Visualising Access to Education under military occupation


School is in recess for the summer months. For many children living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, this break from school means more than just a break from school work and exams.

Paths to schools and obstacles to education. Continue reading

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



Samia Al-Jaberi, Teacher, Cordoba School, Hebron. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

Samia is a teacher at the Cordoba School, a Palestinian school in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron (known as H2), Palestine. The Cordoba school is located on Shuhada Street, a road that is almost entirely closed to Palestinians because of nearby Israeli settlements. On Friday 22nd August, the main checkpoint to Shuhada Street was destroyed by an arson attack. The Israeli army has begun the process of replacing the checkpoint, and, during this time, have made access to school for the children and teachers very difficult.

What are you looking forward to this year?

At first, like any year, I’m rested, and I’m excited to come back to school. I have many ideas and dreams – I want to give the children something good. I am happy to see my colleagues again. I am happy to see the children again. Being a teacher is not just work for me – this is my life. But, everything is difficult here, really difficult. I dreamed I could do something as a teacher, but my dreams are being destroyed.

For example, I wanted to take the children on school trips. Most of the children at this school don’t know many places in Hebron, so I wanted to take the children to visit these places. We have many libraries in Hebron, we have universities, and I would like the children to see these things. I would also like them to see another school. I’d like them to see what is normal – not because I want to make them sad, that’s not the idea. But, I want to see that what comes after the school here. They need to see what life will be like. But, doing these trips is impossible from this school.

What are your biggest challenges in going to school?

The biggest challenge I face in getting to school is the checkpoint. I have problems everyday there. The soldiers tell me that I cannot pass, even when I show them the permit which should allow me to cross. We speak with the soldiers, and, sometimes they let us through. But, if they do not let us through, then the teachers have to climb over rocks and our clothes got really dirty. This is not how a teacher should arrive at school. It takes away our dignity, and I think that’s what they want.

Once, as I was trying to cross the checkpoint, one of the soldiers said to me after seeing my teacher’s permit: “You are not a teacher, you’re just falafel.” The challenge is to keep our dignity – I will not let them take it. They have taken our land, but they will not take our dignity. I teach all the children at the school to keep their dignity. But, this is hard, I feel we are in a prison, not a school.

Also, all the teachers makes plans over the summer for the year ahead: the art teacher would like to do art, the science teacher would like to do experiments. But, then we don’t have the right equipment here, because it’s impossible to get many things through the checkpoint to the school.

What is needed for education to thrive in Palestine?

For education to thrive in Palestine, the occupation needs to end. When a land is under military occupation – your body, your mind, and your emotions are under occupation also. If you become ill, the occupation controls whether you can take medicine or not. If you want to educate, the occupation controls that too. Everything, not just education, is under the control of the occupation.

The occupation doesn’t need educated people, it doesn’t need education in order to survive, so, instead, destroys education. Sometimes it succeeds, but, now, because of technology, people have access to information. They can see what is happening in the world. Also, many people go outside of Palestine to learn and come back. This education itself will change our country, but it will take time. It is a slow process.

*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.

Life on Shuhada Street

This is part 2 in a 3-part series on the closure of Shuhada street and its impact on the community of Hebron.

by Sarah, Hebron team

Former Palestinian shops in Shuhada street are now overgrown with plants. Photo EAPPI/J. Schilder, 2010.

Former Palestinian shops in Shuhada street are now overgrown with plants. Photo EAPPI/J. Schilder, 2010.


Today, the once lively Shuhada Street in Hebron is a shell of its former self. Welded shut doors, rusty awnings, graffiti-sprayed walls, weeds, and caged balconies characterize this once active and busy street. The street was essentially shut down during the second Intifada and access to the street denied to Palestinians. Despite Israeli pledges to reopen the street, Shuhada Street remains closed and eerily empty.

Shuhada Street stretches from the entrance to H2 from H1 at Checkpoint 56 to the opposite side of H2 and Checkpoint 209 and is home to Israeli settlers and Palestinians. There are three settlements on Shuhada Street: Beit Hadassah, Beit Romano, and Avraham Avinu. The location of these settlements is what makes Hebron such a unique city as they are situated in the heart of a Palestinian city and Shuhada Street is closed to Palestinians because of it.

Life on Shuhada Street for Israeli settlers is quiet. There is no traffic, pedestrian or vehicular, there is excessive security ensuring safety, there is a coffee shop, school, and museum. Residents of Beit Hadassah deliver snacks and hot tea to the soldier at Checkpoint 56 below their building each morning. Children wait at bus stops for the school bus to collect them. Worshippers walk up Shuhada Street to the synagogue and the Cave of Patriarchs. Tour groups of settlers and internationals peruse the street with interest and intrigue. As a settler, life on Shuhada Street is normal.

Life on Shuhada Street for Palestinian residents is a struggle. Those still living on the street are forbidden from accessing the street and therefore using their front doors. As a result they are required to search for alternative access to and from their homes, which often means dangerous careering across staircases and rooftops. Many, if not all, of the balconies are encased in fencing with the goal of preventing stones and eggs reaching their belongings.

Cordoba School, for Palestinian children, is situated above Shuhada Street and access to the school is a steep staircase at Checkpoint 55 that also marks the border of Palestinian admission to Shuhada Street. Ecumenical accompaniers monitor this checkpoint and Checkpoint 56 two times a day during the school week. Israeli soldiers and settlers often harass children walking down Shuhada Street to school. EAs attempt to prevent such agitation by providing protective presence and in the process develop relationships with the children and teachers of Cordoba School.

From the staircase leading to Cordoba School to the access road of the Ibrahimi Mosque, Palestinians are forbidden from walking or driving on the Shuhada Street. Approximately 30,000 Palestinians and 700 Israeli settlers live in the H2 partition of Hebron. For Palestinian residents, Shuhada Street is a clear symbol of the occupation. Israeli authorities use the Palestinian nationality as a weapon to control where they walk, how they live, and where they exist. The empty Shuhada Street epitomizes the Israeli occupation.

Life on Shuhada Street is a dream for some and a nightmare for others. For the Israeli settlers inhabiting Shuhada Street is a dream of access, peace, and protection. For the Palestinian residents of Shuhada Street life is a series of humiliating checkpoints and restrictions. It is a conundrum of rights and a skewed priority of safety.

* Read Part 1: The Story of Shuhada Street.