I arrived to Palestine on the 23rd, late at night. My mom and her boyfriend came and picked my sister and I from the airport in Tel Aviv and we had a long and interesting journey home to Nablus. We got conned by some Israelis and long story short had to pay them some money to leave us alone but in the end, our friends found us and all was fine. Since being in Palestine I have met some of the kindest and most welcoming people I have ever met. I have heard many stories and information that I had never heard outside of Palestine before. The complicated nature of the situation grows more clear and worse as I hear more stories from people. I feel as though one of the few ways to help is to spread the messages because Israel controls what the Palestinian send out via the Internet. I am going to start at the beginning of the oppression.
Starting in 1947, Israel was granted by the British over 55% of the Palestinian land. Originally, they were going to give Israel a part of land in Europe which would have made much more sense as most of the people who live in Israel today came from Eastern Europe(if you do a blood analysis, it is very evident.) In 1948, Israelis forced 800,000 Palestinians out of their homes and this came to be known as the first Nakba. Families that had lived in the area for hundreds of years and by hundreds I literally mean 700 years, were forced to move and leave everything behind. This is just two years after the end of World War II. People were pushed to cities such as Nablus, Hebron and Bethlehem and then began refugee camps on the outskirts of town. These refugee camps were once just tents but now are filled with cement homes that are continuously added to as more and more people continue to get forced out of their homes. Unlike any other refugee crisis in the world, these refugee camps have become permanent homes for these families and now hold three generations within them. Within Nablus, there are three refugee camps Camp 1, balata and Askar. I visited Askar yesterday and worked with a group of women aging from 12-21. They are working with a professor from the university to do participatory action research within their communities to improve the lives of children from zero to eight years old. These women/girls were so invested and interested in participating/running the research, it was inspiring to see. Within the refugee camps, they experience high levels of violence. My question was whether they experienced high levels of violence from the oppressors or within the community. So far, I have found the answer to be both, yet it all stems from the violence experienced from the oppressors. Once you have experienced violence from the outside for so long, ones trauma begins to bring out violence within the community. One of the most heart breaking things that I have learned so far is that every night between 2-4 am, Israeli soldiers come into Nablus, concentrating mostly on the refugee camps. They come in silently in military trucks filled with soldiers and go to people’s homes. They arrest and beat people relentlessly and ransack their homes and then disappear. No one knows who they target or when they will come so people live in constant unknowing and instability.
The situation here is disgusting. Unlike areas stricken with poverty who do not have the means to do what they need, these people have the mean but they are physically not allowed to do things. Everything is controlled by the Israeli side. You can tell a Palestinian house because they have water tanks on their roof. During the summer, Israel shuts off their water for sometimes up to ten days and force the people to buy bottled water to drink when their tanks run out (they last up to two days). Electricity, food, clothing, etc. are all controlled by Israel and they often limit or restrict their usage. Recently, Palestinians were allotted 3G but before they only had up to 2G. One of the two large hill/mountains that create the valley that Nablus lies is Nader Israeli control and Palestinians cannot drive/go up there are all.
In cites such as Hebron, settlers control the old city. In 1986, Israeli soldiers entered the homes of Palestinians living in the old city and waited for them to return from work and school. When they returned home, they put the Palestinians in cages and the settlers harassed them with insults and by throwing items at them (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kem1ajIKv1k
). 20% of the city now houses only 850 settlers. It was once a vibrant part of the city but now resembles a ghost town. The settlers moved into the top floors of the buildings in some areas of the city, forcing the Palestinians to put metal fencing above their house and street to catch the stuff thrown at them. Now the settlers throw skunk water, water full of pee and feces, as it can fall through the metal fencing. As I walked through this section of the city, the settlers threw food and other items as us as we walked the streets. I cannot imagine what they throw at the few Palestinians allowed in this area.
Bethlehem, a home to many Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike, is divided by a huge wall. The wall, 252 feet so far with more planned, is decorated with graffiti and street art on the Palestinian side. They call it an open prison as the wall brings this sense of entrapment and weight on the lives and souls of the Palestinians. Stories of people’s experiences line the wall as well, telling the story of the Palestinian existence under the occupation. With each poster, my heart breaks more and more. How can the Jewish settlers justify what they are doing to these people? How can these soldiers shoot and maim children fighting for their freedom? The most frustrating question for me is how can people internationally continue to support Israel and its occupation of Palestine? Is it because they do not know the truth of the atrocities that happen daily or is it because they do not care and are comfortable in their privilege?
Palestinians are some of the kindest and most generous people I have had the privilege to meet. It is currently Ramadan, for those who do not know it is a month long holiday in the Islamic faith in which one fasts during daylight hours. Typically, people wake up around three in the morning to pray and have a meal and stop eating by four am. Often times they return back to sleep, dependent on your job and economic circumstances. Nothing is allowed to touch your lips during day light hours including water, food or things such as cigarettes. At 7:45pm, once the sunsets, people break the fast with water, dates, a small peach like fruit native to Palestine and other small treats. After prayer, they begin the Ramadan festivities which include feasting, walking Rafidia(the main road in town) and hookah lounges. On our way back from Hebron, the fast was broken during the servicee ride. The driver broke out a large bottle of water he had stopped to buy with plastic cups for everyone in the servicee as well as the small peach like fruits. The couple in the back passed around bread and milk and we passed around dates. Along the highway, people were standing with water bottles in hand to give to people traveling. It was an incredibly beautiful experience. Everyone was so happy and sharing(as this is what Ramadan it about) and I cannot explain the feeling I had during this servicee ride. This is the true culture of Palestinians. They are kind, strong and hopeful people despite their 71 years of occupation and violence inflicted upon them.
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