Update # 4 from Doug Whitmore who is serving as an Ecumenical
Accompanier for the World Council of Churches in Palestine. All of the
incidents below take place in territory declared by international law
to belong to the Palestinians.
Our life here is full of ups and downs. Yesterday was up but not
today. Tzegha and I went to Nablus today by taxi because it's a
holiday and we were told minivans were not running regularly. No
problem walking through the checkpoint into Nablus and catching a taxi
to Project Hope. A well-spoken Palestinian man described how they
teach in the refugee camps (four) in the afternoons because regular
school ends at 1:00. The Project teams a local person with an
international volunteer to teach a subject they know. Volunteers come
for various months.
Then we were given a tour of the Old City part of Nablus by a
very nice young man who had been to Germany and France. He showed us a
lot of destruction caused by Israeli jet bombers, bulldozers and tanks
in a 22-day incursion in 2002. Collective punishment of towns and
cities is a common tactic used by the Israeli military. Many soap
factories in buildings 300 to 900 years old were destroyed and
damaged. After a 45-minute look we took a cab to UNOCHA (United
Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).
Did I mention that virtually all of the attack jets, helicopters,
tanks and bulldozers used in attacks on civilian populations are
provided by the United States government? All in the name of fighting
a few men labeled as terrorists.
Back to UNOCHA-- the Nablus office is run by a youngish Swedish
woman and two Palestinian men who keep track of the many human rights
issues in militarily occupied northern West Bank. They are in touch
with Israeli Army liaison officers and can contact higher officers in
emergencies. But many times when problems are brought up, the office
is told "we're working on it."
After another gloomy assessment of the human rights situation here
we (two from Jayyous and two from Tukarem) walked down a hill many
blocks long to a bus area. This city began in a valley 6,000 years ago
and has expanded up 12 or 15 huge hillsides ever since.
Leaving on the bus we were stopped at the checkpoint and the
young men got off to walk through a metal detector and have ID
checked. A ways out of town we stopped at a "flying checkpoint" where
a soldier (always carrying M-16 Automatic rifles) got on and checked
IDs of an EA and a Palestinian man. Then several more miles down the
road we passed a checkpoint in a short line but then observed a line of
cars and trucks at least two miles long approaching Nablus. The
soldiers were checking a vehicle about every 15 seconds and I know most
people spent at least two hours creeping along. Depressing.
At Tukarem we two switched to a taxi for Jayyous and several miles
later found ourselves at the rear of another checkpoint line about a
mile long. Without consulting us the driver swung into the opposite
lane and passed the whole waiting line to the chagrin of the other
drivers. Probably using us internationals as VIPs and an excuse. We
easily passed the soldiers but felt really guilty and not up to
stopping and observing the process we had passed.
Left us feeling "bummed out."
The guilt is fading a little. I found out after writing you that
the first and worst checkpoint was fixed and monitored by the two
Tukarem EAs.They've had rifles pointed at them there and had to open
their vests to show they carried no weapons. That is a hardcore
Today three people from Swedish humanitarian law NGOs (non-governmental organizations) came to visit.
I took them to the roof of the municipality to view the surrounding
hills and villages and fence and agricultural gates. After lunch we
visited the South Gate to show them how the soldiers operate, and the
sheep and goat herds waiting to cross with shepherds.
A few minutes ago we received a phone call that Israeli soldiers
were in the village. Dieter, visiting, and the three of us put on our
coats and vests and went up the street toward the center of town. We
stopped in front of a well-lighted shop and here came a covered jeep
full of four or five soldiers. They stopped and got out with their
M-16s and a couple of them went into the shop. As they came out Jenny
asked them what they were doing there. The leader muttered "my job."
Then the jeep proceeded to tear around town in kind of a random
Young men appeared with good-sized rocks in their hands and threw
them half a block down the street toward the stopped jeep. We EAs
hurried to get away from the young men as we knew the soldiers might
fire at them. At one point when we couldn't see the jeep we heard a
loud shot. This went on for fifteen or twenty minutes and then we
returned to our house.
Overall it appeared the soldiers were just chasing around and
going after young men who happened to be out. That provoked other
young men to throw stones at the jeep and soldiers. It seemed rather
pointless but dangerous.
My turn to do dishes. Got to go.
I'm happy that our BUMC (Broadway United Methodist Church) people
are interested. Hope to be able to relate some of the many sad and
maddening stories I hear from Palestinians about how their lives have
been ruined by the settlement land grabs and associated fences and
walls. Then the permit systems that further steal their livelihoods.
Then all the men in prison for resisting, many in relatively small ways.
Today, Friday, we visited an archeological site not too far from
Nablus that dates to 1200 BCE. Most of the ruins are Roman from about
time of Jesus.
I took many pictures of an amphitheater in fairly good condition
that would have seated at least 500, a large square with stone pavement
and columns, some of which are lying on their sides. Also what might
have been a small temple and other walls and partial buildings.
Basically, a large hilltop surrounded by olive trees and natural
vegetation with half a dozen areas of granite and limestone ruins
without any visible excavations. Probably there is another era under
some of these. Jenny, EA from Switzerland, and I were the only people
there and took photos and sat in the sun and listened to the birds. The
road down the other side from our approach was lined with about 15
still standing. A tour bus was driving up the road as we left about
11:00. This was a rare uncommercialized archaeological site in my
Then a couple of nice Palestinian men in an older SUV picked us
up on a dirt road and took us most of the way to Jit. We did have to
walk up a long asphalt road to the village, where we visited the family
of Zacharias, a Palestinian working for Rabbis for Human Rights. His
three younger brothers, parents and wife were there and served us
Arabic coffee, tea, cookies and fruit. He told us about his personal
efforts besides working
for the Rabbi group. One was connecting "From Table to Table," an
Israeli peace food organization with Palestinians from Gaza in Tel Aviv
hospitals. Here a hospital patient is fed by his family and friends
because the hospitals just provide treatment and paying commercially
for food to be brought in is expensive. Besides this, Zacharias took a
day off to escort two deaf Palestinian boys to a hospital in Tel Aviv
to see if anything could be done for them because without such an
approved escort virtually no Palestinians are allowed to travel to
Israel. His moderate salary is spread around his extended family.
Time for a late lunch of pita and hummus.
10:00 Sat AM here. We went to the Falamya Gate at 5:30 but nothing
unusual so arrived back here about 7:30 and went back to bed for 2
hours. Now drinking coffee and trying to get fired up for the day.
Yesterday after I wrote we received a phone call at 4:00 that
soldiers were in the village. So Jenny and I put on our vests and
headed through town toward the South Gate. Tzegha in Jerusalem for day
off. Anyway we found about six army vehicles on the south edge though
two of them were driving through the town. The other soldiers were
roaming up and down the hillsides of a valley with a road running
through it. Village houses are on
the hilltops on both sides. They seemed to be looking for something
and I heard one of them say something about weapons so I guess someone
told them some were down there. The army vehicles were parked at the
top in front of a family’s house with another family outside nearby
Soldiers searched among the olive trees and rocks and cacti for an
hour. The two other vehicles were now parked a block away where we
could see them.
Boys and young men of the village were positioning themselves to
throw rocks at those two armored jeeps. In the growing darkness a
humvee drove down the valley road with its searchlight playing on the
hillsides. Occasional rifle fire from the vicinity of the rock
throwers signaled they had begun.
Finally after dark the search was halted and all the vehicles drove
through town on their way back to the gate and their unseen base. We
found out later at our house that one boy had been hit in the legs with
one or two rubber-coated bullets. We'll try to visit that family today
as that young man will probably receive a prison sentence of two or two
and a half years.
(Later)…regarding the young man who was shot in the leg--we just
returned from visiting his family. He was lucky the bullet passed
through near his calf and he will come home from hospital tomorrow.
His father said he won't have charges against him. I'm not sure if
that is because he's only 14 or if he made it home and the soldiers
didn't catch him. Sometimes language problems make it hard to
Jenny and I went to Qalqilya terminal at 3:30 AM and stayed until
7:00. It was cold--and painful to see how long it takes for, I
estimate, 3,000 people to pass through in 3 hours. The Palestinians
seem fairly good natured about it, but know they don't like it.
Jenny went to Tel Aviv and Tzegha and I walked to Falamya Village
where a nice family had us in for tea. That town of 650 has many
greenhouses and seems fairly prosperous compared to Jayyous. Time to
go visit the boy who was shot and is home now.