The daughter of the director proudly steps into my office in the morning to show me the new shoes she bought. Because she couldn’t decide between two pairs she managed to bargain the price down until she got them both for the price of one. Of course a girl can never have enough shoes, but these were special as she went out to buy them especially for the schooltrip to Berlin that she is going on in a few days. I remember myself being as excited as she was now for going on a high school trip to Barcelona with my whole class. For her, this means even more than it meant for me. It is not only the excitement of a trip with her friends but also the possibility to enter a country wherein she is just herself and can move freely without any checkpoints or soldiers.
Later in the afternoon I received a call from a colleague with the question whether I can leave my work and join her and some people from the Olive Tree Campaign because a farmer had been arrested by the army this morning and had just been released. They forbid him to return to his land but he had told them that he would return to what was rightfully his as soon as he could. We quickly made our way to his land in order to find out what exactly happened.
Abed Abed Rabbo is a farmer who has grown olive trees all of his life on land that has been in his family for generations. It was passed on to him by his father, who inherited the land from his father and so on. Since 1967 Israel has annexed Al Walaja (his land and the lands surrounding his) and made them part of the Jerusalem municipality in the 1970s. Even though the land was suddenly made part of Jerusalem, the owners of the land still hold a Palestinian ID and were not granted the special Jerusalem ID. This means that when the land owners enter their land they are breaking Israeli law by being illegally present in Jerusalem. That is when they can enter there land at all; most land owners live in Beit Jalla and are cut off from the area by the Wall. A number of the land owners have received a permission to be on their land for three years, Abed is one of them. The problem is that this permission can be randomly cancelled at any time.
Today, Abed’s land lies at the heart of an area that is designed to become a new settlement named Givat Vat Ya’el. In order to protect his land he had to move away from his wife and children in Dheisha Refugee camp to live on the land in a small shelter. He has been living on his land like this for 9 years already and explained to me that he is able to do this because he is so attached to his land that he is willing to leave everything behind in order to protect it for future generations. The Olive Tree Campaign has supported him in cultivating his land by planting over 300 olive trees with him this year.
On June 2nd he received a demolition order for his shelter, but he has no idea when they will actually come to demolish his home. After receiving the order it can be hours, days, months or years, you never know. The army didn’t arrive with a bulldozer yet, but they did arrive in the morning to arrest him. They took him in because they accused him of monitoring the soldiers of the surrounding settlements for Hamas. In the afternoon they had to release him, but ordered him to stay of his land. Abed returned to his shelter and refuses to leave the land that belongs to his family. Amongst the people supporting him there are Palestinians, Israelis and internationals. His fate is that of many Palestinian farmers who loose their land even if they hold a rightful claim to it. Abed is one of the farmers who refuse to give up their struggle.
When we get back to the office in the evening to prepare the political café for the movie screening of that night we learn that the daughter of our director will not leave for Berlin anymore. Because she is still young she is registered in her father’s passport and they had to go to the Israeli office together to get her the permit to travel. Without any reason, they refused to grant her the permit. It surely did not help that her father is the director of the AIC. She is the only person of her class who cannot join the schooltrip tomorrow.
This morning she walked into my office again and with tears in her eyes she told me: I am trying to see the bright side of this, at least I did my shopping before I knew that they wouldn’t let me go. I admire her strength but cannot help seeing a bright young women who has two new pairs of shoes but lacks the freedom of movement.
Posted By Rianne Van Doeveren
Posted Jun 25th, 2008