“I am afraid that there will be more harassment from Israeli settlers after the war in Gaza.” ~Mohammad, teacher at Imneizil school

IN PALESTINE, THE OBSTACLES TO RECEIVING AN EDUCATION ARE NUMEROUS. CHECKPOINTS, MILITARY PRESENCE, SETTLER ATTACKS, TREACHEROUS ROADS, CLOSED MILITARY ZONES, DEMOLITION ORDERS, AND VIOLENT CLASHES ARE ONLY A FEW.  BUT STUDENTS & TEACHERS PERSEVERE DAILY IN THEIR JOURNEY TO RECeivE QUALITY EDUCATION.  WE BRING THESE FACES TO LIFE AND SHARE THEIR HOPES, CHALLENGES, AND DREAMS in our Final post in our Back to school 2014 series.

Mohammad Ed’ass, English teacher at Imneizil school. Photo EAPPI/E. Maga-Cabillas.

Mohammad Ed’ass, English teacher at Imneizil school. Photo EAPPI/E. Maga-Cabillas.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I fear that the future will be very difficult. The war in Gaza and the peace accord would make Israeli settlers and Israeli army more aggressive, and the Palestinian people will suffer.   The school is located very near to the Beit Yatir Settlement with only a barbed wire fence separating it from the school. It is also close to Beit Yatir checkpoint where some children are passing through every day. I see now more difficulties coming, financially and politically. And our freedom in moving forward for the future will be restricted even more than before.

What are your biggest challenges in going to school?

I am living far from the school. Every day, I expect difficulties or bad things to happen. For instance, I expect that there will be more verbal harassment from Israeli settlers.

What is needed for education to thrive in Palestine?

There must be some changes to the educational system in Palestine, like the curriculum. There are too many courses for the students. I would like to suggest only to focus on three areas such as: Arabic, English and an open course, which is the choice of the teacher, what he thinks is needed for the class. To give you an example, we, the teachers need more knowledge in information technology and we need more education in pedagogical skills. We need to upgrade our skills in general, equipping both the teachers as well as the students.

*Read more testimonies from this year’s Back to School series.
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“Teaching is hard enough, but when Israeli soldiers come close to the school, things are made worse.” ~Isaac, teacher Al Khader Junior school

IN PALESTINE, THE OBSTACLES TO RECEIVING AN EDUCATION ARE NUMEROUS. CHECKPOINTS, MILITARY PRESENCE, SETTLER ATTACKS, TREACHEROUS ROADS, CLOSED MILITARY ZONES, DEMOLITION ORDERS, AND VIOLENT CLASHES ARE ONLY A FEW.  BUT STUDENTS & TEACHERS PERSEVERE DAILY IN THEIR JOURNEY TO RECEIVE QUALITY EDUCATION.  WE BRING THESE FACES TO LIFE AND SHARE THEIR HOPES, CHALLENGES, AND DREAMS.

Isaac Al Khadi, a teacher at Al Khader Junior School. Photo EAPPI.

Isaac Al Khadi, a teacher at Al Khader Junior School. Photo EAPPI.

Isaac is a teacher in the junior school of Al Khader. The school is located on the edge of the village beside a section of the separation wall. This has been a site of frequent clashes between the boys from the neighboring secondary school and soldiers. The road to both schools is littered with spent tear gas grenades.

Isaac told us he was worried about the children and their future. He says many of them don’t value education and don’t see a future for themselves; very few of them see education as a priority. Isaac feels that’s things are made worse by the Israeli army when they come close to the schools. Teaching is hard enough but when they come it just gets worse. However, since it is a new school year, he is hopeful that things will get better.

Isaac believes that the educational system and that the curriculum in Palestine are not up to scratch and need to be changed. He told us that he has little confidence in the minister for education. He is not proud to say he is a teacher and feels that he should be able to say he is proud of being a teacher since it is such an important job. Isaac knows he could be proud of his profession if the system was run better.

*Read more testimonies from this year’s Back to School series.
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Israeli settlers miscalculate a Palestinian farmer

In an ongoing conflict, where victories for Israeli settlers and the Israeli occupation seem never-ending, one farmer prevails and succeeds in getting his land back.

by Helge, Yanoun team

Bashar al Qaryouti dedicates his life to struggle for human rights and document violations of these rights in the West Bank. Photo EAPPI/H. Kjollesdal.

Bashar al Qaryouti dedicates his life to struggle for human rights and document violations of these rights in the West Bank. Photo EAPPI/H. Kjollesdal.

Israeli settlers from Shiloh try to build a fence on Palestinian land

Sometimes we see a case where Israeli settlers in the West Bank do not succeed in their plans of expanding their territory. Instead, Palestinians are able to show that law and regulations can prevail. However, relevant knowledge and ability to mobilize are needed in order to create a victory.

On the evening of August 11, Israeli settlers from the settlement of Shiloh, southeast of Nablus, walked down the hill to a field that is owned by the Palestinian farmer Muhammed Abed Aziz. They brought with them materials for setting up a fence and tried to install pipes for a new water system. The settlers started to cut down the almond trees on the field. They wanted to cultivate their own produce.

Bashar Alqaryouti lives in a nearby village. He has a long history of bringing his video camera for documenting Israeli settlers that are violating humanitarian and other laws. Bashar often facilitates protests against these injustices. On this day, he arrived on the scene early enough to document what happened and save it on his large memory stick.

Bashar alerted the relevant Palestinian authorities who called the local Israeli District Coordination Office (DCO). Israeli soldiers were dispatched to the grounds of Muhammed Abed Aziz. The police also arrived. Bashar also contacted the Israeli human rights organization, Yesh Din, to monitor what was happening.

The soldiers had no choice but to evict the settlers from the field. The police investigated and confiscated the tools of the settlers. The fence was removed. This was a total victory for the farmer Aziz. He was able to get his field, close to Shiloh, back.

Justice Can Prevail

This case demonstrates that justice can prevail when Palestinians use the system wisely. Success depends on many factors. Aziz was able to provide papers to show that his property was fully registered under his name. He proved that he was undoubtedly the owner of the land. Land registration is often difficult to document for Palestinian farmers, whose claim to the land often stems from the fact that their family has cultivated this land for generations. They often have old land registration deeds from Ottoman times or documents from the British mandate or Jordanian protocols. These kind of papers, however, differ from those required by Israeli regulations created after Israel took control of the West Bank in 1967 and they may be contested. Aziz had a keen mind to know what land registration documents are valid today.

Many farmers do not have the necessary papers after having fled as refugees during the 1948 and 1967 wars and then returning to an empty house. Moreover, the land ownership might be in doubt if it lies in Area C, 60% of the West Bank which is under full Israeli military & civil control as delineated in the Oslo Accords.

But Aziz was able to document without a doubt that he owned his field with almond trees. The settlers had miscalculated the situation and were forced to face an eviction. Bashar was there to catch the settlers’ trespassing with his revealing electronic eye.

Bashar and the case of the road blockade 

Some days later, we meet Bashar on the terrace of his fathers house in Qaryut. He spends a considerable amount of time confronting Israeli settlers and the Israeli authorities who let injustice prevail. His biggest project is to remove an army blockade on a road that forces the people in nearby villages to drive an extra 30 kilometres everytime they need to go to Ramallah, which is not only time-consuming, but also expensive. The blockade has other ramifications as well. Bashar has been involved in many of the 120 demonstrations against this blockade throughout the 13 years it has been enforced.

The case of the blockade is still hanging in ”the system,” the Israeli authorities reply when Bashar asks them about the final outcome. The purpose of the blockade, according to Bashar, is to tie settlements together by aquiring land on both sides of the road. As the farmers cannot reach their land because they can not use the road, they have difficulties cultivating it. The land will become state land after 10 years without ploughing and can then be bought by new owners.

”Why can’t you take this guy with you to Oslo and keep him there so I can have some sleep at night?” Bashar’s fathers utters looking at me with a smile.

He is worried about his activist son, but evidently also proud of him for spending so much time defending other peoples’ rights in a conflict that causes so much pain.

“I want to teach children. I love to teach!” ~Kawthar, Al Quds University in Yatta

IN PALESTINE, THE OBSTACLES TO RECEIVING AN EDUCATION ARE NUMEROUS. CHECKPOINTS, MILITARY PRESENCE, SETTLER ATTACKS, TREACHEROUS ROADS, CLOSED MILITARY ZONES, DEMOLITION ORDERS, AND VIOLENT CLASHES ARE ONLY A FEW.  BUT STUDENTS & TEACHERS PERSEVERE DAILY IN THEIR JOURNEY TO RECEIVE QUALITY EDUCATION.  WE BRING THESE FACES TO LIFE AND SHARE THEIR HOPES, CHALLENGES, AND DREAMS.

Kawthar Al-Nawajah is a student at Al Quds University, Yatta Branch. Photo EAPPI/E. Maga-Cabillas.

Kawthar Al-Nawajah (17) is a student at Al Quds University, Yatta Branch. Photo EAPPI/E. Maga-Cabillas.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I want to learn more about the history of my country and its geography. I want to have more trust in myself and become more confident in facing the future. I want to have a better future after the war and hope life be restored, especially for those people in Gaza. I really want the people to live a life with dignity.

What are your biggest challenges in going to school?

Our house is very far from school. I always take a taxi in going to school which is expensive.

What would you like to be in the future?

I want to be a teacher. I love to teach. I want to teach the children. I want to help them become literate especially on information technology like computer literacy, communication skills and to update them on different technology.

What is needed for education to thrive in Palestine?

Our education system needs to be improved. More schools are needed to accommodate new students. Schools must have better facilities with more rooms. Most classrooms are overcrowded accommodating more than fifty or almost a hundred students without proper ventilation, no lights and lack of chairs and other facilities

Teachers should be trained more to become better in their fields of specialization. They should learn more skills especially in communication and develop methods of teaching for better education. Teachers must also be fit and computer literate.

I am looking forward that there will be more scholarships and other financial assistance to help children go to school and finish their studies, like after high school they can study at college. Others did not finish high school because of poverty.

*Read more testimonies from this year’s Back to School series.
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*Check out last year’s photo essay: Visualizing Back to School in Palestine.

Al Jab’a faces more land confiscation with latest announcement that 4000 dunums will be confiscated

by Bethlehem team

After the Gaza ceasefire was agreed the Israeli government once again turned its attention to the West Bank and announced what Peace Now has called the largest land confiscation in 30 years, in which the Israeli government announced it will confiscate 4000 dunums of land. This land covers a large area in the Gush Etzion settlement block and directly impacts on several of the villages that the Bethlehem team covers. We travelled to the affected villages to meet with local contacts and see first-hand what is happening. Al Jab’a is just one of these villages and the story told here is repeated across the area.

When we first called our contact Sheikh Nasser he stated that he didn’t think it would affect Al Jab’a.

He says, “they have already taken so much, we have nothing left to give.”

Sheikh Nasser explained to us that they feel the village is under siege already. Most of the village is area B but parts are area C, and of the 110 houses, 18 have demolitions orders against them. The welcome to Al Jab’a sign the village put up was also in Area C and was duly removed by the Israeli Army. The road linking the village to the next closest village of Surif was closed off by the Israeli army some years ago leaving the villages cut off from each other.

Despite the grim reality, Nasser agreed to meet with us and show us the village. By the time we had arrived the information had started to come out and the impact on Al Jab’a had become clear.

In the words of Nasser, “now they are coming back to take the little we had left – this hurts, our village is like a big jail.”

The confiscation would allow the nearby settlement outpost of Bat Ayin and Gava’ot to expand out as far as the green line, encircling Al Jab’a and cutting it off even further from the rest of Palestinian life.

View of Al Jab'a and land to be confiscated.

A view to the north of Al Jab’a. On the right is the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin and the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit. Most of the empty land will be confiscated. Photo EAPPI/P. Costello.

Nasser himself was losing all his agricultural land that belonged to his family on the outskirts of the village and he took us out to show us the land and the military signs declaring the confiscation of his land. Much of the land has already been in effect denied to them because he and his family try to work on it the Israeli military comes and forces them to leave, telling them they are no longer allowed to use this land.

Nasser said as he stood on his land, “you save for 10 years to buy one dunnam and then they come and take 4000 in the blink of an eye.”

Sheikh Nasser stands next to a sign on his land declaring it as state land.  The Israeli military will not allow him to use this land. Photo EAPPI.

Sheikh Nasser stands next to a sign on his land declaring it as state land. The Israeli military will not allow him to use this land. Photo EAPPI/P. Costello.

Nasser introduced us to Abu Harras, another resident of Al Jab’a who has lost 1000 olive trees, which were cut down by the Israeli military. When he replanted them, the military returned again and said that he had a choice – to cut them down himself or they would cut them down again and send him the bill for this ‘service’. Abu Harras showed us his British Mandate era deeds for his lands, and produced volumes of paperwork relating to previous court battles over his trees and his land, all of which will be lost regardless under the new confiscation order.

Abu Harras shows us his British era land deed. Photo EAPPI.

Abu Harras shows us his British era land deed. Photo EAPPI/P. Costello.

Israeli settlements are illegal under Article 49 of the 4th Geneva convention. This fact has been reinforced by several UN resolutions declaring them not only illegal but a barrier to peace. This land confiscation and the subsequent growth will choke Al Jab’a, and pile the pressure on an already struggling village.

As Nasser said to us “there is almost nothing left, will they only be happy when we are all gone?”

There is some confusion now, with some reports saying that the land confiscation is not going ahead. However, the locals in Al Jab’a point out that they have been driven off their land already by the Israeli army and Israeli settlers. In fact, the fields already have basic water and electricity infrastructure in them ready for building. The locals of Al Jab’a believe that the Israeli government means to take this land one way or another, and if not now they will do it in smaller batches when no one is looking.

As we left, Nasser said to us “Israel has a right to defend herself, but this is not Israel and this is not defense.”

There is already water infrastructure on the land to be confiscated for future building of Israeli settlements. Photo EAPPI.

There is already water infrastructure on the land to be confiscated for future building of Israeli settlements. Photo EAPPI/P.Costello.

*Read about more stories about Land Confiscation.

“The political situation is a reason for problems, but it is not the only reason, and we need to realize this.” ~Sameh, English teacher, As Sawiya School

IN PALESTINE, THE OBSTACLES TO RECEIVING AN EDUCATION ARE NUMEROUS. CHECKPOINTS, MILITARY PRESENCE, SETTLER ATTACKS, TREACHEROUS ROADS, CLOSED MILITARY ZONES, DEMOLITION ORDERS, AND VIOLENT CLASHES ARE ONLY A FEW.  BUT STUDENTS & TEACHERS PERSEVERE DAILY IN THEIR JOURNEY TO RECEIVE QUALITY EDUCATION.  WE BRING THESE FACES TO LIFE AND SHARE THEIR HOPES, CHALLENGES, AND DREAMS.

Sameh Shahrouj, Age 24. An English Teacher at As Sawiya School. Photo EAPPI/H. Kjollesdal.

Sameh Shahrouj, Age 24. An English Teacher at As Sawiya School. Photo EAPPI/H. Kjollesdal.

What are you looking forward to this school year?

I am looking forward to teaching the students the new curriculum and building strong bases in English through new methods, like mixing games with abstract material. I want to focus on their personalities [the students], because nobody cares about the students personalities, even in his or her house.

What are your biggest challenges in going to school?

There are a few…

  • The location of the school is far from my nearest bus stop
  • The number of students in each class is too big. So it is difficult to control them.
  • Most importantly. Students don’t like the English language. So it is very hard to convince my students that this is the most important language in the world. So you have to find interesting ways to teach.

What is needed for education to thrive in Palestine?

It needs many things…

The mentality of the teachers needs to change. We need to change this traditional mentality. They don’t want to use technology. Instead of using technology, they are destroying it. The main problem is that the parents don’t care about their children, so they send them to school just to get rid of them. A student is lucky if his friend’s parents care. The popular perspective for students now is to drift away from school to go work in Israel so they can earn money and buy designer labels. So focusing on the teachers, the parents and the whole system is needed. Some statistics I have read say the problem is in the curriculum, or in the teachers, or in the parents. I think the problem is within them all.

I don’t like to focus on the political situation because it is used as an excuse. We have a saying like ‘putting all your clothes on one iron rod'; we find an excuse and blame it on something else. The political situation is a reason for problems, but it is not the only reason, and we need to realize this.

*Read more testimonies from this year’s Back to School series.
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“The only thing we have is education.” ~Nawal, headmistress of Al Jiftlik Secondary School

IN PALESTINE, THE OBSTACLES TO RECEIVING AN EDUCATION ARE NUMEROUS. CHECKPOINTS, MILITARY PRESENCE, SETTLER ATTACKS, TREACHEROUS ROADS, CLOSED MILITARY ZONES, DEMOLITION ORDERS, AND VIOLENT CLASHES ARE ONLY A FEW.  BUT STUDENTS & TEACHERS PERSEVERE DAILY IN THEIR JOURNEY TO RECEIVE QUALITY EDUCATION.  WE BRING THESE FACES TO LIFE AND SHARE THEIR HOPES, CHALLENGES, AND DREAMS.

Nawal Kanori, headmistress of the Coed secondary school in Al Jiftlik, Jordan Valley.  Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

Nawal Kanori, headmistress of the Coed secondary school in Al Jiftlik, Jordan Valley. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I am looking forward to working hard with new graduate students to give them opportunities. 3 days ago I met with 36 girls and asked them, what do you want, how can we improve the situation with education. I am committed to improving the education here, you see the only thing we have is education. It is the most important thing to lead us to a better future. I am looking for good chances for the graduates. I want scholarships for my excellent students. I want to connect them to the outside world.

What are your biggest challenges in the children going to school?

The main road in Jiftlik is always full of soldiers, we have Israeli settlements all around. Jiftlik is a very wide area, many students come by foot or by bicycle. I always feel afraid about them. There are often road accidents because the army and settler cars drive really fast. The soldiers sometimes stop the children, on the road and on the bus. They have tried to take children off the bus because they say that they throw stones. But I am the first one here every morning, I see everything, and none of the children at my school throw stones. We are peaceful in Jiftlik. Once we were coming back from a school trip through Hamra checkpoint, the soldiers stopped the bus for 3 hours because they said to the children ‘why are you laughing at me?’ I told him they were not laughing at him, they were joking and singing because they were happy at going on a school trip. But he held us for a long time and it made me nervous. Even children are expected to suppress their feelings under the occupation.

What is needed for education in Palestine to thrive?

I have three graduates studying science and engineering at university abroad, it was before we had a building and the school was in a tent. Their classmates in Canada, Norway and the US ask them, ‘how do you get better grades than me when you went to a tent school?’ They work very hard, it makes me proud. However, many schools suffer from students who are clever and want to travel to study abroad, but the Israelis have forbidden them from travelling. We want the outside world to be open to us, to share experiences and ideas. We don’t have planes and bombs, we are peaceful people. The only thing we have is education. We want to walk side by side with this changing world, not to be cut off. Everything will be easier if the occupation will end.

As teachers we want to give our students the best. For example the primary school here has 900 students and there are many duties on the teachers and headmaster. If I want to build a school so that there are fewer children in the classes, say 450 for each school, in order to give a better education. If I want to do this, I will have a block: the occupation. I have to consider renting our own village’s land from the Israelis who took it from us, just imagine! And then I will have 5 or 6 years of struggle to try get permission from the Israelis to let me build. It was back in 2005 when I started thinking about building a secondary school for Al Jiftlik, I thought man has gone to the moon yet we have no school. I have been a teacher since 1999. It is not complicated to run a school if there is no occupation.

*Read more testimonies from this year’s Back to School series.
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*Check out last year’s photo essay: Visualizing Back to School in Palestine.