– Post by Renad –
18.10.2018 – Day 22
Hearing the doorbell ringing so badly continuously without stopping woke me up this morning. I went to the door and it was my mom she forgot to take her keys before leaving. So I got the chance to say Good morning for her before leaving to school, she was in a hurry so she barely replied back. Today is the day where most of the USi students prepared themselves for, it’s the trip for Hebron.
The bus driver called me saying that he will be 10 minutes late and then he added that sadly he won’t be able to drive us because he had an emergency case in the night, and he didn’t sleep all night; but his friend will drive us and he will be with him in Ramallah to show the waiting point. I called Razan and informed her about it and also asked her to see if Safia is already there or she needs time, and to ask the driver to take me from Hizma. They arrived to Hizma around 08.45 and we started the way to Hebron, I sat down with Razan and Safia and it’s always interesting to talk with them. So the plan was to go first to the glass factory, then to have a breakfast and then tour in the old city of Hebron.
We stopped by “Al-Salam glass and ceramic factory” I love this place, each time we go inside I’m amazed with the process of making glass. We went in a tour starting from making the clay in a shape, drawing on the plate, coloring it, finally putting glass on it and putting it for 12 hours in the heat of 1000 degrees and 12 hours more in the fridge to be ready for use. After that we saw a different type of making the class where melted glass is in the oven and a man is using a pipe to shape the glass in a very nice and cool way. Finally, we went to the store and it’s amazing with all the colors and shapes; I had to buy gifts for many people who wait for me in Germany so I felt like a tourist in my country. Then we went to have a breakfast and like always Flafel sandwich, the store was full but we bought the sandwiches and ate it in the street; it was way cheaper than in Ramallah and even more delicious. The driver drove us to the city center where “Abu- Imad” our guide in the old city waited for us there.
We went out of the bus and I was about to call Abu-Imad, but he shocked me saying “Alsalam Alykom Renad”, he found us very quickly. Then I introduced him to the group and we started to follow him, he walked few meters and he started to talk with two men who introduced themselves and Jenny Z. recognized them from a documentary, the USi students watched the documentary a night before. One of them joined us in the tour his name was “Imad”, he had a problem with his leg that seemed to me it’s a sign of fight with the Israelis that made him walking this way but I was shy in the beginning to ask.
We started to walk the way to Alshuhada Street through the checkpoint first, I asked the Germans to have their passports in their hands and the Palestinians should have their IDs. The guides and Marios went in first and we squeezed Palestinians between Germans for safety. Marios asked the soldier to wait for everyone saying “Can I wait for my students here?” and they let him. Only Palestinians were checked and they took our ID numbers. After passing we stand next to the checkpoint and Imad wanted to start explaining the situation but I asked him to move a little bit further because the students are afraid of the checkpoint. We stood in the street next to Palestinian houses, many settlers cars and big vehicles passed in the street and they were driving in a high speed and I kept asking to come closer to avoid any problems. Imad started the story from the beginning saying that “This checkpoint is dividing the south and north of Hebron and it was the old city where most of the business and markets were opened, they all had to close after the checkpoint and the division. In 25th February 1994 a massacre in the Ibrahimi mosque where a settler who’s called Goldstein went inside the mosque in the morning prayers and while people were kneeling he started to shoot them using two guns. 29 people were killed and more than 100 were injured, and from that time life in Hebron changed. 8 months after the massacre the mosque had been closed and Muslims were not allowed to enter it, after that Israelis had a commission called Shamgar that divided the old city, which allowed to build new settlements and to divide the mosque to be 40% for Muslims and 60% for Jews. Because of this division life in old city of Hebron got to be so hard and many people were forced to leave their houses and markets to close. There is no clinic in there for Palestinians, no ambulance or fire fighters are allowed to enter for Palestinian areas. Walking through the old town with the closed markets and empty streets creates so much anger and sadness inside. We arrived to a point were there is another checkpoint that we can’t cross as Palestinians or Muslims because the settlements was there, in the street Imad showed us “Cordoba School” and said that only the administration employees of the school got permission to pass this checkpoint to go to the school and the students of course. Two other foreigners were walking around and spoke with Imad, and he said that they are from an institute for the rights of Children in Hebron and watching them out when they are in the streets. We used the stairs of one Palestinian house to go to the rooftop and Imad showed us the settlement from there and the school as well. To the next of the rooftop there was a kindergarten that was established by the hand of the people who live in al-Shuhada street because they saw that settlers started to use this room from the moment they noticed it’s free and no one lives in there. So Palestinians started to build it with the help of international people and they got to be in a lot of fights with settlers and one man got beaten on his back until it was broken and now he has 8 platinum plates in his back. The idea of kindergarten came from their fear that 4 and 5 years old has no kindergarten in al-Shuhda street and they have to cross the checkpoint everyday. It has been there since 6 years now, and many people from different places of the world come to do voluntary work in there, as well we found one guy and girl painting the wall of the kindergarten from Argentina. We talked with them a little bit and it was really interesting to see people hearing about Hebron and come to stand with them. The kindergarten owner told me there is also some peace makers who are Israeli, but not settlers come to stand with them and when the settlers see them they beat the Israelis more than the Palestinians.
We walked through narrow streets between two settlements to “Em-Rmedeh” which is historically the second or third oldest spot of the world. There were some olive trees there and people were harvesting it and Imad told me that many international volunteers come to help because usually settlers come and steal the olives in the night before the owners harvest them. Settlers also walk in this way which was a little bit scary, so we had to pass this place as fast as possible. I was watching the faces of the Palestinians “Omar, Razan and Safia” because I know how it does feel to see such palestinian lives in their eyes not through screens. We walked to a settlement which seemed to me that it’s located in the peak of the old city, we saw a group of international people walking with a Palestinian guide and they were from Denmark and Germany; I was really happy that many come to see the reality of Israel. The Germans there remembered that they saw a scene right there of a Palestinian guy who was killed in the documentary, and actually Imad filmed it. Where Imad heard shooting voice then he directly took his camera and ran to somewhere close and saw a Palestinian laying on the ground and his blood was all around but still alive and other Israeli soldier was on the ground but nothing with him, the first ambulance arrived and stopped next to the Palestinian but then the soldiers came and pointed at the Israeli soldier they gave the soldier first Aid and one more ambulance came but directly to the soldier. Then a settler while pointing at the Palestinian and said for the soldier “This dog is still alive” the soldier was 2 meters far and pointed with his gun on the Palestinian head and shot him. This soldier got an award for shooting the Palestinian and killing him, they said that he had a knife but the video shows that they put the knife next to the Palestinian after killing him. In that area, many buses and cars drive up and I was dare looking at their eyes and they all have such an ugly smile on their faces when they see us.
Then Imad took us to his house, where it is directly next to the settlement and he’s not allowed to go on the rooftop of his house because it’s considered as a controlling spot for the Israeli soldiers. We sat down in his house and met his daughter “Farah” and his son; they brought water and we used the bathroom. A small talk happened between me and his daughter who was 12 years old and seemed to me very shy girl, I said “my heart with you, life in here is very hard” then she said “yes but we have no other chance, if we want to live with dignity we have to fight and resist” for me it seemed a very big words from a girl who’s only 12 years old. I always feel very powerless, coward and hating the bubble that we live in the other cities of the West Bank. I asked Farah if she faced any attacks from the settlers, and she said that she had very long hair before and one settler burned her hair while she was walking using his lighter and a Palestinian put out the flames. Her father “Imad” said that they got a lot of cameras from International to help to keep documenting the life of the old city of Hebron. Then “Abu-Imad” said something stuck in my mind the whole time “Israel without previous intention made Hebron a museum for the real meaning of Apartheid”.
We left Imad in his house to go for the Ibrahimi mosque and we again had to go into a checkpoint, it was slowly going inside it and two young men were waiting in the line. One of them started screaming “Yallah open the doors” , then the other said keep screaming so they open it, he replied “No I don’t want. They had beaten me so badly yesterday” . They opened again we went in, they checked my ID again and we waited for the others to finish. We had to go through one more checkpoint for entering the mosque and they one more time took our ID numbers. In general I hate when a church changed to be a mosque or the other way round, I feel the place itself lose the spirit of any religion. But here the case is different, it’s divided between Muslims and Jews where you feel the tension in the air and you feel controlled and watched the whole time with cameras around the mosque. It was black joke from “Abu-Imad” saying we have Sarah,Issac and his wife tombs and half of Ibrahim is with us and the others with them. We sat down where the wall between both sides is and the tomb of Ibrahim is there, Abu-Imad said that we understand that we both have the same religious roots and we respect that; but, what they are doing is not their right, in the end it’s not a religion fight as what Israel is pretending and covering all the crimes with. In the end, we had to leave the mosque because it was almost praying time.
We went toward Abu-Imad’s house and we stopped next to a checkpoint where two stores for Palestinians where still opened there and refuse to leave or sell their houses/markets. The man was very strong and funny, he was telling the story of the money he refused to take to sell his house proudly, and how they beaten them when they came to attack his family. Each time I see those huge smiles and hear such stories in my ears, I ask myself HOW!? How can you be that strong with all this oppression and guns around? How can you spend your whole life fighting without having one day of peace?
We continued walking to Abu-Imad’s house and we had to pass the last two checkpoints where only Jaber’s family are allowed to enter that neighborhood and no one else, Abu-Imad was stopped by the soldiers to take his ID and then they let us go. Palestinians go through a narrow street which is full of trash and the big side of the street is for the Israelis, walking all the way to his home to find the last checkpoint where again he had been asked for his ID and the soldier started to say on his speaker the ID number in Hebrew and then the other soldier came and whispered in his ear and he let us go.
Arriving finally to his house, where we can usually walk from the mosque to his house in 3 minutes, but because of the closed roads he had to go through 4 checkpoints and walk for 30 minutes.
We walked to the rooftop of his house and he asked his wife to do tea and bring water for us. Last year the house was still under constructions and he showed us the videos of building the upper floors and how he moved the material from the checkpoint to his house because it’s not allowed for Palestinians to move with cars around. So they take the material using horses or donkeys from the checkpoint to his place. It was a pleasant stay and we all were tired from walking all around and from what all the thing we have seen. We left his place to the point where all the locals park their cars in and go to their houses on foot. The bus driver was waiting for us up there.
We wanted to leave but then the bus driver noticed that there is small cat stuck under the motor of the bus, and he didn’t want to smash her. He tried so hard to let her go out and then Majid “the cat whisperer” went down to help, he laid down on the ground and tried to get it out and finally the bus driver got it out. We left Hebron with a lot of emotions and feelings in our hearts, it’s really the ghost town. Each time I go to Hebron I need a lot of time to stop thinking of that place, it’s sadly for me an experience or a trip, but for locals there it’s their everyday life.
The day isn’t over yet, arriving to Hizma and dropping us down was another story. When we entered Hizma we figured out that the Israelis closed the village because of two boys throwing rocks on the settlers. We went to our home and then we heard a tear gas bombs and we couldn’t smell or see anything and we all ran inside the house and closed the door. The driver was stuck in the bus, Omar went to tell him to come over but one more tear gas was bombed and both were stuck in the bus. When the air was clear again, they all sat down outside waiting to know if the village is opened now or not yet. My father was like “it’s okay don’t worry” then I said for him “Dad habebi please it’s okay for us but not for them”. Then they just left to try if they can get out, Marios and Jenny directly wrote me when they went out they have been questioned “Where they came from? And where they have been ? And such questions”. It was a super long exhausting day, full of stories and memories that are not easy to forget.
19.10.2018 – Day 23
Finally after a super long and exhausting day in Hebron, its Friday! A relaxing day with my family where I also decided not to think of the project for at least one day. I woke up early again this morning, sat down at the front yard of our house because I love the birds sounds flying on the trees and the relaxing under the shadow. My sister Sama came and sat with me and started telling me stories about her school adventures, then she started to play on the swing while telling the stories. That image took a lot of time in my heart, since really watching her growing up is so emotional.
My grandma called me asking about my mom, I wondered if everything is fine but she told me that my aunt is sick and in the hospital. I told my mom and she woke Razan up and went to visit her. Sadly we couldn’t have a family breakfast so inside I was wishing to have at least everyone on the at the lunch table. It was Friday prayers and it’s been a long time not being home, relaxed and hearing the prayers. Rita my little sister asked me after that, if she could go and buy a cotton candy, because she heard the car with the music that sell it is coming closely to our neighborhood. She bought one and it was literary bigger than her head, it was so funny watching her eating it. My mom came and asked me if I would like to invite YALLAH! Family this week for Muskhan, and I was so happy that my mom wanted to make it but it’s so much work. I asked her to do different dish, but she insisted that they should try her Muskhan. I directly wrote the group to invite them after Jericho to my family place and have lunch with us.
In the late night, my sister wanted to play “Werewolf” and asked me if I would like to join. We prepared the place around us, and made popcorn. Rita was so happy to play this game again with me, she can’t really play because she’s only 4 years old but we both play like we are one. It was really cool and calm day, but tomorrow we have to wake up early to catch the workshops and start preparing for the lunch for the night.
20.10.2018 – Day 24
Rita this morning woke me up asking me to come and see my mom. I got up from my bed and went to my mom, she was backing the bread and needs help so I helped her. Razan woke up to prepare herself for the workshops, and my mom wanted to go to Ramallah as well to check her sister in the hospital. So, I drove both of them and went back to Amari to open the door of the children club for Safia can do the workshops, around 7 girls were there waiting for us to open. Safia is so good in teaching English, she’s very talented. She taught them how they express what is homeland for them and making the shape of house by papers and write just keywords what does home mean to them. Razan had in her workshop around 30 girls, I couldn’t attend because I had to pick my mom up and drive back to Hizma. We started to cut the onions and it was a huge amount of it, my tears were all around so I thought the food will be already too salty. Then my mom started to bake again because the amount of bread is not enough for everyone. Preparing the chickens, smashing ‘Sumak’ since we’ve got today new fresh seeds and of course cooking onions. We started to do the real work, where we put one bread inside the broth then put the cooked onions on top, put olive oil on top, let it be inside the oven for couple of minutes and finally take it out and put sumak on top; and that’s the whole recipe of doing Muskhan.
YALLAH! People arrived from Jericho before finishing the whole amount, so we had to speed up the rhythm. They all seemed to be very hungry, I left them in the guests room with my little sisters Sama and Rita and I only could hear loud laughs from there, I felt Rita is doing like a clown for them. Around 20 minutes later, the food was ready but there was not enough space for my family to set down with them on the table, but it was fine for us. Rita wanted to sit with them, so she had her own table next to them so she feels she’s really eating with them. I was really happy having everyone around in my family house checking out Palestinian family life style and food. Then the group split into two groups, the smokers who went outside with my father and the non-smokers who stayed with my little sisters inside. I took the guys who were outside around the house to check out the yards, and then I suggested we all go upstairs so they can see the whole village. Luckily, there was a pre-wedding party near us and the music was loud so they had fun hearing the music and trying to dance on it, Majid started to play with Sama and Rita running with them, but then he got tired and then I asked then to stop it, because they will keep running as long as he keeps so. After that it was already late for the driver, so the group should leave when Rita knew about it she started to cry, because she wanted them to play “Werewolf” with her; I promised to take her with me with the cards and we all play together so she stopped. We went to take a group picture in front of the house, like the one we had in 2016 where Aydin was holding Rita, Marios, Sarah and Jenny K were there as well.
It was very long day, but we had so much good family feelings and love. I’m glad to be part of YALLAH! for the second time and be able to see the changes in life and people during this journey.