Morning

Oct-13-2002
|

Team: Chaya O., Lauren E., Maya R. accompanied by team from French TV(channel 3).General - This week began with the IDF Sunday's tanks and missile attackon Amal neighborhood in Khan Yunis, which lead to the killing of 16Palestinian civilians including women and children and to the wounding ofmore than 100 people. It was followed, a few hours later, by a secondassault on the hospital to where the wounded were transferred. Theremainder of the week was marked by sporadic IDF operations in severalWest Bank and Gaza Strip towns and villages, leading to the killing andwounding of civilians on almost each and every day (during the weekendalone four were shot dead including two women, a teacher and a nurse) - sothat all in all the week was a particularly bloody one with the number ofPalestinians killed approaching 25. While Fuad was flirting with theremoval of virtual "posts" (maahazim) Palestinian real homes weredemolished by the army on a daily basis (not to mention the soaringsettlers' violence which nowadays focuses on the olive harvest and olivepickers (one of whom was murdered last week)). Clashes between Hamas andthe PNA that broke out in the Gaza Strip on Monday against the backdrop ofthe Israeli major attack in Khan Yunis, were more than welcomed by Israeliarmy and state officials (who developed high hopes for a more seriousbloodshed), but were fortunately contained towards the end of the week. Our Shift: We arrived at al-Khader's roadblocks at around 7.15 AM to findthe junction temporarily free of IDF presence and the movement ofPalestinians entering al-Khader by foot and leaving the junction by busesand transits rather easy going - though not for long as we were soon tofind out. At the junction we met with Hussein Najajra the boys' schoolheadmaster who introduced us to a director from the Palestinian ministry ofeducation (the Bethlehem region), by the name of Na'im 'Amira. Like us, Mr.'Amira came to the roadblocks to do some watching, in his case on behalf ofwomen teachers from al-Khader and Husan who work at government schoolselsewhere in the Bethlehem and Hebron districts and who face daily problemson their way to work because of IDF road terrorism (I will return to thispoint later on). He is more than willing to take our team (and otherrepresentatives from Machsomwatch as well) on a tour to visit some of theschools that suffered most from the closureinfo-icon and siege policy. The illusion of relative quiet at the roadblocks drove us to the by nowvery familiar school compound, where we devoted most of our time to a visitat the girls' seconday school (grades seven to twelve) and a talk with thevery impressive headmistress, Um- Shadi. Deprivation - perhaps wretchednesswould be better term here - strikes one's eye from every class, corner andcorridor of the building. Classes are extremely small - approximately halfthe size of the normal standard - and each accomodates between 40 to 50students, furniture - that is, mainly desks and chairs - are decades old,and densely packed/almost piled, with hardly any space in between. Um-Shadisays that the upper grades (eleven and twelve) are much less over-crowded -but this is due to the rather wide-spread phenomenon of early marriageamong the 16 and 17 year old (she mentioned 38 current cases, whichprobably amount to more than 20% of the relevant cohorts), followed bytheir drop out from school. In her late forties or early fifties, and a mother of five, Um-Shadi - bornto a refugeee family from Ein-Karem village that eventually settled in BeitJala - is a veteran of the education system in the Bethlehem region, with23 years of teaching and administration behind her, seven of which asprincipal of al-Khader girls' secondary school. Like Najajra, her malecounterpart at the boy's secondary school, during the last two years sheinvests most of her energies in watchguarding her students and maintaininga schooling routine in the midst of ongoing army violence. Much more anoutgoing type then Najajra is, however, she spoke at length about hernumerous confrontations with soldiers and officers in or around the school;how she faced them time after time while guns were pointed at her andexplained her role as teacher and educator ("I told them that there is adivision of labor in our society, some are teachers, others are students,yet others are fighters, so you have come to the wrong place..") how teargas canisters were shot into the school internal courtyard, how she tookthe risk and broke the curfew carrying the exam notebooks (thematriculation exams) that she corrected. She also spoke about the povertyof the students' families - the school (government school) charges anannual fee of forty shekels for various services, but hardly any family canafford to pay this sum... most fathers are without work for nearly twoyears now. Also - the ministry of education has run out of supplies (forsome time she managed to keep an "emergency stock" of ink and paper). While we were with Um-Shadi, a border-police jeep arrived at the junction(few meters to the west of the roadblock) and stopped a bus that has justbegun to move in the direction of Hebron. All passengers - some fifteenyoung men and women, mostly in their twenties, some of them students atHebron University - were ordered to come down and their IDs wereconfiscated. When we arrived at the scene they had already been standingthere for thirty minutes. The border policemen at first tried to preventus from speaking with the Palestinians: "these are detaineesinfo-icon, can't yousee?". We asked them why they were holding people who were not breakingthe occupier's laws - they were heading to Hebron not Jerusalem (godforbid), and they were using the 'permitted' type of vehicle... . It appearsthat stopping public transportation moving within Palestinian territorieshas become a routine practice of 'road terrorism' - indeed, the 'detainees'we talked with mentioned that such arbitrary harassment is their lot everyother day. By now the sun was growing hotter and hotter (temperature onSunday was around 35 degrees) and the 'detainees' - entering the secondlost hour - were growing thirsty, tired and frustrated. The team on thejeep (none of which was an officer), however, had all the time in theworld. And why should they be in any hurry? The next half hour or so wasspent with us urging the policemen to return the IDs, and with thembecoming increasingly more arrogant. Understanding that this has become adead-end situation we left the area. Approximately half an hour later, andtwo hours after they were stopped, the Palestinians were allowed tocontinue their journey to Hebron (as reported by one of them, a student atthe open university).