Sophia's Peace Work

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A recent release from the Christian Peacemaker Team working in the southern West Bank near the small Palestinians village of At-Tawani. I was on the first CPT team in this village back in 2004 when the villagers asked for CPT and other internationals to come witness and try and help them deal with nearly constant threats from the Israeli Army and an illegal Israeli settlement near the village. It is sad and frightening that the violence there continues and that children are being targetted.

RELEASE: Israeli Settlers Threaten Palestinian School Children in SouthHebron Hills
20 March, 2008

An Israeli settler yelled threatening remarks, and wielded a rock at young Palestinian children on the way to school in the village of At-Tuwani inthe South Hebron Hills. About twenty children from the villages of Tuba and Magayer Al Abeed walk to the elementary school in At-Tuwani each day. They are accompanied by an Israeli military escort past the illegal settlement outpost of Havat Maon(Hill 833).

The Children’s Committee of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, ordered the escort in 2004 after a series of settler attacks on the children. On the morning of 17 March, 2008, the children were unable to meet the regular military escort. The escort jeep stopped well short of the appointed meeting place, and despite repeated calls to the military by international volunteers and concerned Israelis, the escort jeep never came forward to meet the children. The children could not go toward the escort jeep because of the threatening presence of the settler. The settler was near the military escort and was speaking with the soldiers. He also yelled at the children, and threatened them with a rock.

Most of the children eventually decided to take the long path to school, walking unescorted through the hills and arriving in At-Tuwani about 9:00am, an hour after school had started. Four of the children returned home and did not attend school because of the problems with the escort.

The military escort has failed in recent week to accompany the children for approximately one half of the escort route. Settlers recently installed a gate on the road, and the escort jeep has routinely refused to pass through the gate. It is unclear whether the gate is actually locked.The escort jeep now stops well short of the gate. In the morning, this means that the children cannot see whether the jeep is waiting for them. Often a few children go ahead, in order to check for the presence of the escort. This is an extremely dangerous situation for the children, as settlers are often in close proximity. One house in the illegal outpost lies only 50 meters away from the road, and often a settler is working in and around the nearby chicken barns at this time.

In the afternoon, the situation is even more distressing. The escort jeep stops well short of the gate in the road, the children go on ahead, and the escort jeep leaves the area before the children are out of sight. This leaves the children unaccompanied for the last half of their walk past the settlement outpost, well within reach of the very people who have previously attacked them.

The most recent attack on the children was on April 7th, 2007, when settlers stole their backpacks, and three of the children were injured fleeing the attack. The children in the school escort range in age from six to twelve years of age.

The new gate on the road represents yet another expansion in the illegal settlement outpost of Havat Maon (Hill 833). Despite orders issued by theIsraeli government calling for the removal of this illegal settlement outpost, to date no action has been taken toward its removal.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Zalm (Oak) Tree with Zagros Mountains behind

This is not really near Zalm (which is what I've come to call the areas where the Tanjero River feeds into the Lake Darbendikhan Reservoir), but on the way. A relect from the old oak forests that used to cover much of Kurdistan. Now these lonely oaks grace the occasional cemetary or village, where they had been protected from the axe.