Yesterday I had the chance to visit Husan, one of the villages near Bethlehem. I went with some folks from an NGO who had some work to do. I got a tour of the entire village and met many of the families there. There were tons of young people – teens and early twenties – just hanging out everywhere. This is one of the many repercussions of Oslo – the massive rates of unemployment which have occurred because people with West Bank ID can no longer legally work in '48 (for those of you reading this who may not be familiar with the anti-Zionist language, '48 refers to the parts of historic Palestine that were colonized in 1948, but before 1967 – what Israelis, Zionists and most people in the West would call 'Israel proper'). One of the houses we visited was this lavish home, but the people living in there live in extreme poverty. They bought the house when they earned better wages working on '48, but now have little to no income.
The village I was in is on the Israeli side of the Wall. For now it can be accessed from Bethlehem, but it is very likely to be cut off soon. There is a lot of water near or on their land, which is why they find themselves on the Israeli side of the border. I was shown one of the springs that feeds water to the farmlands – it was really beautiful, but made me feel so sad/angry because I know that the Israelis will eventually steal this water and force these people off their land.
Nearby - and by nearby I mean visible from everywhere in the nearby villages -there is a settlement called Betar Illit. Here is a typical view from within the village:
The sign outside the settlement says 'Betar Illit – a city of the Torah, a city of the Orthodox, within the Jewish Hills'. Gross. Within the settlement, there is an area that is still owned and farmed by Palestinian families who won a court case which prevented the confiscation of this land. We were able to get into the settlement to see this land, which is constantly being attacked by settlers – kids throwing stones and people setting fire to trees and the tin huts that farmers use. While I was there, a group of kids came by to harass the farmers. Here are some pictures, first of the land that is still being farmed by Palestinian families and the rest are the views of the settlement completely surrounding this land. Before I left people told me that you can't really understand the settlement situation until you see. So far, this is the most stark example I could find of how the settlements are confiscating land and are designed to terrorize Palestinians. See for yourselves:
Today I left Bethlehem and have started my stint volunteering with the IWPS in a more rural area in the North. I will likely have a lot more to report once we start going out and doing work in the area.
A bunch of people have asked if they can share this blog. Feel free, although it does increase the pressure for me to be interesting, relevant and diligent with this thing...