Monday, November 16, 2009

Thursday, October 15

This morning we visited a presentation by ARIJ, Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem.
This group monitors ground work expansion of the Israeli illegal settlements. According to the Oslo Accord Israel and the West Bank is divided into three areas. Area A, 18%, is under complete Palestinian control. Area B, 19%, the Palestinians control the military and Israel is supposed to supply the infrastructure, Area C, 60 % is under complete Israeli control. This would be adequate if Israel supplied the infrastructure in Area B but they ignore this part of the ruling. A settlement starts with 50 caravans which look like our construction trailers. Then the infrastructure is completed with homes built later. In 2008-2009 there were 963 new buildings and 468 new caravans built within the existing illegal settlements. These were needed for “natural growth” but the Palestinians are not permitted the same privilege. This year alone there was 755,000 square meters expanded in 107 illegal settlements within the West Bank. From April to October of this year the Israelis population has increased by 73% in the occupied East Jerusalem which is to be Palestinian land but only by 12% in West Jerusalem that is Israeli land. In 2001 Israel agreed to dismantle 78 outposts in Palestinian land but instead they established 98 new ones. Outposts are usually smaller settlement blocks that are near an existing settlement, with a plan to connect both areas in the future. Both the settlements and the outpost are placed in strategic areas to squeeze out a village and confiscate more land. This year there have been 12 new outpost erected. In April 2008 Israel agreed to evacuate 20 outposts but asked that the existing settlement homes be made legal. The Palestinians denied this request as they would have not gained anything since the expansion of the settlements would continue. Israel asked the Palestinians to agree to the expansion in Gilo settlement in the Gilo area just outside the Old City and in return they would grant some building permits and change the separation wall line. Palestine denied this request because when the wall is completed they would still be in a ghetto type area with only one entrance.

Prior to1994 the Gaza strip was 134 sq km with 37% agricultural land. Israel then took 8% as a security buffer zone and in 2005 this was increased to 17% and in 2008-2009 29% of their agricultural land was destroyed. Israel is now annexing this agricultural land. Prior to the 2008-2009 invasion the incoming products to Gaza were very limited and since the invasion Israel s boarder control is not permitting any produce, building materials and many other life sustaining products to enter. Why would these people still be angry? Israel is offering the Palestinians a mediocre existence that is not viable or sustainable. In the fertile Jordan Valley 38 square km of land has been confiscated for agricultural settlements. Total land confiscation in the West Bank & East Jerusalem just since 2000 is 40,532 acres.

Our next stop was one of my favorite visits of the two weeks, The Tent of Nations. This is land outside of Bethlehem that is wanted by the Israeli government to expand five settlements that surround the Bishara land. The settlers have harassed them by uprooting 400 olive trees, blocked access to the land by placing large concrete boulders on the road, constantly watching all their activities and notifying the soldiers if they see any building activity going on and generally harassing them. The owners now or digging new caves underground rather than building on top. Their goal is to become self sufficient by the time the separation wall is completed, since at that time they will have no access outside their land. They are surrounded by 5 illegal Israeli settlements and the wall will completely hem them in. The hope of the Israelis is that the Separation Wall will force villagers to leave their land but the Palestinians say “We are preparing for the worse but hoping for the best.” These people say they are not victims but want to move beyond that mentality. This family is truly amazing. I invite you to go to their web site to see an example of Christian Palestinians who are following Christ example. They have a sign at the entrance to their land which states, “We are not your enemy. You may call me your enemy but that is your saying not mine.” The following are excerpts from their web site,

Daher Nassar (Bishara's father) purchased this land in 1924. Since that time, many family members have worked the land by day, and slept in caves by night. The land has produced olives, grapes, and wheat…etc.

In 1991, the Israeli government declared the whole area including the Nassars portion to be an Israeli state property.
The Nassar family has all the original land papers and contributed plenty of work to the land from the time of Ottoman, British, Jordanian, and Israeli governance, which shows that the Israeli government has no right to declare it because obviously the land belongs to the family since 1924 the date of purchase.

The Nassar family challenged Israel's declaration and therefore the case was brought to the court.
In 2001, though the land case was still unresolved, the local council of Israeli settlements decided to open a road through the east side of the Nassar land.
Nevertheless, in 2002 once again the council took a decision to open a road all the way through the Nassar land, this time through the west side. The Nassars were able to stop both road projects through the Israeli court intervention.

In 2005 the case of the land ownership is still under debate in the high court, and the court kept postponing the case. And for more than 13 years now we are still struggling to win the case of the land. Look at Daher’s Vineyard Land Case for updates on the continuing struggle.

On the long-term Tent of Nations desires to prepare young people for a positive contribution to their future and culture by bringing values of understanding and tolerance into their life experience, and to teach them the true belonging to their country. Tent of Nations is devoted to address cultural conflicts around the world, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by facilitating positive encounters between young people from different cultures.

Two weeks after CPT’s visit Ryan, Heather, their pastor’s wife Marsha, Greg & I went out to visit again. Just a few days before the soldiers broke down their gate, came on their land, entered the sleeping tents and placed their guns in the volunteers faces. They were there approximately an hour & a half with no explanation as to why they were there. Their response was nonviolent. My heart is really drawn to these people. How would you and I have responded to be awakened with a gun barrel in our faces?

After this we visited B’tselem, a Human Right Organization. They research and publish data on human rights abuses in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Most of the information we were given here we already knew but it once again confirmed the information. The one fact that stood out for me was about the Separation Wall. The most crucial area of the wall is at the Maale Adumim settlement that when completed will cut the West Bank into north and south and cut Jerusalem off from Palestine. Also that the Separation Wall does not follow the green line of 1948 but cuts between Palestinian villages. The wall in our country separating Mexico and the USA is being constructed by an Israeli company! Were you aware of this?

We did hear a story of abuse involving the “Rubber Bullets”. These types of bullets are safe only at 10 meters distance to target. Several months ago the Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian in the legs from 1.5 meters away. He was blind folded and hands tied behind his back and legs tied together at ankles. He required extensive treatment and rehabilitation. This group filed charges with the Israeli government. The commander and soldier were suspended and the army wanted them to be charged with just inappropriate behavior. Bt’Selem filed charges again saying that they need more than discipline. The army argued with this but in the court said there needed to be a criminal investigation and if convicted the men would have a criminal record. It is still in the courts.

Tonight my left SI joint became displaced as it does sometimes and I was unable to walk or go stairs. Lord, why? I tried to put it back in myself but it would not budge. Our leader noticed my difficulty and asked me about it. At first I tried to deny it but she insisted so I explained to her what needed to be done & Praise the Lord she did it and I could once again walk. The Lord sure walked me through this trip in a miraculous way. Tonight I told my life story. We all took our turn in the evenings to tell our story. Only 3 days left in our delegation. The next day we went back to Jerusalem to stay at the Hashimi Hostel.

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