Wednesday April 6 : Jerusalem - Sheikh Jarrah - Al-Arroub Refugee Camp

Thursday 8 March 2012
popularity : 3%

We have breakfast then go and visit the Al-Aqsa esplanade.

We make the most of this quiet moment before the tourists start pouring in. "Pouring" is not the exact word. Indeed it seems that everything is done (by the Israelis) to put off the visitors - limited and/or unpredictable opening times, access through a passage hidden unwelcoming palissades, strict controls at the entrance, ... And yet, what a splendid place it is, so peaceful! We are miles away from the uproar of the souks and bazaars for the tourists, and even farther from the checkpoints and their soldiers armed to the teeth.

We then go down and up through the Muslim quarter to Damascus Gate where we meet Daoud again. This morning, he is taking us to Sheikh Jarrah, a district located on the north of the old city. We heard about it in one of the films we watched yesterday at Spafford Centre. On our way down there, Daoud reminds us of a few facts.

Evidence on the ground (3): Visit of Sheikh Jarrah

“East- Jerusalem is universally (with the exception of Israel) considered to be an “occupied territory” that was illegally annexed by Israel. Sheikh Jarrah is one of its districts: 2.700 inhabitants who were under Jordanian administration until Israel conquered Jerusalem in 1967. All of them are refugees. All of them settled in Sheikh Jarrah officially after they were forcefully evicted from their lands by the Israeli army in 1948. This is the case, for example, for the Al-Kurd and Al-Hanoun families: in 1956, in exchange of their official and definitive establishment in this district, they accepted to renounce their refugee status and the aid it entails. Yet this agreement was never registered. In 1972, groups of settlers came with certificates of ownership dating back to the Ottoman period... All of them turned out to be fake documents but the expulsions procedure had already been launched and the Israeli land registry refused to put these properties under the names of their actual Palestinian owners. Believe it or not, but these Palestinians still pay the electricity and gaz bills for the Israeli settlers who have taken possession of their house : this is indeed the only way they can prove that they are residents of Jerusalem...” [1]

Laurie, whom we have just translated the information to, pulls a face: she doesn’t believe what Daoud has just told us. For her, these are only tales aiming at confusing the issue and pretending to be what you are not. Anne-Claire gives her further examples of Palestinians being denied their rights, other situations that are indeed hard to believe because they are so absurd. Yet, unfortunately they are all true. Laurie lets her talk for little while then says: "I’m listening to you, but you are not going to make me change my mind". Tanguy makes a sign to Anne-Claire: "let’s give her the time to discover things on her own..."

Daoud tells us that there are important buildings in Sheikh Jarrah: the House of the East (which the Israelis closed), the Palestinian National Theatre, the American Colony, consulates and posh hotels. We’ll go to one of them later to attend a press conference on the problems that Palestinians schools encounter in Jerusalem.

“This district is an example of what is called the "internal colonisation" of Jerusalem (as opposed to the settlements that surround the city). Other example of it are Silwan, Ras Al-Hamoud, Mount of Olives... The settlers here fully participe in the judicisation of Jerusalem. In Sheikh Jarrah, they plan to build 450 more homes”. Translation: consequent forcible expulsion of as many Palestinian inhabitants.

We are now in Sheik Jarrah: here and there, Israeli flags float in the wind. Daoud continues his information: “The Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah as well as in all other areas under occupation are, as such, “protected persons” under international law. Consequently, any forcible transfer of the Palestinian population out of those areas is in breach of that law. Yet this has never hindered Israel to go on robbing Palestinians of their house and possessions to make room for Israeli Jewish settlers. As I told you, whole Palestian families have already been forcefully evicted from their houses by Israel’s soldiers. Other live under the constant threat of it. All of them are subjected to extremist settlers’violence.”

We ask him what reasons the Israelis come up with to evict the people. "According to the Israelis, the Palestinians have renovated or extended their house without the requisite Israeli permits (permits that the Israeli authorities almost never grant to Palestinians anyway). It is of course only a pretext to make all the Palestinians leave the area, to move them out and establish illegal settlers in”. Translation: Judaicize East-Jerusalem even more. [2]

We stop in front of a house that looks empty. It is the one we saw in the documentary film: it used to be the home of the Al-Kurd family. They had lived there for three generations. It was built in the 1950s and the UNRWA authorised the family to move into it after they had been expelled from their former house. But an Israeli court order recently claimed that the extension to the home was illegal. The owner, Rifka Al-Kurd, a 88- year old lady was evicted with her 2 daughters, and ultra-orthodox Jewish settlers now occupy the house illegally. “Although the court officially held that the settlers could not live there either, neither the police nor the local authorities do anything to stop them: the idea being to occupy the place, teams of settlers now take it in shifts to do so”. The family is well aware that they can do nothing about the settlers’ violence as the police, if called, will only defend the settlers and arrest the women, again.. [3]

On the right-hand side of the house, we recognize some parts of a piece of fabric that was used as a tent where men, women and children stayed, all of them determined not to abandon their home... [4]. In the neglected garden, there is only a very young olive-tree left, hardly one-meter high: the former inhabitants planted it symbolically before leaving to never come back. On the low wall that borders the property, there are tags and drawings: Al-Aqsa mosque with, under its crescent, the Star of David. Around the door of the house, svatiskas. Who painted what?...

The settlers are inside. We won’t see them. Where do the Al-Kurd live now? Behind us, a flag flaps in the wind. It is pitched on the upper terrasse of another house Israeli settlers have taken over. They are watching us from behind their windows, obviously accustomed to this house being visited. What can we do in front of such a well-oiled machine, except testify on what happens here, talk about the unacceptable reality of some people’s rights being trampled underfoot by some others? [5].We leave Sheikh Jarrah in silence.

Daoud has arranged for us to attend a press conference now, in the Ambassador Hotel: « Call to save the educational system in Jerusalem. » People in charge of education in East-Jerusalem are going to discuss the problems Palestinians schools encounter in Jerusalem. The hotel is a fantastic place. We feel a bit embarrassed with our KWs and backpacks but Daoud assures us that it really doesn’t matter: we are welcome. We sit down on the comfortable stuffed chairs: smooth carpets, journalists, cine-cameras and a long rectangular table for the speakers. OK, we are ready.

The Palestinian Education System is in danger in Jerusalem

“The situation is indeed terrible”, a veiled lady says in Arabic after she has welcomed the public. “Palestinians keep suffering from the consequences of the occupation of Jerusalem by the Israelis. Since the Oslo agreements, Palestinians are all the time afraid of being accused to deter the peace process. But the latest events have stirred protest among the school staff.. [6]

Introduction (en arabe)
IMG/mp3/R09_0001_-_ME_6_-_CP_Jerusalem_1A.mp3
Présentation des intervenants (en arabe)
IMG/mp3/R09_0001_-_ME_6_-_CP_Jerusalem_1B.mp3
Introduction (en anglais)
IMG/mp3/R09_0001_-_ME_6_-_CP_Jerusalem_1C.mp3

The lady hands out the microphone to her first guest, a bi-spectacled man who first reminds the public that the right to education is recognized by International Law and the Chart of the Rights of Man:

“The occupation authorities have no right to interfere as they do. They want to modify the curriculum of the Palestinian schools in an attempt to obliterate the Palestinian identity. They forbid any reference to the refugee problem and have imposed the Israeli national anthem in all Palestinian schools. The same is true with the public schools, which are forced now to buy their books from the Israelis too. The reason given by the Israeli government is that the Palestinian curriculum is provocative. This is wrong! We see to it that there is a real culture of peace taught and developed in the children we are in charge of.”

Explication (traduction anglaise)
IMG/mp3/R09_0001_-_ME_6_-_CP_Jerusalem_1D.mp3

The Arabic interpreter deserves credit for the different speeches are quite long. He takes down notes then tackes to give an account of the main ideas in English. The second speaker is a teacher wearing a moustache. For him, all these manoeuvres are only the first steps against Palestinian education, he warns. “Schools can’t stand the attack without help from the officials anymore”. He gives some examples of “intrusion”: “The emblem of the Palestinian Authority on the books has been replaced by that of Israel. No mention can be made anymore of the Naqba, or of Tel-Aviv being in fact the former Palestinian town of Jaffa”. He reminds the public of the situation of the Palestinian inhabitants of the city: “In Jerusalem, Palestinians are considered as residents only. They have not been and will never be granted citizenship. There will be other steps soon, all aiming at making life more and more difficult for the Palestinians: schools will be closed, tax will be higher, it will be more and more difficult to get a license… Concerning education, if things go on like that, in a few years’ time the Israeli curriculum will have totally replaced the Palestinian curriculum and Palestinian children will be taught that the 1940-1945 holocaust completely justifies the creation of Israel and entitles the Israelis to occupy Palestine”.

Programmes scolaires (traduction anglaise)
IMG/mp3/R09_0002_-_ME_6_-_CP_Jerusalem_2anglais.mp3

We are staggered to hear all this. Of course, yesterday Razi told us about the ban on commemorating the Naqba in his university but we would never have imagined this was a total ban, imposed on all the Palestinian schools of education! Daoud didn’t have the opportunity to tell us about the situation in the Palestinian schools, nor the time. Poor thing! As soon as he had made sure we were OK in the conference room, he left in order go and welcome another group of internationals who, like us, have come to Palestine to see with their own two eyes what’s going on here. We are completely stunned by the perverqsity of the latest Israeli decisions in the matter of education. Especially Tanguy and Anne-Claire who, as (former) teachers, feel in every fibre of their being how much manipulation, confinment, denial of the Palestinian people and of their culture it reveals. One would like once more to pinch oneself, wake up and think this was only a nightmare. But the speakers are anything but buffoons or agitators. They are teachers, headmasters, representatives of the children’s parents;

The fourth speaker is a round-faced man. In Europe, he would probably be the trade-unionist of the staff: he speaks with passion and spits so much in the microphone that one of his neighbours finally hands over a note to him, without any doubt an invitation to breathe in and cool down since he immediately smiles and starts speaking lower. “The Israeli document which, since January 2011, has forbidden the schools of Jerusalem to get the school books from non-Jewish organisations only aims at destroying the Palestinian students’ awareness. This instruction targets the identity, the memory and the history of the Palestinian people. It is not a banal or superficial act, but a real war that the Knesset wages against Palestinian education. This only makes the acute problems we already have even heavier: the shortage of schools (we need twenty more to be able to offer decent education to all the children of Jerusalem), the endless discussions we have with the owners of the school buildings because we get no financing and because the rents haven’t been paid by the Palestinian Authority for quite a long time…

doc2176|player>


The last speaker is the headmaster of a school. “The question of education is important, he says, as it prepares the Palestinians to modern life. They should be able to bring qualitative changes of the same value as those Israeli children will be able to, thanks to the quality of their education. Schools, parents, the Palestinian Authority, the Muslim and Christian officialq should unite to deal wisely with the issues to come.” [7]

The lady who opened the conference thanks the different speakers. We have to leave now. Anyway, there is going to be a question-answer exchange with the journalists now, in which the interpreter has little chance to help us understand what the
Arguments put forwards are. We wave thank-you and goodbye at him and slip away discreetly. We don’t have the time to share what we feel about what we have just heard. We are in a hurry.We can only have a quick bite before running back to the youth hostel to get out bags and jumping into a bus that’ll take us towards our second important meeting-point: Al-rroub camp, where “our” young refugees are waiting for. The truth is we know very little about them, only their first names, in particular that of Hassan, who answered the little "guess who is who ?"game we sent by e-mail before we left to Palestine qui-est-qui?" : "Try to match our photos with the anonymous descriptions we have made of ourselves!”. He managed quite well and we want to congratulate him for that!

We walk down towards Damascus Gate briskly. Next to the bus-station, we have a quick lunch of falafels (and what are supposed to be French fried potatoes, but are hardly acceptable for the Belgian experts we are in that matter!) in a snack where, once again, we are really nicely welcomed. We then run to the hostel, get our bags, which we drag to the 124 bus-stop. We all feel sooo frustrated not to have been able to kiss Daoud good-bye. Fortunately, we know that we will see him again when we come back from Al-Arroub in 10 days’ time!

Arrival and settlement in Al-Arroub refugee camp

Only a small quarter of an hour later, the bus pulls in front of Bethlehem Checkpoint in the infamous "Apartheid wall" that separates Israel from Palestine. We will now have to pass through it : a concrete building at the end of a dead-end street. Everybody gets out of the bus before it makes a U-turn and leaves back to Jerusalem. We were expecting the worst, or at least, to have to wait for quite a long time, hear and see soldiers yelling orders and shoving the people along - we had read the account the 2009 Taayoush group had made after their travel. But we go through the checkpoint without problem. The silent place looks empty, lifeless.

(détail carte)

This won’t be the case for the Palestinian workers who will be coming back from work in an hour or two, Martine tells us on the cell-phone. She is the Belgian volunteer with whom Tanguy and Anne-Claire have organised our stay in Al-Arroub. She is waiting for us “on the other side”, she confirms to us.

Once we have passed the barriers, the checks, the turnstiles and after following a long corridor covered with wire netting, we find ourselves in the middle of hawkers who greet us, ahlan wa sahlan! (welcome) and invite us to have a look at their goods, mainly fruit. There are tens of taxis or private cars parked without any order, all waiting for friends, family members or customers and ready to take them to Bethlehem or its surroundings: how can they manoeuvre in such little space ? [8].

We are a bit at a loss. But there is Martine, what relief! Tanguy and Anne-Claire hug her warmly: they haven’t seen each other for two years! We greet her and the group share into the two taxis that are going to drive us to Al-Arroub refugee camp. So, that’s it: we are on the other side of the wall, "confined with the Palestinians" for ten days… We fill our eyes with the first pictures we are now getting of occupied Palestine, also called the West Bank, or more euphemistically (by the Israelis) “the Territories".

About twenty minutes later, the taxis branch out on the left, leaving the main road from Bethlehem to Hebron behind, and enter the camp at a slow pace. The "main street" is narrow. It doesn(t have any real pavements and is lined with little stalls and shops that are all opened on the outside: fruit and vegetable, chicken, sweets, a barber’shop, a repair shop… obviously only the bare necessities. There are dozens of children of all ages, each more eager than the next one to have a glimpse at the faces of these foreigners descending in their camp. As Martine explains to us, very few foreigners come to Al-Arroub (contrary to Aida Camp, where Taayoush Group stayed in 2009). Suddenly Anne-Claire, who was looking out of the window, shouts to the taxidriver: “Stop! It’s my friend! It’s Tareq, my friend!...” She has just recognized one of the young people they met two years ago in Aida. She jumps out of the taxi even before it comes to a standstill, she is sooooo happy to meet her friend again!

When they said goodbye, none of the members of the 2009 group knew if they would see each other again one day. And there he is, standing in front of her, with the same wonderful smile, the same sparkles in his eyes. With, in addition, a two-year-old boy on his arms, the little Watan (‘Homeland’ in Arabic), whom they had only seen a picture of, when they had come to visit Tareq’s house in 2009. He was only a baby then, now a really cute kid with wide black eyes and cheeks like two red apples. She hugs and kisses the young man, just like that, in the middle of the street, and realises only in afterthought that maybe this is embarrassing for him, that you don’t do such things in public, that women are not supposed to, etc... Well too bad! She makes him get into the taxi next to her and doesn’t let him out of her sight anymore.

The fact is, the flat we are going to stay in is only a few meters away. A crowd of little kids welcome us and fight to help us carry our bags to the porch of the house. A big lean guy is there too, with his hair in tiny spikesof hair gel and an incredible smile. He is Abed, one of the young people we are going to share our project with. From the start, he has proved to be exceedingly kind and funny too, and so he will be all along our ten-day stay in Al-Arroub.

Tareq is the one found this place for us to stay, after quite long research. It is in fact the ground floor of a house. The fitout works are almost over. Noah, Youssef’s brother, should have moved in after his wedding but, for some reasons, he finally didn’t get married and still lives upstairs with his old mother and the rest of the family.

Youssef unlocks the door of the flat for us. It is quite heavy, almost a security door, and there are wires and bars on all the windows. It looks a bit weird to us... In a first room on our right, there is a pile of matresses and blankets. At the end of the corridor, a kitchen with what is strictly necessary, among others, the famous large flat pan from which everybody can eat at the same time. A bathroom, two toilets (one of which Turkish, will avoid using it), a second room which we will turn into a second bedroom and a central hall with two beds/sofas where we can sit together, have our meals and meet our friends and visitors.

At the back, there is a tiled terrasse opening on a tiny garden that would need some tending: among the weeds and rumbles, there is an old tree with a few prickes pears… They will bring Paul-the-Greedy- One nothing but thousands of invisible needles that he will find impossible to take out of his fingers! The balconies of the neighbouring block of flats overhang the terrasse and the garden. At the end of it, the back of the Girls’ School. Youssef asks us if it suits us and if everything is alright. « Yes! It is! It’s great, Thank you so much! Choukran jazilan! »

“Cooee!...It’s me!...” A little voice full of sunshine: Sandra has rejoined us. Tanguy and Anne-Claire give her an enthusiastic welcome and introduce her to us. Apparently, their Brazilian friend hasn’t changed much since they last saw her in 2009: still tiny, so lively, always smiling and busy! Still there too, in spite of administrative hassle. It has been three years now since she started working as a volunteer in Bethlehem and the surrounding refugee camps. At the moment, she is waiting for a new visa... in other word not really supposed to be there, in occupied Palestine. If soldiers control her, she risks having serious trouble. “But if you give your fears too much space, you don’t do anything anymore,” she says shaking her little ponytail. Daoud said the same thing, didn’t he ? Sandra simply hopes that, once again, the Israeli authorities will give her the necessary document.

She is obviously delighted to meet Tanguy and Anne-Claire again. Two years without seeing each othet, and it is as if they had met the day before! Of course, they have exchanged mails to organise the project, together with Tareq, find a place where the group could stay, find young Palestinians in the camp who would be interested in meeting the Belgians. But it is so great to meet in flesh and blood again, to be able to hug each other, look into each other’s eyes, smile at each other…! Reunion chatter and chatter. In the meantime, we (the younger ones ) have shared the bedrooms, put the matresses on the ground, the sleeping bags and the blankets on top. Sandra offers now to answer all the questions we might have about our "new environment" and to give us a little information about the camp, its inhabitants and ways and cus oms we should respect before we go out and have a first look around the camp.


(détail carte)

“Al -Arroub camp was established in 1949, 15km south of Bethlehem. It is located on the main road Hebron-Jerusalem. It is the smallest refugee camp in the West Bank with only 0.24 square kilometers. Like other West Bank camps, it was established on land the UNRWA leased from the government of Jordan. The original inhabitants came from 33 villages of Mandatory Palestine [9], mainly in the area of Ramalah, Hebron and Gaza, villages they had been expelled from by the Israeli soldiers. Like all the refugees, they first lived under tents, then the UNRWA built solid shelters for them. Nothing luxurious, as you will see: basic breeze-block buildings. Most of them are connected to public water and electricity infrastructure (freely provided by the UNRWA) but not all are to the public sewage network.”

Sandra tells us that there are more than 10,500 registered refugees living in the camp. 43% of the population is under 14, 20% between 15 and 24. There are three schools in the camp, all overcrowded, one UNRWA health centre, one children’s centre [10] and one women’s programme centre [11]

“The major problems in the camp are high unemployment (the rate is 30 per cent and is affected by the increased inaccessibility of the Israeli labour market), and the tensions created by the frequent Israeli military incursions in the camp.”

“I don’t exactly know what Anne-Claire and Tanguy told you about their experience in Aïda, but things are different in this camp: only few foreign visitors come here and the population of Al-Arroub is probably more traditional. So, it is important to avoid shocking the people and to respect a certain distance with them. Don’t, for example, reach out your hand to greet a man, all the more if you are a girl; avoid walking out uncovered (no low-cut T-shirts for the girls, no shorts for the boys). Concerning the relationships with the young people of the camp: you have to know that the boys here are often much more naive than the boys you are used to meeting in Belgium and that they are likely to fall in love easily. On the other hand, the idea they have of young western women comes from the American films and soap operas they watch on TV:"easy girls". Consequently, in case of “a relationship getting closer", tell the boyyou have a boyfriend or a fiance at home. In one word: be clear on that subject. As far as your safety is concerned, avoid going for a walk in the camp. If you need to go out, you should always walk at a reasonable pace when going to or coming back from a place. Anyway, there isn’t much to see, no window-shopping to go! Avoid going out alone. Another thing: don’t be offended by the insistant way the inhabitants may sometimes glance at you. It is only curiosity or surprise: they will most probably wonder what you, Westerners, have come for and what you are doing here, in their “muck up”.”

“As you noticed, Al-Arroub lies just next to Route 60, which links Jerusalem to Hebron. There are two entrances to the camp, both of them under the control of the Israeli soldiers. They can be closed arbitrarily, which means for no other reason than the soldiers’ feeling like doing so. This may be annoying if you need to go out of the camp at that moment, to go to work or to school (there is a Agronomy High School on the other side of Route 60) or, as in your case, to go for a walk and have a look at the surroudings. These soldiers, watch-towers, jeeps and wires are there officially to ensure the safety of the Israeli settlers who use Route 60 to go to the settlement block Goush Etzion [12] .”

“You know that all these settlements are illegal with regard to international law. The settlers shouldn’t be there... Yet, it is the Palestinians who are punished, for example by being deprived of their right to move about freely. The Israeli soldiers don’t stay at the entrances of Al-Arroub. They make frequent incursions inside the camp, especially on Fridays at praying time: they throw smoke bombs and grenades into the mosque, out of sheer provocation or simply because they feel bored [13]. They turn into the houses in the middle of the night to arrest people, often without any motive. It is a vicious circle: their presence on the streets of the camp has an immediate effect on the younger ones who react by throwing stones at them. As a result, the soldiers start firing in their direction, throw tear-gas or deafening bombs and, on the following night, they come back to arrest the boys in their house, accusing them of having thrown stones at them. Sometimes, they are only ten or eleven-year old kids. The soldiers take them to prison, without their parents being able to know how long for.”

To Laurie’s question, Sandra answers that yes, some Palestinians have got weapons, “rusty old guns which they avoid to use knowing that the soldiers will take reprisals against the whole community, men, women, children, old people. She adds that in case kids started throwing stones at us (as a provocation or just for the fun of it),“ the best reaction is to keep calm and tell them "khalas !" ("stop it! Enough!"), coldly but without getting worked up.”

That’s about it for now. If we have other questions, we shouldn’t hesitate to put them to her or to Martine. Everybody sets out now to the EJE centre (Education, Games and Children in French) where three of “our” young Palestinians are waiting to meet us - Baha, Mohamed, Hassan, as well as Tareq who is their former teacher. We greet them, all of us feeling a bit shy the, we meet Nidal, the director of the centre, who gives us an idea of the various activities organised here for the children of the camp. He informs us that the day after tomorrow, the Centre is taking part in a Puppet Festival in Hebron : we are welcome if we feel like joining them. We thank him for the invitation. We also meet Samaher, who works as a coordinator of the activities in the centre and Sarah, Tareq’s beautiful wife… She has been observing us discreetly for a moment and now looks completely reassured: we look OK to her. What’s more, she was wondering who this “Anne-Claire” could be, whom her husband was always talking about so warmly: no danger in sight.

We leave the Centre and go back “home”. Sandra and Martine give us some ideas about what we could do during the following days. Friday is the first day of the week-end for the Muslims: we could make a little journey together with the young Palestinians and go to Mar Saba monastery Mar Saba (or Laure of Saint-Sabas), an Orthodox monastery that is situated in the Judean desert a few kilometres away from Bethlehem. We would go there by minibus and could spend the day there, have a barbecue. Sunday could be our Hebron- day. The young Palestinians wouldn’t be able to come with us as they have to go to school/ university on that day (all the more as they are right in the middle of their examination session!). On Monday, Sandra has arranged for us to participate in a cooking workshop with women living in Aida refugee camp, a few kilometres away from Al-Arroub : they are going to show us how to prepare a makloubéh (an “upside-down” dish that is typically Arabic), which we’ll savour afterwards. We could also meet students who are studying at the farm-school that is across Route 60, or run workshops with the EJE children on one or two afternoons (school finishes at 2p.m. and the children are left to their own devices). It is up to us, we decide… And as it is customary to say here when talking about the – never certain- future, Sandra concludes with : “inch’allah !”

Four of us leave now to do some shopping and buy some foodstuffs in a little shop owned by one of Tareq’s friends. We need a bit of everything, except for sugar, tea and coffee (which are here almost as holy as wine can be for French people!) as there is already some in the kitchen. Then, we cook dinner: we prepare a madjadara (rice with lentils, fried onions and tomatoes) as well as mint tea.

We spend our first evening in Al-Arroub with Baha, Mohamed and Hassan, whom we congratulate for his correct answers to our who’s who quiz. He smiles and says modestly that he asked his friends for some help. We are all still a bit shy and try to find our way to each other in a broken English. We tell each other about our age, our studies, the kind of music we like. Finally, we take out our guitars, show our new friends a few basic chords and sing in English together. A little later, Tareq knocks at the door. He has come with a friend, Bassam, who is absolutely mad about narguileh/chicha. Those whohave a try at smoking it will cough until they have tears in their eyes, to the great pleasure of the no-qmoking lobby. Some of us, indeed, don’t like being drown into such puff of smoke but can we really complain ? Chicha is the instrument of conviviality here! We’ll tell them to smoke outside tomorrow. So we conclude this first Palestinian evening soothed by the fragrance of apple tobacco and by laughters, before we all go to bed for a good night’s sleep.

Read on about the trip


[1For more information, visit : www.sheikhjarrah.com and www.coalitionforjerusalem.org as well as OCHA.

[2Read article "Jerusalem confiscated".

[3Voir quelques vidéos de 2009 sur la famille Al-Kurd et les expulsions à Sheikh Jarrah.

[4Resistance is still going on in Sheikh Jarrah, with the Friday demonstrations (see for example March 4, 2011), in particular with July 15, 2011 march of Solidarity for an independent Palestine, where over 3,000 Israelis and Palestinians marched peacefully between Jaffa Gate and Sheikh Jarrah district. See also Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity,

[5read article "La présence palestinienne à Jérusalem", by Elias Sanbar.

[7In addition, read about the controversy raised by the mentioning of Nakba in French schoolbooks : articles by Marie Kostrz (Rue89) and Dominique Vidal (Monde Diplomatique).

[8These cars have a green license plate, which doesn’t allow them to drive in Jerusalem and Israel.

[9Territory under the British mandate from 1922 to 1947 (before the UNO partition plan), reuniting what corresponds today to Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

[10EJE is a Palestinian association Les Enfants, le Jeu et l’Education whose aim is to « make the children grow to more humanity ».

[11See the little dabkeh demonstration (traditional dance) in the Women Centre. which both organize sports and cultural events as well as training.

[12See map above : Road 60 links Jerusalem to Hebron via Gush Etzion block, i.e. 22 Jewish settlements currently inhabited by more than 60,000 settlers. The first Jewish attempt to colonise the area dates back to 1927 and was done by Yemenite religious Jews. These people were made to feel welcome by the inhabitants of the neighbouring Arab village, Beit Ummar, during the 1929 Palestinians revolts. In 1932, there was a second attempt to establish a kibboutz (Kfar Etzion), but the 1936-1939 Arab revolts thwarted the project. New attempt in 1943. At the beginning of the 1947-1949 Israeli-Arab war, there were 450 residents on 20km². Several dozens of them, who had stayed to defend the kibboutz, were killes by the Arab forces on May 13 in 1948. After the 1967 Six-Day war, the rebuilding of the Gush Etzion block started with the re-establishment of Kfar Etzion kibboutz, which is closest to Al-Arroub camp.

[13Read the account of Friday, April 8.