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.

Jabal al Baba in E1 area outside of Jerusalem faces new threat

Home of Abu Ghassan, an elderly blind man, was demolished less than 3 weeks after Israeli authorities delivered 18 stop work orders to the bedouin community of Jabal al Baba in the E1 area of Jerusalem.

by Phil, Jerusalem team

Jabal al Baba is located in the E1 area, east of Jerusalem. If Israeli plans to build a settlement in this area come to fruition, the North and South of the West Bank would be separated from each other. Photo EAPPI/P. Craine.

Jabal al Baba is located in the E1 area, east of Jerusalem. If Israeli plans to build a settlement in this area come to fruition, the North and South of the West Bank would be separated from each other. Photo EAPPI/P. Craine.

Just four kilometres east of Jerusalem’s Old City lies the hill known as Jabal al Baba, named after the Pope because the catholic church owns land nearby.  The location is a special one, with magnificent views, and the hill itself crowned with pine trees. Since the early 1950s it has been home to a community of Jahalin Bedouin who live here in shacks and caravans, along with their flocks of sheep.

But gradually this community is being placed under siege by the Separation Wall, which Israeli authorities continue to build. When completed the separation wall will surround them on three sides, and cut them off from even the nieghbouring town of Al Eizariya.  Already, temporary checkpoints have been set up, maybe twice a month, between them and Al Eizariya.  The Bedouin are well aware that their hilltop lies in a strategic place: the E1 area located directly between Jerusalem and the already-built settlement of Ma’ale Adummim.

We first visited this community on February 25, when 18 stop work and demolition orders on structures in the community had been issued two days earlier.  Villagers told us that the next week, on March 3, an Israeli court would consider an appeal to freeze the orders. Nobody was hopeful for this and knew that demolition might happen any time after that. Four homes have been demolished before.  Israeli authorities have offered an alternative for them – and many other Jalalin – to the north, near a large garbage site, but this solution is alien to their way of life.

Unfortunately, on March 12, the fears of villagers came to fruition. A large Israeli military procession of jeeps, bulldozers and soldiers entered the village and demolished the home of Abu Ghassan. Abu Ghassan is an elderly resident of Jabal al Baba who has been blind since 1993. He has a family of eight and so depends on his children for everything.

Now that the family’s home was demolished, they have nowhere to go – so they will rebuild. Abu Ghassan’s words show a mix of perseverance and pessimism:

‘We will fight to stay here but sooner or later we will be evacuated.  Send us back to Tel Arad and I’ll be very happy.’

Although he has never been there, Tel Arad was their ancestral home in the Negev from where they were forcibly evacuated by Israeli forces in 1950s.

He added, ‘Near the garbage site there would be no space available for each family, and we could not continue life with our animals.  There would be no privacy between families.’

What is E1 and why are the bedouin facing displacement in the Jerusalem periphery?

We’ve written a lot about the E1 area in Jerusalem in the past week, (here and here) and even last fall (here).

Bedouin homes with canvas roofs lie in the foreground, while in the distance red tiled settlement houses lie in neat tiers. Unpaved dirt roads serve the Bedouin communities of the Jerusalem periphery as the Israeli authorities refuse to recognise their camps and provide them with necessary infrastructure and services. However, the surrounding settlements, recognised as illegal under international law by the international community, enjoy developed infrastructure, access to medical, electricity and water services, paved roads and funded schooling. The juxtaposition is quite stark. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.

An Israeli settlement overlooks the Az Za’ayyem bedouin village in the Jerusalem periphery. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.

What is the E1 area?

E1, or “East 1” is a plan, formed in the early 1990s, to build a new Israeli neighborhood near the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. Construction of E1 would cut off the narrow land corridor east of Jerusalem, which offers a connection between the northern and southern West Bank. If E1 were to be implemented, it would prove to cut the West Bank into two parts ending the possibility for a contiguous Palestinian state and sever access to East Jerusalem for Palestinians in the West Bank. As a result, construction of E1 would jeopardize the hopes of a two-state solution.

Although the E1 plan has not been implemented, the issue again came to the forefront at the end of 2012. Following the UN vote to grant Palestine observer status, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his intention to go ahead with the E1 plan.

The prospect of E1 and the expansion of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement have severe humanitarian implications to the 2,300 bedouin living in the area, who face demolition, displacement, and the inability to access basic resources.

Need more information? Here’s our roundup of the best resources on E1 and the humanitarian situation of the bedouin in the Jerusalem periphery:

PHOTOS: Settlement expansion leaves whole communities homeless and threatens their way of life

by Jenn, Jayyus team

Cranes dot the skyline of an East Jerusalem that is growing. It is growing upwards and it is growing outwards. For some. For others, their boundaries are set, and they are shrinking. It is a simple formula, settlement expansion for the Israeli population is equal to demolitions and displacement of the Palestinian population. In no place is this formula more stark than in the E1 one area and the space surrounding the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim located in the Jerusalem periphery.

The E1 area is located  North-East of Jerusalem and to the west of Ma’ale Adumim. Ma’ale Adumim is the third largest settlement in the West Bank and is home to almost 40,000 Israeli settlers. There are currently about 27,000 Bedouin refugees in the Jerusalem Area. 3,000 of which live in the Ma’ale Adumim area and 1,700 of these which lie in the E1 area. The expansion of Ma’ale Adumim and the plan for future Israeli construction in E1 threatens existing populations in the surrounding areas, but none more so than the Jahalin Bedouin community.

The year 2013, saw the rise of a new trend: that of demolishing whole communities and thus, displacing all their inhabits.  Last year, four whole communities were entirely demolished: Bir Nabala/Tel al Adassa, Az Za’ayyem, Makhul, and Ein Ayoub.  In total, 189 people were left without access to land.

This photo essay will focus on the Jahalin of Az Za’ayyem. Az Za’ayyem is home to ten Jahalin Bedouin families and is located in the E1 area.  In September of 2013, 8 homes in Az Za’ayyem were demolished as well as several kitchen units, sanitary units and animal shelters. 47 people were displaced, 20 of whom were children. Now, 4 months later, the town has yet to rebuild. Heaps of rubble, that were once homes, are piled around the wooden and sheet metal structures that are now the remaining homes of the Jahalin of Az Za’ayyem.

Unfortunately, whole communities facing displacement, demolitions and forced evictions is not a unique situation in Palestine. But in this case the very way of life of the Jahalin is threatened. Semi-Nomadic  herders, the Bedouin require open spaces and adequate pasture land for their flocks to flourish. The Jahalin are a people that value freedom and movement.  As it stands many have been forced to sell their animals and resort to work in nearby settlements in order to feed their families and maintain a living. Any suggested compensation for the displacement by the Israeli authorities, amounting to a small patch of land and minimal infrastructure in the Jericho region, is nothing more than an affront to their way of life.

“We must always remember that settlement expansion is a problem, but not just in itself, but  because expansion comes at the expense of the people, the families and entire communities that are displaced or made homeless.” ~Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Israeli human rights activist

In the case of the Jahalin and other Bedouin communities, continued expansion of Israeli settlements not only leave them homeless, but also threatens their livelihood and their very way of life.


Bedouins forced to choose education over work

During the last week, illegal Israeli settlements and the BDS movement against Israel have become one of the hottest topics across the world thanks to the viral outbreak of Scarlett Johansson and her promotion of the SodaStream brand. The SodaStream factory is located in the industrial park Mishor Adummim, which is part of the larger settlement of Ma’ale Adummim. Beside the some 500 Palestinians working in the SodaStream factory there are in addition many Bedouins working for various Israeli factories and settlements across the West Bank. EAs visited a Bedouin community, Khan al Ahmar-Wadi Abu Sidr, where the men have lost their work in the Ma’ale Adummim area after refusing to demolish their local school.

by Jerusalem Team 51

Eid Jahalin. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.

Eid Jahalin. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.

Behind a busy new highway between Jerusalem and Jericho lies the Bedouin village of Khan al Ahmar – Wadi Abu Sidr which is home to 24 families, around 150 people. Originally refugees from the Negev desert, in 1951  they were forced to leave by the Israeli government and remain refugees until this day. All of the Bedouin from this community were born in the area where they now reside, except for one grandmother.

Bedouins are the poorest amongst the poor in the West Bank. Now bedouin villagers get most of their food from the United Nations.

“Life was easier for us till the 1980’s, but then the settlement of Kfar Adumim was built and our incomes came down”, Nasser Jahalin, one of the bedouin in his 50’s tells us.

Previously the Bedouins could sell animal products made from their sheep in Jerusalem and throughout the country. They used to take over 400 sheep to herd on the top of a high hill in front of their village, with a water source and lots of grass. Now, settlement houses cover that same green hill and private security forces patrol it. If animals get too close, settlers steal them.

Some 500 metres in the other direction there is a closed military area. There is a danger from unexploded bombs and additionally, army custody of their animals who graze too close to the area. Bedouins can only retrieve their property after paying a large fine.

In the daytime, around 3 o’clock, armed settlers from Kfar Adumim may come close to the village to threaten Bedouin families or to steal their animals. Eid Jahalin a 49-year-old leader of the community used to work construction in the very same settlement for 15 years.

Palestinians, Israelis, and Internationals worked together to build the Tyre school in Khan Al Ahmar. After building, most men in the village lost their jobs in nearby settlements and factories. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.

Palestinians, Israelis, and Internationals worked together to build the Tyre school in Khan Al Ahmar. After building, most men in the village lost their jobs in nearby settlements and factories. Photo EAPPI/K. Ranta.

According to Eid Jahalin, everything changed for the Bedouin when they decided to build a school for their children in 2009. After building the school, all the  men lost their work in Israeli settlements and factories. Before the school Nasser Jahaleen worked for the Israelis for years, but like others, he lost his work. Nowadays, only two out of about 50 men from the village have work in Ma’ale Adummim.

Nasser Jahalin went on to say, “You get a  much better salary from Israeli employers than from the Palestinians. It is almost the same not to work if you travel to work in Jericho. From a very low salary you have to pay your travel and food of the day, and after that there’s not much left.”

Eid continues, after building the school, threats against the villagers increased . During night when the villagers are about to go to sleep,  Israeli military or civil police frequently enter the community for house searches, forcing people out from their homes. During the last week the  Israeli authorities entered the village on four different nights.

Each home in Al Khan Ahmar – Wadi Abu Sidr has a demolition order. According to Amnesty International, the Israeli army plans to evict and transfer 2300 Palestinian people from the Ma’ale Adummim area to the  Jerusalem municipal garbage landfill to make space for settlement expansion.

Ma’ale Adummim is located in what is known as Area C, which includes the E1 plan to build thousands of new settlements and commercial units in its expansion to connect the area with Jerusalem. It is planned that the whole area of Ma’ale Adummim and Mishor Adumim is to be surrounded completely by the separation barrier already under construction.

Eid Jahalin urges international companionship.

“We need all our  international contacts to support us or otherwise our village and our lives might get lost, international people are are our voice in the world”.

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.

“Alert: Imminent demolition in Az Za’ayyem Bedouins. Demolition team on site.”

by Helga, Ar Ram team

The message arrives at 10am this morning. We are attending a Diakonia seminar on house demolitions and land grab when the lecture suddenly becomes reality.

The village under threat is Az Za’ayyem, home of 10 families from the large Jahalin Bedouin tribe. Their camp is situated in the E1 area, just outside of Jerusalem. Although the Israeli authorities frequently demolish houses & structures, this is the first encounter with house demolitions for the EAPPI team from Ar Ram.

The UNOCHA (The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) hotline tells us that the demolition is still in progress. Military bulldozers arrived at 8 am and 8 houses are in danger.

Time is of the essence, so we call our driver Firas to pick us up.  Firas knows everyone in the West Bank it seems, and is a reliable source of information as well as being our team translator. On our way to Az Za’ayyem, Firas tells us this is the 2nd time in 2 years the Israeli military demolishes houses in this village. This time the demolition order states that the houses were built without a permit.

Nowhere to build

The lack of an appropriate planning and zoning system in Area C means that most Palestinians cannot obtain permits for construction or rehabilitation of homes, animal shelters, or essential infrastructure, which forces them to build illegally. The Israeli authorities routinely demolish structures, including homes, built without permits and evict families forcibly. Although the Israeli settlements surrounding the Bedouin villages are illegal according to International law, Israelis obtain permits from the Israeli building committees.

Rubble at Az Za'ayyem demolition. Photo EAPPI/J. Kaprio

Rubble at Az Za’ayyem demolition. Photo EAPPI/J. Kaprio

Hospitality even in crisis

At 11:30 we park our car on the outskirts of the town of Az za’ayyem where the village is situated. The bulldozers have just left the site, leaving piles of rubble and twisted aluminium sheets. We are the first internationals to arrive, and we are offered a glass of tea – demolitions have no effect on Palestinian hospitality. “Ahlan wa sahlan,” you are welcome. Firas introduces us to Mohammad El Asead M’sa, one of ten brothers whose house was demolished today.

An EA listens to Mohammad's story. Photo EAPPI/J. Kaprio

An EA listens to Mohammad’s story. Photo EAPPI/J. Kaprio

The Israeli military tore down 8 homes, as well as several kitchen units, sanitary units and animal sheds. In total 47 people were displaced, around 20 of them children.

The village is planning a wedding this weekend. We ask Mohammad if the wedding is still going ahead. “For sure!” he answers. Because of the wedding,  the Israeli authorities left two buildings standing. For now. The bulldozers are coming back for them on Sunday or one of the following days; such a nice wedding gift.

The Jahalin Bedouin, crucial to the future of a Palestinian State

These demolitions are part of Israel’s scheme for the E1 area, which aims to transfer over 2,300 Jahalin Bedouins from the area east of Jerusalem, in order develop housing for the settlement of Ma’ale Adummim. The development of this area, annexed in the 1990s for Ma’ale Adummim’s municipal boundaries, would cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and effectively separate the northern part of the West Bank from the southern part. Following the latter, it is easy to see that this development endangers the chances for a viable future Palestinian state and peace in the region.

Moreover, the relocation scheme and its ongoing implementation are a flagrant breach of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly prohibits individual or mass forcible transfer and deportation of civilians under occupation. This conduct is considered a war crime and a possible crime against humanity.

Meanwhile, the Jahalin communities face several other obstacles such as lack of access to water, electricity, healthcare and education. According to Diakonia (2011) approximately 80% of the Jahalin are refugees and over two-thirds are children.  More than half of the Bedouin communities in Area C of the West Bank are food insecure regardless of humanitarian assistance.

The abnormal becomes normal

We are still drinking our tea as some of the children come home from school. What they see startles them. They run to the far end of the rubble that used to be their homes and start rummaging through the piles.

Boys rummage through rubble in search of their toys. Photo EAPPI/J. Kaprio

Boys rummage through rubble in search of their toys. Photo EAPPI/J. Kaprio

After a while they find some of their toys and seem strangely unaffected by the events. Then again, it is not long ago since this happened before – too often the abnormal becomes normal to these children.

A boy finds his teddy bear. Photo EAPPI/J. Kaprio

A boy finds his teddy bear. Photo EAPPI/J. Kaprio

An Urgent Issue

The Jahalin situation calls for the international community to take resolute action – by refraining from any actions that support this development and by demanding Israel to fulfill its obligations under international law. Actions such as the EU’s recently published guidelines that refuse EU funding for entities in the Israeli settlements, are an opening to the right direction.

For the Al Za’ayyem community the situation remains more urgent. When we ask Mohammad where he will go now, he replies

“We have nowhere left to go, we will build our houses again.”