August 6, 2009 - Nonviolent activists need your help

Dear friends,
I’ve been back from Palestine almost a month now while I’m enjoying my comfortable life, the village of Bil’in, which has been mounting inspiring, creative and nonviolent protests weekly since January 2005, has become the target of numerous nighttime raids by the Israeli military. These raids terrorize the residents and arrest nonviolent activists, including children. At this point almost 2 dozen men and boys are in jail and their families are extremely concerned for their well being. (Palestinians detainees are routinely tortured.)

Here is a link to the Friends of Freedom and Justice - Bilin website with more information:
Attempts to criminalize the leadership of non-violent protests have been curbed in the past with the help of an outpouring of support from people committed to justice from all over the world. If you feel inclined, please send letters and money to support these amazing, inspiring and admirable people.



The Popular committee of Bil’in is in desperate need for legal funds in order to pay legal fees and Bail. Please donate to the Bil’in legal fund by paypal click
If you would like to make a tax deductible donation in the US or Canada contact:

Write or call:
Senator Dianne Feinstein
U.S. Senate
Washington DC 20510
To email you need to go to the website:

Senator Barbara Boxer
U.S. Senate
Washington DC 20510
To email you need to go to the website:

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
U.S. Congress
Washington DC 20515
To email you need to go to the website:

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
State Department Phone: 1-202-647-5150

Akiva Tor
Consulate General of Israel in San Francisco
456 Montgomery Street Suite #2100
San Francisco, CA 94104
Telephone: (415) 844-7501

Sample letter:
I am extremely troubled about the recent arrests and imprisonments of nonviolent activists from the West Bank village of Bil’in including Mr. Mohammad Khatib, Mr. Adib Abu Rahme and, to my absolute dismay, many children.

For almost 5 years the village of Bil’in has organized, with the participation and support of Israelis and internationals, peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations against the so-called security fence which separates them from 60% of their agricultural lands. These demonstrations are harshly suppressed by Israeli army, resulting in many casualties, sometimes critical ones such as the cases of Tristan Anderson (suffering critical brain injuries) and Basem Abu Rahma (killed).

The only wish of Bil’in inhabitants is to gain back the right to live and work on their lands in peace. In fact, the Israeli Supreme court ruled on 4 September 2007 that the current route of the wall in Bil'in was illegal and needs to be dismantled; the ruling however has not been implemented.
Israeli law protects the right to demonstrate peacefully. Mr. Khatib, and Mr. Rahme in particular are well known for their commitment to the struggle for peace through non-violent means and for their willingness to work in partnership with Israelis.

I ask you to do all in your power to ensure that Mr. Khatib, and Mr. Rahme and all those arrested be allowed to return to their families without further delay and that their names be cleared of all accusations.

July 10, 2009 - Returning home

Dear Friends,
Before leaving Palestine I visited my friend and FODI partner, Deeb one last time. I always feel a bit sheepish when I leave him to go to Jerusalem as I know it is forbidden to him. But he told me that he doesn't care anymore. That he has chosen to create a good life with what he has available to him. And I saw that he had. He has cultivated a beautiful garden where he spends much time and from which he derives immense pleasure. He spends his time visiting friends in the village and with his precious children, Sonja, Feraz and Tariq. And he has become a devout Muslim, going to the mosque to pray 4 or 5 times a day. He told me that he is happy.

During this conversation I brought up the idea that traveling is difficult anyway, having to go through the Qalandia Checkpoint. His serenity vanished and he shouted, "How can they speak of peace when they have such places!" I totally understood what he meant. So I've posted some more pictures of Qalandia and a video. I hope I captured the outrageous, intolerable travesty of it.

I am home now and will not be posting again until I return once again to Palestine. When I do return I can only hope that it will be under better circumstances. Inshallah. Thank you for letting me share my journey with you.


July 3, 2009 - Demo at Azzun Atma

Dear Friends,
At the demonstration today in Azzun Atma today one of the Palestinian organizers gave an impassioned speech that was translated into English by another Palestinian as he was speaking. He asked the soldiers why were they here? Why do they kill Palestinians? Why were they on his land? Preventing him from living a normal life? After all, they are both humans. They both want peace. He promised that they would continue their nonviolent and peaceful protests until there was peace.

The speech was very powerful and I can't help but think the soldier was moved. I know that I was. When he finished, before I even knew what I was doing, I found myself giving a spontaneous and I hope coherent speech. I asked the soldiers to answer the man's questions. He deserved answers. I told that I was a Jewish American and that I was ashamed of Israel. And that I needed the answers to the man’s questions. I told them that if they couldn't answer them now, while they were on duty, because they are under orders not to, that they should answer them at least to themselves, in front of a mirror, before they go to bed tonight.

June 29, 2009 - Boy Arrested in Azzun

Dear Friends,
At 1:30 am last Sunday morning the village of Azzun was invaded by 120 soldiers, looking for a “wanted” Palestinian. After entering and searching 3 homes (terrorizing the families inside) they entered a 4th where they found whom they were looking for. A 16 year old boy. He was taken in his underwear with no shoes. The parents pleaded that he be allowed to get dressed. The soldiers assured the parents that there was no need as they would only take him for a minute or two and then return him. His parents have not seen him since. Nor do they expect to for awhile.

The family expects that the boy will be taken to a jail near Nablus and interrogated. During this phase he will not be allowed to see anyone: no family, no lawyer, not even the Red Cross. They expect him to be frightened, intimidated, threatened, psychologically tortured and probably also physically beaten. He will be asked to sign confessions in Hebrew that he can’t read. The interrogators will attempt to coerce him into becoming a collaborator. After 12 days the Red Cross will be allowed to visit.

We asked the family if they knew why he was arrested. They shrugged and said they didn’t. Maybe for throwing stones, maybe for being involved in political parties. I had to wonder why being involved in a political party is a crime in the “only democracy in the Middle East?”

The family has been through this before. When their oldest son was 12, he was also taken by soldiers. At that time, the soldiers also promised that they would only take him for a minute or two. He was released 3 years later. Now he is 27 with a family. Upon meeting him one would never guess that his adolescent years were formed in an Israeli jail. Despite Israel being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the conditions in which Palestinian minors are incarcerated are far below these standards. Plus a 16 year old Palestinian is considered to be an adult by Israeli law and a 14 year old can be tried as an adult before a military court. (An Israeli is not considered an adult until the age of 18.)

Of course, one would never have guessed that all eight of the men in the room where my IWPS teammate and I were taking the report had been incarcerated. They are just ordinary men with families and if they are lucky, jobs. Palestinian boys and men are very family oriented in a manner far unlike Westerners. It is not uncommon to see boys and men joyfully playing with and caring for their younger siblings and children. Often men will bring their children to the various meetings I attend here. During the meetings the children will alternate between playing and sitting on their father’s laps, cuddling and resting contentedly. The father will absentmindedly kiss the child, stroke their arms, hug them. They obviously enjoy the physical contact as much as the children do.

Both parents of the arrested boy were playing and cuddling with their grandchildren during the meeting. They have six children, four of which are boys. The oldest boy is the one who spent his adolescent years in an Israeli prison. The third oldest boy was killed by soldiers six years ago when he was a senior in high school. The youngest boy was the one taken on Sunday morning. Despite this tragic circumstance, they were the typical gracious and generous hosts, offering endless rounds of tea, coffee and juice and then even serving us a scrumptious meal when the meeting was over.

We went to the meeting with a friend of IWPS, Abdullah. Before we left his house for the meeting we met his family and had tea in his living room. During this time his 8 year old daughter was playing with him and cuddling. She was obviously handicapped although I don’t think it shows in the pictures here. She can’t talk except to make low growling sounds. She didn’t walk until she was 4 years old. Her muscles are very weak. I’m not sure if she is mentally handicapped too. Abdullah explained to us why his daughter is handicapped. During his wife’s pregnancy in 2001, she had been exposed to tear gas twice. Once in the 4th month and again in the 7th. In the incident of the 7th month, she was running away from soldiers and fell on her stomach.

Did I ever mention that one of the major reasons the village of Jayous decided to stop their regular demonstrations was the health concerns regarding the amount of tear gas exposure to the entire village?


June 28, 2009 - Naomi and Me

Dear Friends,
OK. I don't normally name drop but here you'll see a picture of me with bestselling author and activist Naomi Klein. On Saturday Beth and I traveled to Ramallah for an unconventional book tour event and lecture sponsored by The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC). Naomi was promoting her book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism", which had just been translated into Hebrew and Arabic. More importantly, she was endorsing the call issued on July 9, 2005 by a broad spectrum of Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.
(Naomi will not receive any royalties from sales of the Hebrew version of her book. The proceeds will instead go to an activist group.) The event was beautiful and inspiring and packed!

The evening began with a quintet from the Edward Said Conservatory of Music providing the requisite cultural infusion for any Palestinian event. Then, Mustafa Barghouti made some introductory comments. Mustafa is a physician and activist. He founded the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and helped establish the Palestinian National Initiative which is an attempt to build a reformist, inclusive alternative to both the PLO and Hamas. He supports nonviolent resistance as the most effective means of overcoming Israeli occupation. I almost cheered out loud when he brought up the point that the most egregious and unique aspects of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine is the demand that the occupied provide security for the occupier. This was also brought up by one of the professors I met at An Najah University in Nablus who spoke angrily about the obscenity of "security cooperation". The example he gave was Israel forcing the Palestinian Authority to arrest the best students just before their final exams. They were arrested on trumped up charges of being affiliated with Hamas.

But I digress. Mustafa finished his comments with a quote from Nelson Mandela that went something like this: "The cause of Palestine today is the number one cause of humanity."

Then Omar Barghouti introduced Naomi. She began her lecture with an analysis of the Durbin Conference on Racism in 2001 and the boycott and smear campaign of the follow up conference in Geneva this year. Naomi thinks that what actually happened at the original Durbin Conference might have come out more fully and accurately if it had not ended two days before 9/11. Instead, a successful propaganda campaign ensued that cast the results as hate-filled and anti-semitic. But Naomi claims that what actually happened was to take a broader look the essence of racism. It is not just a mindset that values the white race as superior to others. It is an institutionalized system that allows for land and resource theft and access to free or cheap labor. This was very threatening to all states that had brutal colonial beginnings (U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand) and certainly a threat to Israel in its current colonial enterprise. In fact, it was at this Durbin conference that the parallels between Israel and South Africa were first articulated. Of course, the specifics of Israel and South Africa are very different, however, despite the differences, Israel fits the definition of Apartheid according to international standards.

Naomi went on to give two reasons why Israel has so little interest in pursuing peace. The first is that it is relatively easy to live a fun and fulfilling life in Israel. So pressure it not going to bubble up from its citizens.

The second reason Israel has so little interest in pursuing peace is that unlike most war-time economies, the Israeli economy actually benefits from being in a state of continual conflict. In fact, peace would be a threat to the Israeli economy. In the first week in the war on Gaza, the Israeli stock exchange went up 10 points, opposite to what usually happens when a country becomes embroiled in war. This paradox is due to the Israeli economy being heavily based on businesses that profit from the need for "homeland security". Israeli companies produce high-tech surveillance and communication equipment, as well as provide the knowledge and infrastructure for building walls. An Israeli company is even providing services for the wall being build on the U.S.-Mexican border. The Occupied Palestinian Territories provide a live test laboratory and the Palestinians are the guinea pigs for these various technologies. (They have long provided this for the military contractors in Israel. Israel is the 4th largest exporter of military equipment in the world.)
Naomi ended with an extremely moving apology to her Palestinian hosts. They had thanked her for her courage in supporting the call for BDS. She said that her courage paled in comparison to theirs and apologized that it took her three years to finally endorse their call.

P.S. About the photo shown here, I have to admit that I shamelessly ran up to the stage after the event was over and had my IWPS teammate Beth quickly snap it.

June 27, 2009 - Normalization of the Occupation

Dear Friends,
I returned to Hares after taking 2 days to go to Deir Ibzi'a and Jerusalem to pick up and mail embroidery home and also to see Arla off to the airport. That meant that I missed going to one of the Friday demonstrations against the wall. (I usually go to the one in Bil'in and I was especially sorry that I missed this one because Naomi Klein was there!) I just read the reports about them and they seemed to unfold as usual, fortunately with no serious casualties.

So the demonstrations continue week after week. As does wall construction, land confiscation, settlement building, settler/army violence. Every week the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) issues a report and from week to week they are depressingly similar. (Here is a link to the one for this week which actually is relatively tame: )

The occupation has become normalized. Horrible, intolerable circumstances have become the substance of daily life in Palestine.

Last Tuesday Israel's internal security minister, Yitzhak Aharonivitch, a member of an extremest right-wing party, made an unannounced visit to the Temple Mount (3rd most holy place in Islam), supposedly to assess the adequacy of police deployment in the area. He was accompanied by Israel's police commissioner and senior police officers. His spokesman told Reuters that the visit was coordinated with the Muslim Waqf, however, the Waqf foundation called the visit a "provocative entry to the holy site, which may complicate the sensitive situation."

You may recall that it was a visit to the Temple Mount nine years ago by Ariel Sharon that sparked the second Intifada. This time, the provocative visit was tolerated with nary a response. Did the story even reach U.S. media?

The checkpoints have also become normal despite the fact that they choke the economy, restrict education and access to medical care (even in emergency situations) and basically keep Palestinians in an open air prison. On my way to Jerusalem with Arla, we had to go through Qalandia, the major checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. It is a huge and high-tech processing station where Palestinians are required to proceed through incredibly narrow cage-like aisles to incredibly tiny cage-like turnstiles that are completely controlled by soldiers who are virtually hidden behind steel and bullet-proof glass. Often, with a push of a button and a sickening click, the turnstile will lock with someone inside. The soldiers bark orders through an intercom that is turned up to a decibel level that I'm sure would violate OSHA standards. Furthermore, the soldiers routinely belittle and humiliate Palestinians as they pass through. (Of course it is only the Palestinians with Jerusalem IDs that even have the privilege of passing through this particular checkpoint.) As Arla and I followed the Palestinians off the bus to go through this disgusting labyrinth I marveled at the acceptance and matter of fact attitudes around me. Surely this is insane. But, no, I told myself. This is just their ordinary daily life.

This link is a video of it, not the best video, but it gives a small sense of this monstrosity.

For me, the most heinous normalcy is the routine arrest, detainment, imprisonment and torture of virtually the entire male population of Palestine at some point in their lives, sometimes even as children. Just a few weeks before I arrived in Hares the army came through and rounded up 150 boys, blindfolded and handcuffed them so tightly their hands turned blue and beat many of them. The story can be found at this link:

And no Palestinian man is immune to this. A young award-winning Palestinian journalist who was even under diplomatic escort was beaten and tortured upon his return home to Gaza after having accepted a prestigious award in London. /

The picture at the top of this posting was taken yesterday. Beth and I were traveling on a bus to Ramallah to hear Naomi Klein. We saw 3 jeeps and soldiers ahead blocking the road. We assumed it was a flying checkpoint, but to our surprise the bus just veered around it. I randomly stuck my camera up in the air towards the window on the other side of the bus and snapped a picture, figuring I might get a good picture of a flying checkpoint. But when I looked at the picture, I saw that this wasn't a flying check point at all. There was a young man, blindfolded and handcuffed being detained. Although Beth and I were immediately alarmed, everyone else on the bus seemed to just grimly go on with their ride.


June 25, 2009 - A Day in Hebron

Hi Friends,
I don't have time to write up about Hebron but here are some pictures.
One is of the many settlements that permeate the landscape on the incredibly breathtaking ride down to Hebron. In the foreground is an Arab Village. The settlement is on top of the hill in the background.
One is from the rooftop of the CPT apartment in the Old City of Hebron. Notice the watchtower and military outpost at the top of the hill.
One is of kids in the Old City.
One is showing the netting put up to catch the garbage that the settlers throw down from the settlements build on top of the Old City.
A correction to my previous post: It was not 100 trees that were uprooted in Wadi Qana. It was 600. These 600 were from 1000 planted recently with a loan from PARC (Palestine Argricultural Relief Committee.) The 400 that were not uprooted were harder to access or hidden. The farmers still need to pay the loan back on all of the trees.

June 24, 2009 - Hike in Wadi Qana

Dear Friends,
Yesterday I went on a hike in gorgeous Wadi Qana. I mentioned earlier that IWPS will be participating in a nonviolent campaign to defend Wadi Qana which is being organized by the PPP (Palestinian's People Party). Our friend and PPP member, Riziq, was our guide.

Wadi Qana is a breathtaking fertile valley with over a dozen natural springs and the Wadi Qana river running through it. It may very well be one of the most beautiful places in Palestine. It was certainly once one of the most fertile in the West Bank, producing olives, figs, plums, almonds, and a variety of citrus fruits. But it has been severely degraded environmentally by sewage from the surrounding Israeli settlements, which now number eight.

Wadi Qana is also the name of a village that was emptied of its inhabitants because life became simply intolerable. Its former residents now live in Riziq’s village of Deir Istiya, immediately north of Hares in the Salfit Governate. Salfit has the distinction of being the only governate in Palestine where the settler population and Palestinian population are roughly equal. This is due to high density of settlements, including Ariel, one of the largest settlements with a population of roughly 30,000.

Besides pollution, Palestinians must deal with other factors harming their land or preventing access to it. Settlers have often raided the land in the valley, uprooted trees, damaged and destroyed irrigation systems, greenhouses, and especially expensive water pumps. Palestinian farmers cannot even prevent land damage caused by wild pigs that locals say were introduced by settlers: villagers are unable to kill or use traps to control the pigs as it would fall under the prohibition of Palestinians to possess weapons.

The construction of settler roads, which Palestinians are not allowed to use, has not only confiscated some of the land but has also prevented access to it. Once, the mayor of Deir Istiya managed to build an alternate road to Wadi Qana, supported by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), however, in 2001 the outpost Doron Yaqir was built and blocked this new road as well.

In the Oslo Accords of 1993 Wadi Qana was made a nature reserve. It is now prohibited to ''change the natural character'' of the region, meaning that Palestinian landowners are not allowed to plant new trees. In May of this year, Israeli conservation authority workers uprooted over 100 olive trees planted by Riziq and other farmers from Deir Istiya. The trees were not destroyed, but removed in vehicles.

Four days after this incident, two youth picking sage in a wooded area of Wadi Qana were arrested and taken to nearby Qedumim settlement, where they had to promise not to pick sage again before being released.

On our walk we ran into another hiker, a settler. The customary greetings that hikers exchange as they pass each other were conspicuously omitted.


June 21, 2009 - Yearning for Jerusalem

Dear Friends,
A friend of mine responded to my last post remarking how easy it seemed for me to travel around. It’s true that in this moment the checkpoints inside the West Bank are very open. Especially two of the major checkpoints that I frequent: Zatara which is on Highway 60 North leading to all the major West Bank cities, and Huwarrwa which is the major checkpoint into Nabulus. Additionally, my international status gives me the privilege of travelling to areas that Israelis are forbidden (Palestinian areas of the West Bank) and also where Palestinians are forbidden (Israel proper and Jerusalem, unless they have a Jerusalem ID).

The Palestinians I have talked to about the current ease of passing though checkpoints say that they are enjoying the relative freedom of movement. At the same time, they are acutely aware that soldiers are still staffing the checkpoints, just two steps away from the road and in less than a nanosecond the ease of travel between West Bank cities and villages could come to an abrupt end.

It is important to understand that this current relative freedom of movement is just that. Relative. Roadblocks, settlements, and bypass roads (on which Palestinians are not allowed) still mean that a 15 minute trip could now very well take 3 or 4 hours. Additionally, West Bank Palestinians are not allowed to go outside the West Bank unless they have the proper permits, which are extremely difficult to obtain. That is one reason why Gaza and the West Bank are often referred to as open air prisons. A permit to Jerusalem for West Bank Palestinians is nearly impossible, especially for males. I’ll share the stories of three young men regarding their dreams of visiting Jerusalem.

Abdullah is in his early twenties. He is a sweet young man whose eyes light up when he speaks of going to Jerusalem and visiting the Dome of the Rock which he has not been able to do since he was a very small child. He confided in me that once he snuck into Jerusalem. However, he was so terrified of being caught he didn’t do much. Even just being on the street with friends who have a Jerusalem ID was dangerous because if you look around at things, “they” can tell that you don’t belong there since you are acting like a tourist. You’ll be arrested. So Abdullah just stayed inside his friend’s house and went home the next morning.

Sadaam, our scholarship recipient, had also been to Jerusalem only once, as a small child. His mother is very ill and she obtained a permit for a hospital visit in Jerusalem. The permit allowed her an an escort. So Sadaam was able to take his mother into Jerusalem. His face beamed when he told us he was able to visit the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Amjad, my former student was given a permit to go to Tel Aviv with his wife. (His business buys goods from Israel and that is why he was given a permit.) He and his wife had an enjoyable day at the beach, another location that Palestinians yearn to visit but are denied. They decided to try to visit the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem on the way home. For some reason, Amjad was allowed to go but his wife was turned back. So they both went home together, neither having seen the Dome of the Rock.


June 20, 2009 - Two firsts: Demonstration at Azzun Atma; My first demo without tear gas

Dear Friends,

Yesterday the village of Azzun Atma had its first demonstration. In my previous post I explain the situation of this village which is being strangulated by the wall and the surrounding settlements. The demo was organized by the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP) with banners, tee shirts, flags and good chants. (Well, I think they sounded good but I don’t really know what they meant.) Maybe because it was the first demonstration for this particular village, the soldiers were pretty laid back. No tear gas, no bullets (rubber or otherwise), no sound bombs. The PPP hopes to continue these nonviolent demonstrations in Azzun Atma and also spread them to other villages in the area.

After the demonstration I got a ride to Tel Aviv with some of the Israeli activists that participated. I wanted to spend some time with my Israeli friend, Rivka. Rivka had been living in Berkeley for the last 3 years and just recently moved back to Israel. She invited me to a commemoration/celebration of her brother who died 3 years ago in the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon. She appreciated that I had accepted the invitation because one of her very good friends from childhood who is a member of Anarchists Against the Wall (one of the Israeli peace groups that I highly regard) refused to come to a commemoration for a soldier. Rivka could not understand it. I think that she is like most Israelis who do not know their own history, or their current realities. For instance, during our walk on the beach we came across a small museum honoring the Irgun as freedom fighters and liberators. Virtually all credible historians acknowledge that the Irgun were one of the illegal terrorist groups that were instrumental in the atrocities that paved the path for the creation of the state of Israel. This fact surprised Rivka. She was also surprised to learn that that Modi'in, the settlement that has taken much of the land of Bil'in is a settlement. She thought it was just another city/town in Israel. She also didn't realize that 80% of West Bank water is confiscated for Israel and the settlements. (The Israeli water company will sell it back to Palestinians at an inflated price.)

After the commemoration I was stressing about how I was to return to Hares. Since it was Saturday there were no buses running. Rivka spent a lot of time on the Internet and calling taxi companies to no avail. Finally, we looked at a map and realized that it would not be very far for her to drive me. So she did despite the fact that the idea of being in the West Bank terrifies her. She imagines that the West Bank is be filled with people who want to kill her. I told her that if she comes with good will and no gun, there is no problem. I am happy to report that she returned home safely.


June 18, 2009 - Visiting Sadaam, a beautiful mural and a brewery

Dear Friends,
Today I had the pleasure of visiting our first scholarship recipient, Sadaam, in his office at the Red Crescent Society headquarters in Ramallah. The building is architecturally quite interesting and very beautiful. Sadaam is the accountant for the restaurant and hotel that is housed in it. He is very happy with his job. He says that sometimes, if he can’t go home due to checkpoints or military activity, he can stay in the hotel free of charge. But he much prefers to go home to Deir Ibzi’a which is only 15 minutes away by taxi if the coast is clear.

On the walk from the Red Crescent Society to catch a taxi I passed a cultural center that had amazingly beautiful murals that I’ve posted on my blog. You can also see pictures of me visiting the Taybeh Brewery in Taybeh which is the only village left in Palestine that is 100% Christian. The brewery was founded in 1994 by two brothers who returned to Palestine after Oslo filled with hope, like so many Palestinians, that a Palestinian state would eventually become a reality. They wanted to contribute to it and also fulfill their dream of bringing micro brewed beer to the Middle East. Despite the drastically reduced and continually shrinking Christian population in Palestine (Muslims don’t drink alcohol) along with the enormous obstacles that Israel imposes on Palestinian exports, the company is surviving. And the beer is extremely good! (Even though it is a pilsner and I prefer IPAs.) Check out their website:

Tomorrow I will participate at a demonstration in Azzun Atma, a village west of Hares. It has the misfortune to be on the “wrong” side of the wall (in the seam zone). In the map attached here you can see the area of the village shown in yellow. The green dotted line is the dividing line between the West Bank and Israel. The thick red lines are the already completed sections of the wall and the thick black and white lines are the planned route of the wall. As you can see, not only is Azzun Atma overwhelmed by settlements and completely cut off from the rest of the West Bank, but soon it will be completely enclosed on all sides. The big red circle with the horizontal white line is a checkpoint and the only access into the village. Some people say that to describe the situation here, all you really need are maps.

The surrounding settlements of Azzun Atma throw their garbage down on the village and 1-2 times per week they dump their sewage as well. The settlers have vandalized the school during its construction. Furthermore, the school is having problems hiring staff who are able to get permits from Israel to pass through the checkpoint. The principle is convinced that Israel wants the school closed.

So my day tomorrow feels a bit ominous. Fortunately I had a fun day today!

June 17, 2009 - Education Under Occupation

Imagine studying all night for your first Physics test. You get up early to work out a few more sample problems. You walk to school nervous about doing well on the exam. You get to a checkpoint and are told that you cannot pass.

Imagine studying hard in high school in preparation for taking the Tawjihi, the high school exit exam. (I’ve been told that the day Tawjihi results are posted is the second most important day in a Palestinian’s life, the marriage day being the first.) You study intensely in the months leading up to the exam. You feel just about ready. You cram for one more night and on the morning of the exam you anticipate taking the test because you know you have prepared well. The Israeli military declares the area where the exam is to be administered a closed military zone.

Imagine you attain your goal of 95% on the Tawjii’hi so that you can pursue your dream of studing medicine. The Israeli military closes your university for the next 4 years.

Imagine you live in the “seam zone”, i.e. West Bank land that has been lassoed by the Wall so that it is continuous with Israel. You need to pass through a gate to get to your university. The open hours of the gate are brief, irregular and unpredictable. You frequently are unable to attend your classes.

Imagine that it is after classses on Thursday afternoon (the end of the week in Muslim countries) and you eagerly anticipate going home for the week end. (You would rather live at home which is only 45 minutes by car from your school, except that the checkpoints make travel too uncertain and so you live in student housing near campus.) You wait two hours at the checkpoint. Your turn finally comes. You go through the turnstile and get pushed forward by people behind you. The soldiers get upset with this and tells you to go to the back of the line. You refuse. They handcuff you tightly and start to beat you. They spray your face with something that makes it feel as if it is melting from the fire-hot heat. They put you in a small dark room. You are finally released and you go back to Nablus to go to the hospital to have your eyes treated. After getting eye drops you head back to the checkpoint which is now much less crowded. You cross easily, but need to walk home since there are no more taxis running.

Imagine studing diligently the entirety of your junior year. Final exam week begins. You are arrested because you are told that you are suspected of being affiliated with Hamas. You miss all of your finals and are required to repeat the entire year at full cost.

These are just some of the stories of students from the incredibly beautiful Al Najah University in Nablus (, one of the six universities in the West Bank. For more information about the difficulties students face in Palestine and the Right to Education campaign go to


June 14, 2009 - Women, Politics, Permaculture and Old Friends

Dear Friends,

Yesterday we visited the Women for Life Center in Biddiya, a village near to Hares. IWPS was instrumental in its start, although I doubt they needed much help. Fatima, the executive directive is extremely dynamic and resourceful and the womyn on staff that we met were similarly impressive. The center has grown into a remarkable and extremely successful organization. They started as "Women Against the Wall" to organize womyn's demonstrations and girls' summer camps. Now their programs include legal aid and counseling for womyn, addressing domestic violence, womyn's rights and other issues important to womyn. Fatima quickly sized up our group and decided that Arla's social worker skills could be put to use. So Arla now has a job! She will lead a workshop for mother's with deaf children. The center has a very enlightened view of children with disabilities and is attempting to provide programs that remove the stigma and help parents deal with the challenge of raising a special needs child.

Last night we went to visit Rizik in the next village of Deir Istiya. He is a member of the PPP (Palestinian People's Party) which is just one of the many political parties in Palestine. (There is more than just Hamas and Fatah!) He is part of a village committee that is planning a campaign to defend Wadi Qana, a beautiful valley that is completely surrounded by settlements and owned by Palestinians in the village. Although the farmers have legal rights to the land that has been in their families for generations, it does not stop the settlers (with the support of the army) from harassing and beating them to prevent them from working it. Rizik is a passionate member of the PPP and explained to us that his party "started where the others are now ending". What he meant was that the PPP has advocated nonviolent resistance for over 20 years and the others are just beginning to see the merits of this position. He summarized for us the history of the PPP and its differences with the other political parties in Palestine, not just Hamas and Fatah. It was fascinating and I can't even begin to attempt to relate it here. Just take my word that the political scene in Palestine is vibrant and multifaceted!

This morning we visited a permaculture farm in Marda, just a few villages away from Hares. I wished my daughter, Dart, had been there because she is in a program at UC Santa Cruz for sustainable agriculture and this farm is totally on the same page. The director of the project, Murad, trained in the U.S. and has a small farm with a large vision. He wants to be a model for Palestinian farmers to become less dependent on Israeli produce (which is low quality and high priced) while farming in a sustainable and responsible manner. During our tour Marad mentioned many setbacks that he has encountered, virtually all of them having to do with settler harassment. Examples include settlers releasing feral pigs on Palestinian lands specifically to destroy their crops and draining their runoff and sewage into Palestinian villages. (Settlements are virtually always built on top of hills with the Palestinian villiages below.) To combat the pigs Murad built a barbed wire fence that includes a clever use of tires (which are plentiful and free). The tires will eventually become planters that surround the fence, each with their own microclimate. The plants in the tires won't require irrigation because the interaction of the environment and the black tires will somehow cause the dew to supply all the water the plants need. This is just one example of his creativity. He hopes that volunteers will come from Palestine and also from around the world to learn these sustainable practices and support his vision. To find out more you can go to and click the permaculture link. Then scroll down a bit and click the link called Marda Permaculture Farm, Palestine.

This afternoon I went to Ramallah to have dinner with my former student/now friend, Amjad. He has two children and a very sucessful business "Spark Technology". It was wonderful to see him again. Some of you may recall that I was delighted to be able to dance at his wedding 4 years ago.

It's hard to believe that I only left California a week ago!

June 13, 2009 - Weekly Demo in Bil'in

Dear Friends,
The weekly demonstration in Bil'in yesterday was pretty typical: Palestinians, Israelis and internationals gathering, chanting, marching peacefully and nonviolently to the wall to be met immediately by tear gas, rubber bullets and other assorted weaponry. Thankfully, there were no serious causalities. In the last 5 years, the Israeli army has killed about 20 nonviolent demonstrators throughout the West Bank, one recently from Bil'in. In Bil'in alone 1,300 have been wounded, including Tristan Anderson, an Oakland resident who is still in a Tel Aviv hospital rehabilitation ward, waiting for an operation to put his skull back on.

I've copied below the press release sent out by the organizers and I encourage you to go to their website which is pretty impressive. Among other things there is a video of yesterday's demonstration. At the end you can see Arla in the purple shirt gagging on tear gas.

Press Release
Friday 12\6\2009

Two protesters were injured and dozens suffered from gas inhalation when Israeli troops attack the weekly protest in Bil'in village near the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday midday.

Residents of Bil'in and their international and Israelis supporters marched from the village center after the Friday midday prayers. They were joined by 40 members of the American group "Code Pink Women for Peace".

The protesters demanded the halt of the Israeli illegal settlements and the construction of the wall. As the protesters arrived at the wall, Israeli troops at the gate nearby fired barrage of sound bombs, tear gas and rubber-coated bullets from the Israeli soldiers.

Two protesters were lightly injured, Mustafa Al Khateeb, 17, and a Britsh activist. Meanwhile scores were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation

Thank you for you continued support,

Iyad Burnat- Head of Popular Committee in Bilin
co-founder of Friends of Freedom and Justice - Bilin

Mobile- (00972) (0) 547847942
Office- (00972) (2) 2489129
Mobile- (00972) (0) 598403676

June 12, 2009 - Leaving Deir Ibzi'a and Arriving in Hares

Dear Friends,
Arla and I just spent the last 2 days in Deir Ibzi'a where our meetings with the current scholarship recipients and the embroidery womyn went well. I was especially delighted that our first graduate, Sadaam, came to the student meeting. He graduated in 2006 and finally found a job last year working as an accountant for the Red Crescent Society at their headquarters in Ramallah. He feels very fortunate to have found any job in a society with extremely high unemployment, but more importantly, he is very proud that his job is with a humanitarian organization. He wants Arla and I to visit him in his office and we hope to do that before we leave.

All of the students expressed gratitude for our support and they asked us to thank everyone who is helping them. One especially hard moment came for me when we asked the womyn students what they hoped for in their lives. All of them said that they would like to travel. Where, we asked. To Jerusalem. To Joffe. To Haifa. To the Dead Sea. All of these places are less than a few hours drive. Jerusalem is 45 minutes.

We arrived in the IWPS house last night at about 5:00 pm and in less than 6 hours we had two very unpleasant encounters with soldiers and settlers. As soon as we got off the bus to enter the village we were stopped by 3 soldiers who told us we could not go into the village. We asked why and they said it wasn't safe. We told them that we appreciated their concern but that we were not worried. They took our passports and made us wait. I asked them if they were Palestinian. Of course they laughed and said they were Israeli. I pointed out that this was a Palestinian village and if they were Palestinian I would accept them telling me that I couldn't come into their village. But it was not their village and the Palestinians were fine with us being there. Unfortunately, my logic didn't seem to impress them. When the border police finally showed up they asked us why we were here. We told them this was our vacation. He gave us back our passports and said, "Have a nice day."

At about 11:00 pm before we even had a chance to read the IWPS procedure manuals we received a call from the next village that several jeeps of soldiers and busloads of settles had arrived in their village. They asked us to come. So I went with Jenny, another IWPS womyn, while Arla and Ricky stayed at the house to give back up support. We found about 100 settlers dancing and celebrating and praying at the tomb of Joshua. They were protected by a perimeter of barbed wire, soldiers and jeeps that extended out from the tomb for approximately 2 blocks in all directions. No Palestinians were allowed to be inside the perimeter. Travel travel into or out of the village was suspended for the duration which would be all night.

Today we will go to the weekly demonstration in the village of Bilin. This village is very near to Deir Ibzi'a and they have been organizing non-violent and often extremely creative weekly demonstrations since January 2005.


June 9, 2009 - Wendy Made It In!

Dear Friends,
A quick note to let you know that Arla and I arrived safely in Israel last night. We sailed through Ben Gurion Airport without a hitch. Apparently my two years of worring was for naught. Alhamdullalah! We stayed in Jerusalem last night and are now on the way to Deir Ibzi'a where we will meet with the scholarship students and embroidery womyn and get an update on the status of the computer center. Also, I am looking forward to spending time with my friend Deeb and his family.

We plan on getting to the IWPS house on Thursday night. I just saw in my email that a non-violent Palestinian protester was killed last Friday in Nilin and IWPS issued another human rights report that settlers had attacked a Palestinian vehicle and set fire to Palestinian land. I guess I won't have to worry that there will be nothing for me to do thanks to the army and settlers.


May 25, 2009 - Wendy is going to Palestine (again)

Dear friends,
Soon I will be leaving to travel to Palestine once again as an international human rights volunteer. I will be working for the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS - in Hares, a village in the northern part of the West Bank. IWPS provides international accompaniment to Palestinian civilians, documents and nonviolently intervenes in human rights abuses, and supports Palestinians in their nonviolent resistance to end the illegal Apartheid Wall and the brutal Israeli military occupation.

As Tanya Reinhart (Israeli academic) said before she died, it is crucial for internationals to join Palestinians on the ground defending their land. Although the situation only gets worse with more and more land theft, I cannot help but to hold on to hope.

For an interesting recent article about land theft (aka settlements) see Max Blumenthal's "Netanyahu's West Bank Nightmare"