Newsletter n°91

    May 1, 2015


              Before the Quake


    Mount Zion, coming from Zion Gate in the Old City. A fork on the way : if you take left, you get to David’s Tomb (picture above), if you take right, to the Church of the Dormition.


    Balata Camp, Nablus. The largest refugee camp in the West Bank. 30,000 people live on an area barely 0.25 square kilometer. Up until 2007, it was a stronghold of left-wing armed militants. 5,000 pupils study in its UNRWA schools. Its walls are covered with posters of the “shahids” (martyrs).



    What does the future hold in store when you are a teenager in Balata Camp ?





    Balata Camp, other faces. Studying Martin Luther King’s thoughts and principles. But at the gate of the camp, on the road from Ramallah to Nablus, boys have been busy stopping cars, throwing bricks and burning tires, right across Jacob’s Well and its Christian Church… sending a message of hopelessness and anger to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah…







    Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, overlooking the Old City, April 25, 2015. Three days of rioting when the news came that the son of a neighbour, Muhammad Abu Ghanem, who works at the Chapel of the Ascension, had been shot dead by soldiers after waving a meat-cleaver at them.


    Stuck between the cemetery with the grave-diggers and the street… Where to go ?   


    At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the Gethsemane Garden, along the Cedron Valley, and Absalom’s Grave, right underneath the sealed Golden Gate, to the left of the Lions’ Gate.

    How hard is it, when you’re twelve, thirteen, not to throw rocks with the others ?


    When you ride a collective taxi on the road from Ramallah to Jenin, this is all you see, all down the road, all that strikes you : watchtowers and miradors, of all shapes and forms.

    Reminding you of General Ariel Sharon’s warning before the Knesset, in May 2003 : Kibush zeh Kibush !

    “You may not like to hear it, but I am telling you that we must end the Occupation. Whether you like the word or not, Occupation is Occupation !


    At the end of the day, after more barriers of fire on the way, what do you find, before the Qalandiya Gate to Jerusalem?

    More miradors, and more walls.


    This down below is the gate to the heart of At-Tur (the Mount of Olives district). Except it never was a “gate”, blocked by such concrete blocks, until April 27, 2015. Ibrahim Abu el Hawa, probably the most respected of all At-Tur elders, here standing between the blocks, is asking : “When some haredim, in Mea Shearim, make trouble for the police, do they also lock all the inhabitants of Mea Shearim behind such blocks ? Thus preventing ambulances, fire department vehicles to get access ?  Of course, they don’t ! What else is this, but collective punishment ? Don’t we have old people here, who can’t walk, and need cars to take them places ?”




    In fifteen years since the Second Intifada, the Mount of Olives had always kept its peace. This changed in the fall of 2014, after the war in Gaza, and the massive arrests of more than 500 in the West Bank, following the kidnapping (and murder) of three Israeli teenagers, Yaakov Naftali, 16, Gilad Shaer, 16, Eyal Yifrah, 19, and the burning alive of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16.

    Beware now, from Jenin to Hebron, Palestine is burning. Even these parts of Palestine that had managed to escape the turmoil of the Second Intifada (2000-2005). Is the Third Intifada coming ? Nobody wants it, but it can happen any time now, if soldiers keep shooting teenagers dead, if more martyrs are created this way.

    There is a deep crack now, overlooking Jerusalem. I have seen the expression on Ali Said Abu Ghanem’s face, 16, when he was being taken down to his last abode, his lips and eyelids partly opened. It was an expression of utter shock and disbelief. In the last second of his short life, he did not understand what was happening to him.

    Around him, dozens of young men had been chanting “By the spirit, by the blood, we are with the shahid!”

    If this is happening now on the Mount of Olives, think of what is rising in the squalid refugee camps, from Jenin to Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron… Just how long can people stand it without any sign of a change coming?

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