Shepherding under occupation

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By the Jordan Valley team,

We arrived early, just after sunrise. We met with Abu Sami* and his family along with members of Ta’yush, an joint Israeli and Palestinian organisation. Abu Sami lives close to a settlement in the North of Jordan Valley and his family looked very afraid of the consequences of the land action that was about to take place. Abu Sami and his family were preparing to graze their sheep on land that the settlers have taken control of in Khirbet Tell el Himma. The land is privately owned by a Palestinian family and Abu Sami rents it from them to graze his sheep, however, because of frequent harassment from settlers, the family are no longer able to use it. Today was going to be different… Continue reading

A school route lined with soldiers

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 by EA Josefin, Yanoun team,

It is just before 8 AM. Large groups of children rush past us (Ecumenical Accompaniers), on their way to school. Colourful school bags bob up and down on the children’s backs. For some of the smallest students, the bags look almost bigger than the children themselves. Some students giggle and look away shyly when we greet them good morning. Others happily shout out our names; which they have learned off by now. All give us a smile in acknowledgement. Then they look almost unconsciously at the the shrubs further up the path. Their fears are confirmed, in the shade stand two soldiers with weapons pointed in their direction.

EAs monitor soldiers that are following schoolchildren from As Sawiya Al Lubban school on their way home. Photo EAPPI/J. Lamas. 08.04.16.

EAs monitor soldiers that are following schoolchildren from As Sawiya Al Lubban school on their way home. Photo EAPPI/Josefin. 08.04.16.

I try to imagine my village when I was twelve and think back to what my journey to school was like. I remember I was terrified of the older students, especially those in high school. How would I have felt if instead of high school students the route to school was lined with fully armed soldiers that stood around in groups or lurked in the bushes? How would I have felt knowing that I could be stopped at anytime to have my schoolbag searched?

At the end of May this year the Israeli military intensified its presence at two of the schools in Nablus that we (EAs) regularly visit to monitor access to education. An Israeli officer informed us that they would patrol the route to school as long as they (the Israeli army) considers it necessary.

The schools are located along a major road so hundreds of students pass along the busy road side every day. The Israeli military patrols along the same road every morning and afternoon when the children are walking to and from school. The soldiers sometimes walk in the midst of the student or stand next to us. Other times, we have observed them hiding in the bushes along the road side or standing on the hill behind the houses across the road. The children seem to have a built-in radar for locating the soldiers. By following the children’s eyes, it is easy to see where the soldiers are.

Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home from As Sawiya Al Lubban school. A boy looks over the railing to see four Israeli soldiers further down the road. Photo EAPPI/P. Lämås

Palestinian schoolchildren on their way home from As Sawiya Al Lubban school. A boy looks over the railing to see four Israeli soldiers further down the road. Photo EAPPI/Josefin

While accompanying children to schools in Nablus we saw Israeli soldiers take children aside to search their school bags on a number of occasions. One afternoon we saw a soldier chase a group of schoolchildren whenever they stopped too long by the road side. He ran towards them with his arms raised and shouted at them until they moved on. I asked him why he did so. “I have to scare them. They must not stop, they have to move on,” he says, pointing with his gun toward the house where a group of soldiers are posted.

In the last week in May, the Israeli military set up a tent on the roof of a house where a Palestinian family lives. The family’s house is strategically located next to the intersection where school children have to pass every day to get to school. On several occasions we talked to the soldiers, they said that the reason they are patrolling the school route was to deter the children from throwing stones at Israeli cars. I asked one morning if they had ever seen the schoolchildren throw stones. The answer was no, but they said that they had “seen it on film”.

Another day I asked the children in one of the middle classes what they think of us “in the vests”, (meaning EAs) who monitor the route to school throughout the year. “You save us from the soldiers!”, exclaimed one of the boys. “I feel less afraid when I see you,” said another. “We wish you could be here every day, always!” they shouted finally running.

My heart melted when these brown, eager and curious eyes expressed it so clearly. And with that, I felt quite clear that our presence makes a difference. We can not make the soldiers leave, but we can stand for something else. By accompanying these children to school we deter soldiers and settlers from harassing them and make the children feel safer. In addition our team’s presence – giving a “high five”, a handshake or a smile – acts as a counterbalance to the stress that these children face on daily, living under military occupation. We hope that our presence allows the kids to focus on us more than on the rifle butts.

But it is unlikely that when I go home to Sweden that I will be called a hero who saved the children from the soldiers. Being an accompanier is no hero tale. It is to witness the harsh realities of daily life under military occupation. We offer protective presence to vulnerable communities and monitor and report human rights abuses; we hope that someone hears. To wear the vest is not an easy task because you wear the vest knowing that international presence is needed to deter attacks on other civilians. It is a tragedy that children need to zigzag between soldiers, accompanied by human rights monitors, just to get to school.

EA monitors children's access to As Sawiya Al Lubban school which is often patrolled by the Israeli military. Photo EAPPI/M. Andrén. 30.04.16.

EA monitors children’s access to As Sawiya Al Lubban school which is patrolled by the Israeli army. Photo EAPPI/M. Andrén. 30.04.16.

We wish you could be here every day, they told us. Yes, I wish that we could be here every day also, but for completely different reasons than why we are currently here. I wear the vest with pride because I want to believe that it stands for something else.  I hope that the day comes when we are no longer needed and that we can eventually put away our vests. When that day comes just peace will not only a be dream but a reality.


International law says the occupying power should be protecting children and schools. The right to education is protected under Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social And Cultural Rights (1966), the Convention on the Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (1979), and the Convention On The Rights of The Child (1989).

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 Please take action today to demand that Palestinian schoolchildren have immediate, unhindered and safe access to education

  • Share this story and update media agencies in your country about the systematic restrictions imposed by the Government of Israel on Palestinian schoolchildren’s access to education.
  • Inform your representative in parliament and media agencies about the implications of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine on Palestinian schoolchildren’s right to education.
  • Write to your elected representative using our advocacy resources here. (You can use our SAMPLE LETTER to contact your elected representative or draft your own.)

*Originally posted on EAPPI Sweden: http://foljeslagarprogrammet.se/reserapport/en-skolvag-kantad-av-soldater/

More information:

UNICEF/EAPPI Education Under Occupation

UNRWA Schools in the Front Line; the impact of armed conflict and violence on UNRWA schools and education services

UNOCHA: Protection issues affecting access to education in the West Bank

UNICEF: Bedouin schools fighting for survival in Area C

UNICEF 2015: Education Under Fire: How conflict in the Middle East is depriving children of their schooling

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I raise up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh the danger…

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By EAs M. Mowe and G. Kerr-Sheppard, Yanoun Team.

EAPPI HAS MAINTAINED A ROUND-THE-CLOCK PRESENCE IN YANOUN SINCE EARLY 2003. THE PRESENCE OF ‘INTERNATIONALS’ AS WITNESSES TO  DOCUMENT AND RECORD INCIDENTS HAS HELPED TO DETER SETTLER ATTACKS BUT THE SITUATION REMAINS VOLATILE.

Our regular evening walks are one of the Yanoun teams most pleasant tasks. We gladly undertake this hour and a half long trip, it is a delight to ramble down the old road between Upper and Lower Yanoun and then to turn East towards overlooking the Jordan Valley. Continue reading

“Blessed art thou amongst women: “Pachamama”: In the Village of Yanoun”

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By EA Paula, Yanoun team.

In Latin America, we have a special word to describe the earth, land and sea. The bounty it produces and all of our connection to it. The word is: “Pachamama”. Separate from the English term Mother Nature, the word is derived from the ancient languages of Aymara and Quechua that are native to Latin America. With “Pacha” meaning cosmos, universe, time, space and earth and “mama’ meaning mother – Pachamama represents the full embodiment of the planet and how all of us, and our survival, are inextricably linked to it.

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Photo EAPPI

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Old City, old story: a case for eviction in Jerusalem?

by the Jerusalem team,

Nora Sub Laban was born in 1956 and has lived in her home in the heart of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City all her life. Her family has lived in this house, since 1953. Now, she tells us, Israeli settlers are pushing for her eviction so that a Jewish settler family can move in. Nora, lives here with her family of nine, including grandchildren – they are the last remaining Palestinian family on the street.

Jerusalem Al-Khalidiyya St (Sub Laban family Photo EAPPI/K.Cargin

2015 East Jerusalem, Al-Khalidiyya St EA visits Sub Laban family home in Muslim Quarter. Photo EAPPI/K.Cargin

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PHOTO ESSAY: Israeli military presence in the city of Hebron

by the Hebron Team.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is very visible in the city of Hebron due to its division into two parts H1 and H2. The city has been divided since 1997 and it is the only city on the West bank, except for East Jerusalem, where Israeli settlers and Israeli military  live and operate in the city centre. H1 is administered by the Palestinian authority and H2 the smaller part of the city is under Israeli military control. Several areas in H2 are restricted for Palestinians and especially those close to Israeli settlements.

The images below offer an insight into what life is like for Palestinians living under military occupation and give a glimpse of the harsh realities that they face on a daily basis.

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The Settler’s Tour in Hebron

by the Hebron Team

Hebron is a contested city. The settlements are located in the middle of the city’s center and there are few other places were Palestinians and settlers are living so close to each other. Because of the proximity, tensions frequently arise between the two sides.

Hebron, therefore, is often said to represent a microcosm of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Photo EAPPI/ M. Guntern Settlers entering into the old city.  06.04.2015

Settlers entering into the old city, Hebron. Photo EAPPI/ M. Guntern 06.04.2015

The city is divided into one Israeli and one Palestinian zone. Normally the Old City is off limits for the settlers, but every Saturday afternoon a group of settlers and supporting tourists go on a “tour” around the Old City.

The group is accompanied by some 30-40 soldiers, including a troop of snipers that go ahead to secure the area. In some cases this means entering Palestinian homes. For approximately one hour the group makes its way through the Old City of Hebron protected by heavily armed soldiers. Some of the settlers participating in the tour are also armed.

Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern  Soldiers protecting the settlers during the tour.06.04.2015

Soldiers protecting the settlers during the tour, Hebron. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

The tour guide is one of the ideological hardliners from the settlement community in Hebron. He presents the settlers’ narrative of the history of the Jewish community in the city. However, from what EAs have observed the audience rarely pays attention to what is being said. Instead they tend to hang out and chat with each other, the soldiers, or they concentrate on their phones. The Settler’s Tour has become a renowned attraction in Hebron. Also regular tourists come to Hebron to watch this spectacle of settlers, soldiers and members of international organisations.

Internationals and tourists waiting for the tour. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

Internationals and tourists waiting for the tour. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

The Palestinians living and working in the Old City regards the settlers tour as way of “showing who’s in power” and to “intimidate the population”. EAPPI, is always present during the tours to provide protective presence to the inhabitants of the Old City.

We, as Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs), do our best to ensure that Palestinians do not face restrictions on their freedom of movement and that they are allowed to pass the group of settlers and soldiers without problems.

Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern  EA monitoring the tour. 06.04.2015

EA monitoring the Settler’s tour Hebron. Photo EAPPI/M. Guntern 06.04.2015

However, the tour is affecting the locals’ ability and willingness to move around the Old City. On one occasion we met two women with their daughters, who said they were too afraid to walk past the tour and decided to wait until it had passed.

In addition to affecting the number of customers in the Old City, the Settler’s Tour has further consequences for local commerce and trade. A shopkeeper in the Old City says about the tour:

“Sometimes the settlers break my things and throw my products on the ground and trample on them, other times the settlers buy things, you never know with these groups”

Nevertheless, the shopkeepers in the Old City staunchly open their shops and refuse to let the “tour” control their opening hours.