Jurish, Qusra, Majdal, Za’tara
09:45 Jurish. Today our work with the women in the club finally begins.
Naomi B., Nurit P. and other colleagues had come to this little village on previous shifts and discovered an unusual group of women, different from those we’d met so far. It turned out these Palestinian women are full of initiative, active and energetic. They’ve developed projects to create and sell handicrafts in bazaars and markets beyond the village, as well as selling snacks to pupils in village schools. After some delays on our part, and more meetings and discussions with A., the coordinator, and her assistants, and after we organized a group of interested colleagues, we decided to start by teaching English and yoga.
As we reported two weeks ago, the army has blocked the entrance to Jurish on the hilltop with huge boulders. This time we went up a side route the villagers marked to avoid a long detour around Qusra.
We were impressed by the well-cared-for olive groves along the way where wheat is also grown, planted between the rows of trees. It’s now lovely and golden, an efficient use of the land. The entire village appears clean and orderly. Along the village streets grey metal boxes (like mail boxes) have been installed on the stone walls of the houses to protect the water meters. We were told that, until now, the residents have obtained water only from their cisterns and wells, but in two months a piped water network will begin operating. That’s why the meters were installed.
We reached the lovely building of the women’s center. It has a spacious office used also for large meetings, bright clean rooms, a kitchen with facilities to prepare the food for sale, a room for computer classes, and rooms for kindergarten children on the lower floor. Its construction was funded by the Saudis and the UN.
About 20 women had arrived by 10:15, most of them young, as well as a few alert high school girls who were very interested. We began with a brief conversation with the entire group to get acquainted, tell them about Machsom Watch and why it’s important for us to meet with them. They were pleased, and understood; we felt their willingness to accept us.
A. helped us divide the group in two. Women who reported greater fluency in English started yoga with Sara; the others went to the English class with Bella and Naomi. Later the groups switched so everyone could try both. Bella began with family pictures she’d brought and an initial conversation. The pupils were able to introduce themselves and their family members. They were very enthusiastic. Some of them knew English fairly well, and others also knew something. Almost all participated actively, translated for friends who were having difficulty and were interested in everything that was happening. We agreed that next time Bella and Naomi will divide the group in two, according to how well they know English, in order to help each person appropriately.
The fact some of the women knew English made it easier for Sarah to conduct the yoga class. The women expressed their enjoyment of the lesson both in their movements and by what they said.
As we were leaving, Nadim asked the women how it was. “It was great!” they said (my free translation…).
Our contact with A., the coordinator, is also a pleasure. She’s very wise and pleasant, open to any ideas that could help the women and their families. When we told her how impressed we were with the village she explained that the head of the village, who’s been in the job for a year, is excellent, cares a great deal and works seriously on the residents’ behalf. But she also noted there are many families with economic difficulties.
10:40 While we were in Jurish, Dvorka and Nadim drove around the area.
Qusra: We were told soldiers had been stationed that morning at the entrance to the village. By the time we arrived they were gone. We went to the municipal building, hoping to meet the local council head and again view their photo archive of violent incidents in which local residents had been injured by soldiers. He wasn’t there. We saw some of the photos on the walls of the office and drove on.
Majdal: The village is located on the north side of Highway 505 that runs down to the Jordan Valley.
The attractive municipal building was built a few years ago; it’s some distance from the village entrance. Elderly residents have trouble reaching it on foot when they require its services. Only the secretary was there when we arrived. No one was on either of the two spacious storeys.
In response to our question the secretary said the village isn’t being harassed by settlers. Migdalim, the nearest settlement, is inhabited by older people who don’t bother them, as is the settlement of Ma’ale Efrayim. Only rioters from Esh Kodesh sometimes harass the village of Qusra (where, if you recall, the attackers had once been roundly beaten), but they don’t reach Majdal.
12:30 Za’tara junction. When we passed this morning there were soldiers at the settlers’ two hitchhiking stations, the one to Jerusalem and the other to Huwwara. There were no soldiers on our way back.