Diary from a recent visit to Bethlehem

Diary of events in Bethlehem – May 11th – June 3rd 2014

The people I stay with were pleased to see me ‘as I had brought the water.’!! It had been off for 21 days and they were very short, but it came on as I arrived.
Everyone was excited about the coming visit of the Pope, and the day I arrived, the water came on, so they were all pleased that he was coming to Deheisheh Camp….which was probably why the water was turned on, as the authorities didn’t want demonstrations because there was no water!

Day 1. Soldiers came into the camp at night and arrested some people, and trashed the homes of the ones they were looking for. Every time someone is arrested, it is always at night that they come, and they destroy a lot of the property and furniture, and do structural damage while they search.

2. An old man was made to destroy his well, on his own land, which had been there for all of his life, and the water was used for his family and animals. The settlers said they needed the water.

3 Settlers are writing abusive graffiti on walls and cars, and churches : eg. ‘ Kill the Pope,’ and other things much worse.

4.In Wadi Fouqeen there was an invasion of settlers and their families into a new playground which the villages had made for their children as there was nowhere else for the m to play. The land belonged to the Palestinians who lived in the village. The settlers came with their children and made the locals leave and they made picnics and BBQs. They carried guns and threatened the Palestinians with them until they left the area.

5.There was shooting, tear gas, and firing of rubber bullets into the University of Abu Dis when the students were doing their final examinations. Hala, the daughter of the family I was staying with, was stuck and could not leave until later as the area was closed. Hala fainted from the effects of the gas. She was doing exams that day for her finals of the 4 year radiography course.

6. On the 15th May, it was the anniversary of the NAKBAR, catastrophe day…re 1948, when Palestinians lost their country. There were some silent demonstrations. 2 boys were killed, shot dead in Ramallah. They were walking, unarmed, and as they crossed a space near some soldiers they were shot dead. ( They were not together ) one boy was 16 and the other 17. One shot in the back and one in the chest. Both died instantly.

7. 2 houses were demolished, one was the ‘Tent of ALL Nations, and the 1500 olive trees on their land were destroyed also. The other was a home for Bedouins who lived in the hills just past Ma’ale Adumin.

8. All 5000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons went on hunger strike in support of the prisoners who have been on remand in prison without charges against them, some for months and some for years. Some have been fasting since April and about 70 are in Israeli hospitals.

9 Many problems with settlers in the Old City of Jerusalem. Many are in the compound of the Al Axar mosque, and want to take a lot of the land to build the 3rd temple. Palestinians have been injured and the army have prevented many from going there to pray, even on Fridays.

10. A trader in the Bethlehem market was arrested by 2 Israelis dressed in Arabic style clothes. Not sure why…not that they have to have a reason!

11. Towards the end of my stay, the water was getting short again. I was worried as I didn’t have enough money left to buy another tank. HOWEVER, it came on again on the day I left!

12. It was announced that Israel wants to get UN to abolish UNWRA who help the refugees, from 1948 and 1967, and their descendants. There were about 750,000 in 1948, and now there are about 6 -7 million a lot of whom are abroad. They give food and education in their schools. This would cause massive unemployment as the employees in UN establishments would lose their jobs.

13. Graffiti is becoming a serious problem. The settlers are writing on walls, houses and cars. Very abusive things, and racist statements, ‘Kill the Pope’ ‘Arabs are thieves,’ ‘Shut the Mosques,’ Catholics are idolaters,’ Some of their slogans are unrepeatable.

14. A lot of land was being taken in AL Walaja, ( Bethlehem area,) and walls were being built and settlers houses. They build covers on some of the roads to prevent stones being thrown onto cars. The land is becoming so ugly.

The Zionist claim that ‘They made the desert bloom’ is ridiculous, as the land will become an ugly grey desert, with all the walls and ugly structures build there. Over a million trees have been destroyed, so the land may become a desert !

The army protect the settlers. They watch when the settlers attack shepherds looking after their animals. They never arrest them when they scratch obscenities on cars with keys, and slash tyres. They are above the law! The worse ones are the Americans.

I think the Palestinians are very courageous. They have so many things to put up with, and roads are built for settlers that Palestinians are not allowed to drive on. There are hundreds of checkpoints inside the West Bank, so every journey takes hours instead of 20 minutes. They have ‘SUMOUD’ which is a word meaning steadfastness. I fear for the children who are growing up with this oppressive regime, and have not known what it is to be free to go to the seaside, or swimming pools, and football matches etc.



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