By EA Ingrid, Hebron team,
Amid escalating violence Palestinian school children continue to bear the brunt of harsh Israeli policies and prolonged military occupation. Since Oct 30th Israeli authorities have declared large parts of Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida (H2) in Hebron’s city center a closed military zone. In this same area where several Palestinians were shot and killed during this fall; harassment and violence from settlers is commonplace.
The closed military zone means that nobody except the Palestinian residents of the area, Israeli settlers and the children and staff belonging to the local school are allowed access. This is the same area where EAPPI, and other international observers, are present each school day to accompany the children on their way to school. Usually the internationals’ presence is their protection against harassment from settlers and soldiers.
These last weeks, EAs have thus not been able to access this closed area. Instead we have found ourselves outside the checkpoint, watching the kids passing through on their way to school. We have also been present at the school. However, unlike before, the children are not accompanied as they walk down Shuhada street, a street which is infamous for settler violence against Palestinian civilians.
As an EA, it is so frustrating not being able to join the children all their way to school, as both teachers and students have told us that they are afraid to pass soldiers and settler unaccompanied. Ten-year-old Qusai, in fifth grade, told us “when we see settlers we want to turn back and go home, but when we see EAs we feel safer and keep walking“. The imposition of the closed military zone continues to date and carries grave concerns for the safety of the children.
Increased military presence next to the school
The military presence on the school route has increased. Several schooldays in November, we EAs have observed 5 – 6 soldiers standing on a narrow brick road which is used by the school children on their way to school. The soldiers have been standing there in the morning when the children go to school, and in the afternoon. Students and teachers have reported that they find their presence intimidating. Significantly, EAs have not observed soldiers standing here at other times of the day.
Temporary closure of Check Point 56
In late November the teachers of Cordoba school told the EAs that the Israeli army announced its plans to close Check Point 56 for renovations for two weeks starting from 30th November. All of the teachers and over 100 children pass through this checkpoint on a daily basis to access Cordoba School; this closure will significantly increase their travel time. The alternative route to Cordoba around the Check Point necessitates a ten minute drive; thus makes accessing the school a lot harder.
The solution for the children is yet unclear. Maybe they will be bussed around the checkpoint and have a longer journey to school for these weeks. What is clear is that an already difficult school run is set to become even more difficult. Access to education is a basic human right. However, in Hebron schoolchildren’s access to education is greatly restricted as direct results of Israel’s military policies in occupied Palestine.
Thus, it was a wonderful relieving experience for the kids (and maybe also for us EAs…) when a group of local organisations, led by Defense Children International, organised a day filled with games and dancing at Cordoba. For a few hours, the school was turned in to a bubble of playful joy and contagious laughter.
I got too see for a brief moment, what a school should look and sound like – and it felt right! EA Ingrid
EAPPI is calling upon the Israeli authorities to fulfill their responsibility as outlined by international law and ensure safe access to education for the children in Hebron and across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Help us make a difference:
- Inform your representative in parliament & media agencies about the implications of Israel’s military policies on Palestinian schoolchildren’s right to education.
- Contact officials and call on them to demand that Palestinian schoolchildren have immediate, unhindered access to education.
- Write to your elected representative using our advocacy resources here.
B’Tselem Press Release, Nov. 6, 2015: “New restrictions on movement in Hebron and area disrupt lives and constitute prohibited collective punishment”
Huffington Post: “We Will Not Leave the School”