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Demonstration in Jerusalem

MPT joins in demonstration with affiliate peace group Women in Black in Jerusalem. One of several demonstrations in Israel, this one is held every Friday at Paris Square, a busy intersection in West Jerusalem.

Before Women in Black (WIB) began in Israel, there were earlier movements of women who demonstrated on the streets against political oppression in South Africa and Argentina.

In 1987, 20 years after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian intifada began. WIB in Israel began as response to the violence in 1988. Women gathered weekly to hold silent protest for peace wearing black clothing, a sign of grief for lives affected by the violence of militarism and war.

Israeli WIB have been recognized with peace awards in 1991,1994, and 2001. Today there are WIB organizations in over 40 countries. http://www.haaretz.com/news/women-in-black-marks-20th-year-but-occupation-continues-1.236160
After the demonstration, the group gathered for a photo. In addition to the women(and men) from Israel, there is pictured MPT and people from Interfaith Peace Builders based in Washington,D.C.


Typical Palestinian Village

In a valley south of Nablus lie a number of villages. MPT talked to Ali Omar from Huwwara who works for the Palestinian Authority. The village in the picture is Oldala, to the right- out of picture range - is Beita.

Each village in Palestine grew up around a spring, where water comes to the earth’s surface usually part way down these low mountains. In this semi arid region, water is very precious. Illegal Israeli settlements locate on tops of mountains and drill deep wells to access the water.

A Settler uses 8 times the amount of water an average Palestinian uses according to Ali Omar. There is also a problem of mountain top settlements discharging their sewage down to Palestinian communities.

The village of Oldala’s spring is 100% dried up. The Palestinian Authority closed the water bottling plant in Beita five days ago because of sewage contamination to the water.

The illegal Israeli settlement of Itamar is west of these villages. The settlement was founded in 1984 “ to take advantage of the large reserve of state lands. Itamar is known for the many farms and hamlets (outposts) the dot the otherwise barren hills east of the village” http://www.middleeastexplorer.com/Israel/Itamar


Friday in Bil'in

Friday MPT participated in the nonviolent demonstration against the apartheid Wall in Bil’in for the second week in a row. We were privileged to meet not only some of the brave Palestinians we observed in the film Bil’in Hababti but also many astounding internationals who attend each week to support Bil’in’s struggle for freedom and justice.

We met a young man who is paralyzed after being shot at a demonstration some years ago and now attends the weekly demonstrations in a wheelchair, wearing a gas mask and sometimes filming the action. We met members of the families Abdullah Abu Rahmah and Adeeb Abu Rahmah, who are both in prison for their nonviolent resistance.

Palestinians opening the gate at the apartheid fence, Israeli Occupation Forces behind cement barrier

We met Khamees Agurahma, a 29 year old man who sustained a head injury from the kind of tear gas canister that killed Bassem, the man who was known as the heart and soul of Bil’in. After 8-10 days in a coma and being paralyzed for 4 months, Khamees is much better but not completely healed. He still attends the demonstrations but “stays back” now. He helps out as a caretaker of the International House that the Popular Committee of Bil’in provides for the lodging of the many internationals, a courtesy MPT accepted last week. Khamees stated this type of canister has been made illegal now. Khamees was injured Jan 23, 2009. He is Bassem’s cousin.

Tear gas driving demonstrators away from apartheid fence

We met Iyad Burnat who was also in the film, participating in the demonstration with some very creative messages the Popular Committee has put together. He is the acting leader of the Committee, since the imprisonment of Abdullah Abu Rahmah and continues to play a very active role in the weekly protests. He spends a lot of time with the various internationals, explaining the various methods of Boycott, Deinvest and Sanctions, which the Popular Committee all over Palestine endorses.

We met a Norwegian parliamentarian and mayor, both in Bil’in to observe and participate. We met two young women from So Korea, a young man from Spain, two young women from Poland, all spending their vacations with International Solidarity Movement (ISM), picking olives and supporting Bil’in. The young women who provided our orientation for international “first timers” were Israelis from Tel Aviv, one a Ukrainian immigrant. There was a group of senior citizens from Oxford, England, an author of children’s books from Indiana. Women from the Netherlands encouraged us to change our government’s policies concerning Israel/Palestine and acknowledged the hypocrisy of their own country. There was a young man from Germany who works in Ramallah and his visiting mother in law.

Iyad (in Palestinian flag), Emily, MPTer, & British demonstrators networking

We met Emily Schaeffer, an impressive 31 year old Human Rights attorney, who is an Israeli immigrant from Boston. She devotes most of her time to working on legal issues of Palestinians, such as the battle Bil’in has fought to get their land returned to them, and the trials of Palestinians arrested for speaking out against the wall. She is a regular visitor to Bil’in, traveling frequently from her home in Tel Aviv.

It is so encouraging to witness the persistence of the Palestinians and the support of the internationals. The atmosphere is very enthusiastic. It feels so good to be a part of that, one can forget momentarily that in spite of these positive forces for good, the Palestinians are still living in a large crowded prison.


A Blue Sky Day

Razor wire fencing bordering Palestinian olive trees

Picking olives overlooking the settlement

From the village of Kafr Qaddum, it was a 30 minute steep climb then descent to the farmer's trees.

For many Palestinians, the olive harvest is a major source of income. One middle aged mother working the 10 hour day consumed only tea and water. When MPT asked why she declined the prepared food, she said that she gets sick whenever she eats. She is postponing recommended hospitalization in order to help finish picking olives.

The olive trees are surrounded on three sides by various sections of the illegal Israeli settlement of Qadumim. At times the voices of playing children were heard from the settlement.

It was a beautiful day. The anticipated disruption by Israeli soldiers or settlers didn't happen on this particular day.