Sunday 27 July 2014

Night of Power, Day of Rage

  As the fragile ceasefire in place on Saturday was in effect, the citizens of Gaza temporarily opened banks, searched for survivors and counted the dead. That day followed an unprecedented turn out of Palestinians in the West Bank in support for Gaza on Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) and the ‘Day of Rage’. On Thursday night, the date during Ramadan that marks when the Prophet Muhammad revealed the first verses of the Quran, tens of thousands of people around the West Bank were on the streets venting their frustration and anger at the deaths of their brothers and sisters in Gaza.

  The most remarkable show of this feeling was seen in Ramallah where the focus was on Qalandia checkpoint near Jerusalem. The swathes of people amassing at the checkpoint inevitably turned violent with Israeli forces and the Al-Aqsa Brigade exchanged live fire and two Palestinians were killed. Friday was declared a ‘Day of Rage’ by the Palestinians with protests and more clashes occurring all over the West Bank.

The '#48k' March heading to Qalandia Chekpoint

  Myself and the other volunteer here were staying in east Jerusalem and as the last Friday of Ramadan broke, we heard reports that Al-Aqsa Mosque was closed to all except over 50’s. The whole of east Jerusalem had a repulsive smell as the police had used and dispersing measure colloquially termed ‘skunk water’. This putrid chemical is thrown over buildings and roads to dissuade Palestinians amassing together. Police and army were all around the old city, setting up roadblocks and deploying water cannons effectively separating east Jerusalem from the rest. We managed to get back to Abu Dis in the evening and were met with the smell of tear gas that had been used extensively by the army.

Police block roads from east Jerusalem to the Old City

One of dozens of spent rubber bullet casings littering the streets of Abu Dis

  As the bombings and ground operations in Gaza have resumed, the frustration and anger of Palestinians in the West Bank endure. How this manifests itself in the days to come remains to be seen. What is certain is that the pictures and stories seen and heard about the situation in Gaza shows the suffering Gazans are enduring and how it cannot continue at the behest of a government claiming it as self-defence.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Army Incursions into Abu Dis - A Video

This video from the Independent Media Centre shows what occurs in Abu Dis almost every night. What is shown in the first couple of minutes is a march of solidarity for the people of Gaza. What occurs after shows the army firing rubber bullets and tear gas before entering a home and arresting two people. The journalist filming the event is then subsequently arrested himself as caught on film. This was filmed outside Dar Assadaqa. retrieved on 23rd July 2014

The Blame Game

  The 'who's to blame' argument gets brought up continuously in the discussion of Israel and Palestine. I see posts on Facebook and Twitter, articles in newspapers and online, blogs and general discussion every day as to which side is more culpable. It seems that there is very little hope of finding a consensus on the subject of who is more to blame for the situation as it is today. Supporters of each side have their version of what atrocities occurred and who was the aggressor during the formation of Israel. What is more important is what is actually happening on the ground now. Are human rights being abused? Are acts being committed in violation of international law? The answer to both of these questions is yes.

  Palestinians have been living under occupation for over 40 years with systematic human rights abuses committed against them. A separation wall has been built and continued settlement construction occurs, both illegal under international law. No one denies that rockets are being fired at Israel by Hamas but the severity of response due to the concept of ‘needing to defend oneself’ is wholly disproportionate. The Israeli government is continuing to occupy the West Bank and maintaining the blockade on Gaza. That is not self-protection, it is collective punishment of all Palestinians and is just unfathomable and unjust in whatever context you think of.

   Myself and the other volunteers meet people every day that have been arrested and put in jail with no charge, who have been shot or injured by the army, or know someone that has been killed. These events aren't isolated incidents, they happen almost daily and have been for over 40 years. The wall cuts through the middle of the town and people have told me their friends are on the other side and they haven't seen since the wall was erected, or they cannot visit the mosque in Jerusalem during Ramadan or even that the checkpoints refuse to let ambulances through.

  This is not some historical contextual argument to decide who is better or worse, that discussion will be argued by the different sides indefinitely. Yet that argument is a moot discussion when faced with the reality as it is for Palestine right now. A reality that millions of Palestinians are living in which is now into its 2nd and 3rd generation with people dying every day. The ‘blame game’ of past events can be played but it pales in comparison to the continued human rights abuses, transgressions of international law and the deaths of innocent people that currently occur. 

Sunday 13 July 2014

The Reasons and Excuses

  The pounding of Gaza with bombs continues with the death toll now reaching over 150 men, women and children. Casualty inducing raids and army incursions are continuing in the West Bank on a daily basis. It’s a grim situation in this part of the world, especially if you’re a Palestinian.

  Here in Abu Dis, the army presence is becoming an almost habitual routine. Around the time of Iftar (breaking of the fast during Ramadan), the army will make its way to the University at the top of the main street. What follows is a tear gas, rubber bullet and stone throwing standoff for a few hours before the army move out. It’s become such a familiar sequence of events that the owner of one of the houses next to Dar Assadaqa that is taken over every evening for ‘strategic purposes’, suggested to the army that he and his family should just move out and make his home a new army base.

  These clashes are all too common but not without consequence. Last night, an 18 year old Palestinian student was shot in the head with a rubber bullet. As the ambulance was taking him to Ramallah hospital, they were stop but an Israeli flying checkpoint. What followed seems to just defy any logical sense to most human beings. The army and police held up the ambulance, took the keys, confiscated all identity cards and made them wait at the side of the road. It was only after half an hour of pressure from the paramedics, human rights groups and other organisations that the authorities finally let them pass. It’s hard to believe in any situation when there is a person with an injury as serious as a bullet wound to the head, would be denied medical treatment for half an hour by anyone, whether you regard them as an enemy or otherwise.

  To Gaza, where the constant bombing and deaths of hundreds of civilians is relentless. The moral high ground claimed by the Israeli government is one of self-defence and retaliation rather than attack and instigation. What is often not mentioned is that the instigation has been occurring for weeks, months and years before the recent events. Over the past month alone, well over 1000 Palestinians have been arrested or re-arrested with no charge and 8 people were killed. The constant barrage of news reports and word of mouth anecdotes of casualties in the West Bank and Gaza over the years must simply be unfathomable to foreigners. “What other nation would put up with rocket fire without retaliation?” is a phrase heard often in defence of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, but what nation would put up with constant occupation and human rights abuses from said occupiers?

  Targeting civilians is morally unjust in every scenario one can imagine. There’s never a valid excuse for it but there is always a reason. The rockets being fired from Gaza by Hamas and the reasons behind them are plain to see. Living under siege, no access to adequate resources, no freedom of movement, and the list goes on. The reasons for the assault on Gaza and the actions of the army in the West Bank, not just this past month but for decades past, are given by the Israeli government as self-defence of its population. This reason cannot and will never wash as any moral excuse for the treatment, occupation and death of so many innocent Palestinians.

Local youths prepare for the inevitable army incursion

Volunteers from the Red Crescent present to tend casualties

An IDF soldier takes position next to Al Quds University

Adam Eriqat was shot in the head with a rubber bullet during clashes in Adu Dis

Monday 7 July 2014


When I came to Palestine over a week ago I was in the mindset that I am practically entering a post war zone. I knew it wouldn't exactly be safe or a walk in the park after talking to Palestinian students I met in January.

After a week of being here, 'post' war zone couldn't be further from the truth. With what's happened with the 3 israeli teens being killed ALLEGEDLY by Palestinians and the brutality and murder carried out by the Israelis, it's much more of a pre war zone. There are many clashes all over Palestine. All of a sudden, most of my Facebook friends and the groups and pages I follow are sharing and writing posts in support of Palestine condemning the actions of the Israelis showing the scale of people this has reached.

Being here in Abu Dis it is not the centre of the conflict but the incidents have been getting closer and closer. Clashes are taking place in Abu Dis and I keep myself away. My family and friends back home all tell me to just come home asap. Many people I have met here have talked about how a potential uprising is imminent and that the indicators are there. Life in Abu Dis continues to go on. We go to work in the morning and open the fast in the evening and see our friends. But lately clashes are on the rise. There have been a few helicopters passing over this week and the way the Israelis bomb Gaza and the way the media backs them up I can't help but worry that what if we were bombed now? England wouldn't go against Israel, they'd get get a slapped wrist and call it an accident or something like that. Only yesterdat in Abu Dis there was a car with a sort of megaphone and speaker system driving around apparently urging people to stand up for Palestine. At night there was a standoff between locals and the israeli army and army though nothing significant took place, the numbers of people who showed up was quite large. The very next morning, today, Israel killed another 9 people in Gaza and 2 in shofat. So who knows what will happen next?

What is surreal is the genuine threat there is out here. When passing a checkpoint or a guard, I can't help but wonder that this is a trigger happy moron who would love an excuse to beat the daylights out of me or worse for being a Muslim and pro Palestine.  Over the years I've heard of foreign people being hurt or killed out here like reporters being mowed down by a tank. Even if such incidents are rare or one off, I can't help but think, what if I'm the next "one off". Initially I wasn't fearful, I'd downplay anything people from back home would say to me. I'd think yeah Palestine is pretty dangerous but then realise I am in Palestine, so I can't imagine how my mother must feel every time she hears something about Palestine. Over the last couple of days, the fear is creeping in. It seems so dangerous now and it's ramadan. Palestinians are more reserved and have little energy in this month. What will happen when ramadan ends? I fear being caught up in a war.


  There is tension all across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Since the murders of the three Israeli teens and the Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem, incidents, protests and clashes are occurring daily in towns and cities across the region. There are reports of settlers and Israeli nationalists seeking out Palestinians, mass operations and arrests by the army, and Palestinians seeking out settlers and the army for confrontations.

  Last night the army entered Abu Dis once again. There were calls throughout the day from a car fitted with a loudspeaker, lamenting the continued occupation and organising a demonstration that evening at the wall. The army promptly responded.

  The university was raided and the security staff taken and locked up in a room while the army conducted their search. There were hundreds of Palestinians, mostly young men, all along the main road in Abu Dis. Stones were being thrown and fireworks aimed at the army who responded with rubber bullets. The locals had also blocked the roads going into the centre with rubbish skips to prevent the army from entering further. The army then moved off to enter the town through a different route and the protesters moved on to the local army base where they were met with more rubber bullets and tear gas.

  It seems that this is the only form of resistance that is available to many Palestinians. A form of resistance that many have grown up with under occupation, it’s become part of their psyche. This is such a normal part of resisting occupation that parents teach toddlers how to throw stones because it will be useful when they grow up.

   Yet Palestinians don’t live in glass houses, they live under collective punishment in a prison where most will never be able to leave. The prison is made of walls, checkpoints and army bases. Throwing stones to try and smash their way out of this prison is the only option many Palestinians see themselves having but the walls don’t seem to shatter and the cycle of violence continues. 

Local Palestinians blocking the main road into Abu Dis during army confrontation.

First visit to Al Aqsa Mosque

On Saturday 5th July, I visited the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. I was hoping to spend quite a while there and being the only Muslim in the group I would have to make the trip on my own. My friend Khaled, from Abu Dis, arranged for his friend, from Jerusalem,  to meet me in the Jerusalem bus station and show me  around the Old City and Al Aqsa mosque. I did not even know this person, nor did Khaled have to make such arrangements, yet it once again highlights the kind and generous nature of the people of Palestine. So Khaled accompanied me to the bus in Abu Dis and made sure I got on the bus and ready to go before he left. He was unable to come to Jerusalem as nobody in Abu Dis has the permits to enter the area. He constantly phoned me checking where I was and that all was well. So after about 20 minutes of waiting for passengers to fill the bus, I was on my way.
En route to Jerusalem, we passed a checkpoint, Alzayim I think it may have been called. The bus pulled over in the checkpoint and the majority of the people got off the bus and queued up to have their passes checked. One of the soldiers got on the bus and checked peoples passport, he said something to me I just shrugged and showed him my passport because I didn’t know what he said. I was watching the people in the queue and they were showing their passes to the soldier and they were passing fairly quickly. There was a Palestinian lady among them who showed her pass but did not look him in the eye because she just wanted to get back on the bus and go. The soldier stopped her and stared at her and her pass for a few long seconds, clearly making her feel uncomfortable then let her go. All passengers on our bus were able to continue the journey. The soldier was carrying someone’s green pass, it was a Palestinian mans who was standing near the soldiers looking helpless and fed up. They harass anybody they feel like based on their bogus set of rules.
I arrived at the Jerusalem bus station and saw Khaleds friend Muhammad waiting there for me with his friend. They walked me to the Damascus Gates and through the Old City markets. They looked lively and colourful, you get a sense of what it must have been like in the old times, like you see in the movies. There were soldiers stationed every 100 meters or so and generally in pairs and as we arrived at the Al Aqsa gate, I got some strange looks from the soldiers stationed there.
WOW! I entered the grounds of the Al Aqsa mosque and it was breathtaking. It was overwhelming. As a Muslim I cannot stress the significance and the actual feelings of being in such a sacred place, especially after reading deeper into the history and significance of the place in Islam. Muhammads friend left us and Muhammad showed me around. I learned that everything within the walls of the Al Aqsa region, so even the grounds outside of the Dome of the Rock ad Qibli mosque, are all part of the Al Aqsa mosque and people can pray anywhere here. I saw men, women, children and families everywhere. People were happy and the children were playing. I learned that the Dome of the Rock was for women to pray and Qibli was for men, although I am unsure whether it is just for the prayers in Ramadan or all year round. The view was amazing over the side walls. There are public wudh (ablution) areas and drinking fountains. It is easy for one to get lost in amazement here and forget about everything going on.
What I found particularly heart warming was how organisations set up iftars for the public and anyone can join them without having to pay. I would love to join them sometime but today Muhammad invited me to do iftar at his house. So I soaked in what I could of Al Aqsa and headed to his place for iftar. There, he introduced me to his older brother Omar who welcomed me with open arms and incredible hospitality. I was a complete stranger to these folks yet by the time we left I felt as though these people are my close friends. One thing I noticed and they told me was there is a loud bang, like a cannon, to signify the opening and closing of the fast. After we had eaten we prayed together and then left to go back to Al Aqsa mosque to perform the night prayer.
We met some of their friends on the way who were also headed to the mosque. We passed some soldiers who walked past us quite quickly with their helmets on. Omar told me the helmets being on signify they’re looking to arrest someone. We go to Al Aqsa and the prayer had started. There were thousands of people praying there, some inside and some outside. We joined the prayer, Muhammad accompanied me into the Qibli mosque as I wanted to pray inside it. It was a truly amazing experience to be able to pray there. After the prayers we went out and met some of Omar and Muhammads friends who were all very welcoming. As there was no buses running this late, Muhammad and his brother and friends drove me all the way back to my place in Abu Dis.
Upon looking back at the photographs I had taken at Al Aqsa, it feels almost like a dream. Having seen the place so much in pictures and then looking at mine made it feel almost too good to be true. When I got back Khaled said to me, “I will not ask you how it was, I know you will not be able to describe the feeling”. He was right.

Sunday 6 July 2014

A View of Jericho

  It is quite hot here in Palestine. Most of the locals are obviously fairly use to the heat but for myself and the other volunteers, it is pretty uncomfortable during the day. So when myself and Jack proposed a visit to Jericho on the east side of Palestine, we were advised that it might not be such a good idea for us fair skinned Westerners.

  Jericho, or Ariha in Arabic, is the oldest city in the world and located 260m below sea level in the Jordan valley. Due to its location in a depression plain, the climate is exceedingly hot and stifling, especially during the summer months. We thus decided to visit in the evening when we thought that the heat wouldn’t be so much of an issue. As the shared taxi descended into the Jordan valley and dipped below sea the level, the change in atmosphere and temperature was almost immediate.

  We arrive at the centre just in time for Iftar, the breaking of the fast during Ramadan. With unfortunate timing however, this was also during the second half of France vs. Germany quarter final of the World Cup. We decided to put off breaking our fast till we had seen the conclusion and found a café on the 4th floor of a building in the centre of town where we could watch the game. There were a few Palestinians in the café that were working there and kindly gave us some food after they had Iftar. This is just another example of the generosity of the Palestinian people, sharing food with foreign strangers.

A view of Jericho and the surrounding hills from the Roof Top Cafe

  After the match and breaking fast, we went for a walk to explore the town. It seemed that during the month of Ramadan, Jericho is fairly subdued as people are lacking energy fasting for so long in such heat. Following a trip around town, we came across an impressively large and grandiose building that seemed out of place with rest of the town’s architecture. We ventured inside and found out that the plot of land with which the building and gardens were located on has been owned by the Russian Tsar and subsequent USSR and RussianFederation since the 1880’s. They had subsequently built the impressive museum about ‘Russians in the Holy Land’ and commenced excavations. The well-manicured gardens surrounding the museum contained a 2000 year old sycamore tree that was mentioned in the bible.

Russian Museum and Park Complex
The 2000 year old Biblical sycamore tree
Excavations in the grounds

   Despite the heat and fasting during Ramadan, it seems that nothing will sap the Palestinians’ enthusiasm for the World Cup. We found a café in which to watch the second quarter final of the night, Brazil vs. Colombia. For the second half, we went to somewhere closer to our hostel that was located in the Aqabat Jafar refugee camp. We found a restaurant showing the game that was located next to the Intercontinental Hotel, an absolutely colossal hotel on the outskirts of Jericho. It seemed so adventitious for its location, especially as Jericho seemed so laid back and quiet. The $150million casino/hotel was built in 1998 with the backing of Yassar Arafat. The reasoning for such a project was supposedly in anticipation of the influx of government organisations and investment due to Jericho being the first Area A city in the West Bank as well as to cater for the Christian tourists that visit the area. This influx never took place on the scale anticipated with Ramallah becoming the centre of the Palestinian Authority. Perhaps because it is Ramadan, but it was hard to imagine that the hotel is ever busy enough to fill even half of the rooms. The restaurant was a short walk away from our hostel where we were treated to air conditioned rooms for the first time in Palestine.

Inter Continental Hotel

  It was a very short visit to a town with such historical significance and with plenty of other sites to see in the surrounding areas. I shall definitely visit again during my time here and despite the ludicrous heat, it will be worth exploring further. 

Ramadan in Abu Dis - Week 1

I arrived in Abu Dis on the first day of Ramadan. I closed my fast at the airport. Prior to the trip I was told about how the work day changes and how most things are open later in the day. So the opening of the fast is signified by the Maghrib Azaan (Call to prayer for the sunset prayer). As a Muslim who comes from England where we have timetable which differ from the timetable of other mosques to determine our fasting times, it was refreshing to see how the whole town breaks the fast together with the Azaan. The stores and work hours are shifted more towards midday. Then within half an hour of Maghrib, everything closes and people are home preparing their meals. It becomes like a ghost town, very quiet, very peaceful. The locals, as mentioned in a previous post, are very hospitable and generous, and within my first week I have been told by five people to do iftar (open the fast) at their home. We visited the house of a local lady on Tuesday and did iftar there. One distinction I can already make is between Abu Dis and Bethlehem. Abu Dis is predominantly Muslim population whereby Bethlehem is a mix of Muslims and Christians. So when in Abu Dis the tw becomes closed and quiet at iftar, Bethlehem remains open and operational like normal, yet the people in Bethlehem are equally as nice and friendly.
After Iftar, the town comes to life, children can be heard playing and enjoying themselves and letting off fireworks. You don’t see this before iftar time because it is so hot and people have less energy. The shops and cafes open and the people are out shopping and meeting friends or just going for a walk. I have been to the gym which was quite full after iftar as well around 11 at night. Even going for a walk after iftar in Abu Dis already feels safe after only a week because there are so many friendly people around. The World Cup is currently happening so some cafes set up outdoor screens and show the games. The atmosphere and set up is brilliant because back home there’ll be one or two screens in a sheesha cafe but these are almost like outdoor cinemas. The weather at night is very nice and cool so it makes sitting outside more enjoyable and more so bearable . The atmosphere for the Algeria game was incredible, people were united and cheering everything they did from tackles to saves. Unfortunately they lost that game but it would have been amazing to see how Abu Dis would respond to their winning. I’ve learnt that there are certain sweet dishes that are only made during Ramadan which is pretty cool, I still need to learn the names of them though.
The struggle of the occupation still remains in Ramadan and this year it has only amplified with the current events taking place like the killings and clashes etc. During Ramadan last year, a friend told me up to 10, 000 permits were given to Palestinians around the Abu Dis area to go and pray in the Al Aqsa mosque. Add that number to an assumed number of permits given in other areas and then take all them away from how many people are allowed this year. So far I have not come across anyone who has a permit in Abu Dis. Al Aqsa is the third most sacred sight in Islam and many Muslims who live nearby and can actually see it, are unable to visit during Islams most blessed month. Another very significant day is the first Friday of Ramadan. Al Aqsa was closed to all under the age of 50 and it was the day of the funeral of the 16 year Palestinian boy that was killed by Israel. Apparently the number of Muslims in Al Aqsa that day went from the usual 80,000 down to 8,000. As a Muslim and citizen of the UK I was able to go to Al Aqsa the following day. Now, when leaving the UK and going to such a sacred place, it is normal for other Muslims back home to ask me to pray for them in Al Aqsa. However, when a Palestinian, who lives only 20 minutes from the place is asking me to pray for them in Al Aqsa, it shows the strength of the chokehold the occupation has Palestine in.

Saturday 5 July 2014

A Week in Abu Dis

I’ve been in Abu Dis a week now and am beginning to get a feel of the place. One thing to note is that the current way of doing things isn’t representative of the year round routine because it all changes during Ramadan with people doing things later in the day. Upon my arrival in Abu Dis I was very unsettled and uneasy, it’s nothing like England and so required some adjusting to. On my first day when I travelled to Abu Dis from Jerusalem, it seemed quite for what I initially thought, it took around 40 minutes to get here. On my second night a local friend took me for a walk around Abu Dis in the evening. On that walk he showed me how close Jerusalem actually is to Abu Dis and without the wall it was reachable by car in around 10 minutes. This threw me off, I was shocked and not only is it close, but very few Palestinians get the permits to visit the Al Aqsa mosque. They can see it but not actually go there which must be difficult for the Muslim majority of Palestinians. Coming from the UK and being Muslim I understand the religious significance of visiting Al Aqsa yet the locals are unable to do so despite being around the corner from it. This is only a small example of the problems caused by the wall and the occupation. Yet these people remain strong, they accept it as it is and continue to live their lives.
The people of Abu Dis are amongst the kindest most generous people I have met. They greet you with a smile and are very hospitable, they never make you feel like an outsider. On my second day here, we had iftar at a lady’s house that the rest of the group were familiar with. She made sure we all ate and were full before we left. Another time I was alone in the flat on an evening and a friend from Abu Dis brought round some food his mother had made and had iftar with me. There’s real sense of community in Abu Dis and respect among all the locals. It’s quite a homely place.
The town itself isn’t that big but is connected to Izaria which is another small town with a few more shops and cafes. The view from our balcony and roof is eye catching. Admittedly there is a lot of rubbish laying around but the overall look of the place is quite attractive. During the day you can only barely see into the distance and faintly make out the shape of hills. At night it is much clearer and all the towns have many of their lights on, so when the humidity clears you can see clusters of lights beyond the hills and valleys.
We've walked through the university campus and it is quite impressive. I haven't been in any rooms yet but I like the overall buildings and gardens. At some stage it feels like walking through a park back home with benches in the shade of the trees. It was only a walk through to get to the museum but I would love to explore the campus itself more.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Kidnappings, Repercussions and Justice

  Since the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers on June 12th, Israel has been a nation in shock and fear as to what will happen to those victims. In the West Bank and Gaza, the response seemed clear, indiscriminate raids, arrests and bombings. A reaction from the Israeli government and army to find those responsible has resulted in the deaths of 5 Palestinians and over 400 arrests.  As the bodies of these teens were discovered and buried, the shock and fear has turned to anger as the pressure cooker of Israeli outrage threatens to blow its contents on the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza.

  Intentional murder is something to be abhorred in any and all cases and justice should be served. The justice that should be served ought to be an impartial and thorough investigation into those responsible with punishment being given according to law under fair trial. Perhaps this is a pipe dream for justice in Palestine, especially after seeing the collective grief and anger seen in Israel over the killing of the teenagers. Yet this justice should still be the ideal, no matter how shocked, bereaved or angry an individual, family or nation feels. The justice that will be served is that of collective punishment for all Palestinians in forms all too familiar; mass arrests and administrative detention with no charges or trial, further restrictions to freedom of movement, air strikes and ultimately, death.

  Calls are heard from the Israeli government for a ‘response’, ‘punishment’ and ‘justice’, yet no one in a public position in the government would ever admit what these will ultimately entail. Blood for blood, an eye for an eye, revenge killings, or whatever other idiom takes your fancy, this is the justice that threatens Palestinians in the wake of the tragedy. With this justice mentality, tragedy begets tragedy.

  On Tuesday evening, in an Arab suburb of East Jerusalem, witnesses described seeing a teenager forced into a car and driven off. Later, the body of 16 year old Mohammed Abu Khudair was found in a forest south of the city. Though uncorroborated as of now, it seems a uniformed view that this murder was committed as a revenge attack by right wing Israelis in retribution for the three teenagers’ deaths. It seems Israeli authorities refuse to comment or speculate on who carried out this murder but unilaterally agree that Hamas are the perpetrators of the Israeli kidnappings and murders despite little to no evidence being presented. 

  These latest events happened following clashes between Israelis and police in Jerusalem with chants of ‘Death to Arabs’ being heard. Other reports have claimed another kidnapping was attempted in East Jerusalem with bystanders intervening as well as three new settlement outposts being established in the West Bank and calls from the Israeli defence minister to build a permanent settlement as an appropriate response to the deaths of the teenagers.

  We will wait to see what the scale and type of ‘response’ and ‘justice’ is carried out by the Israeli government and the army. The indications now point to the response being anything but the serving of justice.

  As this article is being published, clashes between Palestinians and police are currently occurring in East Jerusalem as news of the death of Mohammed Khudair has spread.


Visit to Bethlehem - Aydah and the Wall

After visiting the Church of Nativity and markets, the group decided to go and see the Aydah refugee camp. When we got there we met one of the workers from the camp who was telling us about the clashes and events that happen there. The camp  is situated near to a huge gate in the wall where the army basically cause problems from. There are quite a few watch towers around the place as well and one closer to the camps was black and burnt by refugees. We did not get enough time to actually chat and interact with the refugees as it was late in the day and coming up to iftar time. One thing that didn't seem right though was that the refugee camp is located only meters behind the international hotel of Bethlehem.
What I was amazed at was the art work the Palestinians had done on the wall. The wall itself is very ugly, no two ways about it. We learned from the refugee workers that one of the Popes came to visit and they moved the place in which they'd host him because having the wall in the background would be controversial according to the Israelis. The artwork was amazing, it was brilliantly done, some spoke volumes of despair, others of standing up and fighting and some of support from outsiders. The extracts on the wall from individual people were very interesting and some touching. I took photos of some and put them on Facebook for more people to read.

Visit to Bethlehem - Church of Nativity

Yesterday, Tuesday 1st July, we visited Bethlehem. It was a very hot day and all four of us were pretty much fasting. I'm still trying to get used to the whole waiting for the bus to fill up before it goes thing, I mean it could potentially add an hour on to the journey time. The first thing I noticed when arriving in Bethlehem was a big KFC sign on the building, it was quite refreshing and reminded me of home. We walked up the road and the first place we visited was the Church of Nativity, where Christians believe the Prophet Jesus (Isa) was born. I liked how the entrance was like a small door, the other volunteers talked about how it is said that it's like that because it causes all people to bow as they enter.

 We went in and had a look around a saw some interesting paintings, sculptures and structures as well as the star of nativity in the actual spot where it is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. I can see the religious significance this would to Christians. There were people from all parts of the world visiting the church and when we were there a group of people from the Far East were saying prayers there and paying their respects.
When we came out we decided to walk through the market. One thing that was different here to Abu Dis is the mix of Christians and Muslims, but living peacefully among each other. The women were not wearing hijabs and totally covered like in most in Abu Dis but it was no bother to anyone which was nice to see. With the male locals, it was hard for me to differentiate between Muslim and Christian so I was a bit lost with the greeting to give, but it was a reminder that no matter what religion or creed, we're all the same. Next stop was the Aydah refugee camp.