“Teargas burns in my throat and nose. My eyes sting. I lift up the scarf over my nose and I start to breathe through the blue velvet fabric. Around me, people are fleeing in all directions. Smoke from teargas-canisters settles like a fog over the crowd, of men women and children. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! It sounds as if weapons are being fired, but the sound comes from sound bombs thrown into the crowd.”
Two soldiers on large horses ride into the crowd of people.
Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) monitor access to holy sites for Palestinians of all faiths across occupied Palestine. During Ramadan our EAs monitor the checkpoints every Friday to ensure that those with permits are able to go to Jerusalem and report on any human rights abuses that occur during crossing. Continue reading →
Three weeks ago, EAs visited a village called Wadi J’Hesh which is also know as south Susiya, in the Hebron governorate. This village is located between the Palestinian village of Susiya and the illegal Israeli settlement Susya. During the visit we learned that, thanks to the intervention of local and international humanitarian NGOs, living conditions have been improving for residents. Wadi J’Hesh now has access to clean, safe drinking water and electricity. Despite these small improvements in living standards, the Israeli authorities have not yet recognised their village and the community still lives with the constant threat of demolition. At the time of our visit forty three structures in the village had pending demolition orders. Although they await a major court case on the 1st of August that will decide the fate of these structures, they know that demolitions can happen at any time. Continue reading →
Just 14 months ago, I said my goodbyes to the residents of Susiya. And now I have returned to this village in the South Hebron Hills as it faces threats of imminent demolition and a forced removal of all those living here. I have returned to Susiya at the invitation of the World Council of Churches to be part of a team of internationals providing ecumenical accompaniment and protective presence to the village in hopes that a demolition and removal may be put off.
02.07.15 Susiya. Abu Jihad with his grandchildren, July 2015, Photo EAPPI / L. Magne Helgesen
My arrival in Susiya coincided with the first day of Ramadan, the most holy time in the Muslim year, a time of fasting for the month. This month of fasting begins with the daily call to prayer in the pre-dawn hours and ends at the sunset call to prayer. This period of Ramadan will end July 18 and is a time of reflection and reformation of the soul.
On the 18th of June Muslims all over the world, including in Palestine and Israel, started the holy month of Ramadan. During this month Muslims fast during the light hours of the day in solidarity with the suffering of the poor, and they dedicate themselves to prayers. As Jerusalem is the third holiest city for Muslims, many Palestinians wish to visit the Holy City to pray.
19.06.15. Bethlehem Checkpoint 300, Muslims on their way to Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the first Friday of Ramadan. Photo EAPPI / I. Tanner
Each Friday during Ramadan, tens of thousands of Palestinians make the arduous journey from the West Bank to Jerusalem through checkpoints to pray at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Our summer team of Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) monitors the checkpoints every Friday to ensure that all who desire are able to go to Jerusalem to pray and report on any human rights abuses that occur during crossing. Although the first few Fridays at the Bethlehem Checkpoint 300 were well organized, EA C. Naess notes the underlying humanitarian injustice in needing to cross a checkpoint at all.
“We want to make sure it opens when it is supposed to open, and that everyone with permits are allowed through,” she described. “This first Friday was very good on that. Very well organized, no big problems at the checkpoint. I was monitoring for eight hours, and everyone seemed happy to be able to reach Al Aqsa mosque in time for the prayer. But as my colleague said, it doesn’t really make sense to be impressed by the organizing of a checkpoint. It would be more impressive if the whole wall was removed and the need for a checkpoint would disappear.”
Crossing Bethlehem Checkpoint 300 on the First Friday of Ramadan. Photos c/o B. Myszkowski
At 3:00 am, people are already queuing up for the checkpoint to open at 04:00am.
The Israeli military is ready for opening…
…and so are the Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAS) and the Palestinian police
An EA looks on at the masses gathering to go to Friday Prayers. Over 22,300 people crossed the Bethlehem Checkpoint on the first Friday of Ramadan.
First stop, all entering Jerusalem must have their ID’s check.
Next, all Palestinians must go through a security check.
After crossing the checkpoint, the view of the separation wall.
Finally on the other side, they head to Jerusalem.