So, we left Bil’in in tears after being handed, handcrafted cushion covers by our hostess Kamar. I felt sad to be leaving them, and had only known them for 3 days, for Elaine it was much worse, this was her third visit to them.
We arrived in Ramallah where Jamal picked us up and started a tour of ‘half the West Bank’ as he put it. We drove out of Ramallah and into straight into military rule by the Israelis with watchtowers and checkpoints.
Our first stop was a large village called Qaryout. Before anything further, we have to visit the town council (I’m starting to see a pattern here) where we meet Basel. He had just come out of hospital after being in a coma for 5 days caused by the nerve gas that was used with the tear gas during the previous Friday’s demonstrations. He came with us and took us to an extended family unit away from the village. There are 23 people that live here. Directly opposite is a settlement. The road has dog kennels dotted along it for ‘security dogs’. The area is fenced and barbed wired obviously to keep the terrorist Palestinians! What that doesn’t stop is the illegal settlers daily harassing this family. Throwing stones at the children, setting fire to their agricultural land, breaking into their houses. They release their sewerage onto the crops, destroying any little bit of livelihood these people have. This family refuse to move and hand over their land to these illegal squatters. illegal under international law, but that means nothing in Israel, which seems to make up its own rules and the rest of the world cowtows to it.
Then we went a little way down into the village where an old man told us that on the roofs of these houses they were storing stones to throw at the settlers when they come. His house had been set on fire twice through molotov coctails been thrown at them, and his 4 year old grandson had had his head split open by an attack by a settler with an Iron bar. All the houses now have grills on their windows for protection. The old man kept giving us sweets and biscuits and was really grateful that we had visited.
“It makes us know that someone cares, we think no-one cares.”
Off to Yanoun, a very poor village that needs 24/7 international presence to protect it from settler raids. All the hills surrounding have settlements on. They can no longer tend to their land or roam with their livestock. 10 days ago new caravans appeared, marking the place where a house will be built and more land will be lost.
On the way back to Aqraba, we stopped at a family home where all members of the family had been attacked by settlers. One was on crutches, it was 2 years since his worse attack. He will never work again. He was attacked from behind with an iron bar, beaten, kicked and left for dead. He still needs operations to sort his leg out. The family can’t afford it.
We finished the day feeling drained and emotional. Luckily we had been given a flat to stay in in Salfit. We had chance to sit back and mull over all the stories we had heard from the day.
Both of our heads were in a mess. Who to help and how?
Friday. Well I had been up all night with a dodgy tummy. We were due to meet Fatima at 2pm to go and vist some more deserving families. The time was then changed to 3pm, then 4.30pm. As I was feeling so ill, we said we would leave it. It was good to have a ‘free day’. Our heads are all over the place from all the stories we have heard so far. Trying to organise anything on a friday also is impossible, people are either at a demo or at rest. So, nothing got organised, even though we tried!
Saturday, finally we were off to buy the sheep (or so we thought) Jamal picked us up, off the the Town Council again. The mayor of Yanoun wanted to do the negotiations on our behalf, so we went off to the Jordan Valley with Jamal. What an absolutally beautiful area this is, and as they have had rain, it was green. Trenches had been dug by the Israeli Military to stop the local bedouin crossing onto land they once owned by Israel have decided they are having.
We visited a lovely man, whose home has been demolished 7 times. Each time the military have knocked it down, he has built nearer to the Illegal settlement. He has told them that if they demolish again, he will rebuild inside the settlement!
This week, the settlers killed 38 of his sheep. That is half of his livestock. They put poison down on the ground for them to eat. Now we have been quoted anything from £200-£450 for a sheep, so he has lost a whole heap of money there. This is a regular occurance. He has no water, and no rights to water, yet there is a water pipline that passes through his land. He is not allowed by law to access it, as he is Palestinian.
Back to Yanoun….they mayor had only found one sheep he liked the look of, so we have to go back tomorrow, hopefully by then, he will have found the other 2. And the Hatchery we promised for the village needs to be specially ordered in.
Nothing here ever works to plan. Elaine and I have found it really frustrating working with all the protocol and how slow it all moves. We hope to take pictures of our sheep tomorrow as we move onto the Nablus area where we have 100 trees to plant for people!
Please let this area be more organised!
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