Peace, Refugee Stories

Fine-grained: Bus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem

by Toine van Teeffelen
Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem

This Sunday I took the Palestinian bus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem over the bridge and through the tunnels, along the new road 60. This is a road mainly used by Israelis from the settlements in the southern West Bank who commute to Jerusalem. The Palestinian bus takes passengers from Bethlehem and Beit Jala. Most of them are Jerusalem ID holders, as the checkpoint system is so fine-grained in its restrictions that Palestinians from the southern West Bank in the possession of a permit are only allowed to use the other checkpoint (300) between the Bethlehem area and Jerusalem.

The checkpoint leading to the bridge and tunnels is – how shall we call it – a more ‘flowing’ checkpoint to suit cars from the settlements. They should not be too much hindered in their movements. Note that Israeli cars rarely stop in front of the checkpoint; they usually just keep driving slowly. Israeli drivers do not need their IDs to show, their cars are waved through. Palestinians have to stop and are checked.

Anyway, at the terminal bus station in Bethlehem the driver warned the passengers that those without a valid Jerusalem ID should not join because soldiers were strict these days. When caught, people would have to walk from the checkpoint back to Beit Jala for quite some distance and uphill. I suppose he himself and the bus company also did not want to get into trouble.

When arriving at the checkpoint 6 or 7 passengers, mostly middle-aged or older, did not have a valid Jerusalem ID. They were taken out. The moment the bus left we saw them remain sitting at the checkpoint, humiliated. Passengers in the bus clicked with their tongue. What a way to treat people...

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Peace

50 years of occupation: Enough is enough!

by Toine van Teeffelen
Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem

U.S. President Donald Trump, labeled the ‘most mocked man in the world’, burst out in anger during his Bethlehem meeting with Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas was supposed to curb the ‘incitement’ of which Israel and the U.S. continuously accuse the Palestinian Authority. Trump’s Israeli information sources however showed him quotes that ‘proved’ that the incitement continued.

A favorite subject in the incitement discussion is the Palestinian curriculum. All pupils in the West Bank, whether they are at government or private schools, follow the same curriculum. The Palestinian curriculum is centralized and standardized. At most there are a few additional subjects at private schools, such as a second foreign language besides English. In other words, the lesson books of my son Tamer are largely the same as anywhere else in the West Bank. I ask Tamer (15) how the Palestinian curriculum speaks about Israel. 

Tamer says that Israel is indeed a regular topic in the books. There certainly arises a negative image of Israel. However, it is not the result of direct negative attributions to Israel. The image comes in a more ‘indirect’ way he says. You will read that Israel takes away land from Palestinians. Because of the actions attributed to Israel, you draw your own conclusions and build up a negative image. The actions are well-known, he says.

Incitement?

Trump refused to visit the Church of Nativity because he then would have had to walk along the tent with family members of hunger-striking prisoners. He demanded the tent be removed. The hunger strike of the Palestinian political prisoners was at the time of Trump’s visit a daily topic of conversation, until its cessation by the prisoners after 40 days on water and salt. As always when demands of hunger-striking political prisoners seem to be met by prison authorities, it is a matter of wait-and-see whether there will be a lasting change in the prison regime.

A few days ago Mary went on a visit to the hospital in Beit Jala to meet the son of Imm Hassan. She is a peasant woman from a village, Ma’sara, to the south of Bethlehem. For years she has brought fresh vegetables and fruits to our former and present family homes. Recently she was elected as a council member in the village. Her son was just released after a stay of many years in Nakba prison (Negev desert). He had to be treated in the hospital after losing 12 kilos due to the hunger strike.

I recently heard that in the refugee camp Aida near Bethlehem it happens that at a single moment no less than 200 of the 5,500 camp dwellers are in prison, mostly on accusations of stone throwing. In actuality most of the extended families there are likely to have a family member in prison, with all the ensuing worries and loss of income. Many more will have had a prison experience, once or more times.

All of this obviously has to do with occupation.

On June 5, the Arab Educational Institute has a four-hour program around the commemoration of 50 years of occupation, organized along the Wall in north-Bethlehem. 

Peace

Presence, or, a star is born

by Toine van Teeffelen
Arab Educational Institute, Bethlehem

On Saturday, March 4th, Ya’coub Shaheen was cheerfully welcomed in Bethlehem and Ramallah. After his performance in Arab Idol in Beirut, he shook not only the hands of VIPs but visited and performed in several Palestinian refugee camps near Beirut, together with his co-contestant Amir Dandan from Majd al-Krum in the Galilee. The people in the camps always long to see people coming from Palestine, we hear. And like a week ago it was again a festival in the streets in Bethlehem with Syriac-Orthodox and Palestinian flags and Ya’coub on people’s shoulders. People took a break from the usually depressive news of the moment. (For instance, in the month of February 2017, 420 Palestinians were detained by the forces of the Israeli occupation).

Large banners with the image of Ya’coub decorated apartment blocks. Businesses took care of him. Many local companies covered the 3,5 shekels (almost a Euro) which each SMS vote costed. Many millions of votes seemed to have been cast for him. Christian and Muslim votes came from Palestine – but also from Muslim cities, like Hebron, where he studied – and from throughout the Arab world, Arab communities across the world.

It is a fact that where Palestinian politics does not succeed to unify Palestinians, Ya’coub succeeded. At Idols he gave voice to a range of identities. ..

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