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.

What is the European Union doing for Palestine, and what should it be doing?

EAPPI observers actively involved in relaying facts on the ground from their eyewitness experience to the EU delegation in Jerusalem.

by Helga and Johanna

EAPPI visits the European Commission delegation in Jerusalem. Photo EAPPI/H. Edvindsen

EAPPI visits the European Commission delegation in Jerusalem. Photo EAPPI/H. Edvindsen

Working as human rights observers in the West Bank, we constantly see the European Union flag. We have attended trainings funded by the European Commission, met EU humanitarian aid workers improving hydration and sanitation facilities in vulnerable communities, learned about an EU funded project preserving the oral tradition of Bedouin culture. The list goes on…

On Monday, October 12, we visited, with 2 other EAPPI colleagues, the Office of the European Representative for the West Bank and Gaza in East Jerusalem. Our mission – to present our work and discuss EU policies in the region.

What is the EU doing?

In our meeting, the EU delegation representatives explained that the EU is helping the Palestinian Authority build institutions for the future independent and democratic Palestinian State and working to enhance economic and political cooperation with the EU. All of these efforts are based on the EU’s Interim Association Agreement on Trade and Cooperation.

The Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council recently called on Israel to “end the settlements”, stating that they undermine the peace process.  Such an active stance is encouraging.

What we’ve seen…

Despite these positive developments, we’ve seen many counteractive actions and took the opportunity to share with the EU delegation what we have seen in our 3 months.

We discussed the rise in house demolitions in Area C. The UN recorded at least 8 demolitions in Palestinian villages since mid-August, including the demolition of Az Za’ayem Bedouin village, which we witnessed with our own eyes. This is only one example of a demolition in the E1 area, which will displace over 2,300 Jahalin Bedouins from the area east of Jerusalem. We pointed out that many EU funded buildings are those that are demolished, as was the case in Khirbet al Makhul. The Association of International Development Agencies in Jerusalem, reported in May 2012 that the Israeli authorities demolished 30 European funded structures between March to May 2012 alone. 

We expressed concern over the steady expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and the continuation of this expansion, despite current peace talks. Since 1967, Israeli has allowed the creation of over 150 settlements and 100 settlement outposts.

We shared the situation of settlement expansion in Hebron, in which Israeli settlers aim to move into the Rajabi building. If allowed, they will create a new settlement in Hebron, which will link the settlements of Kiryat Arba and Givat Ha’avot to the Israeli settlements in the Old City of Hebron.  This new settlement will also have a devastating humanitarian impact on the local Palestinian community.

Israeli settlers threw rocks and broke these windows of the Jab'a Bedouin community. Photo EAPPI/J. Kaprio

Israeli settlers threw rocks and broke these windows of the Jab’a Bedouin community. Photo EAPPI/J. Kaprio

We showed pictures of settler attacks against Palestinians; the burning of more than 400 olive trees in Jalud and pictures of windows of several buildings in the Jab’a Bedouin community that settlers damaged with stones.

What the EU must do?

Consistency and determination is required from the EU and its member states in policies towards supporting the development of a future Palestinian state and peace in the region.

As a major market for agricultural products from Israeli settlements, the EU helps sustain settlements, making them viable and profitable. This reality, necessitates that the EU fully implement its new guidelines, which will come into force on 1 January 2014 and ensure that Israeli settlements are not benefitting from trade with the EU.

Recent speculations reveal that the guidelines may not be fully implemented after all, due to the political dismay they caused in Israel and in order for Israel to be able to participate in the EU’s Horizon 2020 financial instrument. We expressed our concern and emphasized that the Horizon 2020 programme must not happen at the expense of human rights.

Respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core values of the European Union embedded in the charter of fundamental rights of the European Union.  These values are binding to all 28 Member States.

While EU policy making does not happen on the delegation level, we know they are important avenues in relaying facts from the ground to the corridors of Brussels’ institutions.

“Europeans are finally beginning to understand the situation in Palestine, we welcome their efforts to help and we welcome the guidelines,” the headmaster of Al-Fakheit school in Masafar Yatta recently told us.

We share his welcome and are glad we could portray the effects of the Israeli occupation on the everyday life of the Palestinians.