A school route lined with soldiers

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 by EA Josefin, Yanoun team,

It is just before 8 AM. Large groups of children rush past us (Ecumenical Accompaniers), on their way to school. Colourful school bags bob up and down on the children’s backs. For some of the smallest students, the bags look almost bigger than the children themselves. Some students giggle and look away shyly when we greet them good morning. Others happily shout out our names; which they have learned off by now. All give us a smile in acknowledgement. Then they look almost unconsciously at the the shrubs further up the path. Their fears are confirmed, in the shade stand two soldiers with weapons pointed in their direction.

EAs monitor soldiers that are following schoolchildren from As Sawiya Al Lubban school on their way home. Photo EAPPI/J. Lamas. 08.04.16.

EAs monitor soldiers that are following schoolchildren from As Sawiya Al Lubban school on their way home. Photo EAPPI/Josefin. 08.04.16.

I try to imagine my village when I was twelve and think back to what my journey to school was like. I remember I was terrified of the older students, especially those in high school. How would I have felt if instead of high school students the route to school was lined with fully armed soldiers that stood around in groups or lurked in the bushes? How would I have felt knowing that I could be stopped at anytime to have my schoolbag searched?

At the end of May this year the Israeli military intensified its presence at two of the schools in Nablus that we (EAs) regularly visit to monitor access to education. An Israeli officer informed us that they would patrol the route to school as long as they (the Israeli army) considers it necessary.

The schools are located along a major road so hundreds of students pass along the busy road side every day. The Israeli military patrols along the same road every morning and afternoon when the children are walking to and from school. The soldiers sometimes walk in the midst of the student or stand next to us. Other times, we have observed them hiding in the bushes along the road side or standing on the hill behind the houses across the road. The children seem to have a built-in radar for locating the soldiers. By following the children’s eyes, it is easy to see where the soldiers are.

Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home from As Sawiya Al Lubban school. A boy looks over the railing to see four Israeli soldiers further down the road. Photo EAPPI/P. Lämås

Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home from As Sawiya Al Lubban school. A boy looks over the railing to see four Israeli soldiers further down the road. Photo EAPPI/Josefin

While accompanying children to schools in Nablus we saw Israeli soldiers take children aside to search their school bags on a number of occasions. One afternoon we saw a soldier chase a group of schoolchildren whenever they stopped too long by the road side. He ran towards them with his arms raised and shouted at them until they moved on. I asked him why he did so. “I have to scare them. They must not stop, they have to move on,” he says, pointing with his gun toward the house where a group of soldiers are posted.

In the last week in May, the Israeli military set up a tent on the roof of a house where a Palestinian family lives. The family’s house is strategically located next to the intersection where school children have to pass every day to get to school. On several occasions we talked to the soldiers, they said that the reason they are patrolling the school route was to deter the children from throwing stones at Israeli cars. I asked one morning if they had ever seen the schoolchildren throw stones. The answer was no, but they said that they had “seen it on film”.

Another day I asked the children in one of the middle classes what they think of us “in the vests”, (meaning EAs) who monitor the route to school throughout the year. “You save us from the soldiers!”, exclaimed one of the boys. “I feel less afraid when I see you,” said another. “We wish you could be here every day, always!” they shouted finally running.

My heart melted when these brown, eager and curious eyes expressed it so clearly. And with that, I felt quite clear that our presence makes a difference. We can not make the soldiers leave, but we can stand for something else. By accompanying these children to school we deter soldiers and settlers from harassing them and make the children feel safer. In addition our team’s presence – giving a “high five”, a handshake or a smile – acts as a counterbalance to the stress that these children face on daily, living under military occupation. We hope that our presence allows the kids to focus on us more than on the rifle butts.

But it is unlikely that when I go home to Sweden that I will be called a hero who saved the children from the soldiers. Being an accompanier is no hero tale. It is to witness the harsh realities of daily life under military occupation. We offer protective presence to vulnerable communities and monitor and report human rights abuses; we hope that someone hears. To wear the vest is not an easy task because you wear the vest knowing that international presence is needed to deter attacks on other civilians. It is a tragedy that children need to zigzag between soldiers, accompanied by human rights monitors, just to get to school.

EA monitors children's access to As Sawiya Al Lubban school which is often patrolled by the Israeli military. Photo EAPPI/M. Andrén. 30.04.16.

EA monitors children’s access to As Sawiya Al Lubban school which is patrolled by the Israeli army. Photo EAPPI/M. Andrén. 30.04.16.

We wish you could be here every day, they told us. Yes, I wish that we could be here every day also, but for completely different reasons than why we are currently here. I wear the vest with pride because I want to believe that it stands for something else.  I hope that the day comes when we are no longer needed and that we can eventually put away our vests. When that day comes just peace will not only a be dream but a reality.


International law says the occupying power should be protecting children and schools. The right to education is protected under Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social And Cultural Rights (1966), the Convention on the Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (1979), and the Convention On The Rights of The Child (1989).

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 Please take action today to demand that Palestinian schoolchildren have immediate, unhindered and safe access to education

  • Share this story and update media agencies in your country about the systematic restrictions imposed by the Government of Israel on Palestinian schoolchildren’s access to education.
  • Inform your representative in parliament and media agencies about the implications of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine on Palestinian schoolchildren’s right to education.
  • Write to your elected representative using our advocacy resources here. (You can use our SAMPLE LETTER to contact your elected representative or draft your own.)

*Originally posted on EAPPI Sweden: http://foljeslagarprogrammet.se/reserapport/en-skolvag-kantad-av-soldater/

More information:

UNICEF/EAPPI Education Under Occupation

UNRWA Schools in the Front Line; the impact of armed conflict and violence on UNRWA schools and education services

UNOCHA: Protection issues affecting access to education in the West Bank

UNICEF: Bedouin schools fighting for survival in Area C

UNICEF 2015: Education Under Fire: How conflict in the Middle East is depriving children of their schooling

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The Rubber Tyre School fears demolition

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By the Yanoun team. 

We have all heard about what is going on in Susiya lately. Demolitions, demolitions and demolitions. But we have not heard from Khan al Ahmar. In Khan Al Ahmar, a small mixed primary school made out of used rubber tyres is being threatened with demolition by the Israeli Civil Administration.

 Khan Al Ahmar. Thirteen year old Nasreen a student from the school and wants to be a teacher.Photo EAPPI 11.08.16

Khan Al Ahmar. Thirteen year old Nasreen a student from the school that wants to be a teacher. Photo EAPPI 11.08.16

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My street is a closed military zone!

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.

4.11.15 Hebron Check Point 56 Children and teachers waiting too pass morning school run. Photo EAPPI/I. Stolpestad

4.11.15 Hebron Check Point 56 Children and teachers waiting too pass morning school run. Photo EAPPI/I. Stolpestad

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Hebron: The love of learning kills the fear

By EA Rajesh, Hebron team, 

I woke up at 6 am. It’s Sunday morning. Today a new school week starts. I ask the taxi driver to drop me off at Al Qarantina Street in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron. From here I have to pass an open area of land with olive trees and a Muslim cemetery. This is the safest way to reach Cordoba school, where I give almost daily protective presence to schoolchildren with EAPPI.

06.11.15 Hebron H2. Children going to Cordoba school greet EAs. Photo EAPPI/H. Griffiths

06.11.15 Hebron H2. Children going to Cordoba school greet EAs. Photo EAPPI/H. Griffiths

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Our Top 10 Posts from 2014

Happy New Year to all! We want to say thank you to all you follow our blog and read our posts. It’s you who help us get the word out about the injustices happening in Palestine and Israel.

The year 2014 was a difficult year with the assault on Gaza, the kidnapping of 3 Israeli teens, the closures & raids that occurred across the West Bank in the search for the teens. It was also a 6 year high for displacement from demolitions and human rights violations continued throughout the West Bank.  Here we shed light on the injustices that occurred and the faces of hope & perseverance through it all in 10 most viewed posts from 2014.

10. Final destination

photo of Selim Auda Jahaleen

Selim Auda Jahaleen is 107 years old. A Palestinian Bedouin, he is the oldest member of the Jahaleen tribe. Photo EAPPI/BG. Saltnes.

Israeli authorities announced plans, Nuwei’ma plans, to forcibly transfer over 7,000 Bedouin from the Jerusalem periphery/E1 area and Jordan Valley. Bedouin who have already become refugees twice, face imminent displacement again and the loss of their traditional way of life. Demolitions of homes and property are the immediate result of these plans and affect families such as Selim’s.

9. Responding to tragedy with smiles and sweet tea

The Daraghmi family after their home was demolished. Photo EAPPI/A. Batista.

The Daraghmi family after their home was demolished. Photo EAPPI/A. Batista.

Demolitions are a common occurrence in the Jordan Valley. Some homes & villages have been demolished many times. In January 2014, EAs went to the home of Nimer Hassan Hussein Daraghmi in Al Farisiya only 3 hours after his home was demolished. They found that in the face of tragedy & disaster, this family showed remarkable hospitality.

8. Humanitarian Situation Deteriorates at Bethlehem Checkpoint 300

Checkpoint 300. Photo EAPPI/S. Amrad.

Checkpoint 300. Photo EAPPI/S. Amrad.

Between 4,000 to 6,000 Palestinian workers cross the Bethlehem Checkpoint everyday on their way to work inside Israel. The overcrowding at this checkpoint is dangerous and raises serious humanitarian concerns. In May 2014, the situation deteriorated severely. Check out the fact sheet we created about it.  Although it’s from May 2014, it is not far off from the everyday reality of Checkpoint 300 and is still relevant today.

7. Archaeological excavations in Tel Rumeida in Hebron expand and destroy more Palestinian land

Ferial Abu Haikal discusses with Israeli soldiers. Photo EAPPI/W. Bischler.

Ferial Abu Haikal discusses with Israeli soldiers. Photo EAPPI/W. Bischler.

In February 2014, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) significantly expanded excavations in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. We gave an update in June 2014 and showed how individual Palestinian families and their land are being affected. Excavations continue today.

6. Palestinian Christians find hope in Pope Francis’ visit

C. Holtan Pope Francis by the Wall in Bethlehem 250514

Pope Francis visited the Holy Land in May 2014.  With his stop at the Separation Wall he did not just leave an iconic photo for the media, but also gave a feeling of hope for Palestinian Christians that worldwide Christians recognized the injustices in the Holy Land.

5. The tribulations of Khaled Al Najar

EAs inspect the damage to Khaled's wheat harvest. Photo EAPPI/H. Tyssen.

EAs inspect the damage to Khaled’s wheat harvest. Photo EAPPI/H. Tyssen.

Khaled Al Najar from the South Hebron Hills has faced numerous trials and tribulations over the years due to the Israeli occupation and settler violence.  From burned crops and livelihood to being shot in his stomach to long drawn out court cases, an EA captured his heart wrenching story.

4. “I teach all the children at the school to keep their dignity.” ~Samia, Teacher, Cordoba School

T.FJeldmann_TeacherSamiaAlJaberi_CP56_Hebron010914_2

As part of our 2014 Back to School series, we interviewed students & teachers about their challenges of going to school under military occupation and also their hopes & dreams that persist despite these obstacles.  Samia, a teacher in Hebron, shared some inspiring words.

3.Access to water in the Jordan Valley

Abu Dirra shows us the old larger Palestinian water pipe in Bardala which was severed.  Israeli authorities joined the smaller water pipe, allowing a smaller amount of water to be pumped to the village. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

Abu Dirra shows us the old larger Palestinian water pipe in Bardala which was severed. Israeli authorities joined the smaller water pipe, allowing a smaller amount of water to be pumped to the village. Photo EAPPI/B. Saltnes.

In 2014, we started a new placement in the Jordan Valley.  Our first team of EAs there took on the big task of raising awareness and advocating for issues in this contentious valley. In this article, they shed light on the injustices of water distribution. Although water is an issue all over Palestine, inequality is the worst in the Dead Sea area of the Jordan Valley, where Israeli settlers receive 10 times more water than West Bank Palestinians.

2. Houses, oranges, checkpoints, guns – kids draw life in Palestine

Sadee's drawing

When I saw Sadee’s drawing I asked her if the person inside the house was holding a plate of food. She told me that it wasn’t a house, it was a checkpoint, and that the person was a soldier holding a gun. Photo EAPPI/E. Kulta.

Art is a powerful tool for self expression.  Two EAs asked kids in Azzun Atma to draw their life in Palestine. What they got were powerful reflections from 7 and 8 year olds of living and going to school under military occupation.

1. The Tent of Nations – a nonviolent conviction to resist injustice and build hope for peace

Esther Goebel - Daher Nassar - Tent of Nations - Nassar on his farm, Jewish settlements in the background

The Tent of Nations, located just outside, faces constant threat of harrassment land confiscation from Israeli authorities and Israeli settlers. Yet, Daher Nassar refuses to give and is an inspiring example of peace and nonviolence. We wrote this article about him in February before 800 of the family’s trees were uprooted in May. This calamity did not deter him, however, and he continues to plant trees as a sign of hope.

“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.
*Share the series on facebook with your friends.

*Check out last year’s photo essay: Visualizing Back to School in Palestine.

“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.
*Share the series on facebook with your friends.

*Check out last year’s photo essay: Visualizing Back to School in Palestine.