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Susiya ("Waiting At Dusk")
Unfortunately we are all always expecting the worst from the occupation. We are always waiting with a lot of worries.
The Lord's Prayer (The Pilgrim)
What do we mean by, when everyday we pray the Lord’s Prayer? We say, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So, we have to bring justice to earth and do something on earth, that is what Jesus taught us. Also I refuse, when I speak they tell me you’re are part of the peace churches. I refuse to say, oh the Quakers are a peace church. All churches should be peace churches because violence was contrary to the mind of Christ.
Through The Checkpoint
So when we walk through the checkpoints, sometimes we feel we are very depressed and not exist as the other people. We are like under the siege, curfew 24 hours and this curfew it make us feel a lot of a lot of pain in our hearts and this things it reflects physical actions and emotional actions and it makes a lot of negative behaviors during our life. For example, when any Palestinian walk through the checkpoint you might be checked more than half and hour. During half an hour makes big stress and it makes you feel you have bad energy, but you cannot get this energy out. Because you expect if you are going to do anything or speak anything that you will be in the front word, as we say in Arabic, I mean, like you will be arrested or detained or you will be killed. So, this things it make any Palestinian who walk through one checkpoint or second checkpoints or third checkpoints—one by one makes big depression and big stress.
I have a blue ID, my husband has a green ID. So, sometimes I feel that I’m so free because whenever I want to go to Jerusalem I can go. And, I can go by my car, and I have the yellow license. Like if we want to go Ramallah, with my husband, we don’t have the chance to go together, to the, from the same way. Because sometimes he don’t have the permit to go from there, from the checkpoints. Same thing when we travel outside the city. If we want to go abroad the country, I take another way. I go from Ben Gurion airport from Tel Aviv and he, ah, need to take another way from the bridge to go to Jordan first then the country that we are going to. I think this is a really sad story because we can’t travel the same way together.
There are different kinds of even you know permits. You know, there are around 101 or 102 types of permits and it is for, for different reasons and for different occasions. I mean, one is for clergy man, one is for church employee, one a mosque employee, one is as a teacher, one as a you know visiting families, one as going to the prison to visit their son. You know there are different kinds of permits and you can’t access Israel unless you have this permit. Ah and because it a piece of paper, but you know this piece of paper has all the information that you need and all the documents that you are supposed to have in order to access to Israel.
You know the saddest thing as well is like when you are crossing a checkpoint and there is like a teenage, you know, a solider who is still 18 or 19 and he is controlling the checkpoint and he is controlling everybody. You know it doesn’t matter if they are old or young, or whatever, sometimes they are people who are the same age of their grandmother or grandfather who are going to the hospital and they are some cancer patients who are going there. And, you know, they don’t have even some mercy on, on these people. Just treat them like they are treating anybody else, although these people have the right at least to be treated in a very good way—in a human way. You know these people are, they are having their… enough, enough suffering from cancer. They are cancer patients and then when they come to the checkpoint and they are as well treated in an inhuman way. And these soldiers are making our life very difficult.
The Walk To School
So, I was born in Abrahami mosque quarter, close to Shuhada Street. And I started feeling about the meaning of the occupation when I was studying at the school. Because the school where I studied, it’s surrounded by military checkpoints, and military gates, and electronic gates, and watching towers. Just let me just explain to you because it’s very significant to show the world how Palestinian kids are suffering while they are small kids. When I was going to my school day by day I was treated badly from Israeli soldier. And, I was feeling I am not allowed to catch my educational opportunity because Israeli soldiers, they’re putting our teachers and kids under big pressure and big harassment. And they attack us almost daily while we walk through the military checkpoints. And sometimes they check us and scaring us and detaining us because just we are using the street as a way to access our schools.
Its reminder me when I was as a little kid how I feel when I was in the classroom with my friends and my teachers and I was expecting military action from Israeli soldiers, like tear gas, as what it happened many times and bombs, or bullets—real bullets or rubber shoots. So these things it caused, [heavy sigh], and it made for us general state of fear and it made emotional problems, and physical problems and also mental illness.
The new generation, like our children, they don’t want to stay. They say, “What there is? How we are living? We are in a big jail! Die here and live here, but…” All my sons keep saying that. So if you live, you can’t live like that. For that, a lot of immigration. A lot of people they lose their land, their house and left because from these difficulties. Also not because like a big jail, they, they, we have very good education and at the end they don’t find jobs. They have high certificate, master, doctoral, and they work in cooking like chef, they work in building stones, build houses, they don’t find good jobs like what they study. We are small area, closed area, for that we find it very difficult. For the new generation, they see nothing.
The Wall ("Man With A Bird Cage")
We also the wall. We have two problems with the wall. The first one, is that with walls not one can achieve peace. Walls are creating more enemies, more hatred, more bitterness. And, the second problem with the wall, because they claim it for security, but if you look at the map you see that the wall is built on the border between the West Bank and Israel. It goes deep into the Palestinian territories and on different areas is separating Palestinians from Palestinians and Palestinians from their own land. So when the wall is finished to the south and southwest of Bethlehem this area will be in Israeli side of the wall. That means, the wall will separate us from Bethlehem. We will be totally disconnected from Bethlehem area. And this will affect not only affect us, it will affect 25,000 people living in five villages in the area. So this situation will force many Palestinians in our area to voluntarily leave their land.
Occupation Overview ("Love Wins")
My name is Daoud and I will tell you something about what is happening here. If you want to go back to history we know that Palestine was always occupied. The Assyrians were here, the Babylonians, then the Persians, and after the Persians, the Romans, the Greek-- you know, occupation after the other. And the Ottomans were Palestine for more than 400 years. And then in 1917 Palestine was under the British Mandate. 1947 there was a plan to divide Palestine into two states. It didn’t work for many reasons. 1948 Israel was established. For the Palestinians it’s called a catastrophe because this situation left more than 750,000 Palestinians without a home; and many are still living in refugee camps. Between ’48 and ’67, the West Bank was under Jordanian rule and the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian rule. And in the 6-Day War the Israelis occupied the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem—and since then we are living under Israeli occupation. Now the only occupation that is interested in taking land is the Israeli occu. Because they started to create facts on the ground, in terms of building settlements. So the situation was becoming more difficult in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and then the Palestinian First Intifada started in ‘87. With that situation, the Israeli authorities closed schools for Palestinians—universities… They said, schools, places where young people come together to organize themselves politically, and we lost a generation of young people at the time who did nothing. 1991 Palestinians were not allowed to enter Israel and since then we need permission to go into Jerusalem. In the same year, 1991, the peace process started in Madrid, with the hope of peace, which was very strong. And then the peace agreements came in 1994, 1995—the Oslo Agreements—where the Israelis divided the West Bank into three zones, three areas, area A, area B, and area C. Area A are the places that are controlled by the Palestinians, and we are talking about the cities, or the center of the cities. Area B are the villages that are under civil control of the Palestinians, but military under Israeli control. And Area C, where we are here, which is totally under Israeli control and is maybe more than 60% of the West Bank. That means, in reality as Palestinians, until today we are not in charge of land, we are not in charge of resources, and we are not in charge of borders. That’s why it is becoming more difficult to talk about an independent Palestinians State—no land, no resources, and no borders. Now, the biggest challenge we are facing now is land confiscation, of course. Which is going on and on since 1967.
You know, if you are used to go through checkpoints you feel like fear of the Israeli soldiers. Sometimes you just cross the checkpoint, without any questions. Sometimes you’ll be body searched. Sometimes the soldier will be… mean, it depends about the general situation.
But by time, and because I have to cross these checkpoints a lot, you know like normal for me, and to do that safely we cross it like in groups and not alone.
Well any boy, you want to buy for him something he tell me, buy me a gun. They want guns. They became aggressive. They became… you see for that, why you find some killing here and here. Because the one that his land are taken, his house demolished, his brothers are killed. What else? He can’t do anything. He want to do something. You see?
I Look To The Hills
My favorite song, as a child, was, “I looked up to the hills, where my help comes. My help comes from the Lord.” You know. Now it’s not my favorite psalm! ‘Cause I look up to the hills and all the settlements are there. They’re depriving many families of their land and of their livelihood, and their fields and their movement! Notice what they call the roads that the settlers could use. They call them by-pass-roads. Like when you have heart surgery, they put a bypass… Ah, I mean, but who are they bypassing, the Palestinian reality.
So, for us, we cannot use these roads, to start with. Second, it sometimes it divides us from having easy access to our towns. Because the roads that go through around them, not only are for the settlers only, they split villages. So the Palestinians find them isolated from one another and it’s such a hassle.
You know, I’m invited so many times to Bethlehem to go speak or attend a seminar, I look at it. If I am older and more tired. Honestly! This is a fact. I’m not groaning or complaining. It’s easier if I take a taxi all the way to go to Bethlehem. The taxi, because he knows me, he’s ready to take the distant road, you know, because I don’t have a permit—through Wadi Nar. He takes 150 (shekels) going. The car from Bethlehem takes 180. Now, for the unemployed women with very limited resources in the church – they do not pay for travel – it’s all that’s on my resources. And I find, I really want to may for my medicine at the end of the month.
What really sustains me here is that… to be honest I cannot imagine myself living in any other place. I travelled a lot. I traveled to many countries. Whether the United States or Europe, I even Central Asia. You know, I only imagine myself living here. I can just, I can do what I do best living here. Even the area’s full of war, as the Middle East. But, I believe that for me staying here is part of my duty towards my homeland. That’s what makes me stay here Even after getting two live bullets… I have two live bullets inside my body [chuckles].
To Exist Is To Resist
First let me let you know about how checkpoints, at least in Shuhada Street the place where I walk everyday to my house from my house to other place like to the office or to the new city. In the area located between Shuhada Street and Abrahami mosque, in general, there exist more than 38 checkpoints at the same quarter or at the same street. Only a few meters away separates each others. When anyone get through electronic gates or military checkpoints you feel you have no rights. You feel like you are the one who was expected to be as a good food for a group of lions who are waiting to eat like a small sheep or a small cat because the lion has power more than the cats. You feel treated less than animal rights because if you are going to be as a dog you will be lucky to walk without the checkpoints or walk freely or to travel from place all around place. When we walk through the checkpoints or electronic gates we feel like we are losing our humanity, a million times when we get a questions from soldiers, “where are you going to?” or “Take off your shoes.” “Take off your clothes.” Or, “Turn back.” Or, or… It’s a million – a hun... more than 10s of questions. We feel we are like guilt[y] people because we are lose our simple rights of life like right of living and right of movement.
To Be Free
It’s like somebody’s cutting your fingers. Like, you wanna walk straight—either walking or with your horse, with your car, running, going for sport, going for a picnic, going to special eh religious celebration… We used to go anywhere—and that’s what freedom means. Checkpoint, it’s like a big prison. Like Bethlehem is surrounded by a big wall. It’s like a big prison. So, it doesn’t feel comfortable. And it makes people feel angry because raising walls will not solve the problem. Never. You can take a big example in Berlin wall, in Germany; or, other countries. It never give people the chance to think about peace. And, to be free is the first thing people think about. To be free and to feed your kids. And those things make people angry because they suffer from that wall and those checkpoints.