Sophia's Peace Work

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Jordan River Symposium

Today I went to the Jordan River Symposium hosted by Friends of the Earth Middle East. It was all about how the abuses by Jordan, Israel and Palestine have turned the Jordan river into nothing more than a polluted trickle.

The conference was held in a militarized zone called Peace Island (go figure, given the tragedy that happened there in 1997) ... the following is an excerpt I found on the web about this location written right after the incident in 1997:

Seven Dead in New Gun of Horror

SEVEN Israeli schoolgirls were shot dead by a crazed Arab soldier with an automatic rifle. At least another six were wounded in the bloodbath.

It happened at a beauty spot called "the Island of Peace" on the border with Jordan. About 40 girls, aged 12 and 13, were enjoying the sunshine on a school trip when a Jordanian soldier on a watchtower grabbed a rifle from a comrade and opened fire on them.

As victims fell screaming to the ground, the gunman climbed down from the tower and began chasing those who survived. He was named as Lance Corporal Ahmed Yousef Mustafa, 22 - an army driver. An eyewitness saw Mustafa coolly take aim and shoot one girl in the head at point blank range.

When he stopped to reload he was overpowered by other soldiers, who shouted "madman, madman" at him during the killing spree. It wasn't clear last night whether Mustafa is an anti-Jewish fanatic or simply mentally unbalanced.

One of the injured, Hila Ivri, 13, remembered the gunman as "a bad guy with big eyes".

She wept: "As he fired at us and the girls began falling on the ground I thought it was the end. I saw one girl hit in the shoulder. She rolled in the bushes and stopped breathing. Then the soldiers came and rescued us and I don't remember any more."

She added: "We had just got off the bus and some of the girls were taking pictures. It all looked so wonderful, this green little island in the middle of the River Jordan. Then the soldier opened up on us."

"I saw the soldier load a new clip, but he didn't manage to fire any of it."

Local Israeli council chief Shuri Shalev, who raced to the scene as news of the massacre spread, said: "I was stunned when I heard what had happened.

"Relations here across the border are good. We have never had any violence.

"We immediately organised a shelter for the surviving girls, many of whom were hysterical."

The dead and wounded were taken to hospitals in Jordan, and hundreds of local people queued outside to give blood.

One, farmer Ibrahim Alayan, said: "We are at peace. There should not be such killing and agony."

The murder scene, where the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers meet, is nicknamed Peace Island because of a treaty signed there between Israel and Jordan in 1994. It was a popular destination for tourists and school parties because it offers fine views of Jordan, Israel and Syria. Although officially under Jordanian control, Israelis usually have free access to the island. Some even farm there.

It is a beautiful spot ... the only indication of its tragic past are the guard towers the dot the area and the soldiers who stroll about with their automatic weapons strung from their shoulders. Still it was so nice to get out of the city ... smell the fresh air ... see the migrating storks above our heads (the Jordan Rift valley is a major migration route and the birds are heading north!).

But really the Jordan River itself is more like Chimacum Creek back home in the Northwest!


Post a Comment

<< Home