I am a strong person but yesterday’s events left me shaken and I seemed to drift through today in a bubble. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I kept welling up. After an unsettling nights sleep, we awoke and saw our new destination in the light. I was nervous about leaving our accommodation. I was nervous about being in our accommodation. I was even nervous about our trip to visit the local school next door.
We were shown around the classrooms and it was hard to contemplate the stress and emotion the children must go through. Some of which have to pass through multiple check points each day just to get to school. We were told of the constant worry if people don’t show up on time, and as we left the school to visit Dar Assadaqa (a woman’s centre), I felt very uneasy walking through the alleyways and small roads because I had visions of us being watched by snipers.
The women at the in the centre were telling us about their lives. These are just some of the stories that we heard:
- When at check points, you have to open your bags to be searched. You have to do this slowly (as I have previously mentioned, the excuse “they pulled out a weapon from their handbag and went to attack us, so we shot and killed them” seems to be a common one). You can’t put your hands in your pockets or even answer your phone if it rings because any sudden movements will cause suspicion. (Recently, a man’s phone fell on the ground and he was shot as he bent down to pick it up)
- You are not allowed to drive in an Isreali car if you have Palestinian I.D. We spoke to a woman who had a different I.D to her husband so they have to travel on separate routes. (Children are given the same colour I.D to their father, so families are separated and the mother will have to go through a checkpoint on foot)
- The wall cuts Abu dis to the hospital so you have to seek permission to cross it. If you are in an ambulance you will still be stopped at a checkpoint, and you will need a separate ambulance once on the other side of the wall to get to the hospital in Jeruselum. This is often deliberately prolonged in medical emergencies.
- If people are granted permission to cross the wall, this can be taken away as ‘security refusal’ for no reason
At the university we were shown the First legal clinic in the Arab world which combines practise and education at the same time. They found that the existing education system didn’t help people understand what was happening around them, so they created a programme to help people document international human rights and violations law. Under Military order 101 (issued in 1967) a meeting of 10 people or more about a political issue is considered illegal, and the army has no limits to stop it. As a result, the university suffers direct attacks from military (9 times last year) and has been raided 7 times this year alone. We were also told that more than 500 students have been injured this year by rubber bullets and tear gas.
There are currently 76 students in prison (4 of which are professors) and 9 students in administrative detention (detained without charge/trial) who can be held for 6 months, and this can be renewed every six months. 3 of the students have been there for 2 years, without actually knowing why they are there, and Isrealis won’t give them (or their lawyers) a reason as the documents are ‘classified’. The longest period of time for administrative detention has been 8 years.
We were told about the ‘flying checkpoints’ which are launched randomly (there is one at gate of university) and how 50 people are in ‘administrative detention’ for Facebook posts (sentence up to 5 years) since September 2015. We then briefly heard about the E1 plan (approved by Israeli government to expand settlements) killing hope for a geographical connection of the Palestinian state.
On our way out of the building, it was hard not to notice the walls lined with posters of students who had recently been killed.
After stopping to see the sheer scale of the wall that divides Jeruselum, we finished the day with a trip to a youth centre to watch a girls football match. The children were so happy and friendly and it instantly lifted our spirits, as we registered the reality of their lives.
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/).
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