Studying for a better future under military pressure

By the Yanoun team, 

The as-Sawiyah al-Lubban School, in Nablus is just one of many schools in Palestine. It is one school of many to which students with school bags on their backs walk, run and bike every day. Some students do some last minute studying with their eyes focused on the pages of their books while walking the last hundred meters along Road 60, the main artery of the central West Bank, which runs outside the gates of the school.

Continue reading

Targeting Palestinian children: broken legs, shattered futures

by the Bethlehem team, 

Imagine there are two 12-year old boys standing by the side of the road. Both pick up a similar size rock, and hurl it towards a passing tourist bus. Both have done wrong, there’s no doubt about that, but the consequences these two youngsters, from neighboring areas, may face will differ hugely, depending on their ethnicity and nationality.

16.11.15 Bethlehem, Tuqu, Military presence next to Tuqu school, Photo EAPPI/S. Rehell

16.11.15 Bethlehem, Tuqu, Military presence next to Tuqu school, Photo EAPPI/Suvi. R

Continue reading

When children are treated like criminals

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?’.
Continue reading

A sign of hope in Access to Education

In the midst of bedouin communities facing displacement, one village will receive a school for its children.

Jab’a community is surrounded by busy roads. Photo EAPPI/P. Buckley.

The community of Jab’a is surrounded by busy roads. Photo EAPPI/P. Buckley.

Today few Bedouins who live in the countryside to the East of Jerusalem are able to continue their semi-nomadic lifestyles, as they have been moved to designated areas not suitable for herding or farming. They are restricted by fences, Israeli settlements, poisonous waste from settlements – not to mention obstacles like busy motorways. This is the story of a small community fighting for their land and for their children’s education, giving a glimpse of hope in the often bleak reality.

The tribe of A Ka’abneh  that EAPPI supports has been separated by these obstacles from the rest of the Jab’a Bedouin community to which they belong, and their smallest children face a journey to school so challenging it can scarcely be imagined.

According to a UNDP Report, education in Palestinian bedouin communities often suffers because of the poor environmental conditions and educational quality, often stemming from restrictions of the Israeli occupation.  This results in a high percentage of school dropouts and a correspondingly high rate of illiteracy, especially among females.

The small community of Ka’abneh is to be found squeezed in between fences, the Israeli settlement of Adam and a motorway intersection. As guests, we are made welcome amidst the poor houses, ruins of demolished houses and tent constructions. While we are seated under a dusty olive tree drinking a never-ending supply of sugary mint tea, it is impossible to ignore the roar of the cars speeding by. The contrast between the traditional garments of the mukhtar – the village leader – and the hypermodern surroundings that suffocate the village highlights the tensions they live with. This is far from the traditional picture of Bedouin life that most of us have.

An EA listening as Mohamed Ka’abneh outlines his plans. Photo EAPPI/P. Buckley.

An EA listening as Mohamed Ka’abneh outlines his plans. Photo EAPPI/P. Buckley.

After meeting with the village leader Mohamed Ka’abneh we are shown the pipe. Yes, that is correct, the pipe, that children crawl through to cross under one of the busy main roads that surround the village. The alternative is to dodge through the speeding traffic. Each day they pick their way through garbage, scorpions and mud to get to school. So far “only” one child has been bitten by a snake. The children willingly show us their difficult way to school through the pipe, and as we wander back towards the site of what will become their new school, they burst with excitement.

Daod (12) and Ahmad (8) emerge from the pipe under the busy road. Photo EAPPI/ML. Kjellstrom.

Daod (12) and Ahmad (8) emerge from the pipe under the busy road. Photo EAPPI/ML. Kjellstrom.

For years Mohamed has worked to raise funds for a school bus but without success. He later realized that it would be better to get a school for the community. Finally, with the support of the European Commission through an international NGO, a school has been promised. As they had already waited to get a school bus for such a long time the community joined forces to speed things up and each family gave a couple of hundred shekels to level the ground for the new school.

Jab’a community is surrounded by busy roads. Photo EAPPI/P. Buckley.

Jab’a community is surrounded by busy roads. Photo EAPPI/P. Buckley.

Most of the houses in the village have demolition orders pending and they fear the school may be demolished or dismantled, even before it has started to operate. So they have asked EAPPI to provide a protective presence and they want as many internationals as possible to be present in the coming weeks to deter any demolition. EAs encounter many communities and people who are in a demoralizing downward spiral of demolitions and evictions, that any sign of progress provides a welcome relief. And currently the situation in the Ka’abneh village offers a ray of hope, in a very challenging time.

The school will enroll 50 children from the age of six to twelve, and teachers from outside the community will start teaching as soon as the classrooms are ready.

The children, the community and EAPPI await with excitement the first day of classes in the new school. This time there will be no pipes and no mud to crawl through.

* Read more about the struggles of the bedouin in the E1/Jerusalem Periphery.

The girl who climbed to the top of the world

The situation at Burin secondary school in the Nablus district is escalating, adversely affecting the students access to education. The presence of Israeli soldiers and settlers often result in clashes with the school boys. Despite all, one girl stands out as an inspiring model with hope for the future.

In Burin, the school begins with the national anthem as in all Palestinian schools. Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

In Burin, the school begins with the national anthem as in all Palestinian schools. Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

by Taika, Yanoun team

One of the most rewarding and important tasks for Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) is to do “school runs” that enable Palestinian children to arrive safely at school each morning. School runs are a part of an Access to Education initiative supported by UNICEF which aims to guarantee children’s access to education despite the hardships of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. One of the schools we visit weekly is the Burin secondary school. 285 students study here, 25 of them are female.

A provocative presence

In recent weeks the situation between the students and the soldiers outside the school grounds, only some 50 metres away, escalated several times. Israeli soldiers park their jeeps behind the school each day claiming to protect the Israeli settlers using Road 60, about 200 metres away from the school. Settlers from the Yizhar settlement, located on a hill top behind the school, and soldiers often accuse students from Burin of throwing stones at their cars. At times the soldiers get out of their jeep and walk very close to the school yard during the lunch break. Sometimes the head of security of the Yizhar settlement accompanies them.

The Israeli soldiers are often accompanied by the security staff of the close by Yizhar settlement in their white jeeps. Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

The Israeli soldiers are often accompanied by the security staff of the close by Yizhar settlement in their white jeeps. Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

The presence of the settlers particuarly provokes the students who start shouting and gather at the school fence. Sometimes the boys throw stones, which causes the soldiers to respond with tear gas and sound bombs. Sometimes the soldiers also enter the school yard to intimidate the students, or set up a flying checkpoint just outside the school gate when it’s time for the students to go home. They detain the boys and check their hands in order to find out if they have thrown rocks. They also search their school bags and keep them waiting for long time before they can go home.

“The best way to fight the occupation is to get an education.”

Incidents like this have a huge effect on the education of the students in Burin secondary school. Hyped-up by their encounters with the soldiers, the students are not able to concentrate on their studies in the classroom. Teachers at Burin secondary school tell us it has become increasingly difficult to control the students or to get them to pay attention during the lessons. This particularly affects the boys.

“The boys want to fight the occupation, they want to fight the soldiers”, says Ghassan, a local activist, who graduated from the Burin secondary school some years ago. “They don’t understand that the best way to fight the occupation is to get an education,” he sighs.

She climbed Kilimanjaro

Yasmeen al Najjar is one of the first palestinian women to climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. "I can't climb to the hills here in Burin because of the soldiers and the settlers, but I can climb a mountain in Africa," she explains. "It shouldn't be like this." Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

Yasmeen al Najjar is one of the first palestinian women to climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. “I can’t climb to the hills here in Burin because of the soldiers and the settlers, but I can climb a mountain in Africa,” she explains. “It shouldn’t be like this.” Photo EAPPI/T. Kopra.

In the midst of the chaotic everyday life of Burin school, we meet one of the most inspiring people that we have met during our time in Yanoun. 17-year-old Yasmeen Al Najjar, a student, just returned from a trip in Africa. This bright young woman climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in just eight days. A remarkable achievement for anyone, let alone for a young woman who wears a prosthesis on her left leg. Yasmeen took part in an expedition as a member of Palestinian Child Relief, an organization focusing on helping handicapped children in Palestine. Now the whole school looks up to her. We meet her on a morning when she received an award for her remarkable achievement.

When we ask her, what does she think of the soldiers parked outside of her school every day, she emphasizes that all children have the right to study in peace. She feels that the Palestinian students are not in an equal position with their peers in Israel or in other countries.

Israel signed and ratified the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which expects all signatories to “take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict” (Article 38/4). As an occupying power, Israel must guarantee equal educational rights to Palestinian children. 

Despite the harsh reality in Burin school and the students’s deteriorating chances to focus on their studies, Yasmeen is confident when we ask what she aspires to do in the future. She wants to study abroad and become a medical engineer who develops better prosthesis for children who are born without a limb or have lost one in an accident. When we tell her how much we admire her courage to climb to Kilimanjaro, she responds with a warm smile and reassurance: “You can also do it.”