The last couple of weeks have been fairly eventful. I’ve had loads of email back from you all, so thanks for those. It’s good to hear from home and from friends all over the world. Sorry if I have not got round to replying to you individually – I’m working through my inbox when I have time.
I recenly spoke via an online voice call to my friends Harmeet and Donna in New Zealand. For those of you in the UK, you may not have heard of Harmeet because the British press tended to concentrate on Norman Kember, but he was one of the four peace activist hotages from the CPT kidnapped in Iraq back in December. Although sadly one of the four, Tom was killed. Harmeet, Norman and Jim were released only recently. It was really good to speak to both my friends from my first trip to Palestine who I had met at the ISM training.
I was moving around the West Bank quite a lot in the first couple of weeks here, so I’ve been able to see the most recent situation in each place. My plan at the moment is to commit to the Ramallah media office as my long term region and work here during the week while also doing some training sessions for new recruits to ISM too.
Wednesday the 5th: After a day’s rest in Jerusalem, I planned to go to Hebron the next day. Instead, in the morning we got a call from Mohammed, the ISM co-ordinator up in Nablus that there was an invasion and that they needed internationals up there as soon as possible to document the event and accompany Palestinian ambulances. We called as many people as we could reach to get as big a group as possible together. Being the nearest to Nablus, two ISMers who were in Jayyus were able to head there from the village. Myself and a group of two other ISMers and one activist from IWPS headed up there from Ramallah. As it turned out, the two coming from Jayyus managed to arrive in time to witness the last few shots from the Israeli military before they jeeps withdrew.
Turns out that the day did not actually warrant the tag “invasion” – just “military opperation”, according to Mohammed. A quick in-and-out that they apparently refered to as a “grave check” – that is checking which wanted men are dead and which are alive. Us in the group from Ramallah were not allowed past the Huwara checkpoint, which is the main way into the city coming from the south. So after about half an hour of failed negotiations, three of us decided to hike in over the hills (the fourth headed back to Ramallah). Even though the military had left, we decided to head in to try and ascertain what had happened. It took about an hour and a half through the mountains, but it was a really nice experience! We hiked up the mountain, surrounded by the beautiful scenery. We met several welcoming villagers along the way who gave us directions and told us about their various troubles: a shepherd who kept getting moved on by the military, a village whose hosues had been threatened by demolition because they were too close to an Israeli settlement (an rather recent looking series of portacabins).
Once there, we met in the ISM appartment in Balata camp, assessed the situation and decided what to do. There had been a call put out by Rabbis for Human Rights to support a family in the nearby village of Salim the next day – they were trying to plow their land but had been prevented by settler harrasment and military closure. Three ISMers decided they would go the next day – it was thought three would be enough since there was going to be a large group from Israel (in the event is was about 40). Meanwhile, we decided to try to visit the hospital and get the names of those injured. When we got there, we could not visit the injured boys (some were as young as 15) because they were in surgery. Ten people were admited with injuries that day, mostly from rubber-coated bullets (one of these was a serious head injury) and six were arrested. We saw one of them wheeled out on his way to surgery. Visiting the rather delapadated hospital was an extremely depressing experience. People sat around in the coridors, mostly in silence, with downcast looks on their faces, a teenage boy unsucessfully tried to hold back his tears sitting on the staircase with his friends. In all honesty I was glad to leave. That night I returned to the different world that was Ramallah, and even went out with some friends that night. It’s too easy to forget. Since that day, the Israeli military has been constantly in and out of Nablus occupying houses and shooting children with regularity. The suffering of Balata continues.
The next day was a Friday, so the weekly demonstrations were to be held. I went to Beit Sira, but that’s a story for another journal entry…