South Hebron Hills, Thu 5.5.11, Morning

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Patti G., Mira B. (reports), Muhammad (driver)

A shift of polar opposites: participating in an activity for peace and observing one of hatred

Peace: women in the southern MW region have been supporting a kindergarten for local Bedouin children in Khashem-el-Darajin the south-eastern tip of Hebron hills, along with other partners the Villages Group and UNRWA.The end of the middle of nowhere. We try to support and encourage artistic activities at the Preschool which is run by Huda, a remarkably patient and inventive woman who has had no formal training. 

On the way we picked up Eid, a local artist, in Um el Kheir.  The walls of the gan are now decorated with posters and charts with numbers in Arabic. Huda has added pictures on wooden boards. When we arrived the children, about 20 3 and 4-year-olds sat quietly. Huda showed us that each child has a notebook.

We brought materials for pasting on paper: leaves and sparkles, colors and glue. The only thing we didn't have to bring was sand! We brought the little tables and chairs outside on the newly flattened area, distributed pages and passed out all the materials.  Huda, Eid and Mohammed, the Arabic speakers, explained and we demonstrated, mushing fingers into the glue. At the beginning it went slowly, but the project soon caught on and the kids produced some happy and creative pictures. In the end we passed out chocolates. Next time we will bring materials for them to make pictures on stones – another locally available product. What is missing in the gan is a locked cabinet to store all the materials we bring in.

It would be nice if we had someone with training who could work with Huda to develop a regular program for the kids, and she in turn could train other teachers in the area. The nursery school has no bathroom unit, no storage facilities and no gate or fence.(Huda managed to pull in a hose from a water source so the kids can wash their hands.) The Palestinian Authority only assists in the funding of elementary and high school.  Israel provides no such assistance at all. UNRWA is willing to fund building and renovations but not maintenance, thus we have applied for additional funding for these basic needs. Huda's salary comes from the funds we received from the British Shalom-Salaam Trust and from the contributions of members of Machsom Watch. In the meantime we do what we can.

Hatred: As we were leaving, Hagit called to alert us to the fact that structures were being razed in the Palestinian part of Susiya. This is the more remote part. A few weeks ago Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad came to the area and promised the residents that the PA would help them build their houses and send building materials.

When we pulled off hwy 317, the road had been blocked by boulders that morning. Bulldozers had not only pulled down the houses but had also broken the water pipe supplying the water to the Jewish settlement of Susiya. We went by foot to the site – everything had been pulled down, tents and stone houses alike. All along the way families were sitting on the ground in shock, sacks of grains torn open and their contents spilling on the ground. Still, they were making tea and offering glasses of tea to all the visitors, which included representatives of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) of the World Council of Churches, the Villages Group and even the PA Ministry of Agriculture.

We were taken on a tour of the ruins. We were told that early that morning Israeli "authorities" (the army, border police, etc.) came and told the residents that they have two minutes to vacate the premises and go to the nearby wadi. M. showed them the court document attesting to the fact that the issue is currently in litigation but the "authorized" authorities claimed it was only regarding a cistern. And the cistern, in fact, was left untouched. Even the troughs for the herds were destroyed, all the olive trees were uprooted and taken (stolen) and they even (so it was claimed) killed their dog. Some women were collecting whatever uprooted olive trees were left over and put them in a washtub. There was nothing to say and we left a bit too quickly, but Mohammed had other Machsom Watch duties to attend to.