The Latest From Palestine: Community Voices

Zakariya is located south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank and is now completely surrounded by the Gush Ezion settlement bloc. There are only 58 buildings in Khirbet Zakariyya, 18 of which were built after the Occupation extended its grip to the West Bank in ’67. Since then, the Occupation forbids the villagers to construct any new buildings but as the population grew they built simple constructions of rough cement and zinc roofs to house families and basic services. All of those 18 buildings are now under demolition order, including one school and the clinic inside it.




***image3***Twelve year-old Hamaam Ismael sits down leaning against a massive tree that died after it was uprooted by an Israeli bulldozer to prepare the land for the footprint of the Apartheid Wall. The young boy wonders about his and his family’s future.




***image2***My name is Omar Deriah. I am studying business administration at Bir Zeit University. I am originally from Aqraba in Nablus district but I am now living in Bir Zeit. It is a three year course, but I have been studying here for four years, for reasons that I will explain.




***image2***Jamal Darawi, 40, from Nu’man village, is part of the popular committee to defend the land in the Bethlehem district. He tells how the Occupation is forcing the villagers to leave Nu’man. The Zionist drive to expel the people from their lands and homes has a concrete target — 21 villages all along the path of the Wall. The land which was used to provide the villagers with the means of independence now is used to provide the means of their imprisonment.




In Rafat, as throughout Palestine, the spirit of resistance against the Occupation has passed through generation to generation. The land on which people have lived and toiled throughout these years has provided livelihoods and dignity with which people have endured continued suffering and oppression. But now the Apartheid Wall will leave Rafat and its farmers without their land. Yet, their daily struggle for justice and freedom from occupation continues.



Here, two generations of farmers tell of their lives on their land, and their unceasing struggle against the Occupation.



***image2***“I waited for my turn at Tayaseer checkpoint. A soldier made a sign for me to come. When I reached him, he asked me: ‘Who told you to come?’ I said: ‘You told me to come.’ Then he took my ID.”




“Let’s do it Saturday!”



Saturday has become a strange day of rest for the families from Anata, East Jerusalem. Parents go about their work without the anxiety of going to the secondary school gates where children are collected on weekdays. On Saturdays, the Soldiers do not attack the school.






***image2***Karmen Salim Khalil Nassar is 60 years old and from Bethlehem. Standing outside her restaurant, in the shadows of the Apartheid Wall, Karmen reveals the suffocation of Palestinian life in the city.



“We constructed this building back in 1984. It was in a good area of the city. We opened a restaurant on the ground floor and it was always full. People had to make reservation to find a place to sit.”






***image2***I am Amar al Wahsh, from Jeeb el Theeb. My wife and I have three children. I was living in Jordan until 1996, when I returned back to my family village, to be with my relatives, my brothers. The situation was very difficult and complicated for me when I came back. I was working as a laborer but this was interrupted. In 1999, I married and lived in a room at my brother’s house until I built a house and moved. This took me five years; only 4 months ago I finished the house and moved with my wife and children. All the money I have made in the past five years I put in the house.

The vast and imposing terminal built by Occupation Forces at Qalandiya serves as one of the key checkpoints in the control of Palestinian movement. It opened in December 2005 causing misery, frustration, and most of all humiliation, for the thousands of Palestinians who pass it every day for work, education, basic services and visiting family. A cross section of Palestinians forced to use the terminal, recounted their experiences and explained how the intensifying Occupation is making life unbearable.




My name is Muhamed Khaled Abdallah Tari Qandeel from Beit Surik. I’m 42 years old and my family comprises 14 people, the eldest of my children being 22 years old and the youngest 5 years.




When we met Ibrahim Rabaya, 45, from Irtas, he insisted that first of all we had to mention in his testimony that he would never give up his land, which has been stolen by the Occupation`s confiscation policies. “They have seized my land by force!" – he repeated throughout the entire meeting to assure us that he and his family never gave up the land despite all the temptations and threats they received from the Occupation.




***image2***Aisha is an old woman in her 70’s. Her sharp face bears out the history of Palestine and Palestinians, from disaster to resistance. When you see her you are reminded of a Roman olive tree tied to the land with its roots deep into the soil. She talks with determination and conviction, recounting her community’s struggle against the Apartheid Wall and Occupation.




Fakhri abid al-aziz Kadeeh: “The Wall has destroyed my life”



Fakhri, from Shuqba, is a Palestinian Farmer. As every farmer following years of tradition in this region, he depends on two seasons of production. Planting and harvesting during the winter and summer ensures enough produce and income to live. In winter, Fakhri depends largely on figs, and in the summer olives. The Apartheid Wall has devastated this cycle and jeopardized Fakhri’s - as well as his community’s - very existence on their own land. Here he tells his story …






"My name is Mohammed Abed El- Hafeth Samarra. I am 27 years old and live in Brukim, a small village to the west of Salfit district. I have two children; Abed El-Hafeth and Salma. I left school when I was 13 because of the bad situation that my family faced. I became an apprentice in construction with a professional builder in the village. I worked from the morning in to the evening for 20 Shekels a day. I persevered with the work wishing that my children would not have to work under such condition. After 6 months I was able to work alone and I worked in the 1948 areas.

The Apartheid Wall is threatening to make Hussein Diab a refugee for the second time in his life. In 1948 his family was forced to flee their home and become refugees, ending up in the village of Al Burj in the southwestern tip of the Hebron district. Today, this village of 2,500 Palestinians is being devastated by the Wall as the Occupation enforces its overall project of expulsion of the Palestinian people. Hussein speaks openly about how the Wall has stolen his land and seeks to turn his village into a prison.




Sheikh Nawaf Sarhan, school director in Arab Ramadin village, speaks candidly about the impact of the Apartheid Wall project in his village. Arab Ramadin, in South Hebron is the home of 3200 people who know that the Occupation is planning to destroy their lives and future. The full devastation will become unraveled as the Occupation’s final path of the Wall becomes apparent.




***image2***At the height of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa in the 1980s the call of the song “Senzeni Na – What Have We Done” was a common expression of exasperation at the cruelty and brutality of the apartheid regime. Across Palestine, the same words are uttered once again as the Occupation seeks to impose a final solution of apartheid, ghettoization and imprisonment upon the Palestinian people.




***image2***In September 2002, when the farmers in Jayyus found some hand written papers affixed onto their trees, they thought that these must be something that belongs somewhere else. Then, a few weeks later, they started to see bulldozers come to cut down their olive trees and destroy the land. A few months after that, the Wall started to be erected. One year later, they found that they could only get access to their land through a military gate, and only with conditional permits.

***image2***Last Friday I went to visit my family land behind the Wall, and to pick some olives for eating. During the way I had to wait for the gate to open, then wait to be checked and to go ahead. Everything after one year of building the Wall becomes a routine, but nothing is normal. More than 15,000 trees died behind the Wall in this area. More than 200 farmers lost their land and work. The amount of production reduced to the half in the past year. The time to reach land increased at least three times, and similarly for the distances. Which of these results looks normal?

***image2***Mohamed Lahrub, 70 years of age, from the village of Deir Samit, works in agricultural and farming, and says:




***image2***My name is Rasmi Sweity from the village of Beit Awa, the wage earner for a family of 10 with 8 children, as well as for my mother and father.



This Apartheid Wall which is being built by the Occupation steels land and property, and has taken all of my lands and leaves me nothing, not for my brothers nor for my family.



This is the land that we live off of, our main source of income and we do not have another source. Where do we go? They expelled us one time (1948), and a second time (1967), and this is the third, and where do we go..








Mahmoud Hamamreh is from Husan village located in Bethlehem District. If the Wall is completed in this area, Husan will be completely encircled in a ghetto with Nahhalin and Battir villages. The Apartheid Wall runs directly into Mahmoud's house and continues on the other side, in a way, making his house a part of the Wall.



Mahmoud says:



***image2***My name is Mahmoud Ahmad Mohammed Hamamreh, I am from Husan village, my home is located in the south part of the village opposite Nahhalin village.








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