Over the past year, Stop the Wall has been working with groups of youth to develop creative means of resisting the Wall and settlements, supporting activities in the Bethlehem and most in the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan. The village is in the Salfit district, just north of the “Ariel Finger” settlements of Barqan, Qiryat Netafim and Revava. This settlement bloc cuts deep into the West Bank and Qarawat Bani Hassan, as well as the other villages along the Ariel Finger, have been hard hit by settlement expansion and settler attacks.

 Mahmoud Baker has been involved in the voluntary work in the village, and described how it began:
"The training began in Jenin, as a youth conference. A lot of youth from the West Bank, from all the districts. It planted in us the idea of voluntary work, the actions of the Campaign and its support of resistance. There were a lot of youth who didn’t know about the Campaign, and even about the Wall. We began from there.

Our first thing was before Qarawa. after the conference, in a village near Bethlehem called Um Salamona with nearly everyone that was in the conference in Jenin […] we planted a mountain that was threatened with confiscation, and it was wasn’t confiscated after it was planted and cleaned up.

After that we began in Qarawa. When the people see the youth going out, from the whole West Bank [that] we are gathering and going to work in village, a village that is not our village, with a particular goal, many youth loved the idea, to give something to their country. More people began joining little by little […] now we are about 200 youth ready for work.

About a year ago, settlers began to come down to the spring called ‘Ayn al Muwafth. The settlers are very close to it. We heard this news, as volunteers with the Stop the Wall Campaign, and went to the spring. The area and the spring are very old, and the settlers said, 'no one [is allowed] to get near this spring or use it. We want to take it and turn it into a park [for the settlers]'

After discussions between the council of Qarawa and the settlement, the settlers made a decision, with the army, to open a park for settlers and Palestinians. Of course, we refused, as a group of youth from the Campaign, and as a village, and the village refused too.

We went down and began the first day of voluntary work. We cleaned the spring and re-planted it. Work continued for two months, four days a month on Fridays. We prepared to clean the spring, that was a goal […] to fix it up so the village could use it, get to it and plant it as well, in order to take advantage of the spring. But in Qarawa there was another goal, because the village is very afraid […] So our goal was also to get the village to participate in the voluntary work, and in this we succeeded. Also, we forced the government to come down to the spring, and to open and pave the road. This so that people could get to the spring, as it is a bit far from the village, by car."

During their activities, volunteers faced the possibility of being attacked by settlers. Mahmoud explained that,

"Any shepherd who tries to go down to the well, of course every shepherd and the sheep he has, the settlers go down and attack him. They steal the sheep, and they steal the goats.

Something else that happened to us during the voluntary work. The settlers would come and see if there was anything, and then leave. One day, the settlers left and two came, seeing how things were, and then they came back with twenty kids, and they left them sitting between us, so that we would assault or start something with them to create an excuse for so [they could say] “they attacked us” and bring the army. But we dealt with this carefully […] they sat for a half hour, an hour, and saw that we completed our work. Our goal was to clean the area so we finished."

After two months of work, volunteers finished work on the spring.
"The situation was great, it became ready for use and for pleasure. But a month ago the army came and bulldozed the road, destroyed the well again […] There is a spring opposite of the ‘Ayn al Muwafth, where plastic structures, for farming, belonging to one of the farmers from the village. It was called ‘Ayn Abu ‘Amar. The plastic structures have been demolished and [the spring] confiscated. Palestinians and farmers were prohibited from reaching it.

So now, we are getting the second activity ready in Qarawat Bani Hassan, for the 24th of December, to renew the sprit and renew the resistance of the people of the village, and to let them go back to and plant around the spring."


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