While the Westbank is shocked and utterly appalled by the horrors that have and are taking place in Ni’lin; the murder and loss of Ahmad Husam Yousif Musa and Yousef Ahmad Younis Amira, two innocent children, people are not allowed to grieve. The people of Ni’lin were harassed and hampered from burying their children, from protesting against the bullets that were fired at them and that took their lives, from protesting the construction of an illegal wall that threatens their livelihoods, from protesting that all that is near and dear to them is taken.
While they are still standing their ground and are fighting for their rights, the rest of the Westbank is hampered from joining them in their struggle. Hampered, stopped, prohibited from joining their brothers and sisters from claiming their basic human rights. Why? Not just because of the many checkpoints, flying checkpoints, roadblocks and raids. Not only because of these physical constraints and the consequent disabled freedom of movement of Palestinians within the Westbank.
No, they are unable because they are busy struggling themselves. Every city and every village seems to have its own story, its own battle, and its own emergency situation. One that needs all their time and energy, one that prohibits them from leaving it or taking a day off from it because all can be lost.
Beit Sahour’s struggle is for Oush Grab. Please take the time to look at the story of Oush Grab:[youtube]f9ZaFwi6WBo[/youtube]
The ‘Crows Nest’ is a place that has grown very dear to me very quickly, which is also why you can find two other blogs that I have written about it. It is one of the very few, if not only, places in the Bethlehem area where children can play, can climb, can play soccer and can learn with the watchful eyes of their families around as their dads are preparing the barbeque for a big family feast. It is not surprising that this unique area quickly grew out to be one of the community centers of Beit Sahour and the Bethlehem area, including Beit Jalla.
The Oush Grab Public Park is not only important in the ways in which it serves these communities, but also in the way that it serves as an example for the Westbank and Gaza. Oush Grab was first a Jordanian and thereafter an Israeli military base. From this base, people have been attacked, their houses have been destroyed and Bethlehem has been laid under siege. The new Public Park is a unique example of what can be done with structures that have installed fear and repression: it shows that things can be given a new meaning, a new life. In this way, Palestinians can control the process, decide what they want it to be and mean for them in order to move into a new future without forgetting the past.
In this one place where people could escape the harsh and daily reality of life under occupation, a re-occupation process has caught on. Since May 15, when Palestinians commemorate the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Nakba when the State of Israel was declared, settlers started to arrive claiming that the land is theirs.
The settlers claim that all of what they term Judea and Samaria, and what happens to coincide exactly with the Westbank, not only belongs to Israel, but to Jewish people only. Death was wished upon ‘the Arabs’ in multiple graffiti accounts and the top of the hill of Oush Grab (with the Park laying beneath it) should become, or according to them already is, the Jewish village of Shdema. Local and international ngo’s, Palestinians and internationals gathered to give a creative non-violent response to the settler threat to the community. The strategy taken was to be present, not to protest, but to merely integrate the top of the hill into the community and sending the clear signal that this area will cannot settled.
For this purpose a presence in the form of a prayer service was organized yesterday evening. Even though the service was led by a Christian protestant priest and minister this prayer service was intended for and open to all religions and for those who do not follow any religion but simply belief in sending a call for peace and justice.
The situation was nothing less than surreal: as the service started and people gathered at one side of the top of the hill, settlers were arriving and setting up chairs, lights and a sound installation at the other side for their own ceremony ‘From Destruction to Redemption in Shdema’ , meanwhile soldiers were overlooking the whole process higher up from one side of the hilltop.
As the Internationals and Palestinians called and sang for reconciliation, justice and peace, the settlers called for an all Jewish Eretz Israel (Greater Israel). A message that was reiterated in most of their speeches throughout the night. Throughout the same night, at the same place just a couple of meters away the people who gathered to pray, meditate or simply be present constantly sang peaceful songs.
As more settlers moved towards the prayers, a number of soldiers came down to the base forming a line between the prayers and settlers. It was obvious that this line-up was not intended to protect the prayers as settlers were allowed to walk through them, curse at them and wave the Israeli and settler flag in front of their eyes. This did not stop the Internationals and Palestinians from singing for peace and justice and aggravated the settlers. Slowly the group of settlers behind the soldiers and in between the prayers grew and grew until the first one tried to attack one of the prayers. Than the situation burst.
Photo by IMEMC
The soldiers did little to nothing to hold their line and an approximate 100 settlers attacked the prayers, pushing them, trying to hit them and a number of settlers even dragged the minister over the ground while he was still praying.
Nadia Matar, the leader of the Women in Green and one of the people who is spearheading ‘The Struggle for Shdema’ through leading the Committee for a Jewish Shdema, refused to shake one of the Internationals hands on an earlier occasion, stating that she doesn’t touch men. The irony is that this conviction did not stop her from joining the crowd in attacking the praying people and ferociously pushing and assaulting the same man whose hand she refused to shake earlier.
Throughout the attack none of the people under who were actually under attack used any violence against the settlers as they came as a non-violent presence with a peaceful message, not looking for a confrontation. As the praying and singing people were pushed into a corner of the base soldiers eventually managed to line up between them and the settlers. One of the many young settler boys close behind the new soldier line-up asked what we wanted with this place and we told him that their would be a children’s hospital built at the slope of the hill. A warning crosses his lips as he pledges to bomb the childrens hospital if it is ever built.
The prayers returned to pray, sing peaceful songs and make some folkloristic music. As the settlers session drew to a close and despite the attack that had happened before, but out of respect and common humanity the prayers decided to be quiet at the times that the settlers seemed to have moments of prayer. After the settlers eventually left, the Internationals and Palestinians that had gathered did so too.
The situation at Oush Grab is worsening and a new chapter seems to have begun: one wherein a peaceful presence is no longer safe from attack.
Posted By Rianne Van Doeveren
Posted Aug 7th, 2008