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 www.thefarm.org 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!

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