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MPT in Tuba, assist children, witness protest

Thursday, 2 July, 2009 Last Thursday, two MPTers got the chance to travel to the Southern Hebron Hills to spend two nights in the villages of At-Tuwani and Tuba. Both villages are within the borders of Area C meaning that they are under full Israeli control. In At-Tuwani there is no running water, electricity for only four hours a day and villagers are forced to burn their trash since the Israeli government fails to send anyone to pick it up. This is a huge contrast in comparison to the settlement of Ma’On and its illegal counterpart outpost, Havat Ma’On, which have full electricity and running water. According to a recent study done by the World, the region is entering into its fifth year of drought with Israelis getting four-fifths of the water available, leaving Palestinians with a mere one-fifth of the water supply (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/27/israel-palestinian-water-dispute).

Ma’On and Havat Ma’On have created various problems for the villagers in the area. The road leading from At-Tuwani to the small village of Tuba runs right between the settlement and the outpost. This road was the only road directly to and from Tuba, one of the uses being for the children in Tuba going to school in At-Tuwani. Due to settler violence, the road has been closed for over a decade. Whereas it used to take only twenty minutes to get from Tuba to At-Tuwani, villagers now have to travel out of their way on slightly safer paths that can take up to two hours in order to avoid settlers. This has posed problems in the past in situations where someone in the village has fallen sick and needed hospital care. Even taking the long path is too dangerous in the evening or at night because of settler violence against the villagers. Due to the steep hills and rugged terrain, this path can only be traveled by foot or donkey.

There was a time when children from Tuba ceased going to school because the risk was too great. Peace activists and internationals in the area would accompany children to school but in 2004 internationals were brutally beaten by the settlers while escorting the children to school. The Israeli government was forced to provide an escort of four soldiers to accompany the children to and from school under the condition that no Palestinian adults or internationals would be able to walk with them. The soldiers are often late escorting the children and sometimes do not walk them the full way. Since internationals are unable to walk with the children, members from the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) who are stationed in At-Tuwani, monitor the escort by staying with the children until the soldiers arrive and having people on the other side making sure they arrive all the way to school safely. To learn more about CPT’s work in the Hebron region, visit

The small village of Tuba is comprised of two extended families that have been living in the area for several generations. The families are shepherds, taking their sheep out to graze in the hills on a daily basis. This routine task comes with threats of harassment from settlers and the Israeli Army alike. In the past settlers have thrown stones at the shepherds and the internationals who accompany them and have even killed one of the shepherd’s donkeys. With the army, there is always the threat of arrest. The other week two boys, aged 15 and 16, were arrested while attending their sheep. Even though they shepherd their sheep in the same area day after day, the army claimed the boys were on settler owned land. The boys were taken into the city of Hebron and detained for five hours before being let go. Neither boy had any money and one of them had never even been to Hebron before. Hebron is the second largest city in the West Bank and the boys had no way of getting home. Luckily, a CPT member was in town at the same time and was able to bring them back to Tuba. The Friday that MPT was in Tuba, another villager was arrested for letting his graze sheep on privately owned Palestinian land. The army, once again, claimed that it was Israeli owned land.

While shepherding with the children last Saturday, two MPTers witnessed a demonstration right outside the Ma’On settlement by Ta’ayush, an Israeli peace group. Soldiers, police officers, and border security showed up and told protesters to vacate the land, calling this particular area of Tuba a “closed military zone.” MPT walked with members of Ta’ayush back to At-Twani, followed by the Army jeeps where the Army again confronted members of the protest. As far as MPT knows, no arrests were made.

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