June 13, 2009 - Weekly Demo in Bil'in

Dear Friends,
The weekly demonstration in Bil'in yesterday was pretty typical: Palestinians, Israelis and internationals gathering, chanting, marching peacefully and nonviolently to the wall to be met immediately by tear gas, rubber bullets and other assorted weaponry. Thankfully, there were no serious causalities. In the last 5 years, the Israeli army has killed about 20 nonviolent demonstrators throughout the West Bank, one recently from Bil'in. In Bil'in alone 1,300 have been wounded, including Tristan Anderson, an Oakland resident who is still in a Tel Aviv hospital rehabilitation ward, waiting for an operation to put his skull back on.

I've copied below the press release sent out by the organizers and I encourage you to go to their website which is pretty impressive. Among other things there is a video of yesterday's demonstration. At the end you can see Arla in the purple shirt gagging on tear gas.

Press Release
Friday 12\6\2009

Two protesters were injured and dozens suffered from gas inhalation when Israeli troops attack the weekly protest in Bil'in village near the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday midday.

Residents of Bil'in and their international and Israelis supporters marched from the village center after the Friday midday prayers. They were joined by 40 members of the American group "Code Pink Women for Peace".

The protesters demanded the halt of the Israeli illegal settlements and the construction of the wall. As the protesters arrived at the wall, Israeli troops at the gate nearby fired barrage of sound bombs, tear gas and rubber-coated bullets from the Israeli soldiers.

Two protesters were lightly injured, Mustafa Al Khateeb, 17, and a Britsh activist. Meanwhile scores were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation

Thank you for you continued support,

Iyad Burnat- Head of Popular Committee in Bilin
co-founder of Friends of Freedom and Justice - Bilin

Email- bel3in@yahoo.com
Mobile- (00972) (0) 547847942
Office- (00972) (2) 2489129
Mobile- (00972) (0) 598403676

June 12, 2009 - Leaving Deir Ibzi'a and Arriving in Hares

Dear Friends,
Arla and I just spent the last 2 days in Deir Ibzi'a where our meetings with the current scholarship recipients and the embroidery womyn went well. I was especially delighted that our first graduate, Sadaam, came to the student meeting. He graduated in 2006 and finally found a job last year working as an accountant for the Red Crescent Society at their headquarters in Ramallah. He feels very fortunate to have found any job in a society with extremely high unemployment, but more importantly, he is very proud that his job is with a humanitarian organization. He wants Arla and I to visit him in his office and we hope to do that before we leave.

All of the students expressed gratitude for our support and they asked us to thank everyone who is helping them. One especially hard moment came for me when we asked the womyn students what they hoped for in their lives. All of them said that they would like to travel. Where, we asked. To Jerusalem. To Joffe. To Haifa. To the Dead Sea. All of these places are less than a few hours drive. Jerusalem is 45 minutes.

We arrived in the IWPS house last night at about 5:00 pm and in less than 6 hours we had two very unpleasant encounters with soldiers and settlers. As soon as we got off the bus to enter the village we were stopped by 3 soldiers who told us we could not go into the village. We asked why and they said it wasn't safe. We told them that we appreciated their concern but that we were not worried. They took our passports and made us wait. I asked them if they were Palestinian. Of course they laughed and said they were Israeli. I pointed out that this was a Palestinian village and if they were Palestinian I would accept them telling me that I couldn't come into their village. But it was not their village and the Palestinians were fine with us being there. Unfortunately, my logic didn't seem to impress them. When the border police finally showed up they asked us why we were here. We told them this was our vacation. He gave us back our passports and said, "Have a nice day."

At about 11:00 pm before we even had a chance to read the IWPS procedure manuals we received a call from the next village that several jeeps of soldiers and busloads of settles had arrived in their village. They asked us to come. So I went with Jenny, another IWPS womyn, while Arla and Ricky stayed at the house to give back up support. We found about 100 settlers dancing and celebrating and praying at the tomb of Joshua. They were protected by a perimeter of barbed wire, soldiers and jeeps that extended out from the tomb for approximately 2 blocks in all directions. No Palestinians were allowed to be inside the perimeter. Travel travel into or out of the village was suspended for the duration which would be all night.

Today we will go to the weekly demonstration in the village of Bilin. This village is very near to Deir Ibzi'a and they have been organizing non-violent and often extremely creative weekly demonstrations since January 2005.


June 9, 2009 - Wendy Made It In!

Dear Friends,
A quick note to let you know that Arla and I arrived safely in Israel last night. We sailed through Ben Gurion Airport without a hitch. Apparently my two years of worring was for naught. Alhamdullalah! We stayed in Jerusalem last night and are now on the way to Deir Ibzi'a where we will meet with the scholarship students and embroidery womyn and get an update on the status of the computer center. Also, I am looking forward to spending time with my friend Deeb and his family.

We plan on getting to the IWPS house on Thursday night. I just saw in my email that a non-violent Palestinian protester was killed last Friday in Nilin and IWPS issued another human rights report that settlers had attacked a Palestinian vehicle and set fire to Palestinian land. I guess I won't have to worry that there will be nothing for me to do thanks to the army and settlers.