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: