Monday, January 21, 2013

Area C sumud projects

(sumud means steadfastness)

Pay attention to these peacemakers! Not only do these efforts help Palestinians stay on their land, but they invite internationals and Israelis to engage with these communities as well. Bringing people together on the ground, building bridges of trust, all that good stuff...

I've been to three of these places, and hope to visit more (and promote more) on my next visit! 

Al Aqaba Village (Tubas)

The Al Aqaba kindergarten and Rebuilding to Remain housing program were funded by Rebuilding Alliance in San Mateo. Since its kindergarten was built in 2003, most of the village has been under demolition order.  In the last two years, the Israeli army has demolished homes, two barns and two major roads (three times). The village continues to plan and build, even after its third master plan was rejected by the Civil Administration. No actions have been taken against the village in the last nine months (save for two live-fire trainings in and around the village), but since November, up to 1,000 Bedouin camps and small villages have been evicted and those people are still displaced.

Susiya Village (Hebron)

Susiya is a village of tents and caves in the southern part of the Hebron Hills. Its residents have been forcibly evicted four times, and the village is right now under another demolition order. Since their legal battle began in 1986, the 60 original families are now down to half of their original number. Rabbis for Human Rights and Israeli and international human rights groups and activists are supporting the village against the Israeli government and settler movement, which are trying to claim the southern Hebron Hills for Israel.

Hope Flowers School (Al Khader, Bethlehem)

The Hope Flowers School teaches non-violence, citizenship, social and community skills to children aged 5-14. It also works with trauma-recovery and special needs education. In 1999, the school was issued with a demolition order because of its proximity to the proposed Israeli separation wall. After submitting reports, attending meetings with the Israeli Civil Administration and continuous international pressure, the order to demolish was rescinded. The school applied for an Israeli building permit the same year and was successful, but the fee for issuing and validating the permit was beyond their capabilities, so they were unable to obtain the permit.

The directors of the school are still in a legal battle with the nearby expanding Israeli settlement of Efrat. The Israeli separation wall has isolated the Hope Flowers School and now prevents Israelis from visiting the school, which has been known as a home for peace education with bridge-building programs that have reached out to thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

Canaan Fair Trade (Burqin, Jenin and farms all over the West Bank)

Canaan Fair Trade exists to benefit the farming communities of Palestine. “Before we began, farmers here were selling their olive oil for 23% less than it costs them to harvest it (8 sheckels per kilo). Now, that we're able to sell our oil around the world, our growers are earning 22 sheckels per kilo, enabling us to earn a living from the farm crafts our families have practiced for generations. Our motto is "Insisting On Life". A number of solidarity communities sell tree sponsorships and the Trees for Life project is solely funded by grassroots movements abroad. This project helps offset the enormous destruction of olive trees by the Israeli occupation army in Palestine.”

Tent of Nations (Bethlehem)

 Tent of Nations is a Palestinian family farm located south of Bethlehem. It is owned by Daoud Nasser (below), whose family has owned this land for four generations. His grandfather registered his land with the ruling Ottomans and the Nassars still have the original deeds of ownership from the Ottomans, the British and the Jordanians respectively. In 1991 the Israeli military initiated proceedings to expropriate the Nasser’s farm, which happens to be located between two Jewish settlements in the Gush Etzion Block.

 Despite Daoud’s irrefutable proof of his family’s ownership of the land, the legal battle over it has stretched on for well over two decades – and the Nassar family has spent over $140,000 in legal fees to date. Last May, the Israeli military issued demolition orders because the Nassers added some minor but essential additions to their property. Thanks to an international solidarity campaign, they were granted a stay by the Israeli courts. At present, their case is ongoing in the Israeli courts. In the meantime, the Nassar family has used their land to establish “The Tent of Nations” an inspirational center that provides arts, drama, and education to the children of the villages and refugee camps of the region. Daoud and his family have also established a Women’s Educational Center offering classes in computer literacy, English, and leadership training. Many pastors and rabbis are familiar with Tent of Nations as a primary destination for Encounter – a well-known educational program that promotes coexistence by introducing Jewish Diaspora leaders to Palestinian life.

Wadi Fuqin Village (Bethlehem)

Caught in firefights along the armistice line between Israel and Jordan, the village was twice demolished and in 1954, its residents forced out to Dheisheh refugee camp in nearby Bethlehem. Thirteen years later, Israel had occupied the area and began investing in settlement projects that swallowed up residents’ agricultural lands. Today, Wadi Fukin has grown from a population of several hundred to more than 1,238 people, surrounded on three sides by towering Jewish-only settlements built in part on the village’s confiscated land.

The series of walls, towers, barbed wire and patrol roads that Israel is erecting around Palestinian communities in the West Bank is slated to run along the fourth side of the village, placing Wadi Fukin in an isolated enclave. Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, California kicked off their Beehive Project in August 2009, and as of February 2010, 23 beehives have been sponsored for the cultivation of honey as a means of economic survival.

Marda Permaculture (Marda, Salfit)

The Marda Permaculture Farms seeks to address the local economic crisis at an individual and community level by promoting a range of Permaculture techniques so that Marda residents can more effectively provide for their own basic needs. It practices sustainable design principles and techniques such as rainwater harvesting, water and energy conservation and small scale organic gardening. In addition to providing training for the local community, Marda Permaculture Farms aims to develop a sustainable income stream through permaculture training courses for a wider international audience.