Fullness of life here – Bedouin village visit

We’ve been in ‘learning mode’ with our mentors from Group 37, bunking in with them since Thursday evening. Today, Monday, we’ve returned to the hotel with the 21 other members of Group 38 for training through the end of this week. Through email and now in person, we are starting to hear about the experiences of the other teams (e.g., in Yanoun).

Here is an example of the fullness of our days:

11 Dec 2010: Slept in a bit – Catching up on the jet lag!!  

Morning – Read the Handover report (from Group 37 to 38) and one of the UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) reports – polished the WallArt4Peace blog – did a little emailing.

Afternoon – Went with two of our EA mentors (both women) to Jahalin Bedouin village in Al Ezariya and spent the afternoon with our host, her sisters, little nieces and a nephew, and the English class for 15-16 year old girls. – Back home for a joint Jerusalem Team 37-38 meeting to discuss the Handover report. – Out to the Educational Bookstores – at one, I bought a notebook and 2 pencils and at the other, I bought the recently arrived Against the Wall book.  (See my WallArt4Peace blog for more info.) Then bought a slice of pizza for a late supper and crashed.

Today, after a 6-hour stretch of sleep, we were up at 4:23 am (leaping out as our two EA mentors walked by our sleeping quarters) to meet the 4:40 am taxi for Qalandia checkpoint. What a windy and relatively cold morning…I’ll write more about checkpoint duty in the future.

The time with the women and girls at the Jahalin Bedouin village was enjoyable and enlightening. We laughed and had great fun with our host’s little people

and with the teens in their caravan community centre (2nd pic)! (See my KidsStories4Peace blog for more info.)

Our host graciously described the Jahalin story. In the mid-to-late 1970s, members of the extended Jahalin family were forced to leave their traditional way of life and the lands in which they used to live in the Negev desert near Beersheba. They moved north and then north again, living initially east of Jerusalem. However, with the establishment of the illegal Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, they were moved to the top of a nearby hill, near Al Ezariya (also known as Bethany and the place where Lazarus was raised from the dead). They had erected corrugated metal shelters as homes. On a day like we had on 11 Dec. 2010, with the winter wind howling and dust flying, that would have been a hard, desperate life.

After a number of years, they were granted permission to build permanent structures. Even then, however, those permits are good for only 40 years and the village is downwind from the municipal garbage dump where garbage is burned. On a fair weather day, the air quality is questionable; on the day that we visited, severe winds were scouring the hilltop.

Once they moved into these new homes, circumstances demanded further change of the Jahalin. Bedouin traditional life of the past was a nomadic life, as they moved their camels, sheep, and goat herds according to the seasons and the availability of water. Regular movement was healthy for the land (to avoid over-use) and for their interdependence with the land.

Our host remembered her father’s skepticism of their move into permanent, enclosed buildings as homes. For him, the prospect of living inside a building was not a healthy one. For example, he worried that electric light would damage their eyes. She rememers how their eyesight used to be acute and well-adjusted to the night sky.

Note: If you’re interested in learning more about the Jahalin family’s experiences, see the recent Separate and Unequal publication (p. 120) from Human Rights Watch. I’ve found this page which is very consistent with what we heard first-hand on 11 Dec. 2010. http://www.badil.org/en/al-majdal/item/1219-israel-continues-to-evict-jahalin-bedouin-from-west-bank-%5C  And, here is a contemporary (1996) news report: http://www.wrmea.com/backissues/0796/9607065.htm .

Here is an independent documentary film about the marginalization of the Bedouin in the context of the State of Israeli as of March 2005. (Note: This film was produced prior to the withdrawal of Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005.)

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