Bethlehem, Mon 19.1.09, Afternoon

Yael I., Ruth O., Orit Y., Ilana D. (reporting)

From 2:30 till 5:300 PM, Bethlehem:  Wallaje.

Since we had realized that we didn’t actually know what work there was for us to do in Abu Dis we decided to undertake a long overdue visit to the families of two of our friends in Wallaje. The family of the older A. and the family of the younger A. We brought each of them two samplings of fruit trees in the hope that the rains will finally materialize.

The Checkpoint under Ein Yael is becoming more ‘established’ despite the fact that only Israelis are allowed to pass there.

A. was busy in his garden when we surprised him and took us inside. It is always a pleasure to talk to him, he is such a wise man, but his situation and that of his adult sons is getting worse. The prospects for his grandchildren dwindle. Nevertheless he is not losing hope and now entered a new enterprise which he hopes may succeed. He bought twenty beehives and is teaching one of his grandsons the ins and outs of beekeeping, hoping for lots of rain and blossoming fields and trees. So far, he said, miraculously, the bees are still alive, despite the drought and the cold. The Canadian option for his sons was not discussed this time. They find occasional one-day jobs in Bethlehem and have given up hope of ever obtaining a work permit in Israel. Meanwhile the ‘crook’ B.C. who has produced falsified purchase documents for those lands and is establishing facts on the ground is cultivating the fields next to his plot. They belong to the heirs of an aunt of A’s wife who lives in Spain and although he has visited last summer is apparently not in a position to undertake legal action. There are no doubts B.C. exploits this fact.

The younger A. was not yet home when we arrived. His wife who speaks a beautiful English was very pleased to see us. It had been too long; she said and gave us each a beautifully arranged pot of home-made  (baladi) olives. A co-production, she said, of her and all the children. She is very bored, there is nothing to do and all four children are home for their two-week mid-winter vacation. After A. arrived the conversation turned to politics and the war, which they of course had followed closely on Al-Jazeera. In the evenings he embroiders (to calm down), but he makes mistakes in the pattern, because he cannot concentrate. It is clear he only sees a very bleak future for his family. Although he has a work permit issued through the monastery the amount of work he performs varies and he finds it very difficult to make ends meet. The children helped serving tea, since the mother had injured her thumb. They are very polite and well brought up. He complained about the time spent at Checkpoint  (CP)300, usually more than an hour in the morning. He shares a taxi with his brother in the morning to get to the CP and from there to work in Jerusalem and the same on the way home. It is clear that this takes care of a large part of his income. He has received an old car from a friend, which serves his wife to get closer to the village so that the children don’t have to walk as far in the cold, rain and heat to get to the road where their school bus picks them up. He is not allowed to drive it on the road, only on the long path leading to his house. It does make life a little easier. Obviously he has no documents or insurance. The fervent wish of his wife is for another visit to Jerusalem to show her children the sites. It has been more than a year since R. actually obtained a one-day permit for the entire family; she is going to try her luck again to help the family fulfill their wish for a one-day outing.