The Health and Human Rights Project has been sponsoring delegations to Israel/Palestine for ten years. Our objective is to document conditions on the ground of the population living under Occupatoin and bring those stories, pictures and video back to the United States. HaHRP is a project of American Jews For A Just Peace www.ajjp.org. The individual postings below of the HaHRP Delegations do not necessarily represent the official position of HaHRP or AJJP.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Bil'in: Hozon (Sadness) and Farah (Happiness) 10-17-12 -A Rothchild
The last time I went to Bil'in was in
January 2011 for a frightening, exhilarating tear gas filled Friday
demonstration against the wall. This time, not only did we arrive on a
Wednesday, (no demonstrations), but conditions have changed dramatically,
though not barely enough. From Birzeit we headed southwest, past the infamous
Ofer Prison in the distance, through stunning rugged, rocky landscape, terraced
with silvery olive trees, contrasting dark green figs, up and down ear popping
hills, winding through tiny towns with tall thin minnerets, lush fuscia colored
bouganvia, mansions built by wealthy US Palestinians erupting from the
hillsides. As we approach the tiny town of Bil'in, the Jewish settlement of Modi'in
Illit appears like a mirage in the distance, a haze of tall apartment buildings
dominating miles of hilltops. This is as close to a pilgrimage as I get.
We are met by Iyad Burnat, the
brother of the man featured in the recently released film, Five Broken Cameras.
Smart, focused, handsome, and deeply committed to nonviolent civil
disobedience, he takes us through the area of the previous demonstrations, now
littered with tear gas cannisters and other military detritus. His young
daughter gradually warms up to her latest guests, smiling for photos, and
holding onto her father. Ironically Caterpillar bulldozers are rebuilding the
terraces and farming areas that were destroyed by the previous wall, ie, the
high security fence, sensors, and military roads. This was built to separate
the town of Bil'in
from the rapidly expanding settlement of Modi'in Illit, simultaneously stealing
much of the land belonging to the village.
In some strange way this feels like
sacred space, where unarmed men and women, local villagers and internationals,
famous leaders and unknown teenagers, people chanting, singing, yelling,
beating drums, waving flags, faced down one of the most powerful, aggressive
military powers in the world and won a small significant victory. Now that the
wall has been taken down, I see a playground with brightly colored slides and
climbing structures, near completion by the side of the road.Such dangerous terrorists these villagers!
Imagine building a playground. What will they think of next? What a strange mix
of bizarre and extreme. What an immense tragedy for the Palestinians fighting
this battle and for the soldiers so brutalized that they are able to fire and
beat and tear gas and violate unarmed civilians: just following orders.
While Iyad described the popular
struggle, the violent response from the Israeli military, the horrific cost to
the villagers and their families, I walked along the current wall, this one
concrete with double rows of wide loops of barbed wire beside the off limits military
road. The cranes from Modi'in were easily visible over the wall, the struggle
is far from over, the land grab continues all over the West
Filled with emotion, horror,
encouragement, we gather in Iyad's living room, meet his four friendly children
and gracious wife serving thick Arabic coffee followed by painfully sweet tea.
They have spent seven years building this house and recently moved in. He turns
on the VCR and we find ourselves watching Five Broken Cameras, reliving the
stories, the violated landscape, the spirited villagers,the brutality of the
soldiers.It is surreal and almost too
painful to bear.
The conversation afterwards,
however, is powerful and inspiring. Iyad is focused on teaching and building a
nonviolent movement for civil action throughout the territories. Other villages
are joining the struggle. He will be touring with the film in the US shortly. He
is absolutely clear that he is not fighting the Jews, he is not fighting for a
few more dunams of farm land, he is fighting the occupation. He is not only
doing this for himself, but for his four children who have grown up tasting
tear gas and fearing Israelis. He is determined to create a better life for all
reflect the views of the individuals writing them and do not necessarily
represent the Dorothy Cotton Institute, the Center for Transformative Action,
Interfaith Peace Builders or other delegates or the organizations with which
they are affiliated