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Goodbye from the MPT 2011 Fall Team

MPT has made a number of friends in the Huwarra area. One gentleman who visits with us often actually studied for over a year in the USA. “I was so excited,” said he, “to have a chance to tell Americans what is really happening over here. I came home after my year and was very discouraged. I can honestly say I do not think I was able to change even one person’s opinion.” He shared much more of course but went on to say, “Then one friend communicated with me saying that she now listens more and considers different points of view about Israel/Palestine. I guess it takes time for ideas to sink in. I guess I did have an impact just smaller than I would have liked.” Such is the case with our work in this long confusing struggle. We often wish that we could make huge impacts on those willing to listen. But realistically we are thankful for our readers who care enough to learn more and are open to new ideas

Thank you for following the blog, 2011 MPT Fall Team

Al Walaja renamed - All Wall Around Ja

The village of Al Walaja has a very unique situation. Located near to and west of Behtlehem and south of Jerusalem, Al Walaja has the misfortune of being located near the green line and the route of the separation barrier, aka the Wall. The original village site was taken over by the Israeli forces in 1948. Googling “Al Walaja” will provide the reader with much background information. A recent review of the situation can be found at:


In brief Al Walaja lost it original village site and was reestablished nearby. The continuing construction of the wall will greatly reduced the village’s access to land, water, and the rest of Palestine. Al Walaja will be completely surrounded by a prison like wall with only one access road connecting them to the rest of the West Bank.

On our last day of functioning as the MPT Fall Team we visited Al Walaja and participated in their weekly demonstration. Meeting at the village Mosque we had a chance to speak with other activists.

As prayers ended we walked downhill to see the construction route that has been cut through the olive groves. It was a damp day and a muddy walk. For most of the route there was no sign of the military or police

We moved onto a restricted road and were told that only cars with yellow plates (those originating in Israel) could use this road. At one point Palestinians began to place rocks on the road. The crowd’s presence slowed traffic allowing them to drive carefully around the rocks. There were no rocks thrown and no threatening gestures. Many activists were uncomfortable with the rocks on the road. Indeed they did present a considerable hazard to cars moving at normal speed. A short debate started with statements like: “This is a serious hazard; we are here to protect from violence and thus should remove the rocks.” Others said: “We are to be Palestinian led; this is their demonstration.” The discussion was friendly with most of us having very mixed feelings. As we were causing traffic to slow down there was no serious danger at the time. Within minutes one of the Palestinian leaders came over and began to kick rocks out of the road. Activists immediately began to help him. Police arrived shortly thereafter but the rocks were gone by the

The police did try to stop our movement but were greatly outnumbered. The demonstration just moved around them. They followed along behind in their jeep. We approached an entrance to a restricted area and found a line of soldiers waiting for us. After some talking and mutual picture.taking, the demonstration took a side road back to the Mosque.

No rocks thrown, no arrests, no tear gas or the like which led to a jubilant mood of having achieved some success – at least a chance to express our displeasure, have it heard and return home without injury. We were mindful that such demonstrations are a weekly occurrence in parts of Palestine. They are indeed so common that they seldom make the news anymore. But Palestinians risk arrest and injury on a regular basis to protest the injustices of the occupation.


Announcing MPT Teachers Team Summer 2012! Calling all Teachers...

We're pleased to announce a very special Peace Team to Palestine: the MPT Summer 2012 Teachers Team! This Team will deploy to the West Bank, Palestine/Israel in Summer 2012.  Each member will have the option to join the team anywhere from 3 weeks to 12 weeks in the field.

We love our friends that are teachers, who already give so much for peace and justice-- and they make great Peace Team members.  We're currently talking with two of many wonderful returned team members that are teachers, to arrange for a Teacher to Anchor this special team.
We need your help!  Do you know a teacher at any level K-12 or undergraduate/graduate who would do great work for peace on a team?  Someone team-oriented, dedicated, in short just like all the teachers we know!  Could you forward this invitation to them with a short note from you telling them about this great opportunity, or invite them to contact Nicole or apply for a team?
Training will start as soon as January for our Part 1/Basic compenent, and the February 10-12th weekend for our Part 2 session will be required.  More information about training and more for International Teams under our current program is on our FAQs page.  More information about the February session to prepare for this team is at Idealist.org.  Even if you're just considering going on the team, we'd love to have you join us for this skills and information session in February.
In Peace,

Nicole L. Rohrkemper
International Team Deployment Coordinator
Michigan Peace Team

(586) 419-1070 (direct line)
NicoleR. MPT@gmail.com

Read more about International Teams in our most recent Teams Insider eNews.


A busy day in and around Hebron

Any day for an activist in the West Bank can include a surprise or two. Our day in the Hebron area was full of unscheduled action. We had just spent the night with the Christian Peacemaker Team deep in the old city. We arose early to go on check point watch with CPT. This is a daily pre-breakfast task for CPT. Critical check points are monitored to log the number of school children passing and to observe the treatment of others. One MPTer decided to take pictures and chose to continue even after a soldier said “No”. The police arrived later. Police have more authority over internationals. After manipulating the memory card out of the camera and passing it off (a move the soldier unfortunately observed), the camera was handed to the policeman. It could have gotten messy at that point but up rolled a car with TIPH representatives. TIPH, Temporary International Presence in Hebron, is a creation of the Oslo Accord. They observe and file reports – no more, no less. But the Israelis want good TIPH reports. It is our guess that their arrival prompted the police commander to get out of the vehicle and take charge. The camera was immediately returned and MPTers moved out of the way. The soldier and policeman were upset at being overruled. MPTers were relieved.

This is the check point we observed. The soldier is asking us not to take pictures. School children have to pass through the little white building for metal detection and such. These four men are being checked as they complain that they were just checked at another check point to get into this area (True according CPT staff.)

Then a call came alerting us to a home demolition south of Hebron, in Baqa Valley. A quick trip to the CPT house to repack, a taxi and soon we were at another scene. Somewhere in there breakfast got forgotten.

By the time we arrived in Baqa'a the Israeli army had already destroyed a well and a house built next to it, both of which belonging to a local Palestinian family. Baqa Valley located in a mountainous area south of Hebron. It's separated from the notorious Jewish settlement of Qiryat Arba only by a road. The village suffers serious water shortages and locals have been accused of "stealing" water from the settlement in order to meet their basic water needs. Naturally it's arguable if one can steal their own water but that's the pretext under which the Israeli army destroys wells and irrigation pipes belonging to Palestinians in Area C. We were told that one more well in the village was to be destroyed on the following day for the same reasons. This particular family had their well and house destroyed for the first time in 2009. The reason was actually the usual one: lack of permit to built. Their water did come from pipes from a neighboring village. After 2009 the owner rebuilt both his well and home and acquired all the necessary documents proving that the land is his. It was to no avail though, the bulldozers returned.

When MPTers arrived the bulldozers were leveling the ground. The Israeli army was working along with Qiryat Arba settlers to place stones on the property to minimize the chance of rebuilding. We were told by children from the family whose home was demolished that the bulldozer has been at work since 6 am. That's when the family had been awoken from their sleep and given 5 minutes to leave.

The only hint for the existence of the house and the well at this site hours later was the water flowing now all over the place. An MPTer asked a boy from the family why he wouldn't change his pants that were wet. He replied he was beaten by an Israeli soldier earlier during the day and now he had no house to take a spare pair of pants from. His parents were at his uncle's house at the time and were sparing themselves the sight of the bulldozers at work.

We had planned to visit the village of At Tuwani on this day so after watching the home demolition clean up, taking pictures, and talking with the family and other internationals, we decided to go to At Tuwani from this new location. MPT has a history of visiting At Tuwani. You can learn more about this village by reading our old blogs.

This report talks about the Bedouins in Tuba, a village very near to At Tuwani. http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2008/05/bedouin-land-fragile-desert-ecology-and.html And in 2009 MPTers visited again. http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/11/cactus-watering-protest-at-at-tuwani.html

Children from nearby villages are still accompanied by internationals and the military as they walk between the Israeli settlement and Israeli outpost on their way to and from school. This is necessary because the settlers have a history of attacking kids on their way to school. We were reminded of President Obama’s recent speech where he commented that Israeli parents should not have to worry about their children when they send them to school. He made no mention of Palestinian kids on their way to school.

The settlement of Ma'On is on the hill. New construction is visible to the left. We are not able to see the Israeli outpost hidden in the trees to the right. International volunteers are not allowed to escort the children, this is considered as a "provocation" by the settlers and the Israeli army. So they only observe from afar trying to make sure the children are escorted safely from various observation points on the hills around the area. The army comes twice daily to provide escort as the children walk to and from school, often late and without completing the whole route. That day they came after the international volunteers had contacted the local DCO, only half an hour late. The children actually rejoiced at the sight of the approaching jeep, they could finally goo home now. Sometimes the soldiers actually provide protection when trouble starts .... sometimes.
Another informal taxi ride and a group cab got us back to Hebron for the another evening with CPT


Sheikh Jarrah

Readers, After leaving Huwwara MPT was involved in a number of activities and did not have access to a computer or the internet. Although our time as a team has ended and we are separated by many miles, we have decided to continue to blog about our final days and experience together. Peer editing is taking place via email. Thank you for your patience.

Blog readers might wish to review the history of this situation by going to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh_Jarrah Or http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ir-amim/why-are-israelis-demonstr_b_445968.html

In brief, Palestinian refugees moved to this area when it was under Jordanian rule. The UN got involved and houses were built for the families. The area has been contested for years. Settlers have gained access to some houses even though complaints have been filed including one from the United States government. The above links will give the reader many more details. MPT has a history of involvement with this troubling situation.

MPT वास there in October of 2008 to provide protective accompaniment. The details can be read at http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2008/10/mpt-presence-at-al-kurds-in-east.html

MPT returned in April of 2009 after the family had been evicted. Read that report at http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/04/return-visit-to-sheikh-jarrah.html

MPT returned again in November of 2009 to stand watch for two nights. This team (which included one member of the current team) witnessed a police demolition of the tent site. Details can be read at http://mptinpalestine.blogspot.com/2009/11/e-jerusalem-incomplete.html
The tent that was removed by the police in 2009 was located right outside the home that is now the center of controversy. A Palestinian family built an addition without the proper permission. The end result is that Israeli settlers now “live” in the addition while the family remains in the original house. Internationals activists try to have at least two people at the site for each night. This presence created a barrier between the settlers and the Palestinians giving the latter a bit of peace of mind and a chance for decent rest each night.

This is the view from the street. The block addition on the left is the section taken over by the settlers. The small tent is shelter for the activists staying overnight and provides a "gate" and visual privacy for the Palestinians who live in the rear of this compound.

The MPT fall team took a turn on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 15. The task was to stay in the tent guarding the entrance to the Palestinian section of the compound and keep an eye on activities in the Settler section. Settlers have reportedly made much noise (loud music and such), yelled profanities, and thrown numerous things at the activists including water, bleach, vomit, urine, and feces. On this night the only incidents were a few visits to the tent by the settlers. They would stop by and make strange comments and leave. The settlers all seem to be young males who come by each night and party or use the computer. It is not clear if they really live in the addition or just occupy it often.

This is the view from the back side of the tent. There is a small court yard and access to the living areas.

It was a long cold night. We were reminded of a comment made by a young Palestinian in 2009 around a campfire just outside the door of this compound. He said “There are two things I really admire about the Jews. They are very smart and they are very patient.” He continued to say that they will work as slowly as necessary to gradually take over the entire neighborhood. So far local protests and international reactions have not stopped the eviction of Palestinians and the cancerous spread of settlements and settlers.

Readers who are really interested in this situation would do well to watch the videos in the following link. The son of the Palestinian family talks about his life. Israelis (including a middle aged army veteran) talk about their decisions to stand in support of the Palestinians.