Friday 10 July 2015

Goodbye Abu Dis

So our three months in Abu Dis are almost up. Here are some photos of the highlights of our time here:

Saying Goodbye, For Now

It feels surreal to think that this time next week I will be back in London. There is a lot I know I will not be able to fully realise until I have got back home and had some time but I know that I will miss being here...

My experience has been eventful. I have enjoyed so much here and there have been things I imagined might be better.

Overall I take home with me my fiery recommitment to stand in solidarity with Palestinians.

Saturday 4 July 2015

Seeing the occupation

Seeing the occupation

Demolished house in Abu Dis
In many ways, as a foreigner, the occupation is something you can clearly feel but not always see directly. Most of the suffering that the Palestinians face every day will never touch us. Being a foreigner, particularly a European one, gives you obvious privilege. We aren't made to get off the bus at the check point and line up behind a fence waiting to show the soldiers our ID before being allowed back on (or not). We can move between Abu Dis and Jerusalem as freely as we like, while the actual citizens of this country have to request permission (which is most often rejected) as if they were prisoners asking for day release. These are all distressing aspects of everyday life that we can be aware of but only really see through their descriptions. On the occasions that we do come face to face with evidence of the occupation, it’s as troubling as anyone would imagine. For example, we once drove up a side road in Abu Dis to one of the most beautiful houses I had ever seen. It almost resembled something from a fairy tale until we got to the other side and saw that it had been completely destroyed. I found out that the house had been built by a professor at Al Quds University and had recently been demolished by the IDF. Its only crime was that they felt it was built too close to the separation wall. A wall whose own existence has been recognised as illegal under international law.

It’s interesting to notice also how differently the soldiers tend to behave once they become aware of a foreign presence. On one occasion at the Al Zaytoun checkpoint which is used to cross into Jerusalem, These checkpoints have been made to look as cage like as possible.
I arrived to find the place almost empty. The only people there were two Palestinian women with a child and they appeared to have been waiting at the gate for a long time. They repeatedly called out but the soldiers seemed to simply ignore them. It was only when I got bored of waiting and went to find a soldier myself and produced my British passport that the situation changed.  This soldier had been present in the checkpoint for as long as the Palestinian women had been standing at the gate but once I spoke to him he called through to the soldiers responsible for the gates and they were immediately opened. I clearly heard the words “British passport” being used. I motioned to the women to come through with me to make sure that they used this opportunity and weren't left behind.
Al Zaytoun checkpoint

On another occasion, I went through the Jerusalem checkpoint on the bus and witnessed a very elderly man who had trouble walking being forced off of the bus by a soldier, who seemed to feel it was necessary to go through the exact same procedure outside in the midday sun as she would have done inside the bus. Her approach to him was very aggressive and hostile and she appeared to have no regard for his age or physical condition. After a few minutes of shouting at the old man it seemed likely that she wouldn't  grant him access to Jerusalem, however at that moment she glanced in my direction and saw that I had been watching the whole exchange. Without a word, she handed the man his ID card and waved him back onto the bus. Situations like these are a strong reminder of how dehumanised the Palestinians have become in the eyes of the soldiers.