Monthly Archives: March 2012

Jalazone Refugee Camp

Today my friend Khaled, who I met at capoeira, showed me round Jalazone Camp where he lives.  Jalazone is home to around 40,000 refugees who fled their homes after the Arab-Israeli war broke out in 1948.

Many of the refugees, including Khaled’s family, were from Beit Nabala which is now part of Israel.  The older generations of Khaled’s family own the land that Ben Gurion airport is now built on, but they had to flee it due to the war.

The land the camp is built on has been leased by UNRWA for 99 years.  At first the camp was 0.5km but it has now expanded to be around 1km.

The camp started as tents and the refugees were told this was a temporary solution until they could return!  Soon after this concrete structures started to be built.  Building began as one room for each family.  Homes are built upwards due to space restrictions and expanding families.  When a family member gets married and has children another room will be built for the new family.

I saw many children playing in the streets.  Some children here throw stones, but they don’t mean this in an aggressive way, they simply want to play but don’t know how to communicate this.

There are two community centres in the camp.  Here there is a play room for the children, library, computer room and also space for music lessons.

On the edge of the camp are the two UNRWA schools.  One boys school and one girls school.  There are around 1400 children in one school! That’s about 55 children per class with one teacher.  Children can only attend school either in the morning or afternoon due to the amount of students.

Nearby is the settlement of Bet El; the second biggest settlement in the West Bank.

Ethnic Cleansing in Hebron

What I saw today would shock any normal human being.  The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is nowhere more visible than in Hebron.

The Israeli’s have made Palestinians suffer by restricting movement, creating checkpoints, closing streets and markets, setting curfews, welding shut entrances to homes and businesses and conducting random searches.

This caused the economy of the old city to collapse which drove almost all Palestinians from this area to leave their homes and businesses.  Jewish settlements now dominate the heart of the city.

The Israelis justification for this being ‘security’, to protect the Jewish settlers.

To me this is blatant apartheid; treating Palestinians legally and physically differently based on their ethnicity.

Our tour took us down a street lined with market stalls which is now overlooked by settlers who have moved into the abandoned homes of Palestinians.  A wire net has been put up to protect Palestinians from settlers who throw rocks, knives and even pour acid over Palestinians walking down the street.

Hebron is split into two parts. H1; under Palestinian control and H2; under Israeli control.  There are streets that are open to settler traffic but only Palestinian pedestrians. Some streets are completely closed to Palestinians. Shuhada Street has been closed to Palestinians for the past 16 years.

It was once the main street running through the city centre, now all Palestinian shops are shuttered.  The Israeli military ordered them closed due to security concerns, meaning more than 1800 Palestinians lost their livelihoods.

Palestinians are only allowed to walk on the right side of this street.

The centre of the old city is a ghost town.

We walk down a street which is closed to Palestinians.  As we walk towards the Palestinian area a soldier shouts at us in Hebrew and three Israeli girls shout to us “thats the Arab side… you don’t wanna go there!”

As we watch some Jewish children playing outside the settlement of Beit Hadassah a Jewish settler child tells the Israeli soldier to get a Palestinian who is merely standing nearby, to move.

We carry along up some steps and along a path walking towards Qurtoba School, we see graffiti vandalised on a school door which demonstrates the racial hatred engrained into the settlers.

‘GAS THE ARABS’

I was reluctant to photograph this, but wanted to show the true reality.

As we are walking up a hill towards a Palestinian community centre we pass 4 Israeli soldiers who are escorting 2 Israeli settler teenage girls as they walk through the Palestinian area.

Once we reach the community centre we are told the story and significance behind it.  The community centre is the last building the Israelis need to claim in order to expand their settlement.  But the Palestinians and internationals have struggled against this and succeeded; the solidarity behind this building means they will never let it be taken.

This is a place for the children to enjoy playing.

Finally snow in Ramallah!

After being told on numerous occasions to expect snow and waking up to be disappointed, at 8am this morning it finally started snowing here in Ramallah and I did not want to miss the opportunity to get outside in the snow!

Although it didn’t last long… by the time the rest of the flat woke up a few hours later it had melted!

 

Since work had been cancelled we took the opportunity to go for breakfast at Jasmine 🙂