Beit Ummar – in Musa Abu Maria’s “country club”
A visit to Musa Abu Maria, at the country club (the most accurate term that describes the complex) that he founded and manages and develops in Beit Ummar. They received the land from the municipality, it had only one house and one ancient olive tree. All construction is done from local materials - stones and rocks, as well as wood. Everything is designed by Musa who is an engineer by profession but probably an artist at heart. Very careful about planting trees and bushes and maintaining this ecological gem. There is a cafe and a kitchen and a conference hall, a swimming pool that is open in the summer (with separate hours for women and men, I will come to swim here), a soccer field with bleachers, gyms and seating areas. Everything is breathtakingly beautiful, I recommend for us to rent the place for meetings and conferences. The activities are important so that the young people do not get involved in an activity that will bring them to prison. People are trained to work with groups. This is a registered association in Palestine, they have the equivalent of a donation recognition form for tax purposes, as well as a branch in Oslo for fundraising in Europe, and a branch in Denver, Colorado for fundraising in the USA.
By chance when I was there I met the following characters:
The mayor of Beit Ummar was there with Prof. Sami Adwan, a resident of Zurif who serves at Bethlehem University, and who was the partner of the late Prof. Dan Bar of Ben-Gurion University in the development of the Prime project, groups of Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian teachers who formulated the two parallel national narratives about the history of the last 100 years.The narratives appear side by side on the same page for learning in classrooms on both sides. There are versions in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The attempts to teach the books in schools were met with the efforts of the politicians on both sides to sabotage it. The two people were there to work on a request to Germany to twin Beit Ummar with a German town as a move to promote fundraising.
Ahmad Darbia’, originally a resident of Dura, is a member of Asaf's committee in Ramallah for interaction with Israeli society. I was in Ramallah as a guest of the committee several times, including in Muqata’a, including hosting a large group of religious Jews with a kosher meal prepared for us in a restaurant there. I also hosted Dr. Ziad Darwish, a member of the committee, at a meeting with a pre-military training school in Sde Boker. They are ready to come to Israel for meetings to promote peace with anyone who is willing to hear them. So, he and I had a meeting, in my role as a member of the executive committee of the Israel Peace Organizations Forum, and of course I conveyed to the forum his passionate request to renew working relations with us. This is the official politics of the Palestinian Authority which is not necessarily supported by the Palestinian street and yet is very important in my opinion.
People of Shorashim / Judur, the initiative known as Gush Etzion Crossroads, on the lands of the Abu Awad family from Beit Ummar. The association of Musa Abu Maria works closely with them. Including an initiative to establish a branch of Shorashim / Judur in Uja, east of Jericho, on highway 90. The initiator is Raz Kons from Meitar, who worked as the coordinator of their youth groups. Today she is the head of the pre-military training school at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. In Uja no special problems are reported under the occupation, although they are related to families in the north of the Jordan Valley, including Hammam al Malih (between the settlements of Rotem and Maskiot) where 2 tractors were recently confiscated.
Jamal Moqabel - his family is originally from Iraq al Manshiya (west of today's Kiryat Gat). He himself was born in the refugee camp on al-Arrub (west of Beit Ummar) but grew up on the stories of his grandparents and took his children to visit Iraq al Manshiya. He wears a Seeds of Peace sweatshirt.
I'll end with a curiosity: when Arabs talk about Ben Gvir it sounds like "Ben Kfir" and I think to myself, oh well...