Day 3 – Visit to Jerusalem & The Jahalin
On behalf of the Israeli Campaign Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Angela Godfrey-Goldstein took us on a Tour of East Jerusalem, including one of the largest settlements and then onto the Jahalin nomadic tribe. The session started with a detailed explanation of how Israel is Ethnically Cleansing East Jerusalem of it’s indigenous Palestinian population, and achieving a “land grab” of the surrounding area through construction of Illegal Settlements, the Wall and Israeli-only roads.
We were taken on a Drive-through of the Illegal Settlement of Ma’ale Adumim settlement which is vast, consisting of a huge number of modern concrete apartment blocks laid out on a modern road network, and is classified as a city in it’s own right. Israel chooses to give Biblical titles to settlements, to somehow justify the construction of concrete blocks on illegally-annexed private land. Ma’ale Adumim is mentioned in the Book of Joshua as the border between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It also is the site of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke. The settlements are all illegal under international law according to the Fourth Geneva Convention (article 49), which prohibits an occupying power transferring citizens from its own territory to occupied territory.
Having left the settlement, we were taken to visit the nearby Jahalin Bedouin nomadic tribe.
This tribe is one of the native Bedouin nomadic tribes of historic Palestine, originally from the Negev desert, and has oral traditions back to an uncle of Mohammed – who did not believe Mohammed – so hence the name of tribe means “lost”. The tribe is encamped in a semi-permanent manner, complete with a school for the Bedouin children. We were welcomed into the Bedouin camp and sat in a circle on cushions, being served tea prepared in traditional style on an open fire.
We were given a talk by Eid Abu Khamis, who is leader of tribe and also spokesperson of the Jahalin – through an interpreter, as his native language is Arabic. Eid gave a vivid description of life as a present-day Bedouin. Though his own father was not literate, Eid was fortunate to be sent to school as are all the Bedouin children now. The tribe has no rights to power or water, but they have some solar panels and are only Bedouin tribe which have them. They are refugees, because they refused to join the Israeli military in 1951 hence had rights removed by Israel and were evicted from their lands in the Negev desert. The Jahalin have no access to Jerusalem since 1967 due to the permits system imposed by Israel. Illegal Israeli settlers are a huge problem for the Jahalin, and they are backed by the state and the military.
Due to encroachment by Settlements, the Jahalin live in a zone which is closed on each side, but are prey to aggression from the Settlers who live there. Amongst other acts, the Settlers place toys and other object which look bright and attractive but contain explosives intended to kill or wound the children. So far 6 children from this village died from such incidents, another 6 were injured.
As it is a closed zone geographically they cannot keep large flocks as they traditionally did, and instead base their income on sale of animals from the flocks, now down from 1600 to 140 total, to pay for source of food for the remaining animals. Previously they used to produce milk and yoghurt for sale in Jerusalem, but since the Wall was built by Israel they cannot get there to sell the produce. The Jahalin also used to work in settlements and industrial zones in Israel, but since they built their own school, none are allowed to work in settlements or Israel as a form of collective punishment placed on them. Hence they are living below a subsistence “red line”, and only UNRWA is supporting them, with basics such as flour and cooking oil, etc.
Previously the children used to have to walk 21km every day to school, which was very demanding for young children, as there was none locally and Israel refused to provide transport. In 1998 they went to Palestinian Authority and requested transport, and a bus was promised – but still not delivered – because of situation between Germany and Israel. Instead they decided to build their own school from car tyres (we were given a brief tour – it is well built and the classrooms are well laid out and tidy). There are currently 95 children in the school, which is a primary school; older children go to school in Jericho.
Water supplies are a serious problem for the Jahalin.
There are 2 wells but Israel blocked one well and posted security personnel to prevent access to the second well. The Bedouin did not find solution except trying to tap water from pipeline to settlement, but were fined for trying. They did a deal with the Israeli water company “Mekorot” to get a water supply in a deal that Mekorot would rather do that than risk the Jahalin disrupting water supply to the illegal settlers. The Jahalin now have a source of water 3km away. However the settlers found out about this supply so the settlers deliberately disrupt this supply, usually at the start of the weekend so the Jahalin are then without of water for 3 days – as the water company will not respond over the weekend.
In July they caught a settler putting poison in the water source and disrupting the pipes, but when they handed him over to the Israeli authorities there was no punishment for them, as they are “above and below the law”. Since July they have not used these wells because they cannot test for what type of poison is being used. They have asked Israelis to test for poisons but no response yet. It is described as an “internal wall” to make their lives unbearable.
In this region there are 5 Jahalin communities but no other villagers, so if Israel manages to remove or displace them there will be no Palestinians from here to the Dead Sea which will also damage the peace process. Hence they are determined to resist and not to leave to prevent Israel from controlling this area.
The Jahalin suffer regarding even basic Healthcare. This territory is defined under the Oslo Accords as “Area C”, so the Palestinian Authorities cannot bring ambulances here. Israel do not recognise the community so they have to arrange their own transportation by public transport if they can find it. Hence emergencies are often life-threatening, as are child births.
In the evening we had a talk entitled “The Political situation in Palestine and the political situation in Israel” given by Nasser Ibrahim, which was very informative.