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Holy Land Journal

Memphis Activists help plant new olive trees in Occupied Palestine


For Immediate Release

January 8th, 2004

Contact: Jacob Flowers - Director, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center 901.725.4990
Omar Baddar 901.277.8989

Four Memphians who have traveled to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, will return to Memphis within the next couple of days, and will be holding a press conference on Wednesday, January 12th 2004, at 1:00pm, at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. The Center is located in First Congregational Church at 1000 S. Cooper Ave. Memphis, TN 38104. The Center's phone number is (901) 725-4990.

The conference will cover their 3 week visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories, in which they have worked with local peace and human rights organizations to promote peace, oppose the illegal military occupation and the violence resulting from it, and to act as international observers to the human rights abuses that occur under that occupation.


Holy Land Journal I (see II, III, IV Parts 1 and 2, and VI below)


We started our first day in Jordan by hiking from our motel outside of Jerash down a mountain towards the old city; we got a late start, but the first leg of this hike ended the moment we came across a some righteous hanging out; our
chance encounter with a local barber and friends saw us spending an hour or so late in the morning drinking tea and eating falafel with a local barber, who not only made the best falafel I've ever eaten but demonstrated a few Arabic barber techniques, using our Bedouin guide, Ibrahim, as a model. Ibrahim looked good before the job and just great afterward; Mohammad the barber finished the demonstration just in time for the impromptu soccer game: foreign 20-somethings vs local kids. Though Joel, Josh, Jacob and I each had a 2-foot height advantage (i think Kyle sat this one out), the kids made us all look MY age…so either to save ourselves a good whuppin or to make up for lag time, we scooted out of there and hiked down to the old city of Jerash, which is just… huge and beyond any written description I could give it. We DID spend a bit of time testing the acoustics of the main theater --very impressive. We sang a few lines of whatever to ourselves and the British folks passing by, drank some high-octane Arabic coffee with some Jordanian university students, traded a few jokes I can tell you later, then got on a bus to head up to Ajlun, a fortress high on the hills of Pella whose strategic position was put to use both during the crusades and the 1967 war.


20-kilometer hike… not a day for lightweights. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Middle East, northeastern Jordan and paletsine, don't have much flat land, and this one was an entire day uphill and downhill; we got an early start in Anjara, hiking down the Wadi Sahkel (Sahkel Valley) and into the nation's green belt, Deir Allah and the Jordan Valley, a landscape covered with greenhouses, onions, cows and collard greens; roughly 80% of Jordan is desert, and we've seen a \lot of the 20% that's green.. A few hours down the hike, through olive trees, streams and critters, we stopped at the farm house and had lunch and tea with Mohammad, a local farmer; this area we were hiking
through—these villages—don't get any tourist traffic, and I mean that—none.

Mohammad's house was just off the smallest road on our map, so the folks we met were a bit perplexed by the 2 Bedouin leading 10 yanks by their houses. So, back to our afternoon host… from his rooftop we could see across to Palestine/Israel. A flock of doves circled overhead, the olive trees stretched all the way to the valley, and the sunshine
could not have been cozier.

We ended the day touring Roman ruins in Pella and watching the sunset at the Pella Rest House, smoking nargila (Arabic water pipe, smoked with either fruit or plain tobacco) and bargaining with local kids on Roman and Byzantine coin prices … our negotiating skills are already getting a bit better, and these kids were hard businessmen (at ages 9 and 11), but we had local support in the bargaining process.


If not for the Jordan-Israel peace treaty, we would not have spent this day at the site of Christ's baptism by John the Baptist. In Bethany Beyond the Jordan, we stood on Elijah's hill—the location where Elijah ascended directly into heaven—and saw a dry valley that used to be the Jordan River, now not much larger than Nonconnah Creek in Memphis, due to a number of contributing factors but notably Israel's pumping of water from the Jordan. Perhaps this can be further resolved? It was a topic of much discussion between our group and local folks.

At the sight of Christ's baptism were found the remains of three ancient churches as described by three pilgrims on three different occasions; the site also happens to sit 5 Roman miles north of the Dead Sea as described by Biblical scholars.

From the banks of the Jordan river we could see the Israeli border—roughly 2 meters away! In addition, 2 Christian churches, nearing the completion of their construction, sit opposite each other on the river banks.

Later we stood atop Mt. Nebo, looking upon the Holy Land just as Moses did thousands of years ago. Unlike Moses, though, we will be crossing the river in a few days to walk in the land of canaan.

We ended our day drinking Arabic coffee, smoking nargila, dancing and clapping at Amman's Arabisk café with local folks and an Iraqi family who fled Iraq; because of the recent war, about half a million Iraqis have fled to Jordan; others have fled to other nations. Pretty much anyone who can leave is leaving or has left and wait to return home. I don't see this
happening any time soon.


On the way to Petra we stopped atop a hill to look down into the village of Abu Makteb, the home town of our bus
driver, Majid; we saw the home he grew up in and the castle the village inhabited roughly 100 years ago. On the way to Petra Majid pulled over to visit with his father, then we were on the road again to the next hike.

For our last day of hiking in Jordan, we took short breaks from our hiking to ride donkeys up to a monastery near the top of Petra, a city carved out of mountainsides by the Nabataeans in the 2nd century BC…massive, breathtaking, and mind-boggling are a few of the words which most appropriately describe this scarlet city unbelievably well-preserved; throughout many different periods of being deserted and inhabited, Petra has housed generations of Romans, Bedouin, and of course the Nabataeans. Of all the impressions one can gather, perhaps the strongest—next to hospitality—is how closely tied the people here are to not only their land but their history and the history of the land. At the end of our day we rode camels and donkeys up to a Bedouin village to catch a ride back to Amman; mine critter was definitely a racing type, but was the usual driver was jogging alongside and every couple of minutes giving the camel a good smack on the tush to get it moving. Pedal to the metal.

While the rest of us were nearing the top of the hill, Joel G. and Kyle were lagging behind, not because they didn't have what it takes to ride uphill, but because of the angriest camel in all of Petra. Joel had hopped on a critter already bent out of shape, who decided, halfway up, that he was sick of carrying around this guy on his back and then starting JUMPING UP AND DOWN and reaching around to bite Joel G; so Kyle reaches behind him for Joel's reins and gets nipped at; so Kyle very quickly draws his hand back (trust me when I say that camels don't like Kyle) and Joel, horizontal at this point, gets thrown off and somehow lands on his feet. Of all the times to not have the video camera turned on!!! Joel finished the hike on foot, and we took pictures of my camel and I kissing.
Tomorrow is the Israeli border.


Highlights from Jericho to Bethlehem

Crossing the border was no big deal; only one of us was detained and interrogated; it seemed that not only our American passports but our pale skin bought us the privilege of a few less hours in immigration and not having every part of our luggage checked by hand.

At the immigration lines I imagined a "white" and "colored" section only signs over the drinking fountains would
have made the scene more surreal.

During preliminary questioning at immigration, we did not mention travel to the occupied territories, as that nearly guarantees deportation these days.

While our companion was being interrogated, a random white dude who spoke perfect Arabic, English and Hebrew walked up to another companion and asked/announced quite conspicuously, "hey are you goin to Ramallah (occupied territory)? I hear that's a really cool place!"

The reply: "WHOA! No way, man, that place is dangerous! Are you crazy?"

Outside the crossing point were several conspicuously inconspicuous plainclothes agents/police listening to conversations and eyeballing folks (us included); we even got a random request from an unidentified nonuniformed person for our passports and other information; as not all of us handed over our passports, this was probably more of sweatin' folks than making inquiries. They were letting us know we were under close observation; did they know that we were observing them?

On Thursday, we began our hike from Jericho to Bethlehem, starting out early in the morning and hiking the entire day; we did have a camel with us to carry our bags and, occasionally, carry one of us.

Mohammed, our Bedouin guide through the Judean desert, knows this place like the back of his hand; we had no sense of bearings aside from the stark realization that there isn?t a lick of flat land between Jericho and Bethlehem. Ever walked uphill for five hours straight? How about eight? An awesome, yet tiring experience to walk in the steps of the Magi.

Early in the morning, we passed by an UNRWA refugee camp; definitely a tight squeeze for the folks living there. On the way out, after passing gardens and small farm plots, the next piece of green we saw was the Verd Jericho Jewish
settlement high atop a hill overlooking Jericho. The small Israeli pumping station deep inside the interior of the West Bank, which we had passed 45 minutes earlier, pumps water to the well-manicured lawns of Verd Jericho. Now, remember, this is not a water-rich region, and we're deep inside Palestinian lands frequented by Israeli military invasions and bulldozer attacks. En route to Verd Jericho, we passed by the bulldozed remains of 2 Palestinian homes--built on Palestinian land, but built just a few yards outside the confines of the refugee camp. As the natives get their houses demolished by Israel, foreigners, under the protection of Israel, have preferential access to their limited land and water resources. And the natives have no say in this matter?think about this for a minute?

After visiting the St. George's Monastery, we ended our first day of this journey at the Nabi Musa Masjid (Mosque); local tradition, though not biblical or Quranic, asserts that this site is the ascension site of the prophet Moses. The Mosque here had been uninhabited for quite a while; currently, about 5 people live here; it?s in a state of slow renovation
using solar power and a lot of patience. Foreign guests are not common; on the roof we drank Arabic tea and watched the sun set over an Israeli military camp, listened to a young boy practicing Muzzein ( Muslim call to prayer), ate some
of the best food we?d ever had (upside-down rice, cauliflower, hummus, etc). We spent the night at Nabi Musa.

We spend most of Friday hiking deep in a valley to avoid a large Israeli military camp; Now what's the worst thing the IDF would do to us? Send us back the way we came, which happened to a couple of Bedouin two weeks ago; they were herding their sheep through the Judean wilderness and came across a few soldiers, who fined them $3,000 shekels each and sent them back, for practicing their way of life that has gone on for hundreds of years. We didn?t encounter any soldiers, but, after passing the camp, we saw a couple of IDF watching us from atop a hill far away and a lone soldier on a 4-wheeler following us a couple of hundred yards behind?I can imagine the conversations on the other side of the binoculars??why are these yanks staggering around the desert?? We saw lots of mortars and spent shells all over the place and occasionally a Shepard or lone critter scampering around.

An important lesson: "just 2 or 3 more hills" actually means "10 or 12." This marathon hike ended with us on one side of a Grand Canyon-sized ravine (a slight exaggeration) trying to get to a Monastery on the other side to catch our ride to Bethlehem. From the rim of the ravine we saw a rushing river that posed another obstacle to our group; little did we know what the river really held?the odor, once we reached the bottom, was overpowering. Why? The "chocolate river" carried untreated raw sewage from Jewish settlements through Palestinian land and into the Dead Sea. Willy Wonka would not have been pleased. One of the most beautiful landscapes any of us has seen is being contaminated by the stench of this occupation.

After the long hikes, we've settled into Bethlehem; many years ago, Christ was born here in his parents' efforts to escape Roman persecution; now the children of Bethlehem dream of escaping this occupation and Israeli persecution.

Journal III

Dec. 25

We have finished our sightseeing and begun learning the heartbreaking stories of the Palestinian people. Today we visited with the Greek Orthodox Housing project. These Palestinian Christians have set up a cooperative lending and construction program to allow the people of Beit Sahour to realize the dream of home ownership. It really was beautiful, 30-40 families living harmoniously in apartment blocks wanting only to live their lives peacefully. William, the man we met with explained to us how the Israeli government was destroying these dreams. All 9 of the four story buildings were under demolition orders from the Israeli Gov't for "illegally" building on land that had been in some families for generations. At any time bulldozers could show up and destroy everything they have been working for for years. The reason for this became obvious upon looking out the kitchen window. Only 20 feet from the back of the house there was a "security" road for an Israeli settlement up the hill and the Apartheid Wall. They claim that it is a "security" risk to have these peaceful families so close to their roads, as if these gentle people would do anything violent to anyone. They do not wish harm upon anyone, what they do wish is to be able to visit the Christian Holy sites in Jerusalem with their children. William showed us his pass that allowed him to go to Jerusalem for only four days during Christmas, only four days to visit parts of his own country that are not only significant to them as Christians, but also as Palestinians. William expressed his deep sadness as a father that his children are not going to know their country because of all the travel restrictions. Jerusalem is only 5 miles away from his home, yet he is forbidden to go there and share his heritage with his children.

We ate lunch with Rafael and his family where we learned of the growing exodus of Palestinian Christians from Palestine. These people have lived on the same land for many generations and are forced to leave due to the hardship that they endure. They can no longer justify putting there children through this brutal occupation. Last Christmas there town was under siege for 42 days. That is 7 days a week, 24 ours a day

During Christmas!!!! Happy Holidays IDF Style .and the gifts keep on coming. Rafael is getting married on Jan.5, he and his wife would like to go on a honeymoon somewhere but will be unable to because they are forbidden from leaving the area. That evening we participated in a Candlelight March through Beit Sahour to call for an End to the Occupation. Led by Boy and Girl Scout Drum Troupes, hundreds of people of all ages flooded the streets with the light of hope in a place were hope is quickly fading. We spent the night at the IBDAA Youth Center in Dehesheh refugee camp. This is a famous camp, it was completely encircled by Israeli fences and troops for many years. But now it is a center of positive action. Children roam the halls freely visiting with foreigners staying there and using the free computer center. Murals adorn all the walls telling the story of Palestinian life in the camps. There was one poster that struck us the most. It was a drawing of a tent with U.S., British, and Israeli flags as doormats. The title read "50 Years Under the Tent" We only hope that with more awareness in our country that we can cut the $9 billion a year that goes towards funding this occupation. Do the math, that is over $1 million per Israeli citizen, imagine the things we could do at home with this amount of funding.

Dec 26

Our day began in Jerusalem touring the Old City. We visited holy sites from all the major religions; the Wailing Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Al- Aqsa Mosque. Security was tight everywhere but an interesting thing was said by one soldier while passing through a checkpoint on the way to Al-Aqsa. An American Muslim was told that if he bowed in prayer at one of the holiest sites in his religion he would be arrested. He could pray inside the Mosque, but not in public.

We then met with the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions. Angela explained to us the racist policies of the Israeli Gov't regarding the Apartheid Wall and home demolitions. We visited a house where settlers had attacked a Palestinian family, breaking windows, destroying property and throwing a two year old baby out of a second floor window. And get this, the Israeli Minister of Tourism was among the attackers. Angela described arriving at the horrifying scene and watching the soldiers let the Settler attackers go free. The only crime the Palestinian victims had committed was living a block away from a settlement that was established from homes stolen from Palestinians only two years earlier, when they had lived there for generations. We then got our first up close look at the Wall. This is a 9 meter high concrete barrier that will soon encircle most of Palestine. I say most because the route of the Wall will cut off even more of the Palestinian lands. The so called "Road Map to Peace" seems to be just another excuse to take more Palestinian lands. They go by the theory of "Maximum Land/Minimum Population" which means that they are encircling complete towns, confiscating Palestinian farmers land, and cutting freedom of movement even more dramatically than before. It would be impossible to explain the gravity of this situation now (especially on this slow internet connection) so if you want more info go to

That afternoon we met with B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization that acts to change Israeli policy in Palestine and ensures that its government protects the human rights of the residents there. They reiterated the absurd nature of the Wall. WE thought that we learned the mistakes made in S. Africa and Berlin, but the Israeli's have improved on those mistakes and turned them into Gov't policy. That evening we met with Wi-Am, a Palestinian organization committed to education on non-violent resistance. These people are doing amazing work drawing from the teachings of Gandhi, King, and Thich Naht Hanh. This brings me to an important point. Throughout our many conversations with Palestinians one phrase has been repeated over and over again, "The Palestinian people are a non-violent people, not only now but historically. We endure suffering that would drive many to violence, and it has driven some to that point. But all we want is peace

Dec. 27

Today we drove to south of Haifa to visit Ain Hod, an unrecognized Palestinian village from 1948. During the War of 1948 the people of this village fled to the hills in order to escape the violence. Upon returning to their homes they were told that they had been confiscated under "Vacancy Laws." Now, over fifty years later, they live on a nearby hillside overlooking their former homes. Though they are Israeli citizens their village is not recognized by the Gov't and they do not receive any of the civil and social services that other towns receive. It was not until four years ago that they received water from the state and their road was only recently paved to allow access for vehicles. The village does not even appear on any maps, and there are almost 100 other villages in the same situation. Afterward we visited Baladna Youth Center in Haifa, an Arab youth organization founded to give Arab youth in Israel a non-partisan, comfortable forum for youth activities and informal education. They work hard to give youth alternatives to reacting vilently to the inhumane condition that they live in. Through workshops, festivals, and concerts they foster non-violent resistance to the discriminatory policies of the Israeli Gov't.

Dec. 28

We spent the morning driving to Ramallah. Going through the Qalandia Checkpoint we were almost turned back because our driver, a Palestinian Israeli, was being harassed by the soldiers. Though this is his country he is restricted in visiting certain parts of it. We spent several hours meeting with Adameer, an organization that works to improve the situation of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. They said that every year some 650-700,000 people are imprisoned in Israeli jails. That is more than 20% of the population. Torture is still practiced by the Israeli's. Some of the methods used include sleep deprivation, playing of music so loud that it is damaging, having sacks put on their heads that prevent breathing, and Shabeh. This means crucifixion in Arabic and is a position that prisoners are put in that stretches all the muscles in the body to the point that people begin to lose control over their bodily functions. These torture methods are often followed immediately by shaking the prisoner violently for several minutes. This is extremely damaging, causing hallucinations, brain damage, and death in some instances. The organization itself is under attack; their vice chair was detained, the chair is currently detained, and the director is banned from leaving the country so that he cannot speak on these issues. We also learned interesting facts concerning the recent municipal elections in 26 municipalities. The Israeli's claim that they want democracy in Palestine, yet 10 candidates were immediately detained following the announcement of their candidacy. Five of them won while still in jail.

That is all for now folks. We only wish we had more time to explain in more detail. The stories we have heard and experienced could fill a book. WE hope to tell more in detail upon seeing all of you soon. It is hard to put into words the suffering of the Palestinian people. A land our government tells us is inhabited by hateful terrorists is actually full of the kindest people any of us have met. We only hope that through our witness and the witness of others like us we can help to end the occupation.

Journal IV, Part 1
Olive Trees and Settlers


Started of the morning outside of Hebron with Jerry Levin and Art Gish of CPT visiting the Jabber family; two brothers, Joudi and Atta, live on opposite sides of a road Israel built on land confiscated from the Jabber family. Yep cutting right through their valley with no compensation. Comparatively, though. This is no big deal?you can cross the road. More importantly, behind Joudi, on Joudi?s mountain, on land he's had for a few decades, is a Jewish settlement.

If you're not familiar with the land theft going on here, that would sound like no big deal I mean, neighbors, right? Neighbors who set up camp in your back yard that subsequently gets confiscated by the Israeli government for the settlers, starting with the demolition of their grandfather's house in ?68, then the theft with 100 dunums (1 acre = 2 or 3 dunums) in '72. Add to that some frequent attacks by the settlers, the demolition of Atta?s home twice, and the demolition of part of Joudi?s home, numerous arrests for illegal building (rebuilding their homes on their own land) and a near fatal beating at the hands of Israeli soldiers, and you have a nearly unlivable situation which at any moment could become totally

There is much more to the story, but perhaps the most important part of the story is to be found by looking at pictures of the Joudi family living off the land over decades (and more, actually; the family has been there for 7 generations), planting fruit trees, growing and harvesting grapes, the pictures showed the land move from rocky hillside and mountaintop to botanical garden. All destroyed, several times over. Just this last March/April the settlers came in the night and cut the grape vines at the
bottom of the stalks, under the watch of the Israeli military. The vines still hung heavy with fruit; not being allowed to take the grapes to market, they rotted on the vine.

Perhaps the most important part of the story is told in the words of Atta Jabber himself: "The soldiers come I offer them tea; they want to take me to jail, take me to jail. The soil is my food and my drink; never will you transfer me."

Later that day we went to Al Tuwani for school patrol; this is where CPT and Operation Dove members watch Palestinian children walk to school with their police or military escort. Why the escort? Think Little Rock, 1960?s. To walk to school, the children must go past an outpost of the Ma?on settlement. Frequently, settlers hide in the trees and attack the children; so
CPT started escorting the children to school; on three occasions, the settlers attacked CPT escorts with clubs and chains; on two of these occasions, CPT members were hospitalized with serious injuries; on 12/28, settlers from the outpost attacked two Shepards and even beat to near-death 2 sheep. Settlers here are known to attack the Israeli military even, which are not authorized to take any action regarding the settlers. HOWEVER, the incidents have generated enough visibility that the Israeli government has been forced to take action, and now the children walk to school followed by a police or military vehicle. When
settlers attack, the police/military grab the kids and put them in the car to get them to school. This is a dangerous place.

Later we went to Hebron to visit the old city and met with the Ibrahimi Center for Social Development, an interventionary after school program for trauma stricken children and there mothers. We got a pretty thorough walking tour of the city by CPT folks, saw the central bus station that the Israelis now use as a military outpost. Hebron used to be a bustling center of Palestinian culture and commerce. That has all changed since the Oslo Agreements split the city into two sections; Israeli and Palestinian. The city center was located in Israeli militarized zone and represented a thriving cross section of the Palestinian economy, though we couldn't tell from walking through it. The term 'ghost town' barely does it justice. There are now a number of settlements located throughout Hebron overlooking the old site of the marketplace. The main road is accessible only to Jewish/Israeli settlers and the few Palestinians who are still bravely holding on to their homes in the area. We decided to take a walk to get a closer look at the settlements and were turned back by a volunteer Israeli soldier from Connecticut. When asked what benefit he was receiving from this duty he replied "None, just the experience."

Journal IV, Part 2

Our trip to Occupied Palestine has two purposes: observation and action. There's been a great deal of witness to the destruction of Palestinian agrarian economy by Israeli bulldozers and settler bio-terror; the destruction and confiscation of land (which means the immediate removal of entire local economies in a number of days or even hours) is systemic; there is no attempt to hide this everywhere you go you see either evidence or work in progress.

Under such circumstances, any act of normalcy or attempt to repair the economic damage of this occupation is an act of resistance; whether it is confronting a gate in the apartheid wall (called "security fence" by supporters) to work your fields, confronting the Israeli government to even be allowed access to your fields, celebrating a wedding or birthday party, showing hospitality to your oppressors, dealing with your attackers as human beings, harvesting your crops under the threat of settler violence (from verbal harassment to mob rampages to gunfire), or just having the will to brave the difficulty of holding on to the lifestyle you've lived for generations, Palestinian society AS A WHOLE is engaged in massive civil resistance to the Israeli occupation.


As you might have read from the press release the other day, Jacob, Ceylon and Joel G -- currently known as "The Memphis Three" -- traveled to Jayuus to assist the locals in holding on to their land and livelihood. Now, Jayuus is one of those villages where the apartheid wall, built 6 kilometers INSIDE Palestine, separates the villagers from much of their land. Of course their land was confiscated to build the barrier which separates them from their livelihood. Now, these walls usually have gates built into them, and sometimes the Israeli government issues permits to the property owners to work the field. Say you have a family of 10 who own some property; permits may be issued to the octogenarians but not to the younger folks (this type of thing is typical.) The gates are usually open two or three times a day for an hour or half hour; sometimes and the military changes the hours overnight.

Also typical with such circumstances, building the wall/barrier deep within Occupied Palestine not only separates the farmers from their fertile lands but the villagers from the water supply. Jayuus is an example of this, also: on the eastern side of the wall is Jayuus (the people and the village), and on the western side of the wall (for which one must have permission from the Israeli government to visit) are 2500 dunum of groves, garden and orchards, 6 water wells, livestock pasture, 15,000 olive trees, 50,000 citrus trees, and more than 120 green houses. We drank the water and ate the fruits.

Confiscation - We can't forget the reason for the season on the western side of the wall is the Sufin settlement, built in 1986 on confiscated land (as was the 30-dunum dump for the settlement). Some of this land has been blasted with dynamite to make a quarry. And In short, this expanding settlement is PRIME real estate.

Tafik Salim is one of 7 brothers who own land west of the wall/barrier; within the past 2 weeks, the state of Israel destroyed and uprooted 550 of the olive trees he planted 32 years ago; late night, on Thursday 12/30, internationals camping out in a shed next to the groves watched trucks haul away the last of the trees to be sold in Israel to Israelis. We can corroborate that this as not an isolated incident but a growing trade: we spent one afternoon driving through the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement, which is expanding and linking with other illegal settlements and will soon cut the West Bank in half. This place reminds me of the resort areas in Destin where wealthy folks vacation and it's big enough to have two shopping malls. All throughout the settlement are circle (or turnaround) interchanges, and in the middle of each of these interchanges sits a 300-year-old olive tree bearing bulldozer marks on the trunk. Do you follow me here?

Back to Tafik Israel will not grant him a permit to reach his own olive groves; so townspeople, internationals, and Israeli peace and solidarity activists gathered on Friday the 31 of December to do what Israel will not allow him to do: pick up the pieces and nourish his land.

With all the checkpoints and travel restrictions on the native people here, it took us six different rides to get from Hebron to Jayuus on Thursday; we arrived too late to get to the shed on the western side of the fence, so we ended up arriving in the village with NO CLUE where to bed down or hang out, or who to call. NO PROBLEM! The townsperson hosting us in the shed had already called his nephew in the village, Saleh Kardoumi, to pick us up in front of the market and take us home. Now this dude, Saleh, not only hosted 5 internationals but did so on a moment's notice. Being a farmer himself, EVERYTHING set on the plate before us came from his soil and his labor and it was all vegetarian (I think he took one look at us and thought, "definitely vegetarian.") We spent the night hanging out with town activists and community leaders.

The next morning we rode behind Saleh's tractor to confront the gate/checkpoint and wait on the other side for 2 whole busloads of Israeli peace and solidarity activists to show up. We had breakfast in the shed and watched small groups of Israeli military watch us. A jeep carrying 6 IDF came cruising through the dirt roads and slowly crept slowly by while we discussed tactics, got to know each other, and just killed time. Saleh and Sharif, the main organizer of today's events, left to go wait for the Israelis to show up, and was gone for a few hours. Just as we were thinking that they got turned away at a checkpoint, Saleh came cruising up on his tractor and told us to hurry to the top of the hill, where we saw 2 busloads of smiling faces "escorted" by a few Hummers and a bunch of teenagers and young 20-somethings with BIG GUNS; the media and police presence was pretty hefty, too.

And after the commanding police officer grabbed a bullhorn and announced, "this is private property "

IT WAS ON! Jew, atheist, British, American, Swedish, Christian, Muslim, men, women, young, old, hippies, professionals, punks, country folk and city folk all started digging and dragging rocks and taking pictures and sharing water we proceeded to the holes where mature olive trees once stood and planted 50 new trees in about 20 minutes.

Police and military made home movies, organizers gave interviews, and people shared the responsibility of making right of this terrible wrong in tremendous spirit as the trees were getting planted folks kept looking around searching for another group hard at work, and as we ran out of work we made our demonstration, marching towards the gate that Tafik Salim was not permitted to pass through and so did the military.

I tell you what, they were stopping folks and pulling their Humvees in from of the procession, but people just kept flanking and snaking and zigzagging en masse towards that gate they couldn't stop something this great. The four of us (+ 200 or so others) were scooting through the olive groves around police and military, giving and receiving helping hands up and down stone walls, escorting people through gaps in the moving blockade, and then everyone was stopped just 20 yards or so from the gate, and the slogans and shouts of encouragement across the gate to the villager's demonstration began. As the demonstration went on, Sherif Omar and a few other organizers, both local folks and Israeli activists, began negotiating with police to pass the barricade; I had to say it would have been very difficult to say no with so many eyes on this spot so Sharif & Co. carried an uprooted olive tree across the gate and presented it to Tafik.

Palestine Journal VI

Jan. 2nd-

After a day of rest and enjoying the new year we awoke extremely early to
harvest olives in the village of Shweike, north of Tulkarim. We did not expect
to be able to pick olives on this trip because it is so late in the season, but
due to restriction of movement placed on Palestinian farmers there was plenty of
pickin' to do. The fields were located between the Apartheid Wall and the Green
line, meaning that farmers from the village need a permit to pass through a
gate in the wall that is only open for an hour three times daily. AS is the
case in many villages, permits are given sparingly and sometimes only to the
very old or very young. In this case, permits were only issued to one 70 year
old woman and two 12 year old boys. This is why our help was needed. So through
Rabbis for Human Rights we joined a sizeable contingent of internationals and
Israelis to assist the families.

Upon arriving at the gate we could see our Palestinian partners waiting across
the Wall for the Military to arrive and allow them through. Of course, they
were not on time and this delayed us an hour or two. We soon got to work
picking olives from trees and climbing around like Tarzan finding the hard to
reach ones. On several occasions in Jerusalem we have gotten negative reaction
to our presence (the Kefiya probably doesn't help) whispers of activist have
been heard. To this we say, "Activists??|.maybe??|But definitely farmers, just
think of us as cheap labor." Anyway, we labored throughout the morning picking
from trees that bordered barbed wire and signs that read "Mortal Danger- Any
man that crosses or damages this fence endangers his life." This experience
made it hard to believe that the Apartheid Wall is about security; it seems
that it is more about separating the Palestinians from their land, their
livelihood. A thinly veiled attempt to drive them from the land that has been
their home and sustenance for generations. We picked until early afternoon,
when a cold rain began to fall.

Jan. 3rd-

Today the rain continued. It does not thunderstorm here, when it rains, it rains
hard and for days. For this reason the olive harvest we had planned to do was
canceled. We were disappointed because these Palestinians really needed our
help. Their groves were located near a settle outpost and they have been
frequently subjected to attacks. Our presence as internationals would hopefully
have prevented this. But we could not let a day go to waste, so we hooked up
with Machson (Checkpoint) Watch. This group monitors checkpoints in a
non-confrontational way, advocating for Palestinians that are hassled or
detained by the Israeli Military. This is crucial because not having the right
papers can land you in prison, and as you may have read from our earlier
updates, prison for Palestinians is not a good place. In this climate everyday
harassment and humiliation is not only routine but systemic. We stood watch at
two checkpoints this day; there were very few incidents.

Jan. 4th-

Today we returned to Jayyous to participate in another demonstration against the
Apartheid Wall. This demonstration was a bit more tame than the last, with
diplomats from the local government, Holland and Italy in attendance. We
attended press conference that explained in more detail the situation here.
Following this we marched to the Apartheid Wall in an attempt to get through
the gate and plant olive trees in solidarity with the people of Jayyous. We
were greeted by 6-8 military and police vehicles that barred us from crossing.
After short negotiations we marched back through the town and planted the trees
on the Palestinian side next to the Apartheid Barrier under the close watch of
Israeli soldiers. They could be seen loading flash grenades into their M16s as
we peacefully put the trees into the ground, each labeled with the name of the
solidarity group that had brought them here. We have decided to spend the night
here in hopes that an international presence can lessen the possibility of
violence on the part of the Israeli military as they frequently roll through
town at night flexing their muscle.


Ceylon Mooney
Joel G
Jacob Flowers
Kyle Kordsmeier

January 2, 2005 - page created by Charlie Jenks