World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel: #WallWillFall

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The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) of the World Council of Churches invites member churches, faith-based communities, and civil society organizations around the world to join together in 2015 for a week of advocacy and action in support of an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and a just peace for all in Palestine and Israel. Congregations and individuals around the globe who share the hope of justice shall unite during the week to take peaceful actions, together, to create a common international public witness.

The theme of the week in 2015, to be observed during 20-26 September, is:

“God has broken down the dividing walls” (Ephesians 2:14)

06-12-14, I. Tanner. Childrens paitings on playground walls. Zbeidat, Jericho

06-12-14, Jericho,Zbeidat, I. Tanner. Childrens paitings of the separation wall, on playground walls. Photo EAPPI / I.Tanner

How to get involved

As participants in the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, from 20 to 26 September 2015, churches around the world shall send a clear signal to policy-makers, community groups, and their own parishes about the urgent need for a peace settlement that ends the illegal occupation and secures the legitimate rights and future of both peoples.

5_6_2015 CP300 Bethlehem Wall Prayer with icon and Clemence hoouse Photo H Jonsson EAPPI

05.06.15 Bethlehem, Checkpoint 300. EAs joins locals and internationals to pray for an peace at the weekly Wall Prayer. Photo EAPPI/ H. Jonsson

Pray, Educate, Advocate

Already, planning has begun for the World Week for Peace 2015, during which participants will organize and join in events and activities around the following three principles:

1. Praying with churches living under occupation, using a special prayer from Jerusalem and other worship resources prepared for the week.
2. Educating about actions that make for peace, and about facts on the ground that do not create peace, especially issues related to prisoners.
3. Advocating with political leaders using ecumenical policies that promote peace with justice.

06.07.00 Qalandia checkpoint, Palestinian woman held in queue at checkpoint on her way to Jerusalem. Photo EAPPI / J. Griffin

06.07.00 Qalandia checkpoint, Palestinian woman held in queue at checkpoint on her way to Jerusalem. Photo EAPPI / J. Griffin

Why?

This annual observance of a week of prayer, education, and advocacy calls participants to work for an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine, so that Palestinians and Israelis can finally live in peace. It has been 66 years since the creation of the State of Israel. This has not led to the creation of an independent Palestinian state but has only deepened the tragedy of the Palestinian people. It is now 47 years since the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza overwhelmed the peaceful vision of one land, two peoples.

Bethlehem Gilo 11, 31.10.07

31.10.07, Bethlehem, Gilo 300 terminal, Palestinains on their way to work queue at checkpoint 300 Photo EAPPI

Yet the dream of one nation cannot be fulfilled at the expense of another.

23.11.13. Tulkaram, Children living on the hill of the Ras at Tira village with settlement Alfe Menashe in the background. Photo EAPPI /Elina

23.11.13. Tulkaram, Children living on the hill of the Ras at Tira village with settlement Alfe Menashe in the background. Photo EAPPI /Elina

The action week’s message is that now:

  • It’s time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace.
  • It’s time for freedom from occupation.
  • It’s time for equal rights.
  • It’s time for the healing of wounded souls.

Wonderful worship and educational resources are available in different languages – please make them part of your church events. In social media, please use the hashtag #WallWillFall to talk about this year’s World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.

*Source: World Council of Churches website

Resources

World Council of Churches: World Week for Peace 2015: resources

Pax Christi: resources

EAPPI Australia: New resources for World Week For Peace and two Action Alerts

The Separation Barrier: background, statistics and case-studies  produced B’tselem

The Jerusalem Prayer

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Uprooted lives: Christians protest the construction of the wall in the Cremisan

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By the Bethlehem team.

On August 17 Israeli soldiers and security personnel supervised the the bulldozing of land and the uprooting of over 100 ancient olive trees in the Bir Ouma. Many of the trees that were uprooted were as old as 1500 years old. The land is being cleared to facilitate the routing of the separation wall through the Cremisan Valley. The planned route for the wall is three kilometers inside the 1949 Armistice ‘green line’ and is set to be built on privately owned Palestinian land in Beit Jala.The clearing of the land is taking place despite a previous court ruling and without any warning being given to the local landowners. Local Christians have been gathering daily at the site of the bulldozing to protest the illegal confiscation of their land and to pray for the protection of the Cremisan Valley.

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E1: The End of the Dream for a Palestinian State?

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by Jerusalem Team.

The Israeli authorities plan to expand the settlement Ma’ale Adumim and connect it to Jerusalem was approved by the Israeli government 1999. The plan, commonly referred to as the E1 Plan, has long been opposed by the international community as an obstacle to the realization of the two-state solution. Several events that have taken place in recent months indicate an acceleration of the implementation of this plan.

15.08.15, E1 area, Ma’ale Adumim and Jabal Al Baba, Atallah Mazarah Photo EAPPI

15.08.15, Jerusalem, E1 area, Ma’ale Adumim settlement and Jabal Al Baba Bedouin community. Photo EAPPI/A. Mazarah

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Harassment in the Hebron Hills

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by South Hebron Hills Team.

Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli military and civilian control since the Oslo Accords of 1993, is dotted with Bedouin villages. Many of the Bedouin currently living in Palestine fled there in 1948 from their ancestral lands in the Negev Desert as the newly-founded State of Israel pushed its way into the Negev. The Bedouin purchased land from the local people and initially were able to continue their simple farming – growing crops and shepherding.

Since 1967 when Israel began to occupy the West Bank, Area C has also become dotted with Israeli settlements, the building of which is illegal under Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, a convention ratified by the State of Israel.

30.07.15 . South Hebron Hills, Um al Kher next to Karmel settlement. Photo EAPPI / S. Lise Bedringaas

30.07.15 . South Hebron Hills, Um al Kher next to Karmel settlement. Photo EAPPI / S. Lise Bedringaas

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Video: ‘The Struggle to Save Susiya’

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This video looks back on the summer months and gives a brief insight into ‘the struggle to save Susiya‘. It features interviews with Nasser Nawaja, a local peace activist and resident of Susiya.

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Settler violence and impunity in the West Bank

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by the Yanoun team.

On the 31st of July, 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsheh was burned to death in a fatal arson attack on his family home in the Northern West Bank village of Duma. Israelis from a nearby settlement are believed to be behind the attack which saw two Palestinian homes torched by petrol bombs.  Ali’s parents and 4-year-old brother survived the attack but were taken to the hospital in a critical condition. Sadly on the 8th of August Saad, Ali’s father, died from third degree burns just one week after his son. Two members of the family are still in a critical condition. The family living in the second house were not at home when the attack happened.

31.07.15 Nablus, Duma. Leaflet dedicated to Ali distributed during funeral ceremony, Photo EAPPI / J. Burkhalter

31.07.15 Nablus, Duma. Leaflet dedicated to Ali distributed during funeral ceremony, Photo EAPPI / J. Burkhalter

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EA Poem: “The sound of an early morning in Susiya”

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by Leif Magne Helgesen, Summer team,

10.07.15. South Hebron Hills, Susiya, Watering olives at dawn, Photo EAPPI / P. Mercer

10.07.15. South Hebron Hills, Susiya, Palestinian farmer watering his olive trees at dawn, Photo EAPPI / P. Mercer

The morning is full of sound

dogs barking

roosters crowing incessantly

a donkey gives a full throated bray

A butterfly breaks the sound barrier

it flys quietly and disappears

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Statement of Bishop Munib A. Younan concerning the arson in Tabgha

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Statement of Bishop Munib A. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land concerning the arson in Tabgha.

Tiberias, July 14, 2015

Bishop Munib A. Younan

Bishop Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

Dear Fathers,
We have come from Jerusalem to stand in solidarity with the brother monks of this monastery after the arson and burning of this historic Church. The atrocity is not only against you and this particular church vicinity, but against every Christian and believer in the One True God, and must be denounced vehemently. This Church was built on the real story of the blessing of the loaves and fish, and despite the atrocity against it, it will survive the hatred and will remain a spiritual haven and blessing to all who enter its doors.

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When children are treated like criminals

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by Ingrid, Bethlehem team,

Now back in Norway, EA Ingrid spent much of her recent service in the Palestinian village of Husan, north of the Etzion Bloc settlement, in the Bethleham Governorate. This blog highlights the problem of child detention and arrests in the area.

I write this blog to bring attention to an event that really scared me and which I thought was abnormal. While preparing this post I was also attempting to write a report on the events I had witnessed that week. Ideally the report would have been completed the evening before. Ideally it would have made organizations and individuals that work in this field offer immediate assistance to the victims. But there are very few ‘ideal’ situations here in Israel/Palestine, and what is considered normal here is far from ‘normal’ back home. Incidents are so many that the Bethlehem team cannot cover them all, and our plans change every hour. Planned topics for blog posts and newsletters are thus postponed for more urgent topics, like this one:

Early on a Monday morning, an incident was reported forcing us to postpone our plans for the day and go to a village that we had already visited eight times. I wish that the reason for going to the village of Husan for the ninth time in four weeks had been a different one. I wish that the idyllic scenery seen from our local contact’s balcony and the pleasant breakfasts shared with his neighbors had been the reasons for this visit, but we were called to Husan for a very different reason. Once again, minors had been arrested in Husan by the Israeli military. The phone call I received about the night’s detentions, in Husan, made my head spin. I thought to myself:

‘What can a 15-year-old boy possibly have done that demands he is detained in the middle of the night?’.
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Susiya: ‘another day of seeking and working for a just peace’

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by EA Rev. D. Etherington​, Susiya

Just 14 months ago, I said my goodbyes to the residents of Susiya.  And now I have returned to this village in the South Hebron Hills as it faces threats of imminent demolition and a forced removal of all those living here. I have returned to Susiya at the invitation of the World Council of Churches to be part of a team of internationals providing ecumenical accompaniment and protective presence to the village in hopes that a demolition and removal may be put off.

02.07.15 Susiya. Abu Jihad with his grandchildren, July 2015, photo EAPPI by L. Magne Helgesen

02.07.15 Susiya. Abu Jihad with his grandchildren, July 2015, Photo EAPPI / L. Magne Helgesen

My arrival in Susiya coincided with the first day of Ramadan, the most holy time in the Muslim year, a time of fasting for the month. This month of fasting begins with the daily call to prayer in the pre-dawn hours and ends at the sunset call to prayer. This period of Ramadan will end July 18 and is a time of reflection and reformation of the soul.

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Accessing worship: This year’s Ramadan part II

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by the Yanoun team,

As we feared, the Israeli Civil Authority did place further restrictions on those able to come to pray in Jerusalem on Friday. On 3rd of July, the age limit for men to pass without a permit was raised from 40 to 50, and instead of all women being allowed—only women over 30 could pass without a permit. This was widely seen as “collective punishment”.   One Palestinian man said:

“Where does it say in the Torah, the Koran or the Bible that you have to be over 50 to pray”.

19.06.15. Bethlehem. Checkpoint 300  Young man denied access to Jerusalem during Ramadan. Photo EAPPI / I. Tanner

19.06.15. Bethlehem. Checkpoint 300 Young man denied access to Jerusalem during Ramadan. Photo EAPPI / I. Tanner

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PRESS RELEASE: Israeli Court Gives Green Light for the Wall in the Cremisan Valley

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logo-St-YvesThe Israeli Supreme Court Gives the Green Light to Begin Building the Separation Wall in the Cremisan Valley.

The Israeli Supreme Court issued a decision on Monday, the 6th of July 2015, giving the Israeli Ministry of Defense the green light to begin building the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley in Beit Jala. This ruling limits the effect of the Court’s previous decision to stop building the separation wall in Cremisan, whereby the decision to stop building the wall will only be limited to the surroundings of the Salesian Sister’s Convents, represented by the Society of St. Yves, and the Salesian Monk’s Monastery, represented by Adv. Nihad Irsheid as well as the church’s private land. The decision ruled that the Israeli authorities will initiate building the wall on the privately ownedlands of the people of Beit Jala; thereby leaving-out only a small section, hundreds of meters in length and adjacent to the Salesian monasteries and their land.

05.06.15 Beit Jala, Overlooking Cremisan Valley, Gilo settlement background. Photo EAPPI / I.Tanner

05.06.15 Beit Jala, Overlooking Cremisan Valley, Gilo settlement background. Photo EAPPI / I.Tanner

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Accessing worship: This year’s Ramadan part I

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by the Yanoun team,

On the 18th of June Muslims all over the world, including in Palestine and Israel, started the holy month of Ramadan. During this month Muslims fast during the light hours of the day in solidarity with the suffering of the poor, and they dedicate themselves to prayers. As Jerusalem is the third holiest city for Muslims, many Palestinians wish to visit the Holy City to pray.

19.06.15. Bethlehem. Checkpoint 300  Muslims on their way to Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the first Friday of Ramadan. Photo EAPPI / I. Tanner

19.06.15. Bethlehem Checkpoint 300, Muslims on their way to Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the first Friday of Ramadan. Photo EAPPI / I. Tanner

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EA song: ‘Come and take a walk with me’

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This song was written by Emma about her experience as an Ecumenical Accompanier in Jerusalem this Spring. She filled the church of St Andrews with her moving rendition of this song during the handover ceremony of group 56. We thank all our EAs, especially those who just returned home, for their unique contributions and work towards a just peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land.

15.06.15 Jerusalem. Group 56 handover ceremony at St Andrews Church, Photo EAPPI I.Tanner

15.06.15 Jerusalem. Group 56 handover ceremony at St Andrews Church, Photo EAPPI I.Tanner

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The Israel-Palestine NGO Working Group at the United Nations

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This statement is based on a letter the Israel-Palestine NGO Working Group at the United Nations sent to the Permanent Representative of every Member State mission to the United Nations in New York on Wednesday 17th June 2015.

The Israel-Palestine NGO Working Group at the United Nations expresses its profound concern over the Israeli Government’s imminent plans to forcibly relocate or transfer Indigenous Bedouin communities in the Negev, in Israel, as well as in areas of the West Bank that are under exclusive Israeli jurisdiction: areas categorized by the Oslo Accords as Area C. While the political realities in these locations differ, the legal repercussions faced by these Indigenous Bedouin communities are similar: they face the forced relocation or transfer from their homes and the expropriation of their land by Israeli planning authorities.
We are troubled to learn that plans for the forced relocation of 1,000 Indigenous Bedouins of Atir and Umm-al-Hiran in the Negev have been approved by Israel’s Supreme Court. Further plans to transfer Palestinian communities in Area C, such as Susiya where 170 structures are threatened with destruction and 350 people face the loss of their homes, are also going ahead.

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Harvesting in the line of fire

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by the Jordan Valley team

From the 3rd to the 7th of May, large-scale military training took place across the Jordan Valley, greatly affecting the everyday life of the Palestinian inhabitants. Significantly, 56% of the Jordan Valley is now a designated military zone and Israeli military train here regularly throughout the year – despite the fact that about 2700 people live in these areas.

“Where is the UN? Where is France, Germany and the UK? Where are all the journalists? The whole world should be here to see this!”

20150502 Ahmed Salim Ben Oudi 76 yrs old Makhul

05.02.15 Jordan Valley, Makhul, Ahmed Salim Ben Oudi showing his crops. Photo EAPPI

Ahmed Salim Bin ’Oudi is clearly upset when we meet him on his farmland between the villages of Khribet Humsa and al-Hadidiye. He shows us samples of his yield, some of which are still unripe. Despite this, he is now harvesting from fear that the coming military training might cause a fire to spread and destroy his livelihood all together.

29.04.15 Jordan Valley. Fields destroyed in Khirbet Humsa. Photo EAPPI/P. Hughes

29.04.15 Jordan Valley. Fields destroyed in Khirbet Humsa. Photo EAPPI/P. Hughes

A week later, we travel around the area meeting families affected by the latest training exercise. With temperatures higher than 40 degrees Celsius, the wheat has been harvested from most of the fields. Over coffee and sweet tea, as is the Palestinian custom, they speak of the hundreds of tanks and military vehicles they have seen passing their homes.

290415 Jordan Valley. Israeli military vehicles. Photo JVS

29.04.15 Jordan Valley. Israeli military vehicles. Photo EAPPI

Many of the people we meet shrug their shoulders and tell us “it’s normal, we are used to it” when we ask about the training, despite the fact that it has a great impact on their daily life and livelihood. During the latest training, about 50 families were forced to evacuate their homes for hours, and in some cases the entire day.

They were only notified of this evacuation three days in advance, this gave families very little time to safely relocate themselves and their livestock. During the training days farmers were prevented from reaching their farmland, shepherds prevented from grazing their sheep and children were unable to access their school. Even more worrying is the fact that undetonated ordnances have been found around many of these villages. On the 19th of May, one man in Hammamat al Mayteh was injured by one of these highly dangerous ordnances.

120515 Jordan Valley. Furush Beit Dajan. Tariq Abu Oum outside his home. Photo by EA Hughes

12.05.15 Jordan Valley. Furush Beit Dajan, Tariq Abu Oum outside his home. Photo EAPPI/P. Hughes

Tariq Abu Oum in Furush Beit Dajan heads one of the families evacuated during the training. After evacuating his wife and nine children, he stayed behind to watch over his fields and property. At 2am, the Israeli army arrived, forcing him to leave and join his family. He returned the following evening to find his electricity had been cut.

16.04.15 Jordan Valley. EAs Pia and Peter with Naim Masaid in Khirbet Yarza. Photo EAPPI/M. Stacke

16.04.15. Jordan Valley. EAs Pia and Peter with Naim Masaid after military training in Khirbet Yarza. Photo EAPPI/M. Stacke

Despite all this, positive changes have been noticed. In discussions with Tawfiq Haj Mohammad, local Headmaster and Mayor of Furush Beit Dajan, he stated:

“Since internationals have come here to highlight the problems with the training, the Israeli Authorities have taken more care not to destroy crops.”

This is proof that Israel is not only aware that the training exercises do not take the livelihoods of Palestinians into consideration but also that it cares about its international image. This also shows the effect the international community can have on the efforts to end the occupation of Palestine.

 

Take action box 2

 

Write to your elected representatives and ask them to support the call from Palestinian Organisations to the EU and member states to ‘Act now on Israeli Military Training‘.

PHOTO ESSAY: The life of a child under occupation in Hebron

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This gallery contains 2 photos.

by the Hebron team, Life is very difficult for many of the Palestinians living in the Israeli controlled part of Hebron. Significant military presence, harassment by settlers and restriction on movement are everyday occurrences. As an EA living in the … Continue reading

Susiya: a village under threat of demolition

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by Paivi, South Hebron Hills team

Flags are fluttering in the breeze and the children still play in the little village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills, but the immediate future is fraught with fears and dangers. The Israeli High Court of Justice has swept aside the last legal obstacles to the complete demolition of this Palestinian village in Area C of the West Bank, under full Israeli control. The threat of displacement has not crushed the villagers’ spirit: rather the four hundred or so residents are doing whatever they can to save their homes.

150514 P Moore Susiya people try to keep their spirits high despite of fears of eviction

13/05/15. South Hebron Hills. Residents try to keep their spirits high despite of fears of eviction in the village of Susiya, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore

13/05/15. South Hebron Hills. Children play on swings in the village of Susiya, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore

13/05/15. South Hebron Hills. Children play on swings in the village of Susiya, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore

The village of Khirbet Susiya has existed on this land for centuries, but everything changed in 1986, when archaeologists found “evidence” of an ancient synagogue on the site. The residents were evicted and they sought a new place to live on their own grazing lands nearby. However, an Israeli settlement has been built in the same location, and now the farmers and shepherds of Khirbet Susiya are facing imminent expulsion once again. We EAs are spending days and even nights in the village to monitor the tense situation and provide protective presence.

13/05/15. South Hebron Hills. Flags are fluttering in the village of Susiya, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore

13/05/15. South Hebron Hills. Flags are fluttering in the village of Susiya, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore

Khirbet Susiya’s residents need your help and support.

Take action box 2

Please Stand with Susiya and sign B’Tselem’s petition here. 

On the 10th of May the Civil Administration began ‘mapping’ Susiya – residents here fear imminent demolition. Click here to learn more.

You can help their cause by sharing their story and spreading their appeal through social media using #SaveSusiya.

PHOTO ESSAY: scenes from military training in Tawayel

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by the Yanoun team

On the 19th of April 2015, eighteen army tanks, with their corresponding military supports arrived in the fields of Tell al Khashaba. A week later, additional military vehicles and helicopters came to the village and began military exercises. Farmers looked on in impotent horror as the tanks rolled up and down their fields and destroyed their crops. The crops, primarily grains such as wheat, are an important source of food and of income for the farmers. They plant once every two years, without this harvest they will struggle meet their basic needs.

Tanks Arrive in Tawayel, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI 20/04/2015

Tanks Arrive in Tawayel, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI 20/04/2015

R.Berg The Palestinians watch on unable to act

A local farmer watches the training, unable to prevent the destruction of his crops, Photo EAPPI R.Berg 03/05/2015

007 R.Berg Military training commences

Military Training by Israeli army in Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI/ R.Berg 03/05/2015

Tell al Khashaba, or Tawayel as it is commonly known, is a small village located in Area C of the Northern West Bank. The land surrounding the village was declared a Closed Military Zone by the Israeli government when it assumed full control of over 60% of the West Bank in 1995. The Israel army often conducts military training exercises on the agricultural land of local farmers.The villagers here live under the constant threat of eviction and house demolition for ‘military purposes’. These military exercises severely disrupts both the lives and livelihoods of the twenty one families living here.

005 R.Berg Farmers attempt to continue work

Farmers attempt to continue their work alongside tanks, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI/ R.Berg 03/05/2015

EA monitors as the army prepares for training, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI 20/04/2015

EA monitoring military training, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI/R.Berg 03/05/2015

006 R.Berg  Tractor vs tank

Farmers attempt to till to their fields alongside active tanks in Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI/ R.Berg 03/05/2015

004 R.Berg, villagers concerned over the training

Villagers whose fields were damaged during military training, Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI/ R.Berg 03/05/2015

Once again the villagers and their livelihoods have come under attack. The army gave no warning and ignored the farmer’s requests for them to conduct their training in a field, which did not have crops in it. Later that day they withdrew, to another location, in the Jordan Valley. The villagers pick up the pieces and wait for the next time, saying:

‘They cannot succeed because we have our soul in the ground, they can destroy the crops but they will not succeed in scaring us away’.

Farmers working their fields in Tawayel / Tell al Khashaba, Nablus. Photo EAPPI R.Berg 03/05/2015

 

 

Take action box 2

Write to your elected representatives and ask them to support the call from Palestinian Organisations to the EU and member states to ‘Act now on Israeli Military Training‘.

 

 

Open Letter from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ

I send very warm greetings from Cape Town to you all.

Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag is a special organization that occupies a special place in this old man’s heart.

It has played an exemplary and prophetic role in gently nudging modern Germany, with its powerful economy, towards using its power actively and compassionately for justice.

I remember how, in the 1980s, you struggled with your consciences over taking “a clear stand” against apartheid – and ultimately acted on your impulse to do the right thing, closing your accounts at Deutsche Bank over its dealings with South Africa. Thank you.

You understood how inter-connected we human beings are, our family ties, as it were – sisters and brothers as we all are in God’s family on
earth.

Today, many of us are concerned about the conflict in the Holy Land, a conflict with roots extending all the way back to World War II that contributes to a level of global insecurity the world has never experienced before.

Much as we condemn those who fire rockets from Palestine at civilian targets in Israel, Israel’s military assault on Gaza in response, last year, was not only cruelly disproportionate; it was also a brutal demonstration of Israel’s contempt for the people of Palestine.

The beliefs, ideological convictions and fears of leading voices on both sides of the equation – Israeli and Palestinian – are too extreme for them to be able to view the situation through a sufficiently wide prism to be able to stop the cycle of violence and hatred. There has been too much hurt.

The Conference Statement of the Kairos Palestine 5th Anniversary in December 2014 expressed deep concern about Israel’s ongoing and expanding occupation of Palestinian territory. In 2013, more settler homes were approved for construction on Palestinian land than in any year since 1967. The statement warned that repressive societal dynamics, on top of the continuing settlement policies, “make an independent state of Palestine existing in peace alongside the State of Israel almost impossible to imagine”.

The Kairos Palestine Document (Section 6 – Our word to the Churches of the world) urged churches “to stand alongside the oppressed and preserve the word of God as good news for all rather than turn it into a weapon with which to slay the oppressed”.

As South Africans and Germans, we arguably know better than most, from our own histories, what damage the authors of injustice and hatred inflict upon themselves. Those with the power to commit inhuman acts profoundly damage their own humanity.

Because of our special knowledge about human rights and justice, I believe that there is a particular onus on our countries to contribute to lasting peace and stability in the Holy Land. Is that not how families should work?

As Christians, it is our duty to side with the oppressed, the downtrodden, the poor, the prejudiced and unjustly treated – ALWAYS. There is no place for neutrality, because it favours the oppressors. Always.

Did the prophet Elijah not support Naboth over Ahab, the king of Israel,
who stole his land?

Does Psalm 99.4 not proclaim, “Mighty king, you love what is right; you have established justice in Israel; you have brought righteousness and fairness”?

In 2007, the World Council of Churches issued “The Amman Call”. The full text is too lengthy to include here, but, having heard the voices of the Christian churches of Palestine and Israel, it concluded with a number of challenges.

Christians were challenged to, “Act with us to liberate all peoples of this land from the logic of hatred, mutual rejection and death, so that they see in the other the face and dignity of God.”

And to:“Raise your voices along with ours as we speak “truth to power” and name with courage the injustices we see and experience. The illegal occupation has stolen two generations of lives in this tortured place, and threatens the next with hopelessness and rage.”

Last July, the World Council’s Central Committee issued the “Statement on Economic Measures and Christian Responsibility towards Israel and Palestine”. Brave and creative initiatives by the churches were needed, “to become better stewards of justice in economic affairs which link them to ongoing violations of international law in occupied territory”.

Finally, the Conference Statement, Kairos Palestine 5th Anniversary (2014) notes: “We commit to promoting in both churches and in our societies the Kairos call, which echoes Palestinian civil society demands, for the implementation of boycott, divestment, and sanctions as appropriate non-violent avenues of creative resistance until the illegal Israeli occupation is brought to an end.”

BDS is not antisemitism. Do business with Jews, organize with them, love them. But don’t support – militarily, economically or politically – the machinery of an apartheid-state. We can’t do business as normal because conditions in the Holy Land are totally abnormal.

Please tell your government that mere words of concern are insufficient. They don’t change anything. The appropriate response when confronting injustice is to take real steps to confront and eradicate it.

The late Richard von Weizsäcker, former President of Germany and President of the Kirchentag, demanded just this in a letter to the EU signed by many European elder statesmen in 2010.

Beware of anti-semitism, and all other forms of racism, but beware also of being cowed into silence by those who seek to stifle criticism of the oppressive politics of Israel by labeling you anti-Semitic.

I implore you to listen carefully to what Kairos Palestine is saying. Our Christian sisters and brothers in the Holy Land cannot use balanced synod statements expressing sympathy for oppressor and oppressed alike. They are asking all of our help to win their collective freedom back.

Please join the ecumenical Kairos movement and raise your voice in public solidarity to liberate Palestine so that Israel can be free, too.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Love
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
Cape Town, South Africa

Open letter from Archbishop Emeritius Desmond Tutu to Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentage.

Source: http://desmondtutu.org/

It’s all about land

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by the South Hebron Hills Team

We recently went on an excursion into the countryside with Nasser Nawaja a local contact and resident of Susiya. Nasser is a field researcher in the South Hebron Hills for B’Tselem an Israeli-Palestinian human rights organisation. Through his work he knows the fragmented pastures around Yatta like the back of his hand. While touring with Nasser he pointed out a number of restricted “security zones” around the settlements and explained how the grazing land is divided up between Palestinians and Israeli settlers. The first thought that struck me, while he spoke, was that there really should be no “division” as such, nor any dispute over who goes where; the UN has after all officially recognized Palestine as a country.

Photo EAPPI/ P. Moore

Hilltop showing patches of land which have different access rules for Palestinians and Israelis. South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/ P. Moore 2015

Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967 lands have been expropriated from their Palestinian owners under a variety of pretexts in order to allow the building of settlements. There are approximately 150 settlements in occupied Palestine. Significantly these settlements have large ‘buffer zones’ around them which Palestinians are denied access to.

“The fenced or patrolled areas of settlements cover three percent of the West Bank; in total 43% of the West Bank is allocated to settlement local and regional councils.” UNOCHA 2012

Compulsory purchase orders have been enacted which have taken advantage of legal frameworks dating from the times of the Ottoman Empire.  According to Ottoman law all land belongs to the State unless someone can specifically prove ownership in writing; further clauses have allowed the confiscation of land that has not been used or cultivated for three years. These laws tend to work against Palestinians living on the “seam zones and security areas”, where they are often denied permission to cultivate the land. Additionally when a dispute arises over the ownership of a particular tract of land, any use of the land is prohibited. This results in further loss of land and livelihoods for local herding communities.

“You see that brown patch of land down there in the valley?” said Nasser, pointing into the distance. “That and the green corridors extending away from it in both directions is an area closed to everyone. The same goes for the lush grassy area heading up from one of the corridors towards the outpost on the hill. On the other hand… the stretch of land from the look-out post down towards the road is off-limits to the settlers.” Nasser 2015

While Nasser spoke I tried in ernest to take the new information on board and to discern the logic of it all, if only so that I might remember the status quo in different strips of land on different hilltops. In the end I gave up realising it was a fruitless task and concluded “there was no logic”.

Nasser Nawaja and EAs talking with soldiers in patrol car. South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Nasser and EAs talking with soldiers in patrol car. South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P Moore

Soon after a patrol car appeared behind us and some Israeli soldiers beckoned us over. By coincidence, at that precise moment Nasser spotted a few goats belonging to the nearby settlement, grazing in an area that was off-limits to all parties. He pointed them out to the soldiers and asked why the goats were not being driven away from the prohibited area like Palestinian shepherds often were. The soldiers had no answer to this and they got back into their personnel carrier and drove away.

Nasser Nawaja discussing the land use in Yatta area with an ISF- soldier. South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore

Nasser Nawaja discussing the land use in Yatta area with an ISF- soldier. South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P Moore

I burst out laughing but then I felt ashamed. The situations one encounters in this bizarre patchwork quilt of hills and valleys would be comical – if it were not so tragic for so many. Each and every ‘re-zoned’ strip of dirt is somebody’s lost land.

Here we go on frequent visits to vulnerable communities living in Area C to give our support to families whose homes have been bulldozed or who are awaiting demolition. Many have received demolition orders because their homes have been deemed too close to either an Israeli settlement, a military firing range or an archaeological site. Access to land in area Area C, where the Israeli government has full control, is severely restricted. In fact, less than 1% of Area C has been planned for Palestinian development and construction is heavily restricted in 29% of Area C. UNOCHA 2013

Just a few days ago, our team rolled up our sleeves and joined the locals who were working to clear the demolition rubble away from the foundations of a house that had been leveled. The Israeli military carried out the demolition of a dozen homes in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Khair in October 2014. Umm al-Khair is bordered by the Israeli settlement of Karmel.

EAs help carry rubble from site of demolished house in Land Action in Um al Khair, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

EAs help carry rubble from site of demolished house in Land Action in Um al Khair, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

This particular family does not intend to leave and share their hopes and plans for rebuilding. They tell us that they will not build on the site where their previous home stood since the early 1960s, but right next to it. Many victims of demolition do this in the hope that the time it takes for a new building application to go through the courts will buy them some time in their new home. The temporary emergency shelters which the families now live in have been funded by both the European Union and the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and although this international support is greatly appreciated the residents say that they expect that these shelters will also be demolished before long. This is rural life in Area C in Palestine.

EAs and local residents clearing demolition rubble in Um al Kher South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

EAs and local residents clearing demolition rubble in Um al Kher South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Al Mukhtasem Hathaleen carrying rubble from site of demolished house at Land Action in Um al Kher, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

Al Mukhtasem Hathaleen carrying rubble from site of demolished house at Land Action in Um al Kher, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P Moore 2015

Approximately 99% of all Palestinian planning permission applications are rejected. Significantly, while old Palestinian houses are being demolished on regular basis, settlements, which are deemed illegal under international law, are being expanded at a steadily increasing pace. In some cases entire villages are under threat of demolition. The one that is probably closest to the heart of us EAs in the South Hebron Hills is the small community of Susiya, which has recently been featured in the pages of Israeli and Palestinian and international newspapers.

Susiya: a community at the heart of the struggle

Susema and Odei sheparding on Susiya fields, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Susema and Odei sheparding on Susiya fields, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Some 550 people live in the village of Susiya. Their main source of income comes from farming and animal husbandry. From the outside, the village might look like a ramshackle tangle of tents and shacks, but it has a soul and a school and a whole lot of children. Village community life flourishes.

The village of Susiya was here at its original location from the early decades of the 19th century. In 1986, the Israeli Civil Administration declared the village land was an archaeological site and the residents were expelled and the land was confiscated. Since then the village’s history has been one long chapter of nonviolent struggles against demolition orders. Just some weeks ago, the Civil Administration announced it had quashed the last legal obstacles to the complete destruction of the village. “Complete” in this case would not just include their makeshift homes but livestock barns, water tanks, solar panels – everything in the village.

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills  Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

The Village of Susiya, South Hebron Hills Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Susya forever, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Susya forever, South Hebron Hills, Photo EAPPI/P. Moore 2015

Things are rather different at the neighbouring Susiya settlement, built on village land from 1983 onwards. Life in the Israeli settlement carries on without any threats of the demolition.  The story of Susiya is one of many in the South Hebron Hills region, where too many people live from day to day never knowing when the next expulsion will come.

On the 10th of May the Civil Administration began ‘mapping’ Susiya – residents fear imminent demolition. Click here to learn more.

Take action box 2

 

Sign and spread the Avaaz Petition started by Susiya resident Nasser Nawajeh, Save My Village!

You can help their cause by sharing their story and spreading B’Tselem’s appeal through social media using #SaveSusiya.

 

The Settler’s Tour in Hebron

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by the Hebron Team

Hebron is a contested city. The settlements are located in the middle of the city’s center and there are few other places were Palestinians and settlers are living so close to each other. Because of the proximity, tensions frequently arise between the two sides.

Hebron, therefore, is often said to represent a microcosm of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Photo EAPPI/ M. Guntern Settlers entering into the old city.  06.04.2015

Settlers entering into the old city, Hebron. Photo EAPPI/ M. Guntern 06.04.2015

The city is divided into one Israeli and one Palestinian zone. Normally the Old City is off limits for the settlers, but every Saturday afternoon a group of settlers and supporting tourists go on a “tour” around the Old City.

The group is accompanied by some 30-40 soldiers, including a troop of snipers that go ahead to secure the area. In some cases this means entering Palestinian homes. For approximately one hour the group makes its way through the Old City of Hebron protected by heavily armed soldiers. Some of the settlers participating in the tour are also armed.

Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern  Soldiers protecting the settlers during the tour.06.04.2015

Soldiers protecting the settlers during the tour, Hebron. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

The tour guide is one of the ideological hardliners from the settlement community in Hebron. He presents the settlers’ narrative of the history of the Jewish community in the city. However, from what EAs have observed the audience rarely pays attention to what is being said. Instead they tend to hang out and chat with each other, the soldiers, or they concentrate on their phones. The Settler’s Tour has become a renowned attraction in Hebron. Also regular tourists come to Hebron to watch this spectacle of settlers, soldiers and members of international organisations.

Internationals and tourists waiting for the tour. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

Internationals and tourists waiting for the tour. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

The Palestinians living and working in the Old City regards the settlers tour as way of “showing who’s in power” and to “intimidate the population”. EAPPI, is always present during the tours to provide protective presence to the inhabitants of the Old City.

We, as Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs), do our best to ensure that Palestinians do not face restrictions on their freedom of movement and that they are allowed to pass the group of settlers and soldiers without problems.

Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern  EA monitoring the tour. 06.04.2015

EA monitoring the Settler’s tour Hebron. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

However, the tour is affecting the locals’ ability and willingness to move around the Old City. On one occasion we met two women with their daughters, who said they were too afraid to walk past the tour and decided to wait until it had passed.

In addition to affecting the number of customers in the Old City, the Settler’s Tour has further consequences for local commerce and trade. A shopkeeper in the Old City says about the tour:

“Sometimes the settlers break my things and throw my products on the ground and trample on them, other times the settlers buy things, you never know with these groups”

Nevertheless, the shopkeepers in the Old City staunchly open their shops and refuse to let the “tour” control their opening hours.