Almost a leisurely breakfast this morning as we were meeting Angela Godfrey-Goldstein at our hotel at 9am. Angela has set up an organisation (www.jahalin.org) which is working with Bedouin villages for education rights, amongst other things. On the way to the Jahalin village Angela gave us a more thorough tour of Ma’ale Adummim – the 3rd largest settlement in the ‘Greater Jerusalem’ area. Angela explained the process of ‘Judaising’ the West Bank and East Jerusalem. She gave us fact after fact – far too many to remember but one that stuck in my mind is that there are 36 municipal swimming pools in Jerusalem – in either West Jerusalem or East Jerusalem settlements. There are NO municipal swimming pools open to Palestinian people living in Jerusalem.
6 x the amount of water is made available to settlements compared to local Palestinian villages.
Ma’ale Adummim itself is built on 86% privately owned Palestinian land which has been confiscated, stolen or ‘bought’ using forged documents.
We headed towards Jericho for a few miles until we came to the Jahalin village. There we were welcomed by Eid, the spokesperson, advocate and village Elder. He told us of his life and struggle, translated for us by Angela and, in particular, the struggle to provide education for the local Bedouin.
The nearest school for the village children (5 – 12 years old) was in Jericho, 22km away. Over the years, on the way to or from school, 5 children had been killed on the road, 6 severely injured and many more traumatised by seeing the accidents happen and their friends killed or injured – clearly they no longer wanted to go so far to a school which involved such a dangerous journey.
So, in 2009, with help from organisations such as ‘Rabbis for Human Rights’ along with European and Muslim volunteers Eid helped the village build a school out of discarded tyres and other refuse. Last year there were 85 kids in the school (up to 12 years) with 102 due to enrol when the school year starts tomorrow. However, the local illegal Israeli settlement has complained that the school is ‘a threat’ and a demolition order has been placed on it which means that IDF soldiers will come in the morning and prevent pupils and teachers accessing the school.
The area across the road, on which the Jahalin traditionally grazed their flock has been designated a military area by the Israelis. However, there are no soldiers patrolling the area, instead there are booby traps placed which mutilate rather than kill. A pen, a pair of spectacles, some sweets … Treasure to a child – but potentially fatal if disturbed due to the hidden explosives.
Bedouin lived on the produce of their livestock The village used to have 1600 sheep and goats, and 25 camels. But the market at which they could sell their produce has been closed down. Now there are just 140 animals, no camels – it is just not viable. If it were not for the basic supplies provided by the World Food Programme the village could not exist and the Israelis would have achieved their aim of moving the Bedouin away from their traditional lands leaving the area free for the expansion of the illegal settlements. Angela, as near to an avenging angel as I have met, will be at the village tomorrow morning to help confront the soldiers in their attempt to close the school. We wish her well and offer her our prayers. Because the school is not just a school – it is also used as a medical clinic and to provide literacy classes for adults.
Leaving the Jahalin camp we returned to Jerusalem and made a short stop at the Sunbuna store; a cooperative for Palestinian craft which, due to travel restrictions, the women who make them cannot sell in Jerusalem.
Just before lunch, we stopped briefly at the Chapel of the Flagellation (another Barluzzi design – this one from 1929) and the Chapel of the Condemnation – with its altar Bas Relief of Jesus being led away from the fortress of Antonia, and including some ‘gaming stones’ – game boards carved into the stones of the pavement (lithostratus).
We had lunch at the Austrian Hospice – I can’t deny that they do a pretty good cheese and ham toastie – before climbing to the roof to look out over Jerusalem.
Continuing along the Via Dolorosa, we stopped off at the Armenian pottery shop run by the Karakashian brothers – money was spent :)
On to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – this time coming down from the roof via the Ethiopian monastery.
We continued to St James’ Armenian cathedral. Although we knew it would be closed, we hoped we could sneak in – we couldn’t, although the custodian did let us into the courtyard.
We had left Dormition Abbey off the agenda yesterday so decided to visit today. Built in 1911 at the place of the tomb of Mary (if you’re a Latin Catholic that is – we visited the Orthodox site yesterday and neither take much account of Ephesus!). The church was very busy – with lots of people scribbling furiously in notepads. We have no idea why.
Walking back to our hotel via the bullet holed Zion gate and through Jaffa gate we felt that we had done as much as could be expected. There had been so much to take in and we needed time to assimilate facts and rationalise our responses.
Tomorrow could be more of the same …. We’ll see!