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Undod Palesteina: News from Jenny G. in Nablus

Undod Palestiena-ISM Aberystwyth | 04.07.2003 15:42

Latest news from British Activist Jenny G. In Nablus, West Bank

English Class - Balata Camp Style

In the afernoon Jeremy and I jump in a taxi and head
down to the Balata refugee where he has been asked to
teach an adult education class in English at four to
about 10 residents. As the taxi arrives at the camp
we notice some youths in the road ahead where the
centre is throwing stones towards tanks or APCs
(armoured personel carriers), we dive out the taxi and
grabb our bags so the driver can get out the area.
As we walk down a side road we bump in to two of the
guys from the centre we would be teaching in and they
take us across to Jacob's Well, to sit in the gardens
and have coffee whilst we wait for the situation to
calm down.
When we got to the centre about 20 minutes later
no-one else turn up for the class as they are too
worried about getting stuck in the centre if the IDF
imposes curfew early as punishment for the
stone-throwing. We start an informal class with
Jeremy teaching English and Waleed teaching us Arabic
in return and for about 30 minutes we're all immersed
in learning how to find the meat section in a
supermarket (or in my case the vegetable section as
I'm vegan), how to give directions and whether to say
grocery (as I do) or grochery (as Jeremy does).
Shadi turns up so we start proper class and introduce
ourselves so Jeremy can assess at what stage the mens'
English is. Waleed is about 33 and has spent much
of his life in Balata camp. He is an educated man,
with a degree in Fine Arts and is dressed immacualtely
in a pressed white shirt, suit trousers, good shoes
and watch and the latest monile phone. Although he has
worked for the Ministry of Education he is currently
unemployed, as is Mohammed who is again well educated
but has spent four years in prison. Shadi has been to
university is working for the Ministry of Education
and will be giving classes in the prison for children
this summer. They all can communicate well in
English, but want to know how to speak properly. As
we are about to move on to lessons we hear a tank and
APC approaching and everything has to stop as the
earsplitting rumbles and srapes of the tank treads on
the roads stifles all conversation. Peeping through
the curtains we watch as a hailstorm of stones,
collected from the bulldozed homes and shops, rains
down on the heavily armoured IDF vehicles, whilst the
soldiers in the APC sing Israeli songs and, I kid you
not, give the Palestinian lads the finger out of the
hatch. This goes on for about half an hour wih
occasional gunfire causing the boys to momentarily
dive into doors and behind walls. Two women walk
openly through the middle of the clash and a few
minutes a later a young man in a wheelchair races down
the hill through the centre of the malestrom, which
momentarily ceases to let him pass. We try to carry
on teaching but have to eventually abandon class as
every time the tank moves we can't hear ourselves
thinking never mind each other speaking.
Class is out. In many countires this would elicit
screams of joy and pleasure as the kids run from the
class to enjoy some extra play time. Here education
is more valuable, when you have to fight for something
it becomes more important to you, these three men we
weretrying to teach want to improve themselves, they
all want to become involved in social care and socail
work, they care so deeply about this place, about
their people that they are building a new centre for
Project Hope classes to take place in (although the
first class might have to be how to finish of building
as we only have three weeks to go and its not comlpete
yet!). There is are a number of really serious
issues here, the situation ended when the tank raced
up the street firing a tthe youths, some of whom were
as young as 5, stone-throwing is not the best idea,
but the soldiers came down to wind the kids up and
firing on them, with live bullets used to bust doors
and buildings is morally wrong, never mind totally
illegal. These soldiers are fully trained
"professionals" armed with the latest epoains American
money can buy, the youths are angry, disenfranchised
children armed only with stones.
With regards to our class, it was for adults who can
deal with the interuptions to their education and will
come back to pick u where we left off on Monday. In
three weeks we will be starting to teach children who
are easily distracted and lose hope, they have spent
thier whole lives under occupation which ahs been
especially violent in the last few years. Under
International Law on the Rights of the Child the right
to education is enshrined, with articles calling for
compulsory, free, basic education, free from
discrimination. States have to take appropriate
legislative action to ensure this right is implemented
and protected.

ffi (from Palestine/Israel) 066 352031
(international ) +972 66 352031

It is the simple things.......

What really strikes me about this place is not
just the stories about deaths, the torture, the
arbitrary arrests, women, babies, old men dying at
checkpoints , that everyone i meet relates to me. It
is the way that occupation affects everyday life. You
become used to the horrors too quickly, but everyday
you see something new, something insiduous that makes
you remember how awful this all is, how occupation
impacts on everyday life. It is this constant
pressure that leads to long-term emotional problems
which have such drastic consequences.
On Saturday I was talking with Walid about our
education, he has just finished a degree in Fine Art,
and I've just finished Marine Biology, we were
laughing about there being no sea here so I said I
would dig a ditch from the Mediterranean to here.
Walid then told me that the sea is only 30 mins drive
from here. Wahey, lets jump in the car and go there,
this 30oC + heat is starting to make me wilt. We can
put together a picnic of falafel, houmous, babd
ganoush, ghobz, zattar, olives, all my favourite
foods, put in the towels, suncream (I burn even if the
sun only peaks out from behind a cloud in wales!),
call our friends and head down to the beach for an
afternoon of fun , then watch the sun set over the
Meditteranean whilst eating cold ice cream. I can
feel the coolness of the waves against my toes as I
write this. If we leave now we'll be there by
This is just a dream., this is Palestine. We can
grab our stuff, fill a car and drive 1 km to Howarrah
and that is where our trip will end becuase Howarrah
is an Israeli military (IOF) checkpoint between Nablus
and the rest of the world. It is here that every day
hunderds of Palestinians queue for hours in the hot
sun (or rain in winter) with only a small metal roof
for some of them to shelter under, and sometimes if
the jish (soldier) in charge is in a bad mood they
will not be allowed to use. People queue EVERY day to
go to school, work, the hospital, to go see friends or
family. Sometimes they get through, sometimes they
wait all day and are turned away. To wait for only an
hour is good, that's how long it took us to get
through on Saturday, partly because we had an official
letter and partly because there was an Israeli womens
human rights group there. They were documenting the
IOF behaviour and calling in higher ranking soldiers
when the Captain at the checkpoint refused to let
anyone through, they can only be there once a week.
Internationals are often turned away, Nablus is a
closed area and the IOF don't want us to see what is
going on here.
Whilst in the queue we met a Palestinian man who
works with the UN, he was in full UN uniform and had
his UN permit to travel, and still he was refused
entrance to Nablus. It is here that last week a
bride in full bridal wear was made to wait to go to
her wedding, and where peope have died, as ambulances
were refused access. Hundreds if not thousands have
been arrested, including children, and held for days
with no water, food, mediucal care in the nearby
prison camp, before being released or transferred to
the worse prisons where they can be held without
charge or legal representation for six months.
So I can't get to the beach, I'll have to just sit
here and be too hot, no cool breeze on my face, no
taste of salt in my mouth, no waves gently lapping at
the sand. All in the name of the war on terror.
Welcome to Palestine.

Undod Palestiena-ISM Aberystwyth
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