While I was waiting for Gabe from Christian Peacemaker Teams to come and meet me at Bab a-Zowiya in Hebron and walk me back to the CPT apartment (which I don’t think I’ve visited since 2003 or thereabouts), who should greet me but Hisham Sharabati, one of the folks I’d been hoping to meet with in Hebron, whom I also hadn’t seen since I interviewed him back in 2003! When Gabe arrived, Hisham told him about a memorial for Hashem Abu Maria from the nearby village of Beit Ummar who had been killed during a demonstration in July or August. Since it was to take place at 2 p.m., Hisham and I agreed to meet there and go for coffee afterwards.
Back at the apartment, I was introduced to the current team members, none of whom I had met before: Gabriel from Brazil, Inge from Sweden, Joanne from the US, and Yusuf, who is, I think, from el-Khalil (Hebron). They had saved supper for me, which was a lovely piece of fish and some veggies, and I stayed up and chatted for a while, then worked on my computer, appreciating being able to use the team’s wifi to call Michael and catch up on my email.
I decided not to try to get up in time for the morning “school run” (keeping an eye on students arriving at Kurtoba School who have to pass the entrance to the Beit Hadassa settlement on their way, to make sure they aren’t harassed by settlers) on my first morning, since team members were leaving for that at twenty to seven. I was going to go on the noontime run, but then decided to join Inge and Yusuf checking out reports that a checkpoint near the Ibrahimi mosque was being moved several metres into the suq, making it really difficult for people needing to bring stuff into the suq, as the usual unloading places would now be on the mosque side of the barrier.
We hung around there for a little while, and when I turned around after taking some pictures, I couldn’t see the folks I’d come with. My paranoia kicked in, and I immediately assumed that they’d forgotten I was with them and gone back to the apartment without me. I later found out that they’d stepped into a shop to speak with someone, and when they came out, they didn’t see me and assumed I’d gone back on my own. . . .
In any case, I didn’t see them, and, feeling rather abandoned, I was at least pleased to realize that I had noted enough landmarks on our way to the mosque to find my way almost all the way back. When I got really close and became confused as to which way to turn, a juice salesman said “CBD?” so I asked him which way to the apartment and he pointed me in the right direction–I was just about a block away, but needed to make a hard left at his cart, at which point a spray-painted sign in Hebrew pointed to “tarnegolim” (roosters), which I assumed meant the chicken market, where the apartment is. An arrow pointing in the opposite direction, labeled “arayot” (lions) remained a mystery until one of the CPTers later suggested that these denoted either nicknames of army units or how the soldiers referred to the various quarters of the old city.
Anyway, I got back and worked on my blog while waiting to be picked up by Gabe and Joanne, who also were planning to attend the memorial. In another unfortunate misunderstanding, though, they had assumed I would find my own way there and they had gone there directly from their noon school run without returning to the apartment. However, the others didn’t know this, so I stuck around the apartment until Gabe called to say they were waiting for me by “the stadium.” I had no idea where this was, but was told to catch a cab from Bab a-Zowiya to the “al-Hussein School.”
Meanwhile, I’d learned that although my Jawal SIM allowed my phone to be called, any attempt to make an outgoing call resulted in a long message in Arabic from the provider. After a couple of vain tries to call Nafez’s Jawal number from my phone (the woman who answered his office land-line said he wasn’t in Hebron that day), I handed my phone to Yusuf, who listened to the message and explained that I needed to go to the Jawal office to register and activate the phone! (Something that was not required in 2012, when I just picked up a Jawal SIM from a street vender, popped it in my otherwise-Orange phone, and bingo…). Actually, he thought I could do this at any dealer that sold Jawal phone cards, so I decided to do this on my way to the memorial, since I was already hopelessly late, figuring I could catch Hisham (who wasn’t answering his phone) at the end.
The first phone-card dealer past Bab a-Zawiya hadn’t a clue, but his English-speaking assistant said, “You need to go to the Jawal [customer service] office; just up here” and led the way, and left me off at this ultra-modern and fortunately not busy office about a block up the street. He first took a number for me, and I discovered that there was only one person ahead of me. So far, so good. My agent spoke good English, and I explained the situation. She took my (Canadian) passport number–I wonder what would have happened if I’d given her my Israeli one . . .–, asked what I was doing there (“Visiting friends”–which was true), and had I had a previous Jawal SIM card (“Yes” – but that one wasn’t registered, as far as I recall, so I don’t understand how they’d know this ), and checked my balance, which was still the 10 NIS I’d paid for. She also told me how much I’d be charged per minute (60 ag) and per text (22 ag) – good to know, and considerably cheaper that what I was apparently paying for my Orange usage — though it turns out I hardly had occasion to use the Jawal, as Orange and other Israeli coverage is much greater in the West Bank than on my previous visit (and Nafez has Jawal in East Jerusalem, where it didn’t used to function . . .).
This whole process took 10 or 15 minutes, and then I continued up the street, periodically asking directions to the el-Hussein School, until one woman simply hailed a cab and bundled me in (turned out only to charge 2.5 NIS – less than a dollar). By the time I got there, it was well after three, and the stadium (where I thought the memorial was being held) was deserted except for a few boys kicking around a soccer ball. Luckily, the school door was open and the first person I saw spoke English and showed me where the memorial was still in progress – in a little building behind the main school. Just as well I was late since there were many speeches, all in Arabic way over my head, although I apparently missed some beautiful singing by a young boy with a lovely voice. I stood at the back at first, but then I spotted Gabe and Joanne, and took a seat near them. Then I saw Hisham, so we connected, and afterwards drove with a relative of his to a restaurant where they drank mint lemonade and I tried the cappuccino with ground up nuts (?! I think chestnuts – a little sweet, but very tasty), and I ended up recording a fairly long interview with Hisham. I won’t go into details here [let me know if you’d like a transcript] but he does have strong feelings about normalization, and condemns the sort of work done by Sindayanna as that; but Tent of Nations, because they’re resisting being displaced. I wonder what he’d say about Comet-ME* (I could ask him on Facebook!). Anyhow, I’m not so sure about the distinction, but as Hisham said, nothing is totally black or white, and sometimes they change. He spoke with great feeling about how Israelis always say the Palestinians or Arabs want to throw the Jews into the sea, but the Jews already threw the Palestinians into the sea in ’48, when many escaped to Lebanon and Gaza by boat! One thing he suggested is that I find out more about Tarabut, which he described as a joint political organization of Palestinians and Israelis, and said that the folks at the Alternative Information Center (AIC) were the best place to start. Unfortunately, it turned out that AIC closed early that day (must have cancelled this week’s AIC Cafe) and wouldn’t be open in Beit Sahour for the next couple of days, so I wasn’t able to visit after all. Also Mikado is away.
Joanne stood part way up the steps to the school, while I stationed myself about half a block up the street. There was also someone from TIPH to keep Joanne company. One thing I noticed was that cars with yellow plates (i.e., Israeli) would go zooming by really, really fast, while those with PA-issued plates tended to go quite slowly when they were near where the kids were walking. I’m glad I asked to wear a CPT hat; I’m pretty sure some of the boys in the market yesterday thought I was a settler. Large m of kids passing by now. Except for some of the very smallest, the kids are unaccompanied by adults. For the third or fourth time, a white minivan with “South Hebron Hills Development Authority” printed on the side in Hebrew zoomed by–usually empty (once it had a couple of kids in it). I wonder what kind of development it refers to….
My visit to the Tent of Nations was very satisfying. I’m glad I went. It came with such high recommendations that I finally decided, it’s on my way to Bethlehem. It was a longish walk from the highway, two or three km at least, in the hot sun–yesterday was a scorcher, with temperatures around 30 C forecast for Jerusalem. Goodness knows how hot it was out in the middle of nowhere, on the road between Hebron and Bethlehem. Happily my three-stage trip from Hebron to Jerusalem didn’t end up costing more than my bus ride directly between the two cities – 20 NIS total (6, 6, and 8). The bus driver, however, wasn’t familiar with the stop, so I had an extra km or so to walk just to get to the right turnoff. I was really panicking about my Orange credit running out–turns out that Nafez was the only person for whom I only had a Jawal number, and everyone else was reachable by Orange! **
I had a good feeling about Tent of Nations, and recorded a shortish interview with Daoud. [let me know if you’d like a transcript]. He explained that his grandfather had bought the land outside of Bethlehem, and unlike the traditional way, he chose not to live in town and go out to farm, but chose to live on the land in habitable caves there. In fact two generations were raised in those caves. Daoud was saying how comfortable this was – cool in the summer, warm in the winter. Now, in fact, they’re using volunteer labour from all over the world to clean out the caves, because they can’t get building permits, even for tents, so all of their buildings have demolition orders pending. Also the army uprooted hundreds of trees last spring, contending that they are not on the part of the land owned by the family (whose court challenge to establish ownership has dragged on since the 90s, despite title deeds from Turkish, British, and Jordanian authorities). Daoud’s brother, Daher, picking figs
I arrived at Bethlehem University after the main presentation. Mazin Qumsiyeh was in the midst of asking the speaker his views on BDS when I arrived. As he later explained, his intention was to make it easier for students to speak up, George N Rishmawi of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochment (PCR.ps), left, with Mazin Qumsiyeh (qumsiyeh.org)
- as they’re sometimes intimidated by guest speakers and keep their views to themselves. They certainly rose to the occasion! I didn’t turn on my voice recorder immediately, but did record the last half hour of the QA period, including my comments at the end, and those of a prof from Bath, UK , who turns out to be a friend of Mazin Qumsiyeh (who joined George N and me and a couple other folks for cold drinks and a chat after the talk) and can send it to whoever’s interested) – an interesting back-and-forth between some quite critical students and the guest speaker, a representative of the European Union supposedly speaking about the role of the EU in bringing about a peaceful outcome in Is/Pal, but clearly an apologist for official Israel (going on and on about the need to “build trust” . . . – I mean where was he during the Oslo process?!)
Back to Danielle’s in Jerusalem for a wash and a change of clothes, then I re-packed a bit and headed out. I arrived at Elana and David’s in Jaffa a bit after 10 pm, but somehow managed not to say goodnight to my night-owl hosts until close to 11:30, so by the time hit the pillow it was at least 12, and I needed to get up at 5:20 am! I jumped out of bed when I heard a beep–went to the washroom, got dressed, brushed my teeth, and only then checked my clock It was just 3-something! So I re-set the alarm for 5:30, since I was already dressed. I did manage to get the 18 bus to the train station (heading for the Negev and my second visit that week to the South Hebron Hills) at right about a quarter to six, and got to the train station a half hour early.
final installment coming soon
* Comet-ME.org a joint Is/Pal environmentally friendly energy and clean water group described in the next installment
** I gave my Jawal SIM card to the folks at Comet-ME; they’re much more likely to have use for it than I am, so they can get a lot of texts (or a few phone minutes) out of it. Hopefully the registration thing doesn’t get them in trouble.