Birin is a small agricultural community located south of Hebron. Residents there raise sheep and goats, wheat and barley (primarily as food for the livestock), and maintain several olive groves. Spread out along the edge of a hill, the village offers a spectacular view of the beautiful Palestinian countryside.
The lifestyle here is simple and solid. Warm hospitality abounds. As you stand in the village, it feels quiet, far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life in nearby Hebron, only 7km away. The beautiful stone fences and basic homes can lead you to feel as if you have somehow stepped back in time.
There’s the odd tractor around, and the occasional “high mileage” car, but it’s probably more common to see donkey or horse drawn carts taking farmers back and forth to their fields.
Up until 2 years ago, there was no school or other services in the community. Students walked the 6-8 km to school in neighbouring communities. Enroute, they encountered harassment from nearby settlers, requiring regular accompaniment by the local EAPPI team located in nearby Yatta. Unfortunately, the EAPPI team could not be there every day, twice a day. The school drop out rate for all ages was high. After a period of negotiations through HIRN, a long term rental agreement was arrived at with local property owners to provide a house to be renovated into an elementary school. In the interim, HIRN was able to provide a temporary tent to be used for a school – a solution that kept the students safetly at home in the community, but exposed them to the elements and made learning conditions difficult. HIRN then lobbied international NGO’s for funding to cover the building renovation costs. The new school was opened in October 2014, with great excitement. It was a true celebration – complete with the requisite speeches that seem to come with all such occasions wherever you are, Arabic coffee, sweets, and a goat meat and rice dinner that followed the ceremony.
We stopped in to visit the good people of Birin last Sunday afternoon, and were excited to see the changes in the village over the last year. There has been a 2 room addition added onto the school, bathrooms have been installed, and there is now a covered play area for the children to shield them from the hot sun.
There are new solar panels in the village, providing electricity for the school and individual homes. There is clean water for the school, with plans to provide it to the remainder of the village. And there is a new medical clinic, staffed by an itinerant physician.
As we were leaving Birin, village elder Khames was deep in conversation with HIRN’s Hamed Qawasmeh.
It seems that more change is in the air. Pleased with the progress to date, villagers are excited about further improvements planned for Birin.
Peace, Salaam, Shalom,