Fifty Palestinian families made homeless by Israeli bombing during the summer’s fierce offensive on the Gaza Strip were rehoused Saturday in mobile homes in the southern town of Khan Yunis. Imad al-Haddad, Gaza head of a United Arab Emirates association providing these 50 mobile homes, told AFP that, in the town’s Khuzaa neighbourhood alone 500 families lost the rooves over their heads.
Source: AFP

East Jerusalem By the Numbers

Infographic: “East Jerusalem 2015 Facts and Figures. 37% of the city’s population = 300,200 Palestinian residents living in Jerusalem have permanent residency status in Israel. In 2014, the residency status of 107 Palestinians was revoked. More than ¼ reside in neighborhoods disconnected from the city by the separation barrier. 8,501 children are at risk. 75% of residents under the poverty line. 84% of children under the poverty line. 37% of residents receiving welfare services are Palestinian. Only 22% of social workers work with Palestinian residents. 43% of classrooms are inadequate; 1000 classrooms are missing; 33% dropout rate in year 12. 98 properties demolished in 2014; 208 residents uprooted from their homes; 39% of houses were built without a permit. Water: 36% of households are not connected to the water network. 7 infant healthcare centers in Palestinian neighborhoods / 26 infant healthcare centers in Israeli neighborhoods (of which 3 serve Palestinian families as well). 1184 were arrested in the second half of 2014 for participating in riots of which 406 were minors. 5 children lost their sight in one eye after being shot with sponge bullets. The youngest of which was 6 years old. A 16-year-old boy was killed after being shot in the head with a sponge bullet. 7% of postmen in Jerusalem provide service to Palestinian neighborhoods. 8 post offices in East Jerusalem compared to 40 in West Jerusalem. Association for Civil Rights in Israel.”

The Nakbas 67th anniversary… 🌹 When over 750,000 native Palestinians where expelled and exiled from their homes and became refugees, over 400 villages where ethnically cleansed destroyed, families separated (such as my own), massacres were committed and innocents were killed. Today there is over 7 million Palestinian refugees still waiting to come home. Today we still fight racism and apartheid in our own homeland. Today the Nakba is still happening, in the West Bank & Gaza.
I am eternally grateful for my Palestinian friends and family and for all the beautiful people I have met here. You are gold!!!
We might not have our own country, but everything lives on. Our culture, our food, our music, our souls. Palestine lives inside of us. We will never forget.

Out in the Dark

I was just looking for some romantic shit on Netflix under the Gay and Lesbian category and then I chose Out In The Dark because the guys in the movie look hot.  But damn!

I thought this movie was about Romance. But no, it was more than that. It was political and systematic conditions that make all the lovey dovey complicated about the deadlock between the rejections of the main character Nimr’s Palestinian family as homosexual and the Israeli society for being Palestinian. Another caveat to this problem is that he falls in love with this gorgeous Israeli lawyer.  

I started watch this movie feeling sad about my own situation… and I feel depressed now after watching this movie.

(via Pope Francis Canonises Two Palestinian Nuns)

Pope Francis Canonises Two Palestinian Nuns.

Marie Alphonsine Ghattas – who was born to a Palestinian family in Jerusalem – co-founded the Congregation of the Rosary Sisters, which today runs many kindergartens and schools.

Mariam Bawardy was born in Galilee to Greek Catholic parents from Syria and Lebanon.
A mystic, she is said to have carried out many miracles and to have experienced stigmata – wounds representing those suffered by Jesus on the cross.

Both nuns lived through tough conditions, overcoming male dominance in Ottoman society, poverty and ill-health while helping others.
They are said to have seen apparitions of the Virgin Mary and remained in close communication with her.

By granting these women sainthood, the Church is celebrating their good works but it is also showing support for Christians in the birthplace of their religion, the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem reports.

In 1948 Zionist militias depopulated and destroyed more than 530 Palestinian towns and villages. An estimated 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes, and many who were unable to flee were massacred. By the end of July 1948 hundreds of thousands of  Jewish immigrants from outside Palestine, many of whom were survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, had been housed in homes formerly belonging to Palestinian families like my grandmother’s. In December, the new Israeli state implemented a series of laws commonly referred to as the Absentees’ Property Law. These laws created a legal definition for non-Jews who, like my grandmother, had left or been forced to flee from Palestine. The laws allowed the newly created Israeli state to confiscate 2 million dunams (about 500,000 acres) of land from Palestinian families, including my own. In April 2015 the law was extended to cover land in the West Bank, thereby legalizing the continued expulsion of Palestinians and the confiscation of their land and property in order to house new Israeli citizens coming from abroad.

It is actually part of Israeli law to refuse to recognize these events, therefore missing from schools and organizations. 

so this is embarrassing but i thought i’d share my aplication with you guys

In what ways are you interested in strengthening your youth leadership and organizing experience? What do you envision doing in your communities following the school? How do you think this school will help you achieve those goals? (350 words or less) * Please write a personal statement about yourself and why you think you should be selected for the PYM 2015 Summer School. You can feel free to discuss any academic, activist, organizing, professional, or familial aspect, experience or story in your life that makes you a qualified candidate. Please try to include your experience in Palestinian/Arab communities and be creative! (250 words or less) *

My mother is Palestinian, and my family was one of the few who were not expelled from Lydda during the Nakba in 48, but living under occupation was a trial for her. She grew up internalizing the anti-Palestinian racism, and as a result, when she came to America she assimilated, passing on this on to her children. I grew up knowing I was an Arab but not that I was Palestinian and I was ignorant of my people’s culture and struggle. Until recently this ignorance made me avoid interacting with other Arabs out of fear of not being Palestinian enough. It’s only been in the past four years, while attending college and interacting with other Palestinians online that I have reconnected with my culture. Sharing my love for my people with my online community and with my family, I can start to see a change. I can see in my mother a love for her people that she had forgotten, and I can see an understanding of the Palestinian struggle grow on social media. I wish I could say that I have spread my activism beyond my own household and online community, but currently there is no active Palestinian organization on my campus. Currently I am working towards an undergrad in Government in order to pursue a graduate’s degree in Palestinian or Middle Eastern studies after learning Arabic, which I hope to use to help other Palestinians in Diaspora avoid the assimilation I grew up with.

In what ways are you interested in strengthening your youth leadership and organizing experience? What do you envision doing in your communities following the school? How do you think this school will help you achieve those goals? (350 words or less) *

I have limited experience with Palestinian youth organizations offline, having attended only a few events including a short movie screening in Berkeley on the situation of Palestinians in Akka. However, I do blog about Palestine and my peoples struggles against occupation in order to spread awareness. I do not generate as much original content as I would like, but still I use my follower base to spread the content generated by other Palestinians and create awareness of our situation, but I still have not extended this into offline activism. Part of this is due to a lack of Palestinian representation on my campus at CSUS, as well as my needing greater education on the topic. I would like to change this situation, both in my online and offline activity. I have been able to in the past, through personal dialogue, been able to improve other Palestinians understanding of pro-Palestinian activism and informed them of the necessity of excluding anti-Semitism from their rhetoric on our oppression, while also convincing others of the necessity of a one-state solution for Palestine, but I want to do more than this. I want to be able to start generating more of my own content for my blog, and work towards the creation of Palestinian organizations on my campus, where other college students can come together to learn and start organizing for the benefit of our community. In doing this I want to make it so that other Palestinians feel less isolated from one another and have a safe space to express themselves and make a positive change within their lives. This program is meant to be an intensive learning experience for both Palestinian culture and politics with an emphasis on cultivating leadership. This alone will help me to develop a greater understanding and capability that will allow me to pass on this information to other Palestinians, but more than that it will allow me to start generating connection with other Palestinians, and people who are pro-Palestinian, on a face to face basis and improve my own life as a Palestinian in the Diaspora.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing our youth in the US today? In what ways are these challenges making youth organizing more difficult? What ideas do you have to overcome these challenges? (350 words or less) *

The biggest issues facing Palestinian youth in the United  States today is the threat of assimilation, and this affects me personally as a Palestinian who was assimilated from a young age. It makes it difficult to connect with your culture and to feel like you belong as a member of it once you do. This makes it challenging for individuals who have dealt with this to organize, because even when they desire to do so they can be faced with the overwhelming feeling of not belonging. I was originally presented with an idea of how to fix this situation after my Sedo passed away at the age of 93, causing me to feel particularly disconnected from other Palestinians. I was taking a class on Korean Education where I was introduced to the concept of school programs designed specifically for the maintenance of the language skills and cultural knowledge of the children of immigrants, and I was overwhelmed at the realization of how much a similar program geared towards Palestinians would have helped me as a child. Once I finish my graduate’s degree in Palestinian studies, I hope to create a similar program here in California with the emphasis in maintaining Palestinian culture and language within our children that will hopefully develop into activism as they grow older. If this program is successful I want to expand it to include all peoples from the Middle East living here in order to promote greater intercommunity solidarity. I understand that this will be an extremely difficult process, having discussed the matter with my professor for the class “the effects of globalization on Asian Americans” after turning in a paper on an interview I conducted with my mother. He relayed the difficulty that his own Philipino community has had in combating assimilation in their own children, his example being that he speaks three Philipino languages and his son only speaks English, but still encouraged me and gave me advice. I feel that this needs to be done for the benefit of our children and the future of youth activism within the Palestinian-American Community.

This is blatant ethnic cleansing and racism! - Israel seizes 790 Palestinian firms in Jerusalem

[File photo]

Some 790 Palestinian firms based in occupied Jerusalem are being transferred to Jewish ownership, Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad reported yesterday.

Director of the Maps and Survey Department in the Orient House in Jerusalem, Khalil Al-Tafakji, said: “These properties are owned by Arab Palestinian families, including 595 residential apartments, 186 shops and 15 Islamic, nine Christian and 60 public facilities.”

“The Israeli occupation confiscated these firms in 1968, turned them into state property, and now it is turning them into the ownership of Jewish settlers.”

Al-Tafakji stressed: “The recent Israeli announcement to build new settlement units in occupied Jerusalem was a step towards turning Palestinian properties to Jewish settlers.” He noted that the Israeli occupation does not hide its occupation and settlement plans.

Two days ago, the Israeli president and prime minister reiterated that Jerusalem, east and west, is a united city for the Jewish nation and it would remain the “eternal united capital” for them.

According to Al-Tafakji, the recent ongoing Israeli measures regarding the so-called “Absentee Property Law” is the Israeli tool used to target Palestinian properties owned by Palestinians living outside Jerusalem.

“Using this law, the occupation is targeting the remaining 13 per cent of occupied Jerusalem controlled by Palestinians,” he said.

3 good things today

1. Wrote a one page story in 20 min in English but I’m legitimately proud of it
2. First real fun lesson in peer support
3. FINALLY got the Palestinian pics of our family from ages ago

This is quite amazing:

Six Palestinian and Syrian families left the Gaza Strip on Sunday through the Erez border crossing en route to Sweden after being officially granted the right to immigrate and live in the Scandinavian country.

The immigration of the 27 members of the six families was done in coordination with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“Our organization facilitated the departure of the six families through the [Israeli-controlled] Erez border crossing at the behest of the UNHCR,” Soheir Zaqout, the spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Anadolu Agency.

According to UN figures, the Palestinian population residing in Syria was estimated at 581,000 before the outbreak of the 2011 Syrian war, the majority of whom lived in the Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus and other camps in various Syrian regions.

However, the ongoing war in Syria has forced tens of thousands of families to migrate to Lebanon, Jordan and hundreds have managed to relocate to the Gaza Strip.

“The Red Cross doesn’t coordinate immigration, our task was to only aid them [the six families] in leaving the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing because the UNHCR has no official office in Gaza,” Zaqout said.

The immigration of the six families was done through the official channels and after coordination with the Swedish government, she added.

Dozens of Palestinians have recently immigrated illegally through the sea due to the harsh economic conditions plaguing the Gaza Strip and the destruction caused by last summer’s Israeli onslaught on the embattled enclave.

Normally, UNHRC doesn’t do anything in the areas that UNRWA works, namely Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. While not mentioned here, my guess is that these families had fled from Iraq to Syria (or the Syrian border) and were never in the UNRWA system but were rather considered real refugees from Iraq under UNHCR. From there, when the Syrian war broke out they probably made their way to Egypt and then Gaza.

The interesting part is that UNHCR, which actually tries to reduce the number of refugees, has taken these 27 people out of the land where UNRWA works so hard to maintain the refugee status of its people and increase the numbers of o-called “refugees.”

This is the sort of news UNRWA doesn’t like to hear, because so many of the people it keeps in its system would love to move to Sweden or South America or anywhere else, but UNRWA doesn’t give them that option. Fewer “refugees” means less funding and less reason for UNRWA, meant to be a temporary agency, to exist.

One other point: Notice that not one Arab country is offering to naturalize any refugee whose ancestors happened to live in British Mandate Palestine n 1948. The countries that offer to help are Western. Arab countries prefer that Palestinian Arabs remain stateless  - supposedly for their own good.

The contrast between how the UNHCR and the Western world acts compared to how UNRWA and the Arab world acts cannot be more striking.

anonymous asked:

where is your palestinian family from

Originally Jerusalem but they moved to Jericho later for one of my uncles’ work

Hamody Ghannam | Palestinian

Wadi Nisnas | 2014 | audio installation

“Hamody Gannam has spent his life in Wadi Nisnas, a small segment of what was left of Haifa’s old city following the Nakbeh. He interviewed residents from the neighborhood and recorded their stories. During his research, he found out that the struggle of the residents of this neighborhood was to preserve and maintain their identity specially the disappearance of the Arabic language and the cultural of the neighborhood.

The project aims to shed light on some of the stories that the artist found in the interviews. Conversations were recorded and connected in order to form a narrative in the form of flashbacks that vanish into what exists today. Today, as residents face racism and marginalisation, it is important to remember those stories the occupation attempted to erase.

The installation is an archive room that contains boxes with the names of Palestinian families in Hebrew. The visitor to the exhibition will walk through the room and hear the interviews recorded about those memories. The stories are not in any order; they are random, depending on where the individual stands, similar to the reality of Wadi Nisnas.”-Qalandiya International

GAZA CITY (A  female philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates has initiated a campaign to distribute free bread to poor Palestinian families living in the Gaza Strip who are unable to afford their basic living costs.

Several bakeries are taking part in the campaign, where separate shelves of bread have been set up with with signs reading “The bread is free for those who want.”

“The disastrous financial situation of Gaza’s people pushed me to take this initiative as a way to help provide part of their basic daily needs,” the philanthropist told Ma'an on Sunday.

“I hope many more people, including bakery owners, will do the same.”

She added that she had told bakery owners involved in the campaign to make sure that their staff never question anyone taking the bread from the free shelves.

The initiative mirrors similar campaigns in other Arab nations, she added.

The Gaza Strip has been devastated by eight years of an Israeli-administered military blockade, as well as a series of Israeli military offensives.

Last summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians, and more than 100,000 homeless.

On Friday, the World Bank urged Palestinians, Israelis and donors to take action to avoid a “dangerous fiscal crisis,” noting that Gaza probably has the highest unemployment rate in the world.

The World Bank noted that Gulf Arab states and Turkey have so far spectacularly failed to fulfill their pledges to Gaza.

Of the $3.5 billion pledged to Gaza by the international community at a Cairo conference in October last year, donors had given only 27.5 percent, or $967 million, as of late April

The Israeli Authorities have decided to confiscate around 820 Dunams (202 acres) of privately owned Palestinian lands to establish new dumping grounds for its illegal colonies, in the central West Bank, in the Ramallah district.
More than 140 Palestinian families, from Rammoun and Dir Dibwan villages, own the lands that Israel plans to illegally confiscate to establish the new dumping grounds.
The dump, according to the Israeli authorities, “would serve the settlements and the Palestinians in the area,” but would be run completely by Israel and Palestinians would have no access to it.
If the Israeli government manages to take control of the 820 Palestinian Dunams, the total impacted area from the new dumping grounds would be around 2000 Dunams, which would be contaminated by runoff and debris.
These lands contain fertile soil and farmland, in addition to many water wells, Palestine TV has reported.

I’ve been in Hebron for 6 days now and I feel like I’m finally starting to get a bit of a sense of place in this town.

For the uninformed; I found a program to teach English as a volunteer in Hebron, one of the holy cities in the West Bank and they are housing me here for a month. Prior to my arrival, everything seemed to good to be true; I would get to live with a Palestinian family in the Old City (the old architecture and buildings that are present in a lot of Arab or Muslim cities), I would only spend $100 a month for housing and $300 for my Arabic classes, and I would have opportunities to travel within the country.

Now that I am here I can assure you, this program exceeds expectations and I am having a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

16 hours of travel, a flight from JFK in New York to Baku in Azerbaijan for an hour layover, and then 4 more hours to Tel Aviv. Having spent the last week of school writing papers, drinking copious amounts of coffee, packing, spending precious moments with friends and soon-to-be graduates, I knocked the fuck out when I got on the plane, which has helped me adjust myself to the time zone difference. When I got off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, I was hit by a wall of dry heat. The Middle East is hot in the summer which goes against all of my own personal preferences for climate and I soon found out that bringing a light jacket with me was pretty excessive. Once I got past passport control and got my luggage, I had to get myself a phone and an iPhone 5 charger that fits into the European style electrical outlets. When I went to the cash register to buy my Euro iPhone charger, the cashier spoke to me in Hebrew and I had to explain I was not in fact, an Israeli or a Jew. This was the first mistake assumption about my ethnic identity and far from the last. After getting my phone equipped, I took a Nesher shared taxi to Jerusalem, step 1 to get to Hebron. The whole way to Jerusalem my eyes were glued to the window. The geography of Israel is impressive because certain areas seem like they shouldn’t be able to exist on earth. You see rolling hills, lush fields of agricultural produce, pine tree forests, land that looks like sandy deserts. Most impressive to me is how in some parts of the country, there would be desert looking terrain with trees growing out of the land. After about 45 minutes of gawking at the scenery, we arrived in Jerusalem at one of the central bus stops. The central bus stop is a two minute walk from Damascus Gate, the entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City. As I walked over towards the line of taxis, I could see the Dome of the Rock peeking over the walls of the Old City. It is hard to believe that through Damascus Gate, there exists a whole city whose architecture and history is antiquated while bus stations, coffee shops, and supermarkets built in modern buildings lie only a three minute walk away. 

I got myself a taxi from Jerusalem to Hebron and overpaid to the tune of 250 shekels (60 dollars) due to my own ignorance and inability to find the shared taxis to Bethlehem that would then take me to Hebron. On the way to Hebron, my taxi driver told me his experiences of living in Jerusalem during the Six-Day War and his memory of seeing the city be taken by the Israelis. He remembered that the Israelis were accompanied by American soldiers when they took over the city, something that I do not recall reading in many of the books and articles about the war. The taxi driver, like many Palestinians in East Jerusalem, does not have Israeli citizenship, instead he has only an East Jerusalem residency card. Like many Palestinians, he has never left the country. 

 As we arrived into Hebron, we were greeted by a red sign alerting us that we were entering “Area H1” in Hebron, which is under the administration of the Palestinian Authority. The sign, which reads in Arabic, Hebrew, and English, tells us that Jews/Israelis are not allowed into Area H1 of Hebron under the laws of the Israeli government and that entering this Area would put their lives at risk. Hebron is divided into two sections, Area H1 which is under the PA’s control, and Area H2 which the IDF controls. The Old City is part of Area H2 and as Nicole,—the director of La Casa’s program—walked me through the Old City and into the neighborhood where I would live, I saw Israeli flags perched on rooftops and watchtowers. The neighborhood where I am in the Old City has its fair share of Orthodox Jewish settlers who are protected by the IDF. As we walked deeper into the Old City, I noticed chickenwire which was placed above the streets and in between the buildings. Nicole told me that this is in place because the settlers had a tendency to throw their garbage and their feces at Palestinians who would walk the street. After we passed a section of the alleyway that consisted of women’s shops (a partnership set up with La Casa to allow Palestinian women to have entrepreneurial opportunities), we arrived to a small green metal double door. The Arabs in the Old City use neither locks on their doors nor addresses so the onus is now on me to remember the house with visual reference points. 

We entered the doors and came into a stone alleyway and then into a courtyard with steps leading you to various rooms. This house is more than 900 years old and has at least 6 different rooms in various sections of the house. The layout is hard to describe without pictures but here are the things worth knowing about the house: I live in a section of the house with a kitchen and a bathroom and two bedrooms. In the first bedroom, there are two beds, one occupied by me, and one occupied by Sammy, the Czech whose Arabic is so good that people from other towns tell him he sounds like a Khalili (al-Khalil = Hebron in Arabic). In the upstairs, Stefan, from Bulgaria, has his own room and TV to himself. On the other side of the house, there are three American girls. Bridget and Lara are from Pennsylvania and Virginia and met while studying abroad in Jordan. Brynn, who Stefan, Sammy and I hang out with more often, is from LA and went to the University of Oregon. I am the youngest visitor in this house; everyone else has graduated college already. In the main courtyard is where we most often see our host family. From the courtyard, you can see the houses of the Jewish settlers who live literally across the street from us. The court yard once was open, but today the top of it is covered but chickenwire because the settlers used to throw objects at the kids and the family. 

Fatima, the mother, is a woman presumably in her 50s who always is covered in a hijab and long gowns that do not expose an inch of her skin. A few years ago, Fatima went through a stillbirth after an IDF soldier threw a stun grenade into the courtyard and she suffered the brunt of the impact. Fatima’s husband, Ahmad has been at the house the last few days, but his presence comes and goes and as Ahmad has two wives and two families. This familiar structure is not uncommon in Hebron. As for the family themselves, Fatima is probably the loudest person I have ever known and the sound of her yelling at her 6 children generally served as an effective alarm clock in the morning. Fatima has 3 boys and 3 girls. The boys are about 5, 6, and 8 years old and spend their time building kites with wood and garbage bags, repairing bikes, playing Grand Theft Auto, or watching Real Madrid soccer games on YouTube. The three girls are mostly invisible and do not talk to us. None of the family speaks English, save for a few phrases, "sit down”, “eat”, “father”, “mother”. Sammy is our translator as he has been in Hebron for 8 years now. When Sammy isn’t around, Brynn has enough phrases in her neatly written notebook that she can negotiate rudimentary conversations with Fatima and the kids. Without her and Sammy I would be unable to understand a single thing that happens in this house, save for when Fatima pushes to me a plate of yellow short rice, or a bowl of eggplant or potatoes with a red curry/sauce. 

 Having been now in Hebron for 6 days, I can feel how painfully foreign I feel as a result of the language barrier. I have been told multiple times through Brynn and Sammy that I look like an Arab, but this generally occurs after someone has tried to speak to me in Arabic on the street. If I walk around Hebron with Brynn or Stefan, we will get a few instances of “hallo, how are you”, but when I am on my own I am subject to the assumptions of the Khalilis who assume I am an Arab. One thing that is great about looking like an Arab in Hebron is that I feel completely safe when I walk around the city. Every day at some point I go walking for a about a half hour, usually up Ain Sara, the biggest street in Hebron, and rarely do I get bothered or looked at funny. As a brown man in Hebron, I am allowed a certain safety that women are not and I am allowed a certain anonymity that whites are not. Hebron, with the exception of the Orthodox Jewish settlers in the Old City, is a 100% Muslim town. One cannot find alcohol in Hebron because no one would dare sell it here. All the women in the streets cover themselves and wear the hijab, with the exception of visitors from other towns or other countries. Christian women or non religious women still make sure to cover their arms and their legs when they go outside and even Brynn is conscious to make sure that she doesn’t show too much skin, lest she get into trouble. While men can smoke cigarettes casually on the streets, women are not supposed to do so and are expected to engage in such acts in alleyways or in the privacy of their homes. 

Even with all the expectations of what a woman can and cannot do in Hebron, it is amusing to me to see the shops in the New City that sell clothes that a woman would never wear in public in Hebron. The men here dress differently according to age and what I can assume to be religious adherence. The younger men wear skinny jeans and tight fitting t-shirts with English phrases on the chest, but many of the old men wear headdresses, kaffiyehs, and long linen gowns to combat the 90+ degree heat. Stefan seems to have found a way to fit perfectly into the Palestinian fashion sensibility, but I think I have a ways to go unless I start swearing skintight shirts. I am starting to find my favorite businesses to frequent in Hebron and here it is where my relative anonymity goes away as I have to negotiate my language barrier and find a way to pay for my food. I have on a few instances, been screwed over by people who have noticed I don’t speak Arabic who then overcharge me, but the shops that have their prices listed are generally safe bets for me. 

On my third day here, Stefan took me to his favorite falafel place where he is known as “teacher”. Here, I can get a warm pita pocket filled with 3-4 falafel balls and french fries. When the guy behind the counter hands you the falafel, you can then apply chopped up cucumber/tomato salad, chopped cabbage, pickles, pickled beets, salt, a yogurt sauce, and a hot sauce. This heavenly concoction costs all of 3 shekels, less than a dollar. I almost always tell myself I am going to only get one, only to relent and get myself a second one. I have been surprised by how little meat there is here in Hebron. Granted, my preference is to seek out veggie type of foods, but I fully expected to be in a land of lamb. I have since been told that lamb is generally brought out for special occasions which I am quite ok with, I do assume that any food that is saved for special occasions is absolutely delicious when prepared right. Here at the house, Fatima makes us a lot of food, all of which is delicious. She makes her own flatbread that is heavenly when fresh; it is a perfect crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The last time she served it to us, she gave us breaded fried fish, a cucumber/tomato/lemon salad, and a cilantro/onion type of salsa to fill the bread with. Fatima also has made some delicious cucumber yogurt and several great soups. 

 On my second day, after eating a dish of rice with a soup that one pours on top of the rice, I decided I was going to go see the Tomb of the Patriarchs, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque. The mosque is only a 5 minute walk from our house in the old city, so I was told, so I walked out the doors, turned left and just kept walking. The old city really looks like the stereotypical image one would have of the ancient Middle East. White, stone buildings with thin streets that are more alley than they are street. The old city in Hebron is more than 900 years old, probably even older and it is quite obvious that these streets would never be able to take cars and traffic. The old city is meant for walking. 

 After wandering for about 5 minutes, I found myself in a small alleyway with a white metal cage and turnstile leading to a metal detector. At the end of the alleyway, an IDF soldier was hanging out in a glass booth, waving people through the metal detector. After taking off my belt, wallet, etc, I walked out into an open area where I could see a huge building made of white stone. The presence of another military checkpoint to my left was unappealing to me so I turned to my right and walked down the street down to what seemed like a big street of old and beautiful houses. Surprisingly, the street seemed almost devoid of life with the exception of a few shops that I assume target tourists going to see the mosque. I would later find out that this street used to be one of Hebron’s most economically active streets in the Old City until settlers moved into the neighborhood. I didn’t walk very far down the street but I could see another booth with an IDF soldier, which I now presume demarcates the beginning of the settler’s neighborhood. In all reality, their neighborhood seems like a miserable place to live. The architecture is absolutely beautiful, but the constant eye of the IDF and the way that the neighborhood seems like a ghost town makes it seem really lonely. Then again, these settlers could give a fuck about loneliness, in their mind, they are less than a mile from the tombs of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Leah, Sarah, and Rebecca. Proximity to holiness probably means more to them than being a part of a vibrant, peaceful, and happy neighborhood. Given that the settlers like to throw trash at the Arabs, I think coexistence is the furthest thing from their mind. 

Rather than go deep into the settler territory, I walked the opposite direction towards a park and the mosque. Eventually, I walked up white steps to a courtyard filled with visitors and Orthodox Jews. Some of them were praying at the Seventh Step (worth a wiki search), but most of them were walking towards another checkpoint to enter the mosque. I would later find out that there are two different entrances into the mosque, one for Jews, one for Muslims. The Jews refer to this building as the Tomb of the Patriarchs whereas the Muslims call it the Ibrahimi Mosque. Unknowingly, I entered through the Jewish side and ended up inside a building that was nowhere as impressive as I expected it to be. A lot of the architecture, adorned in Arab script was consciously covered by elegant velvet drapes inscribed in Hebrew. In the main courtyard, there are several entrances into the various tombs of the Patriarchs. In each little room, there is a metal gate that keeps visitors outside of the area where the actual tombs are held. Through the gates, one can see beautifully adorned coffins covered in Arabic. Inside these big rooms, I was surrounded by men, women, children, and even a few soldiers who held their prayer books and rocked to the right and to the left while saying their prayers in what is one of the holiest places in the world. As I took pictures part of me couldn’t help but feel a little dirty, as if I were intruding on someone’s intimate moment with God. Because there was no writing in English anywhere, I found it difficult to grasp the significance of where I was without doing the proper research beforehand so I soon left and walked my ass back home. 

On my third day here, Sammy told Stefan, Brynn and I that we were going to the Dead Sea to spend the night on the beach. Since Sammy knows the language and knows the land, I wasn’t in any place to ask questions about the logistics so I put my faith in him to get us to where we needed to be. Around 5, we took a taxi from Hebron that left us about 30 kilometers from the edge of the Dead Sea and left us on the side of a road near a gas station. At the gas station it was clear we had entered an area that was not under Palestinian control; the signs were all in Hebrew and in the fridge at the counter, one could buy beer and wine. After stocking up on the sinful items we could not get in Hebron, we met Rasha, a half New Yorker and half Arab that counts as one of Sammy’s many foreign friends. Once we made sure we had enough food to survive (bread, veggies, fruits), we started the process of getting our ass to the Dead Sea. 

Rather than go to the tourist heavy beaches of the Dead Sea’s northern waters, Sammy wanted to take us to En Gedi, one of the southernmost points of the Dead Sea. En Gedi used to have a vibrant resort that has since closed but it still has one Israel’s most impressive nature reserves where one can climb up into the mountains and valleys of En Gedi and find fresh sweet water waterfalls, less than a mile from water so salty you can float in it. To get to En Gedi we had to either wait for the bus or hitchhike. Sammy soon found out after talking to some IDF soldiers that the last bus from this station to En Gedi had already come and gone so we resorted to hitchhiking. After a half hour of failed attempts, Sammy eventually found a little van/taxi that charged us 5 shekels each to take us to the next bus station. All in all, the driver took us no more than 2-3 kilometers but the next bus station actually had buses coming through, so after another hour of failed attempts at hitchhiking, we eventually took a bus to En Gedi. 

On the way there, we passed through a kibbutzim where some passengers got off. Kibbutzims are the symbol of early labor Zionism, the ultimate socialist dream of collective farming and becoming in touch with the land. At this kibbutzim I was shocked to see men and women in civilian clothing walk around carrying assault rifles and was even more surprised by how everyone else’s nonchalance. After passing through the Kibbutzim I started to knock out and by the time we made it to our stop, I had finally fallen asleep. After getting off, we walked about a mile into the abandoned resort and then down a ramp and stairs to get to the beach. In the pitch black, it took us a while to find a suitable place to lay down our food and our sleeping bags, but once we did, we broke out the beer and the rum, stared at the impossibly bright stars, talked about politics, life in Hebron, politics in the Czech Republic, hung out with the stray cat that joined us on the beach, made a fire and eventually fell asleep. When I woke up at the sunrise, I was surprised that the beach of En Gedi on the Dead Sea was not the alien world I imagined. I had expected something like an unknown planet, but En Gedi is really just a beach with a gorgeous view of Jordan across the water. 

The best thing about En Gedi, now that the resort is abandoned is that the beach is empty. When everyone else finally woke up, slightly hungover (save for me and my Mexican/Irish blood, built for drinking), we made our way into the water and were the only humans as far as the eye could see. Other beaches on the Dead Sea may be more picturesque but the trade off is sharing the experience with thousands of people. In this case, we were all alone as we floated in the water and tried to keep the salt water out of our eyes and out of our mouth. This task is easier said than done because you have to retrain yourself in the water to accommodate the saltiness. Normally in water, you can tread by standing up and moving your feet. In the Dead Sea, you have to put in effort to kick your legs at the right increments to stay up straight, or else the water will propel you to float on your stomach, or if you lean back, you’ll be facing the sky. The downside of the Dead Sea is the sliminess of the salt. After getting out, anytime you run your fingers over your skin or through your hair, you feel slime and you can see your fingers are shiny with salt. As the resort at En Gedi is now closed, there are no showers so our best solution was to walk a mile and a half into the En Gedi nature reserve where there are fresh sweet water waterfalls. 

The En Gedi nature reserve is beautiful beyond words and I know that cannot do it justice in language so I will put up pictures instead. What I will say is that walking up the mountains and in the valleys in scorching heat takes its toll and everytime you encounter a small waterfall it is an incredible feeling. In a few minutes I am about to go with Stefan at one of the secondary campuses of the Hebron University to partake in an English class. I have done two English related functions for La Casa so far, one was an English lesson with Stefan and a Palestinian from Bethlehem, Ahmad, who walked from Bethelehem to Hebron. Although his English could use some work with sentence formation, one of my favorite moments so far here has been listening to him talk about American politics and ask me questions about how Americans view the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. In return, I asked him what he thought of the Palestinian Authority and what he thought of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the PA). The general assumption I had is that most Palestinians view Abu Mazen as a shill for Israel who bends to their desires in order to maintain his own power. My taxi driver from Jerisalem was of this opinion, as is Aiman, the man that has Brynn write proposals for grants for Hebron University. Ahmad surprised me and said that Abu Mazen is a man of peace and compromise and that he is a good man. I’m not so sure I fully believe his answer because there is part of me that thinks that someone may assume that an American may be terrified to hear that the Palestinian people find the peaceful solution, or at least the man who represents that solution, to be painfully ineffective. 

In any case, I greatly enjoy being in situations where I can speak English with Palestinians and ask questions. The langauge barrier is most frustrating for me in that regard because there are so many questions I want to ask. I want to know people’s memory of the intifadas, I want to know what people think of the PA, I want to know how they feel the political situation in Hebron had changed, I want to be able to ask Fatima how she cooks half the things she makes, I want to know how Ahmer, Fatima’s second oldest son is so damn good at mechanics and repairs at the ripe age of 8ish, I want to be able to ask people what they do on a day to day basis, I want to ask the guy that cut my hair who was wearing an israeli construction company shirt if he worked in construction in Israel because I wrote a whole paper on Palestinian labor I flows into Israel and the West Bank’s economic dependence on Israel. In short, I’ve had a great time so far but I have a long long way to go and the lone arabic class I took is somewhat helpful for me to be able to ask very basic questions, but I am realizing that I am taking off a bigger chunk than I thought I was. Arabic is not easy and I am not going to maintain the foolish assumption that I will be able to be here for a month and learn a lot of arabic or even be able to communicate with lots of people, but this trip is the beginning of a process and for that I am infinitely grateful to be here.

Hiking the Path of Abraham Through Unseen Corners of West Bank

Hiking the Path of Abraham Through Unseen Corners of West Bank

The West Bank is much more than the Israeli military occupation that has come to define it for the outside world. From the Byzantine ruins of Sebastia to the lush flora of Wadi Qelt to the vast Jericho desert, the West Bank is a varied and dazzling landscape. You might break bread with Palestinian families in Jericho’s Aqbat Jabar refugee camp, at a women’s cooperative in Burqin, or in an…

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