We’re back in Jerusalem now for further EAPPI training, having spent the last 4 days with the outgoing SHH EAPPI Team 40 for orientation to the South Hebron Hills. Our thanks to Team 40 members Dianne, Jonas, Javid and Jane for their wonderful hospitality and enthusiastic introduction to the people and the area. We are truly appreciative of your kindness and the effort you put into our orientation and the excellent work you have done in the SHH. You have set a high standard for us to follow.
In a few short days we visited a number of villages, met some amazing people who bring a new definition to the terms resistance and resilience, have been touched by the pain of occupation, and traveled over a countryside that is unlike any other I have ever seen. It feels like we have fit at least a week’s worth of living into a few short days.
Our home base is the community of Yatta, located south of Hebron and home to approximately 100,000 people, many sheep, goats and a noisy neighbouring rooster . The house we are living in is spacious and modern, a short walk away from the local shops for purchasing food and other supplies.
When we travel out into the countryside to visit the various villages, we go with our neighbour Abed who serves as our driver and interpreter.
Most of the village people live in relatively small communities of 30-250 people. They tend to live in permanent tents, often with a stone or concrete foundation, with some tents serviced with electricity allowing for refrigeration and television. Cell phones are also used. Access to many of these villages is by almost impassable roads…roads that give new meaning to the term rocky, roads that take a heavy toll on vehicle suspensions, undercarriages and tires. Often times visitors can drive part way and then walk the remainder of the distance. One village we visited required a drive along one of these roads and then a one hour hike down a mountain.
When you visit, you are most often invited into one of their tents. You take your shoes off at the door and sit on small mattresses on the floor (very comfortable) for your visit. The people are always very hospitable, serving guests a sweetened tea offered in small glasses.
These are agricultural communities with sheep, goats and chickens to care for. The land now is parched dry….drier than we Canadian farmers are used to experiencing. Seeding of wheat and barley will take place later this fall when the rain season begins. Given the dry conditions, there is no pasture as we know it and food for the livestock must be brought in. As well, water also must be trucked in for both humans and livestock. In this subsistence existence, the challenges of feeding one’s family are great and the people work very hard with minimal equipment. The challenges imposed by the occupation…..things like intentionally blocked roads, violent settlers, water shortages and poisoned cisterns, intentionally destroyed power lines, house and communal toilet demolitions….. all of this and more…. serve to make a difficult life all the more harsh. At each village my heart has been touched by these wonderful people, and on at least 2 occasions I have felt tears well up as we pull away…..tears of frustration, tears of incomprehension, tears that speak to our shared humanity and to the pain, the resistance and the hope these people live on a daily basis.
Peace, Salaam, Shalom,