West Bank

Paralysis, prophets and forgiveness

Five years ago, nine-month-old Mohammed and his grandmother were in their West Bank home when it began to fill with nerve gas from a nearby Israeli Occupation Forces military base. The army had moved in on a hill near their home in the Skan Abu Absa suburb of Ramallah, and would frequently shoot all over the surrounding area, often retaliating against Palestinian gunfire from a hill away from the suburb. As the gas seeped into his living room, the baby Mohammed began to shake violently before suffering a stroke causing extensive paralysis. 

Prelude to a third intifada?

It’s been more than three weeks since I last wrote. The reason is simple: things have been awful on the ground here in Palestine, leaving little time for reflection. As usual, Passover — the Jewish holiday celebrating freedom from oppression — was accompanied by tightening restrictions on Palestinians. While Jewish Israelis were feasting nearby, travel within the West Bank became difficult if not impossible, except of course for settlers who would breeze by the hundreds of Palestinians waiting for hours at checkpoints on their way home, to work, to the hospital, or elsewhere. Calling the Army was no help since most offices and services were closed for the holidays. 

The stories not tragic enough to notice

Today I visited my friend Dawud in Kufr ‘Ain for the first time since he lost his six-month-old baby at Atara Checkpoint. It was heartbreaking to hear the details of the story from a man who just one month ago was asking me when I would come visit his family for pleasure, not just to take a report. He said there was more to Palestine than the sob stories. But today was all about grief. We watched a video of the funeral in silence, and saw Dawud’s mother break down and say she couldn’t take it anymore. 

The crime of being born Palestinian

Almost two weeks ago, my friend Dawud, a high school English teacher from Kufr ‘Ain, called me nearly in tears to report the checkpoint hold-up that had cost him his six-month-old son. Shortly after midnight on March 8th, my friend’s baby began having trouble breathing. His parents quickly got a taxi to take him to the nearest hospital in Ramallah, where they hoped to secure an oxygen tent, which had helped him recover from difficult respiratory episodes in the past. As the family was rushing from their Palestinian town in the West Bank to their Palestinian hospital in the West Bank, they were stopped at Atara checkpoint, where an Israeli soldier asked for the father’s, mother’s, and driver’s IDs. 

The hate that dare not speak its name

Topography here is in constant fluctuation. From one visit to the next a whole area, or just a small street, can look completely different. In Gaza, maybe it has been destroyed or, sometimes, rebuilt. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, a flow of ongoing construction manifests itself in the wall, in the illegal settlements and in the construction of the discriminatory road system. Today, while driving through the western edges of the West Bank, we began to understand what the “forbidden roads regime” actually means — through an intricate series of road systems Israelis will travel on one set of roads while Palestinians will travel on roads built underneath them. 

An incursion happening right now in Tulkarem

Dr. Imad was right! There is an Israeli military incursion happening right here right now, just as he said it would: in the refugee camp adjacent to the town of Tulkarem. And now they are in the main part of town right in front of us! On the way to Qalqilya this morning, we drive right past three Israeli APVs in our mobile health van. Through our van’s front window, we see two soldiers crouched behind their APV with their semiautomatic rifles cocked; now they are running around the vehicle counterclockwise, and right into an apartment building. 

Photostory: Climbing the Hill to Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Central Tel Aviv along the beach seems like such a relaxed and cosmopolitan place. From here one can ignore the cataclysmic events taking place to the north in Lebanon, to the south in Gaza, to the east in the West Bank and even further to the east in Iraq. I feel tempted to just go swimming here in the Mediterranean Sea, let my feet nourish the sand, and just relax on this beach to work on my tan. It would be easy to remain oblivious here in Tel Aviv to all the turmoil surrounding us here, but I must move on. I board the bus to Jerusalem, which is filled to capacity, and plop myself on the floor in the back, surrounded by young IOF soldiers. 

Photostory: Each Friday in Bil'in

I travel from Ramallah in a group taxi with several activists affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement to the agricultural village of Bil’in. We are here with Israeli activists as well. All of the major Israeli peace and justice groups are with us today, along with prominent members of their leadership. Peace Now (Gush Shalom), Rabbis for Human Rights, Israeli Anarchists against the Wall, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Ta’ayush and There is a Law (Yesh-Din). This latter group was formed to document violence that settlers commit against Palestinians so that they can be prosecuted. 

Why I came to Nablus, despite my family's pleas to stay away

When I finished teaching my English class in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Nablus a week ago, the most pressing thing on my mind was getting to an Internet cafe to check my e-mail. It’s impossible to walk the streets of this crowded city without running into someone you know. Had I realized what was in store for me that night, I might have lingered with the friends who insisted I join them for a cup of coffee. Instead, I hurried on my way. But before I could get to the cafe, I was grabbed by two men, forced into a car and driven off. 

Bleak Ramadan in Palestine

Normally, the holy month of Ramadan is a festive season of heightened spirituality and good will. It is also an occasion where family members share the usually exquisite Iftar meals immediately after sunset at the end of the day-long fast. However, for many Palestinian families, hard-hit by extremely harsh Israeli-western sanctions, this Ramadan has the smell of real penury. Abject poverty is also becoming increasingly apparent among the traditionally weak sectors of society, such as day-laborers. Yousuf M. Suleiman is a school teacher of 30 years from the southern West Bank town of Hebron. He has a family of eight but can hardly get things “under control” when it comes to securing the basic needs such as flour, sugar and rice.