Saturday, December 17, 2011

H & N in West Bank Day 7

MECRresource : Message:

Friday Dec 16

We started with a delicious breakfast of Zatar on bread with Laban and tea.

We get into Mohammedís car, which wonít start and needs to be pushed. We are carrying 2X4ís with which to make a ladder to climb to the top of the wall to see where soldiers are and put Palestinian flags on top. We wait in the garden until 11:30, when the Palestinians go to pray near the path to the wall. H & I sit and talk about our plans, once again. H decides to stay back in the compound with the women, who, because they are treated the as brutally as the men by the soldiers, are no longer allowed into the fields during the demos. I decide to go to the demo, but stay at the very back, and decide on an incremental basis, just how close Iíll go. H is very nervous about my safety, as am I, but Iím determined to stand in solidarity with them. There has been absolutely no pressure from anyone to make any particular decision. My mind is racing. Maybe I shouldnít wear a hat so that the Israelis can more easily see Iím an international etc., etc. I know itís just anxiety. Who knows whatís provocative or not. A man had been shot just outside the garden weíre sitting in, just for sitting there.

I go out to where the Palestinians are gathering with 6 Israeli activists that have come from Tel Aviv.† All but one, a woman, has participated before. We wait outside the prayer meeting and talk among ourselves. We share information about our activist work and organizations that we belong to. They are from Anarchists Against The Wall, New Profile, Artists Against The Wall, and JVP (Israeli moved to Arizona). As 75-100 of us walk to the fields, chanting, an ambulance drives in back of us.

The Israeli woman and I stay at the very back. All but a few Palestinians go right to the wall in different places, as do the Israelis.† I see Mohammed climbing the ladder and placing Palestinian flags on top of the wall. A small group sets a tire on fire, and black smoke billows and billows and blackens the wall. Palestinian youth have leather thongs that they use to fling rocks over the wall. We hear live ammunition being shot, but no soldiers are in sight, and one of the organizers comes to tell us that the shots were only fired in the air to frighten people. The Israelis are firing tear gas, and I smell it, but they land far away. I venture closer to the wall, now about 100 yards away and take lots of pictures. Mohammed waves to me and beckons me to join him, as he is still 100 yards from the wall.† As I walk to him I see many, many spent tear gas canisters and rubber projectiles on the ground. I am, at all times, very conscious of where I am and what the best escape route is. The wind has picked up from the west and Mohammed and I walk west so that the tear gas will blow away from us. He points out a sniper in the distance as well as the soldier who shoots the tear gas. He explains that the sniper is only interested in the people near the corner of the wall. I believe him and continue to watch and photograph. I watch as a Palestinian youth stands behind the corner of the wall and flashes his hat to draw the fire of the sniper. The sniper doesnít respond. By this time maybe 50-60 tear gas canisters have been shot over the wall. Everyone is so used to it, that no one is particularly bothered. Mohammed is clearly keeping his eye on me and I express my deep appreciation. ìNo worry, you are welcome.î The soldiers stop fire the tear gas and It becomes quite quiet. Mohammed says that it is a sign of danger and, that, since I am an old man, who cannot run fast through the boulder strewn field, I should head back to the compound. He leads me back to where we entered the fields, and then asks a youth to walk me the rest of the way. He believes that soldiers may come from the east and itíll be hard to escape.

I go back to compound to see H, who has been told Iím okay. I sit down and am spent.† Some tear gas remains in my nose, but no problem. We have tea and bread. While I wasnít aware of feeling afraid in the field, I breathe sighs of relief. Saeed comes to help us figure out how to get to Jerusalem. Itís a Friday, the Sabbath, and most busses arenít supposed to run after 4 pm and itís now almost 2:30. He had tried to arrange a taxi, but the man who had agreed, had his phone turned off and canít be reached. Mohammed figures out a series of different transports that he thinks will work. Of course, we have warm goodbyes and thank yous with everyone. H & I decide to commit to buying another computer for the popular committee. We tell Saeed who is more than appreciative. Just a note to all who read this. Weíll be looking for small donations from many of you.

Mohammed tells us about a museum in Niílin that is about the Holocaust and the history of Niílin and its occupation. The people here clearly make the connection. He says that the Palestinians stand in solidarity with the Jewish people of the Holocaust, but Palestinians shouldnít have to pay for the crimes of the Germans. We are thrilled to hear this. Unfortunately, we donít have time to see it.

We go back to await the service at Mohammedís and pick up our bags. We take the specially called service to Ramallah. An uneventful trip and exhaustion sets in. A very kind man, who we donít know, leads us for ten blocks in Ramallah, and then flags down a bus that is going to Al Quds (Jerusalem). We are alone on the bus until a Palestinian youth, maybe 13, gets on. On leaving Ramallah, the bus is stopped in a long line at a check point.Eventually, itís our turn and the soldiers come on board. They first check the youthís papers. Weíre not sure why, but he is taken off the bus, to we donít know where. Our imaginations run wild. As we were waiting, we concocted a story of where we had been and I change out my memory card for a blank one The soldiers check our passports, cursorily look in our bags, and send the bus on its way. It goes for 5 seconds and turns into a bus transfer station. No one speaks English, but I get lots of head shakes when I say Al Quds. Weíre off again. The bus lets us out only a block from our hotel. We check in, very, very pleased to be here and alone for a change.

1 of 1 File(s)

n & H in West Bank Day 6

MECRresource : Message: n & H in West Bank Day 6
Thursday Dec 15
No Wednesday diary-H & N sick

Today we are in Niílin, a small village 25 km to the west of Ramallah and located right at the wall. We are very fortunate to have been hooked up with the organizers of the popular committee, who have welcomed us with open arms. It is like this where ever weíve been; people taking care of us, sharing their food and homes, and their stories. They have many needs, but I think the first of which, is for the world to know about their struggle. For it only with the cooperation and support on the international community that will they be able to end the occupation. We leave Beit Ummar by taxi for Ramallah and then get a service (shared taxi) to Niílin.† It takes about 3 hours, even though they drive like crazy and, while there are small check points, we are not stopped at any of them. The service drops us right in front of the house of Saeed, with whom we are staying.

Saeed is a 20 year old man, who has just returned from a 3 month speaking tour of Europe. He was invited by the Sweedish Parliament. He speaks nearly flawless English, self-taught by using Google translator, and is clearly very bright. Before we know it, we are sitting in a small area outside his office (more like a 2 room concrete bunker in back yard) and in deep conversation over the obligatory tea. He has much to share. His father, Ibrahim, is one of the three main leaders (those who have responsibilities) of the Popular Committee of Niílin. The popular committees are in almost all Palestinian towns. They are the non-party affiliated grass roots movement that leads the resistance to the occupation at the local level. These committees cooperate informally with each other, but they make their own decisions. In Niílin there are 15 people on the committee, plus many volunteers. The different community constituencies all send one member to the organizing committee: each political party; each of the five families that live in Niílin; farmers; woman; youth; and the municipal govít. No votes are taken; they decide all issues by informal consensus. They sit around and discuss what forms the resistance should take. They are totally committed to non-violent resistance, even though they are faced with violence on a daily basis.

The resistance in Niílin started with the building of the wall in 2004. The farmers would go to protest in the fields. The Israelis, for unknown reasons, discontinued building until 2008. On May 27, 2008 the building started up again and Niílin had its first organized demonstration. It was put down very quickly, but the popular committee decided to have daily protests for 1 year. Since May of 2009 there has been a weekly Friday demonstration. The demos have met with fierce violence from the Israelis. Since May of 2008, 5 people have been killed,† 50 others shot with .22 caliber bullets that explode in the body in order to cause extra damage, and almost another 500 shot with regular or rubber-coated bullets. This is in addition to the use of steel covered tear gas projectiles like the one that hit Tristan Anderson on 3/15/09, and stink-water (sewerage, chemicals, and feces). The Israelis have also declared curfews, the longest of which was 4 days in July of 2008, put snipers on roofs to keep people indoors, shot at water tanks on top of houses and invaded homes during the day and night. Saeedís home has been invaded 25 times since 2008. They also put gates at the ends of town to limit access and jailed hundreds of people, mainly male youth.

Saeed himself was jailed at the age of 17 for 4 months in 2009 because his father was one of the leaders of the popular committee. During his time in prison, there was a demonstration that started because of the mistreatment and humiliation of prisoners. They shouted and knocked on walls and the nearest enclosing fence. There was no real threat to the prison or the guards because there were 3 sets of fences surrounded by a concrete wall. The guards shot hundreds of rounds of tear gas and hot stink-water into the compound and sent in guard dogs. At the end of the day, 83 prisoners were beaten, 3 eyes were lost and 4 legs were broken. Saeed was sick for 8 days as were many of the others. All prisoners were in solidarity with one another. All prisoners shared equally the resources and food provided by money sent from individual families. Saeed was the youngest in his jail section. His final words on the experience were, ìIím not a kid anymoreî and ìJail is a school. Political prisoners teach a lot.î When prisoners die in prison, their bodies are not released to their families until the completion of the sentence.

His father, Ibrahim, has been arrested twice; the first time in 2008 and the second in 2010. Beyond the punishment of prison, the Israelis took his work permit and now heís unemployed, as is 75% of the population of Niílin. While we were sitting there, his 17 year old brother returned from a 4 hour interrogation at the prison. He was obviously relieved, as interrogations often end with imprisonment. His brother said that he was asked to spy for the Israelis. When he refused they threatened him with serious jail time the next time they caught him. We then go up for lunch to the family house, which is in the middle of a family compound. There are 40 people living here ranging from the 82 year grandfather to the youngest nephew of 1 year. The family had always lived in the old city of Jaffa. In 1948 they were expelled and lived in Jordan in a refugee camp. In 1967 they moved to Niílin, where they are one of five large families. We eat communally with parents, siblings, aunts and cousins. Chicken, rice w/pasta, beans in liquid, couscous-like wheat and onions, and spinach tasting soup which was very bitter. They encourage us to eat a lot, and we, out of politeness, eat more than we want. After lunch we go out into the fields directly behind the compound to see the wall. The family is left with only 6 of its original 600 durams (duram=100 sq. meters) of farm land. The rest has been taken by the settlements or declared under military rule. The Village has only 7000 of its original 57,000. We walk not more than 5 minutes through olive groves when we start to see settlements in three directions. There is a great deal of incongruence in the visuals. We are confronted with high rise apartment buildings and town houses that donít belong in this environment. And of course we see the wall separating the two very different lives that are being lived on this land. This is where the weekly demonstrations take place. This is where the tear gas has been used. This is where people have been shot and brutalized. This is the very spot that weíve come to stand in solidarity with these oppressed people. As we walk back Saeed points out various markers where people have been killed. We are shaken. We are in awe of this peopleís bravery and fortitude. I wonder if Iím brave enough to stand with them. At the moment Iím not sure.

From a high spot he points out Tel Aviv in the distance and mentions that he always wanted to see the sea beyond, Itís only 25 miles, but it is impossible for Palestinians to get to. At least he saw the sea in Sweden and Italy on his trip. He was almost speechless during his first weeks in Sweden, and he cried a lot. He was overwhelmed by the difference between his home and Europe. ìFreedom, it was like heaven. People had respect for me as a human being. When I saw how well animals were treated, I wanted to be a dog in Sweden. Many people offered to have me stay, but I just became more determined to come home and fight for my country. Now I know the taste of freedom. Itís everybodyís duty to stop this occupation. Every day we are dying. There is suppression for everything in life. What about all the generations to come? Itís not impossible. The struggle will continue. Itís our destiny.î We arrive back at the ìofficeî, which houses his computer. He wants to show us the presentation he used in Europe and other videos that can be found on the net at Saeed, being the gracious host, asks if we want to rest. Although we are desperate for a break, we soldier on, both because of our need to witness and our feelings that our attention is the least we can give. After a half hour, I am in total overload and gingerly tell him that I need a break for a short while. No problem for him. He will go to the internet cafÈ to check his email (his internet down). Clearly honesty is best. I think we owe him that. We fall into an instant sleep and awake on his return sometime later. His father and 2 other of the older organizers of the popular committee join us. There is a round of introductions, thank yous on both sides and we settle in to watch. Very partial list of what we saw;

Ahmad Mousa, a 10 year old boy is shot in the head and killed on 7/21/08. People cry out for an ambulance, but are denied by soldiers. We see Saeed carrying Mousa in his arms to try to get him to a hospital. Saeed sees Mouasís brains spilling out of his head and faints. Others pick up Mousa, but it is too late. Saeedís cousin, and best friend, Yousef, 17 years old, is shot and killed on 8/4/08.

Agil Srour shot in heart and killed while attempting to rescue another who aws shot on 5/6/08.

Niílin demos in solidarity with the people of Gaza during the 2008/09 massacre of Gaza. Niílin is the only town to have solidarity protests.

2008 demo in which Saeedís father is being dragged from his fields shouting, ìKill me, kill me. I was born here, I want to die here. I want to die now. I want peace. Peace can give us peace-you and usî

Saeed takes us to† Mohammedís house in the village, which is where we will sleep for the night. Israelis have been at Mohammedís only 2 hours earlier looking for a boy that they want to arrest. Weíre with Mohammed and his wife and 4 kids, aged 4-9. This is a very happy family. There is lots of laughter and affection. The younger kids get a horsey horsey ride on their fatherís back and the kids and parents are very physical with each other. Itís a joy to be in their midst. . After the kids go to sleep, Mohammed shows us a bullet wound on the underside of his arm. He was shot with his arms raised in peace. He tells us, ìthere is a connection between your spirit and the land. When you are on your land, you forget your problems.î What a sweet man and a sweet family. 1 of 1 File(s)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Message: H and N in WB

December 11, 2011

Today was our first day without Zleika as our guide and companion. We have grown very fond of her and happy that she is now treating us as family and not as honored guests. We left her (our) home by the front door to walk down Shahada Street, a Jewish-only street and a short-cut, which is something neither she nor her mother are permitted, as Palestinians, to do.† We easily went through the checkpoint at the end of the street to leave the Old City to meet Yaesr J., who was going to drive us to the Bakaa Valley to meet his brother, Attta J.† Zleika had told us that this experience was going to put into perspective the ethnic cleansing aspect of the occupation.

We drove about 5 miles, turned off onto a steep and rutted uphill dirt road, made it about half way up and then walked the rest of the way. Yaesr introduced us to Atta, who was working in the family garden with his wife & middle daughter. Atta appeared to be a man in his late70s/early 80s, and his wife substantially younger. We sat down, with the obligatory tea and then coffee, served by his very shy daughter, and started to talk.

Atta started by talking about the history of the three religions in Palestine and how he considered all people as brothers, all people entitled to practice their own religion, all people to peacefully co-exist.† Some quotes to give a sense of the man: ìWhen you open your eyes and recognize peopleís humanity, you must stop the suppression of people. Everyone, everywhere.î ìHow much does a bullet cost? How many billions have we wasted on weapons of suppression and oppression? We must take it and spend it on peopleís needs. We need schools and hospitals and doctorsî ìYou canít talk to settlers, theyíll kill you. I wish I could talk to them.î îAre we stones? Do we not have blood. Give me my humanity.î

Attaís extended family, now numbering between 1500 and 2000 people, he wasnít sure, has lived in the Bakaa Valley for 1000 years. They were quite wealthy and by the 1940ís owned the entire valley, which is very fertile. During winters they lived in the old city of Hebron and in the planting-harvesting seasons lived in the valley, first in caves and then houses. During the late 1960ís and early 1970ís, Israeli settlers started to move into the valley with numbers of outposts and by 1971 Keriyat Arba, a full-fledged Settlement, was established on lands owned by Attaís family. Many of Attaís familyís homes were bulldozed and their lands confiscated. And then in 1998 Attaís home was bulldozed and Atta himself was thrown into prison and beaten badly. I believe itís documented in The Washington Report in Sept 1998.† Although he still bears the physical scars on his body, his spirit is not broken. He is a man of great hope for the future. Attaís home has been bulldozed and rebuilt three times with help from the Israeli left (ICAHD) and international organizations. By now all of the Palestinian homes in the valley have been bulldozed at least once. When we first drove into the valley, all we could see were new homes, and we assumed these were all settlersí homes. But now we understand that the Israelis have attempted to remove any and all remnants of Palestinian existence from the valley. Walls are one thing, ethnic cleansing is another.

At some point we moved into the house for the viewing of videos that had been taken on cameras donated by Bítselem for the express purpose of recording settler violence and protecting Palestinians from false claims made by settlers and the IDF. We saw a number of different videos: settlers destroying the plants in Attaís gardens; settlers destroying the pipes that bring water to the fields; armed, young settlers from the USA coming onto the property, right up to Attaís windows and threatening violence. The most disturbing moment was to see his youngest daughter, aged 11, screaming at the settlers out of her window. As we ate lunch, that same daughter got up continuously and went to the window to look out. Now maybe she was looking for friends etc, but we assumed it was the scars of the violence of two months ago that haunt her still today.

And then we all shared a lunch of stuffed grape leaves and salad that his wife had cooked. It was truly a communal meal; forks supplied to all and all ate out of the same bowls and tore off pieces of bread from larger loaves. He continued talking throughout, and we listened, often in horror. His brother played solitaire on the computer and his wife laughed with the kids. We also were shown a video of the younger kids dancing the Debka to the great amusement of all. We always apologize for the actions of our government for which we take responsibility for. Attaís response: ìYou see how much the policy of the US kills us. Itís the government, not the people.î Thatís Atta. By the way, he turns out to be in his mid ñfifties. What a physical toll his life has taken.

We get back into the car, head down the hill and are stopped by a goat herder with his goats, who turns out to be Attaís uncle, Ali. He has just gotten a 10 day confiscation order for his land on which he herds his goats. He asks for our help and, of course, we are helpless. The only thing we can think of is to call Israeli peace activists to ask for a lawyer. It turns out this has already been done and weíre truly helpless. I suppose this is what Palestinians feel on a daily basis, only on a much deeper level. After all, we are going back to the states in 10 days.

We start again to go across the main road to visit Attaís and Yaesrís mother and brother. Their home is at the base of a 40 ft. stone wall that was built on their property by the Israelis to separate Kiryat Arba from any possible Palestinian presence. This was a very different experience. Jawed, the brother, is in his early fifties, and looks it physically. His experiences were similar to Attaís, but he describes his heart as black. He says that he canít find enough love to give to his children. He is very bitter and demoralized. He says that his kids ask him ìwhy did he ever bring them into this world.î H is in tears and Iím close behind. On his site are the original caves that his grandparents and ancestors lived in. He shows us where the Israelis brought in bulldozers to destroy the caves, which he has refortified and now uses as part of his house. . He says ìhow can they destroy caves.î We are unable to respond. There is no response. Who can understand what is in the minds of people who do this? I canít. He asks for us to take a picture of him next to his one remaining olive tree. We are happy to do anything. We would do more if only we could. We promise to let everyone know the horrors he has endured and how this has marked him. It never feels like enough.

We go back to Hebron exhausted, emotionally drained and furious. I canít find a place to be. We pass through the check point and I glare at the soldiers, barely keeping myself in check. We retrace our steps up Shahada Street, passing settlers and soldiers. We shouldnít have listened to Zleika and should have walked the long way through the old city, in solidarity with the Palestinians who could not use that short cut. We will never do that again. She opens the door and we scoot in, happy to be off the Jewish-only street.

At five oíclock we get into a service (shared taxi) and head for Beit Ummar, about 15 miles away. All seats are taken and yet the taxi stops for yet one more passenger. I squish over, the man next to me, who doesnít speak English, in an attempt to gain some room, puts his arm around me on the back of the seat. I put my head on his shoulder and say ìshukrun ((thank you) papa and everyone in the taxi breaks up, even the women who are usually so reserved in public. I canít tell you what a relief it was to laugh after our day. What a release.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Message: H and N in WB Day 2

Saturday Dec 10

Day started in Zelicka's kindergarten with 30-35 children ranging in age from 3-10.. Normally, Saturdays are an off day, but Zelicka wanted to provide a chance for the kids to get out from their homes for some fun & games. Because of the possibility of settlers and soldiers in the streets of the old city, the younger kids are mainly confined to their homes, except for outings with parents or older siblings. It was quite a scene- very crowded, a little bit uncontrolled even though some adults present. Kids played some variants of Duck, Duck, Goose and Simon Sez, all with peals of laughter, and they wore masks & hats made by the adults.

We then went next door to speak with members of CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams) who have worked in Hebron since 1995. They stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, using their non-violent presence to try to decrease the violence. When harassment occurs, they try to intervene, when possible, by placing themselves between Palestinians and their attackers. They accompany people at risk of home demolition and/or land confiscation, do school patrols trying to safeguard children, monitor Israeli soldiers as they search homes, and go on 3 neighbor patrols a day. While they have a paid staff, it's mainly volunteers who pay their own way and usually spend at least a month or two. We had some fantasy about volunteering, but soon let that go after a discussion of the faith based nature of the organization.

After lunch, we went on another tour of the old city. Within two minutes we were stopped by Israeli soldiers who were "safeguarding" a large group of Israeli tourists, The armed soldiers kept Palestinians and internationals at bay as the Israelis walked slowly through the streets. Maybe 20 soldiers blocked our path. It was infuriating-a whole lot more threatening than the NYC police during the Occupy Wall Street crackdowns. We stood and stared, took lots of pictures, and H actually tried to talk to the soldiers about their personal responsibility. Some of the internationals, who had heard of a killing in another part of the West Bank were more confrontational with the soldiers, all to no avail. All words falling on deaf ears. H & I are in some philosophical disagreement on our relationship to soldiers and settlers. H believes that there are some real possibilities for engagement with an open human approach and N sees them as conscious enemies who engage in violent and representable behavior who are beyond the reach of discussion and much like the good Germans who were only doing their duty. Obviously there are more than two possible positions, but in this charged atmosphere that's where we find ourselves. In some sense it replicates the conversation about Roberta's attempt to get the two sides in one room engaged in non-violent conversation even before ending their unequal positions of power. How do conflicts end? Good conversations to have.

We finally were allowed to go on with our tour of the occupation. We climbed streets up in the Hebron Hills where Palestinians live, but where Palestinians are not allowed to drive. And it's quite a hike up those hills. We visited streets contiguous to settlements where Palestinians are no longer allowed to live. We passed through check points where we were asked for identification even though we were going from one Palestinian street to another. We passed by many observation towers manned by armed soldiers that were on Palestinian streets. We were stopped by an Israeli patrol cruiser and asked for identification for no reason. And we visited a family that lives right by a settlement that is not allowed to pick the grapes in their garden because it's too close to the settlement. This family always leaves one adult at home at all times in fear that, if left unoccupied, the settlers will come in and take possession of their house. This family has also experienced the Israeli soldiers forcing their way into their home, putting everyone into one room and then watching a soccer game for a few hours before leaving. It goes on and on and on. Everyone has a story. And, while stories start to become just another story for the listener, the reality of living the stories is overwhelming. We don't know how the Palestinians stand it. But what choice do they have.

We ended the tour looking for and finding some ice cream. It's so soothing. Then dinner- a chicken, vegetable, rice upside down dish that was delicious. Then off to bed in exhaustion.

Message: N and H in WB Day 1

12/9/11 Friday

What an incredible day. We awoke in Tel Aviv in the home of a 75 year old American- Israeli woman, Marcy G., a childhood friend of Jane T, and ended in the Hebron home of a 49 year old Palestinian single woman, Zelaika , who faces the struggles of resisting the occupation on a day by day, minute by minute basis.

Marcy G, opened her apartment to us, in fact left her key under the doormat, as she was out teaching English to Israeli children until 7ish, and we arrived at 5ish from the airport after a long day of flying and Helaine being delayed by Israeli customs officers for a somewhat nervous ¬Ω hour, while they did whatever background checking they seem to do on a somewhat random basis. Marcy came to Israel in the early 1970s with her American Zionist husband, now divorced, and had 3 daughters, 2 of whom (twins) still live in Tel Aviv. She is part of the Israeli left, worked with Palestinians in Sheik Jarrer, and would be one us if she lived in the states. We had lots of time to talk, with conversations ranging from the hopelessness of the Israeli left, to her work, to her grandchildren. All in all, a very easy entry into our trip.

Friday morning we made our way to Hebron by taxi, service (shared taxi), and another taxi in an uneventful way, as no checkpoints needed to be crossed. We sat next to a young Polish couple and spent a pleasant hour travelling to Jerusalem trading info about their work and ours- both political and personal.

We arrived in Hebron, at the beginning of the old city, which looks much like the ancient Arab souks that I saw in Marrekesh. This part of Hebron was established in 1700 BC. The buildings, we were told, were probably only a thousand years old, having been torn down and rebuilt a number of times. We were met by Zelaika, a Palestinian woman, wearing a hijab, and speaking English as if it were her first language. We immediately were aware that we were in the presence of a person of first rate intelligence. She walked us to her home, only some 5-10 minutes into the old city, making small talk about food etc, where we faced the outpouring of a flood of males, who clogged the streets to such a degree that we couldn't pass for 10-15 minutes, as they left the mosques after the noon day prayers. We wound our way down unmarked streets until we made it to her apartment, up a flight of steps, at the end of street that ended in a fence. Once inside her apartment, she introduced us to her mother who spoke no English. She showed us around the apartment, which we would be sharing for two nights. The tour ended on her very narrow balcony, which was totally screened in, top to bottom, with metal, cage- like wire, that she used as protection from rocks and stones that are thrown by Israeli settlers as they walk on the Jews-only street that runs by her front door, that she is not permitted to use, and separates her from the cemetery where her grandparents are buried, just steps from her house. To visit the graves, she must take a circuitous route, leaving the old city, and wending her way for ¬Ω hour, until she can reach the back side of the cemetery. We stood there together, almost speechless, almost in tears, feeling as though we had been punched in the stomach by the reality of the occupation, in an up front and personal way, as we watched the Israeli children walk by, not noticing us, as though we were invisible, as they went from school in one part of the settlement to home in another part of the settlement, which houses maybe 200 Israelis, along a street that had been the main thoroughfare of Hebron. We stood there, overwhelmed by our feelings, for quite a while.

She then took us up to her roof, where we had a 360-degree view of her immediate neighborhood, and , where, not more than 20 yards across the street, on a neighbors roof, we were faced by an Israeli lookout tower, manned by an armed Israeli soldier, which was only one of an innumerable string of manned and camera-laden lookouts, that had control of her entire neighborhood. I attempted to take a photo, but was told by the soldier, in no uncertain terms, that photographs were illegal and that I should stop and desist. I asked why, but there was no explanation forthcoming. Zelaika pointed out various landmarks, some of which had been taken over by the settlers. Only a few blocks away was a Palestinian school that had been converted into a Yeshiva. There was also an area where the main bus station had been torn down and the area converted into an Israeli army barracks that was necessary to protect the 200 settlers that had forced their way into the old city that still has 4000 Palestinians living under the immediate control of the army. We had a view of the entire city that is built on a series of hills and is quite beautiful.

The city is comprised of two sectors, H1 and H2. While H1 is totally Palestinian, there are still manned lookout towers to control the population. H2 has the Israeli settlements, totaling no more than 500 settlers, and is more closely controlled, with the sting of lookout towers as well as with the streets being patrolled by armed soldiers and with check points that are opened or closed at the whim of the military and restrict the movement of Palestinians within their own streets. The entire city has 160,000 Palestinian inhabitants, who are controlled by the presence of 500 Israelis and the 4-5000 soldiers protecting them.

We had some lunch and then Zelaika walked us through part of the old city. There were very few people on the streets, as this was Friday, which is the first day of the weekend. Most people were in their homes or visiting with families. Zelaika seems to know everyone, as she has lived here her entire life, and runs a nursery school as well as is very active in community life in various organizations. She is a very powerful person who practices resistance to the occupation and encourages others to do so. While walking past a checkpoint, we saw children talking to and acting friendly to Israeli soldiers. She immediately called out to them in Arabic to stop that behavior and explained why, which the children did. I don‚Äôt know whether or not they will go back tomorrow and be friendly, but this is something she does in an ongoing way. ‚ÄúThey are the oppressors and we should not encourage them in any way that makes their life easier‚Äù. We walked through part of the old city and saw that the Palestinians had constructed the same metal wire covering the narrow streets to protect them from rocks and garbage thrown from the settlement rising above them. We stopped at a store where the vendor showed us beautiful scarves that had been ruined by the settlers throwing eggs from above. He kept the scarves on display to inform all of the reality of everyday violence visited on the city. He also told us stories of pre 1929 Hebron where Palestinians and Jews had lived in harmony and in fact were ‚Äùmilk brothers and sisters. This was before bottled milk and lactating mothers would feed their kids and neighbor‚Äôs kids, who might be Palestinians or Jews, from their breasts and these kids then kept up special close relationships during their lives.  We also visited a number of homes and walked up to roofs to see more of the restricted areas now off limit to Palestinians, but formerly the major fruit market of Hebron or the central bus station, or the houses that were once the contiguous community and now are not allowed to be occupied because of proximity to the settlements. We then walked through a double sided check point manned by armed soldiers that led to the largest mosque in Hebron, which was the site of the massacre of Palestinians in 1994 by Baruch Goldstein that left 60 dead and 400 wounded. Today this mosque has been split in to two parts, half for the Muslims and half a synagogue for the Jews. The Palestinians must pass three checkpoints, again manned, before entering and, of course, the Jews freely entering their illegally appropriated half. These check points are all outfitted with metal detectors and one must empty their pockets or take off belts, etc etc before being allowed through. And, of course, the soldiers can deny entry with no basis at any time on any whim. This is only the smallest synecdoche of the entire occupation of the west bank.

Back at Zelaika's apartment for a late dinner and conversation about what we had experienced as well as a long explanation of the tribal nature of Palestinian life. She belongs to a clan/tribe of almost 5000 people, of which she probably only knows 1000. There are also clans with upwards of 15,000. Tribal law mainly rules, and supplants PA rule in many respects. Murders and disputes are mostly settled by a complex set of tribal customs that governs inter-tribal affairs, with the patriarchs of each tribe passing judgment and figuring restitutions etc. Tribes share physical as well as characterological similarities. She can always tell unknown members of her clan on sight. Her tribe, the Muhtaseb, is known for their intelligence, emphasis on education and generous nature. They donated some of their land for parks and a hospital.