in mind these were taken while things were still 'under construction' earlier this year... but if you ever wondered what it's like to live with MPT in the West Bank this gives you an idea!


MPT Summer Team Arrives Satefly in WB!

MPT is pleased to announce that all five members of the first session of the 2009 Summer Team to Palestine/Israel (Adam, Beth, Grant, Talia, and Whitney) have arrived safely in the field as of this morning. They will be traveling to their home base location in the West Bank soon.

They will be joined by their 'second session' team members (Nancy and Loretta) later this summer.

Please watch for blog posts here very soon about their progress and their work!


Summer Team Member - Nancy

Helloooo :)

My name is Nancy and I am apart of the summer team going to Palestine! A little background about myself - I am political science student, and in the fall I will be starting my senior year at MSU! I have always had an interest in different cultures and foreign countries. I have spent a lot of time traveling, which I love. I have traveled in North America, Europe, and the Middle East, visiting a total of 13 foreign countries (soon to be 15!).

My initial interest in Palestine and Israel came from an abundant amount of hours studying the conflict in my political science classes. Then, after spending some time in the Middle East, my interest grew immensely. I was in the United Arab Emirates (a country where many Palestinian refugees now live) during the Gaza attacks earlier this year. During this time, I was able to see first hand some of the affects this conflict has on not only Palestinians and Israelis, but also neighboring Arab nations, and the world as a whole. After returning home from the Middle East, I was determined to do what I could to promote peace in Palestine and Israel. Shortly thereafter, I joined the MPT summer team and off to Palestine I will go!

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in the West Bank as part of the Michigan Peace Team. MPT is an incredible organization that I am proud to be apart of. I look forward to working with my 7 amazing teammates, while we try to better the lives of those affected by this conflict.

Nancy :)


Summer Team Member- Tali

Hi everyone!

My name is Tali and I am one of the more recent additions to the summer team going to the West Bank. This spring I graduated from the University of Waterloo in Ontario where I studied Anthropology and Classical Studies. It was my love of travel and other cultures that first drew me into the study of anthropology so I am very excited to have this opportunity to travel with MPT this summer.

I first started to really pay attention to what has been happening with Israel and Palestine earlier this year when I took a political science course on the Middle East. Ever since, I have been researching the conflict and following it in the news as much as possible. I knew right away that I wanted to be involved in some way and figured experiencing the conflict first hand would be the best way. As I grew up in a Mennonite family, peace has been at foundation of my belief system and because of this Michigan Peace Team seemed like the perfect fit.

I am so grateful to MPT for giving me this opportunity and for all my friends and family who have been incredibly supportive and encouraging!



Summer Team Member- Whitney

Hello all!

I’m Whitney, another member of the summer team.

I graduated this past May from Michigan State University where I studied Social Relations and Policy as well as Comparative Cultures and Politics. While studying at MSU I spent a summer interning at Michigan Peace Team, and have been interested in the work MPT does in Israel/Palestine ever since. During my last year of college I studied conflict and conflict resolution, Arabic, Judaism, Israeli policy and society, and religious and secular societies to try and better understand the different dynamics of the conflict. After long hours in the classroom I cannot wait to finally get out in the field!

Since the summer of 2008 MPT has been a critical part of my life, teaching me about myself and the world around me and providing me with wonderful opportunities to work with and learn from the bravest and kindest people I have ever known. Before I started my internship I had no idea what I would do after I graduated from MSU. Now, because of MPT and everything they have taught me about nonviolent direct action, I plan to pursue a graduate degree in peace and justice studies and/or conflict resolution after I return from the WB.

Thanks to MPT for helping me figure out my future, and thanks to my friends and family for believing in me and making it all possible!

Yet another member of the 2009 Summer Team


I'm Adam, yet another member of the summer team!

Like Grant, I am also a student of both International Relations and Arabic at Michigan State University, with a specialization in Muslim Studies. This is my first humanitarian trip, and I'm hoping it will be a blast. I have two humanitarian organizations in mind after college, and I hope this trip will help me decide whether I can handle a long-term commitment in either organization.

Being half Palestinian, working towards peace in this conflict is incredibly important to me. I am part of the eboard of MSU's SAFE chapter, which is a student organization that promotes Palestinian rights and equality. I look forward to working with both MPT and SAFE over the next few years!

On behalf of MPT, I'd like to thank everybody for their support. Continue reading!




My name is Grant, I'm a member of the 2009 Summer Team.

Just a little bit of background: I'm a student at Michigan State studying International Relations and Arabic. I've traveled to the deep south of America, Haiti, Mexico and the Dominican Republic all on humanitarian trips. I'm very excited to experience the Holy Land and work for some good.

I'd like to think I bring a sense of humor and a strong work ethic to the team. I like to lighten the mood and to make people smile, but I also know when it's time to get to work. I'm very happy to be going with a group like MPT, who value all the virtues of respect and kindness that I hold dear.

I hope to work with MPT in the future, and help out at the main office. I'm very pleased to become a part of the MPT family!!

I'll see you on the other side,


Summer Team 2009

My name is Beth and I will be the anchor for the summer team which will be deploying for the West Bank shortly. I am excited about the wonderful people that will be accompanying me on this trip and about seeing friends that I have not seen since I was last in the region in the summer of 2007.

I have had a relationship with the wonderful people at Michigan Peace Team since I was an intern there during college. At that time they educated me about the situation in Palestine/Israel and I felt that as an American, represented by a government who is deeply involved in this conflict, I had a role in working toward peace. For me, this has meant educating people here in the United States about the conflict, making connections with Palestinians and Israelis who are affected, and traveling to the West Bank to do third party nonviolent intervention work.

My experience with Michigan Peace Team and the Middle East have led me to my current graduate program where I study conflicts and the tools needed to transform them. It has been an enriching experience where I have been able to broaden my knowledge of peace and justice theory, as well as, make valuable connections with students from around the world. I have just recently finished my first year at grad school and have one more year ahead of me. This summer will serve as more practical experience in this field.

I cannot tell you how thankful I am to MPT for introducing me to this work and continually including me on the constructive projects they work on. Also, this trip would not have been possible without all of the generous donations which were given by all of the special people around me. Lastly, I thank my family for their ever present support of everything I do.

Well, here we go.



Why a checkpoint?
Why any checkpoint?
Why a checkpoint to Jerusalem from the north?

1. It is part of the machinery of the illegal Israeli occupation and helps make it work.
2. It is an inhumane system, a means of humiliation and harassment, which is used to control an occupied peoples, the Palestinians.
3. It promotes among the Israelis a false sense of security and protection of an invisible illegal
border and a culture of fear for the Israelis, those who occupy.
4. It helps control the economy of Palestinians, the oppressed - transit of laborers, goods and
Palestinian farm products that could feed Jerusalem.
5. It gives young Israeli soldiers the power of the "we," in control of the "they," which is considered honorable and a dedication to country. Young people learn to be insensitive.

Lines of Palestinian people fenced in, caged in on both sides. One can only move forward when the line moves. It could be five minutes or an hour or more.

Palestinian children wait here with their parents.
Then they pass through a tall turnstile, that allows one person at a time, unless two can sneak in. But if the Israeli soldier sees she yells and yells and yells.

A small boy gets on the other side of the turnstile without his mother
and cries and cries. The Israeli soldiers do not "hear" his cry.

This fencing separates people on the inside from the people on the outside.

The illegal apartheid wall around Jerusalem keeps "us" in and "them" out.
At what cost to humanity?

The exit of the illegal Israeli checkpoint.
Crossing over by foot with no checkpoint takes less than a minute.
Going through the checkpoint can take 20 minutes, one hour, two hours.

Why a checkpoint?