Under Occupation: Day 1, Beit Sahour in Bethlehem

Today I woke up in a surreal bubble, not knowing what to expect as I saw our destination for the first time in daylight. We were woken up at 7am, and had breakfast together whilst being reunited with the Palestine girls that we had briefly been introduced to upon arrival. We were planning on visiting Manger Square (the birthplace of Jesus) and I struggled with the language barrier when I was telling one of the girls that I was looking forward to seeing it. I tried to explain about ‘baby Jesus’ but she didn’t understand… so, naturally, I started singing “Oh little town of Bethlehem” for effect. I think she got it.

We visited the Shepherds fields (where the angels came to announce Jesus’ birth) which was opposite an Israeli settlement called Abu Ghneim. We heard that this particular spot of land was full of forests, and Palestinians were told that they could no longer inhabit the area for “environmental reasons” (we later found out that this is a common ‘excuse’ to displace the Palestinians). The Israelis then proceeded to build their own town.

 

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Abu Ghneim

After a brief trip to manger square, our afternoon was filled with presentations and stories of the lands history and it was a little overwhelming, considering we were all trying to recover from our full day of travel the day before.

 

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Shepherds Fields

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Manger Square

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We were told about living conditions in Palestine, and about the 370 mile ’separation barrier’ that begun construction in 2002, which is twice the height of the Berlin Wall and almost 4 times longer (The Berlin Wall was 96 miles). We heard about the refusal of construction permits for Palestinians, the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the different Zones within the land.

Zone A: Palestinian Authority

Zone B: Palestinian under Israeli Occupation

Zone C: Part Palestine, Mainly Israeli

Palestinians are issued with I.D cards. One is blue and allows travel through each zone. The other is Green and only allows travel through Zone A and B. This is controlled by Check Points so the I.Ds can be checked.

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To give a brief overview of the history, please see the timeline below:

1947: The British refer the ‘Palestine problem’ to the United Nations, which agree to partition Palestine (one Jewish state and one Arab state) Arabs were disadvantaged by failing to consider historical ties to the land.

1948: Israel is declared as a state. First Arab-Israeli war (lasts 9 months) known as the Nakba (“catastrophe”) displacement of around 900,000 Palestinians by end of 1949.

1967: 6 day war (“Naksa”). Egypt, Syria and Jordan invade Israel. In response, Israel occupies West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syrian Golan Heights and Egyptian Sinai Peninsula

1979: Egypt signs a peace treaty with Israel

1987: The first Intifada begins in Gaza Strip (Hamas begins)

1994: Oslo peace agreement signed, with the following unresolved problems:

  • The return of Palestinian refugees from 1948 to their homes
  • Where the borders of the Palestine state will lie
  • The status of Jeruselum
  • The status of Israeli settlements on Gaza and the West Bank.

1999- Increase in poverty and Israeli settlements. The lack of political solutions result in increased tension and violence.

2001- Clashes lead to the placing of 2 million people under curfew.

2002- Israel re-occupies West Bank and begins building a 370 mile barrier

The occupation briefly ended in 2005, with soldiers removing 9,000 settlers but the truce was called off by Hamas when an Israeli explosion killed a family of 7 on Gaza Beach.

So here is a bit of history for you, follow me as we embark on our journey to see how the Palestinians have been affected. Despite the numerous presentations, nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.

 

Please join me over the next two weeks when I shall be documenting life in Palestine, under the Israeli Occupation, with daily blog posts and video diaries on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ptparent/).

To donate, please visit my Just Giving page:

https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/georga-browne

To Find out more about how these donations will help, please visit CADFA’s website:

http://www.cadfa.org

 

Resources

Information on the wall:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3111159.stm

http://www.stopthewall.org/the-wall

Information on the different Zones:

http://america.aljazeera.com/multimedia/2014/7/west-bank-security.html