Monday, September 1, 2014

Blog videos are all now uploaded

After coming back to Canada, I have finally had some time to upload the videos I took in the West Bank.

Unless otherwise indicated, they were filmed by me. 

Thank you so much for your encouragement and prayers when I was away. Please keep praying and working for justice, that one day the occupation and violence will end, and both Palestinians and Israelis will live in equality and peace. 

God bless you. 

Nabi Saleh demo 

Vicious settler attack on Palestinian family 

Massive demonstration against invasion of Gaza 

Videos of the incident 

"This is not your business"- photos and videos from that night 

Nighttime burglary- photos and video 

Bethlehem Demo... before the violence 

Bethlehem Demo... IDF attacks and resulting clashes 

Shopkeepers in the Souq: to survive is also to resist 

Settler tour and clashes: Soldiers and Border Police gather at Bab E Zawiya 

Settler tour and clashes: Settlers going on their tour 

Settler tour and clashes: Civilians being put in danger 

"Talking scares them more than stones" 

Saturday, August 9- funeral 

Saturday, August 9- clashes 

Saturday, August 9- settlers 

Saturday, August 9- Israeli sniper shoots Palestinian youth 

Palestinian Muslim women prevented from praying

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Palestinian Muslim women prevented from praying

Today is my last day this year in the Holy Land, and I was planning to spend it relaxing in Jerusalem. A fellow ISMer and I hung out and went for a few drinks the night before, and I went today to the Old City to see it one more time, and take some photos.

I came across a group of Palestinian women, who were being blocked by armed Israeli police from going to Al Aqsa Mosque to pray. For some reason, the authorities decided to stop them from going to the mosque to pray. Men were allowed to pass but women were held back, unless they had foreign passports or could prove or convince the soldiers they were crossing the barricade for another reason.

They were held back for three hours, from noon to three o'clock. One of the women got upset at a police officer and started talking loudly to him, he attacked and heavily shoved her. Other officers then moved in, and pushed the women back.

Like several others observing, I was filming. One of the officers grabbed my camera from me and smashed it to the ground. Fortunately, it was my Mom's camera, an Olympus that is called "Tough" for a reason. It fell to the ground but nothing happened, and I was able to pick it up.

After several hours of preventing the women from praying, the police let them through.

The action, preventing these women from going to pray, was so cruel. It clearly had nothing to do with security, since Palestinian women very rarely if ever take part in any clashes. It was another exercise I think in showing everyone "who is in control".

I hope that those who are powerful and enjoying oppressing the weak one day read and take to heart God's revelations in the Bible, from Adam to the prophets to His incarnation among humanity as Jesus Christ, to the story of the early church.

God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed, and what is done to them is done to Him. Among other things on the Day of Judgement, we will have to answer as to how we responded when we saw others suffering.

Palestinian women pleading with Israeli police to allow them to go to Al Aqsa Mosque to pray (1).

Palestinian women pleading with Israeli police to allow them to go to Al Aqsa Mosque to pray (2).

The woman in the green hijab angrily talking to the police, asking to be let through. Moments after this altercation, the one in the kippah with the black beard roughly assaulted and shoved her.

While all this was happening, some idiot decided to throw a piece of furniture on the railing above the market. The inhabitants above are not Israelis, but Palestinians. Stupidity is universal.

Israeli police officers put on riot helmets and grin at the women they are not allowing to pray. After about three hours of keeping them waiting, they let them through.

Israeli police officer attempts to destroy camera to stop me from filming his assault on one of the Palestinian women. The attempt failed, as the camera is especially designed for falls.

There is no reason or justification for such cruelty. These kinds of daily humiliations and abuses are a part of life for millions of Palestinians living in the Holy Land.

More random pictures

A Palestinian flag. We in ISM fly it high and proud by the apartment.

Shish-kabob in a sandwich with some hot sauce, in Hebron.

A Palestinian man selling coffee.

A yellow serveece drives by an Israeli military guard tower. Unfortunately, they are a sight for every Palestinian living in the West Bank.

A mix of a Palestinian and a Western meal in Bethlehem. Fried meat, salad and french fries with pita bread and hummus.

Jewish products being sold in a shop in the Old City, Jerusalem.

Jewish worshipers returning from the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem.

A Palestinian kid near Idhna village.

A street cat in Hebron. Yeah, Scruffy may be cute but don't let that fool you. These yowling feline creatures kept climbing into our apartment through the roof at night, and would get into our garbage.

Adorable bunnies on sale in the market in the Hebron Old City. No, they aren't for petting but for eating. 
We didn't slaughter any animals during the rare times we had meat. We bought it from those who already did the dirty work for us.

Falafel. This is one of the standard foods for both Palestinians and Israelis, and I hear others in the middle east.

Kuskus dish- couscous, eggplant sauce and chicken. A Palestinian dish.

Musakhan- fried onions, fried chicken, along with almonds and spices on sour Arab bread. A Palestinian dish. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Night-time arrest

On Monday night (well actually it was Tuesday very early morning), as an ISMer and I were coming back from Hashem's home we came across a group of soldiers who were marching a  prisoner down the street. His hands were tied in front of him, and they were shoving him around and being rough with him. The soldiers were wearing black masks to cover their faces, and the person they arrested was an adult. 

In Winnipeg, police sometimes dress in a similar way when they arrest gang leaders or others who are high up in the world of organized crime. It is possible that the man was or is involved in an armed group that attacks or was planning to attack Israelis... although I have no way of knowing that and the way he was being detained also is no guarantee of this.
   Many Palestinian kids who have been arrested for throwing rocks (or having been accused of doing such) also reported having large numbers of masked soldiers break into their homes at night-time and arrest them in the same fashion. So have leaders of popular resistance committees in villages, who organize demonstrations. Even those like Hassan who organize demos where no one throws anything.

Regardless of what the man was being arrested for and what he did or didn't do, his hands were tied and he wasn't trying to run or resist. In spite of this, he was getting shoved around, and it looked very likely to me that his captors were going to be getting even more physical.

We asked what's going on and snapped a few pictures. The soldiers stopped mistreating him and turned their attention on us. They really mad at us and began swearing at us and telling us to shut up and threatening to arrest us. Nothing out of the ordinary in our line of work here. They also demanded we put our cameras away and not take pictures. I asked them if they are ashamed or trying to hide something, and reminded them that we do have a right to take pictures. They shouted at us again, and threw the guy in a jeep and drove away. 

Some other ISMers came out, and a group of us decided to look into the police stations and see if was brought there, and we let the police and soldiers we spoke to know that we witnessed soldiers being rough with a detainee. Hopefully that will do something, even if only to let the people who are holding him know that the guy's arrest was witnessed by people. 

Unfortunately we do not have his name or know who he is.  Palestinians we know as well as ISMers are trying to find information on him and his family, who like many other Palestinian families-  will have lost their son for who knows how long- not knowing where they are being held or for how long, or when if ever they will be released.

Soldiers marching the man away. The picture quality is terrible, but you can see him in the front being pushed forward by a soldier who is marching him down Tel Rumeida.

The checkpoint booth in which he was briefly shoved into. By that time, many of his captors though stopped shoving him, and their attention was more on us.

The jeep he was driven away in.

One of the police stations we inquired at. They claimed they don't have him... which could be very well true, since the soldiers who arrested him probably took him to one of the many military bases around here. Nevertheless, we informed the police what we witnessed. Hopefully the knowledge that his treatment was witnessed by outside observers may have some impact on how he will be treated.

Of course, there is no way of knowing this.

Please pray for him, and for many other Palestinians who are being held in prisons and military bases and police stations across the West Bank and Israel and Gaza.

Hashem and his settler neighbours

Hashem, who is one of the people who helps run the Ibrahim Al Khaleil Society, like many other Palestinians, has personal experience with settlers.

Hashem lives on Tel Rumeida, in a neighbourhood where settlers have moved into in 1984. One of his next door neigbours is one of the leaders of the Jewish Defence League, an extremist group that has and continues to perpetrate violence against Palestinians.

Hashem and other Palestinians face and have faced harrassment for decades from their neighbours. Between 2000 and 2010, he remembers it being exceptionally bad. Hashem says that the settlers are doing their best to get Palestinians to move out, so their homes can be taken.

In 2003, Hashem's settler neighbours made him an offer- if he would leave his home, they would give him two million dollars... in cash. He claims an Israeli woman also offered to go away with him, somewhere to Europe or America. He refused, saying that if they wanted him to sell his property to them, he would require the national budgets of the USA and Israel. If they provided that, he would sell them a branch from his olive tree. Then he told them where to go.

The response was vicious. Soon afterwards, settlers came and cut down his olive trees. His water pipe also was destroyed, and he spent three years having to buy bottled water. It was after Amnesty International and other human rights groups managed to apply enough pressure on the Israeli government, that he had water again.

Things got even worse.

In 2006, settlers beat up his wife, who was then pregnant. The assault ended with a micarriage.
Four months later, his wife again was pregnant, and the same thing happened.

Hashem and his family's home has been invaded and shot at at. One time, the settlers got inside and smashed tables, closets, other furniture.

Hashem is currently under "home detention", meaning he cannot leave Tel Rumeida. He was accused of giving "anti-semitic tours" to people who come to the area.

Many of Hashem's friends are Jewish, including Israeli professors Ilan Pappe and Uri Davis. He also is friends with Neta from ISM and Jeremy Canley, from JVP (Jewish Voices for Peace). There are four Jewish women in his family, three who passed away and one who lives in Haifa and is 112 years old.

In his words, "we have no problems with Jews. We have no problem with religion, only occupation".

Unlike many Palestinians who I met, Hashem is open to both a one state and a two state solution. He says he would be happy with a one state where there there are equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians- if it was this way, he would have no problem with the settlers, since they would be his neighbours and would live in equality. He would also be OK with a 2 state solution, if Israeli withdrew to land it ruled prior to 1967 and either shared Jerusalem, or the city be ruled by an international body and be open to everyone- while Israelis would have a capital in Tel Aviv and Palestinians one in Ramallah.

In 2006, he and his Israeli professor friends tried to put together a conference in Haifa to have a forum about these issues. Israeli police broke it up. Pappe and Davis temporarily lost their jobs.

While there are Israelis who work with Hashem and other Palestinians in their struggle for justice, unfortunately many other Israeli activists have stopped doing this. To some, Hashem's ideas for a solution are too "radical".

Hashem and I and another ISMer who came to visit his home that night had some more great discussion about religion, history, politics, education. On some things we agreed, on others we didn't. It was an awesome five hours.

I pray for Hashem, and every other Palestinian who is affected by this violence and occupation, which doesn't seem to end. I believe one day it will end, and there will be justice and peace for everyone who lives here- Palestinian and Israeli. May it come sooner than later, inshAllah*.

* InshAllah is one of the most common phrases you are likely to hear if you go to Palestine, or any other Arabic speaking or Muslim majority country. It means "God willing".

The road up to a part of Tel Rumeida, which is inhabited by mostly settlers, and a few Palestinians. 
The Israeli Army told Palestinians who live there that they need permits to walk up their own street. While some have done this in an attempt to avoid more problems, Hashem refused. As consequence, he cannot walk up the street in the neighbourhood he lives, and to get home he must take a pathway.

How Hashem must get to his house.

Walking to Hashem's house.

Poisoned grapes (1).
Like many other Palestinians in the West Bank, Hashem has grapes. His Israeli neighbours unfortunately have also targeted them, and they have been sprayed with poison. Giving off a strong and toxic odor, they cannot be eaten.

Poisoned grapes (2)

The home of Hashem's neighbours. They are trying to drive him from his land, but for the last few decades, he and his family had been holding on.

Destroyed furniture from the attack in 2006.

Hashem's front door. Notice the little hole in the wall...

... it is caused by a bullet the settlers fired at Hashem's house. It is still embedded therein.

The car of a settler, parked in a way that almost blocks Hashem's entrance and exit from his own house. As we were leaving, another car drove by and the settler in it yelled at Hashem to "go home". Hashem had been living here long before the settlers moved in.

Ironically, things now are much better than they were 4 years ago and before. 
The situation that Hashem and his family face has at times been much worse.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Operation Bubbles 3

...because sometimes, 2 operations just aren't enough. Monay night, some ISMers and Palestinian kids from Tel Rumeida got together again for some more bubble trouble.

It was a great time, and praise be to God there were no problems. The soldiers at the checkpoint didn't seem to mind, and neither did a group of orthodox rabbis who walked by. On the other hand, some of the settlers drove by in their cars, and they looked absolutely furious.

I don't know whether there were any calls to police about bubble terrorism or attempts to threaten the security of Israel with water and soap (unlike last time, when a complaint was filed about kids blowing bubbles), but there were no problems this time, thank God.

Ibrahim Al-Khaleil Society

During the past few weeks we have been here, some of us have had the pleasure and privilege of being able to spend time with the Ibrahi Al-Khaleil Society. Ran by a man whose name is Hashem, it is a community centre in Tel Rumeida, that does some great things for the people living in the area- which is under a military occupation.

Started in 2006, its goal is to provide the Palestinian community in the area with three things- education, social work, and community development. 
The centre is open all year. It distributes food and money for families who are economically in need, as well as workshops for children and women. The centre is working to combat social problems that some people in the area struggle with, such as drug abuse. Focus is also placed on protecting children from abuse. Classes are offered for parents who are struggling with their kids at home- the environment of occupation and constant violence and insecurity that many face does take its toll on kids, as it would anywhere in the world. There is a focus as well on art, since it helps many kids express what they are going through. Doctors and psychologists visit the centre often.

There are also classes for kids, where those who strugg;ed during the schoolyear academically come to work on their Math, Arabic, and English. Some ISMers volunteer a bit in the English class for the children. There is an amazing teacher called Lubna, who teaches English in a high school during the schoolyear, but comes in a few days a week during the summer to work with the kids at Tel Rumeida.

All the services provided are free.

The centre is currently collecting food, milk, tables and water to send to Gaza. Life is difficult for Palestinians in Hebron- especially H2, but many people still give what they have to others who have it even worse. 

Hashem told us that the centre has been attacked by settlers in 2006, who managed to get into the building, and attempted to burn everything inside. The massive destruction they left behind was not successful in stopping its work for the community.

Ibrahim Al Khaleil Society- it is a few steps from our apartment and even less steps from the convenience store which has a never-ending supply of hummus, pita bread, bottled water, and junk food.

Ibrahim Al-Khaleil Society

Hashem showing some of the milk based food that is being collected to send to Gaza.

Children's work. Spongebob characters hold hands as fighter planes fly overhead.

Art made by younger children

Art made by some of the older students

Lubna working with the kids as they practice their English writing skills.

Kids hard at work (1).

Kids hard at work (2).

Kids hard at work (3)

Marwa, a young girl from the Shamsiia family. Teachers aren't supposed to have favourites and I like all the kids, but Marwa I think has managed to form a special bond with a lot of the ISMers. She often comes by to say hello to us, and I think every ISMers who has been in Hebron for more than a few weeks knows her.

Her family faces a lot of harrassment from soldiers as well as settlers, and her parents are active in documenting not only what is happening to them, but also what is happening to other Palestinians close to where they live. Last year, one of Marwa's brothers was attacked by settlers, and beaten into unconsciousness.

The constant harassment and violence does take a toll. The environment Marwa and many other Palestinian kids live in, makes studying and going to school difficult sometimes. Yet they continue to learn.