Archiv der Kategorie: Bethlehem

Das Militär ist allgegenwärtig… einige Erfahrungen

Ich habe entschieden, dieses Mal etwas Kürzeres zu schreiben, aber dafür etwas persönlicher. Ich will euch diesmal etwas allgemeiner schreiben und erzählen, wie es mir geht und was ich während meiner Arbeit vor Ort erlebe.

Mir persönlich geht es gut. Ich habe Palästina und die Leute hier ins Herz geschlossen und finde es schade, bald wieder zu gehen. Ich geniesse es sehr, mit unserem Taxifahrer morgens früh zur Schule zu fahren, an Olivenbäumen vorbei, der aufgehenden Sonne entgegen, mit der romantisch-arabischen Musik von Fairouz in den Ohren. Auch gehört es zu meinen Lieblingsaktivitäten, bei Majdi, „unserem“ Ladenbesitzer in der Nähe, vorbeizugehen und einen Tee mit ihm zu trinken. Er erzählt mir, halb auf Englisch, halb auf Arabisch, über seine viele KundInnen aus aller Welt und seine neugeborene Enkeltochter. In der grossen Fülle an Frustration, die ich immer wieder spüre, gibt es auch immer wieder Leute, die mir Glücksmomente bringen. Wie zum Beispiel ein unbekannter Typ am Checkpoint, der mir im eiskalten Morgengrauen eine heisse Schokolade brachte. Oder Kinder, die mich in der Schule mit meinem Namen begrüssen, wenn sie rennend auf mich zukommen.

Das Militär ist allgegenwärtig… einige Erfahrungen weiterlesen

Building up the same house from scratch, every year again

In this world of contrasts I struggle every day to make sense of the current system. One of the things which challenge my understanding is house demolitions, specifically self-demolitions.

On Sunday we finished our midterm orientation (a week of training, speeches, and visits) and I went with some colleagues to Masada, a touristic archaeological site at the Dead Sea, in Israel. Accordingly, we took the bus in West Jerusalem (the Israeli side of the city), took an Israeli bus (no Palestinian was sitting there – only Israeli civilians, some fully armed soldiers, foreign tourists, and we) and crossed the West Bank. It was a modern bus; it even had Wi-Fi. On our way out of Jerusalem we passed some settlements. In these weeks here I have learned quickly how to distinguish them from Palestinian villages. First, the houses have red roofs without water canisters on top, while all Palestinian houses need these in order to store water. Second, building cranes stick out pointing towards settlement expansion. These are not seen in Palestinian villages, as most of them are not allowed to build anything and if they do, it is without knowing how long these constructions will stand. I will come back to this later. Third, settlements are generally located on the top of the hill, a very strategic consideration.

On our small touristic trip we pass by several villages of Bedouins living alongside the road. Two weeks ago I went to one of these, Bir al Maskoob, because there had been several house demolitions. Bedouins used to be nomadic, but with time they settled down. Most of them live currently in small villages, yet as they are herders, they depend on access to land for their cattle to graze on. This land – not only the land of Bedouins but of all Palestinians – has been restricted and/or taken away through many means (which I will explain in another article) and is still an ongoing process.


Bedouin community of Bir al Maskoob, in the background the Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

Back to Bir al Maskoob. We arrived there – my colleague, our driver, who also served as our translator, and me. The small community lies next to the highway; directly on the other side we could see the Ma’ale Adumim settlement (which according to Wikipedia reached “city” status and has currently around 40’000 inhabitants) overlooking the highway and the several communities and villages. Through a small swaying path we walked towards the community. The houses are mainly a patchwork of corrugated iron, pieces of fabric, and plastic canvas. Goats and donkeys walked in between them, a small boy was driving a small bike. We talked to Hakim (pseudonym), the father of one family, who told us about the happening. His 15-year old son was standing next to him. They just lost their house, yet I saw no crying, no outrage, no strong emotions. It was not the first time that they were standing next to a scrap heap which some hours before had been their home. Every year they come to demolish his house, Hakim told us, referring to the Israeli authorities. This day they had come at 8:30 in the morning: two bulldozers, 10 military cars, and 50-60 soldiers. The balance: 9 houses and 3 animal shelters were razed to the ground. “The Israelis” had come without previous notice – Hakim and his family were surprised by bulldozers during breakfast.

Hakim and his family, like many other Palestinians, have the misfortune of living in Area C. This is a result of the Oslo II Agreement of 1995, which divided the West Bank in Areas A, B, and C. Area C is under full Israeli control and comprises the large majority (62%) of the West Bank. Area B (21%) is under civil Palestinian but military Israeli control, whereby only Area A (17% of the West Bank) is under full control of the Palestinian authority. To build or renovate anything in Area C, be it a second floor, a water well, a bird house, or solar panels, one needs approval from the Israeli authority. In the last years, less than 1% of the building requests have been approved. Accordingly, people are forced to build what under Israeli law is considered “illegally”.


Map of the West Bank, Area C is the dark brown area. Areas A and B are the light patches in the map. As can be seen, the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority (Palestine) is not one unified territory, but rather several islands separated from each other.

The main Palestinian cities are located in Area A, yet most of the villages are in Area C. Tuqu’ is for instance a village where we go almost every day to monitor the school. This village is located 70% in Area C and 30% in Area B. The school lies next to a highway between two sharp curves. If somebody of you has been here, you will know how people drive – fast and dangerous. Children have to cross this street every day in order to go to school, a dangerous undertaking. The teachers painted a zebra-crossing in front of the school, yet as the street is located on Area C, the zebra-crossing has been removed. Now teachers come to school early enough to help children crossing with red “STOP” signs.

Even though Israeli law (which contradicts international law!) forbids building in Area C, Palestinians do it. Sometimes an animal shelter has to be built, a wall is so old that it has to be renewed, the roof has a hole and must be repaired, or a new floor must added as the family is expanding and the new families have to settle somewhere. These activities are prohibited. When the Israeli Administration becomes aware of this (e.g. by means of drones or helicopters), it hands out a so-called Work Stop Order. When the construction continues, a Demolition Order is filed. This means that the structure will be demolished sometime – maybe the next day, maybe in a week, but it can also happen in 10 years. Currently, there are around 7’000 pending demolition orders. As the mail system doesn’t work as in Switzerland, sometimes the written demolition order is put under a stone and the residents don’t find out about it until they find bulldozers waking them up. In East Jerusalem, people have to pay a demolition fine of some thousand USD. To avoid this, many persons choose the lesser of the two evils and decide to demolish their houses themselves, so called self-demolitions.

Luckily, Hakim didn’t have to pay for the demolition of his home. However, he had not gotten a demolition order. As his house has been demolished in the past years and he had rebuilt it again and again, no demolition order was issued after the first one. On the question what Hakim will do now, his answer was – of course – rebuilding it again. What else can he do? Yet until when will it last? Nobody knows. This pseudo-legal Israeli system doesn’t allow anybody, not even international institutions, to invest in the large majority (Area C) of the West Bank. A couple of weeks ago we accompanied the UN field officer to a village close to Bethlehem where solar panels had been built. Before, the villagers didn’t have electricity; now they have a fridge, can watch TV, and have light 24/7. When we visited them, however, one woman told us about a drone which has already flown over the village filming the panels. How long will the panels stay? At least 5 years, the UN officer told us, because they have a good lawyer. But sooner or later, also this village must count with a demolition.


Belongings of the family affected by the demolition of their house in Bir al Maskoob

In Bir al Maskoob we talked to Hakim and wrote down the data we needed to write an incident report. I feel terribly useless and frustrated; there is nothing we can do. I get closer to the women who are sitting with the children and start to chat with them. “It is cold and tonight it will rain” they tell me. “Inshallah it won’t” I responded. And with this in mind I step into our taxi and left the Bedouin community behind, ready to rebuild their houses once again.


An odyssey through the checkpoint on the way to work

Today it is Al Mawlid Al Nabawi (the Birthday of the Prophet), an Islamic holiday. Not for Palestinians working in Israel. As every normal Sunday, which marks the beginning of the week, we get up early to be at 4:00 am at Checkpoint 300, which leads to Jerusalem. And as every normal working day, my two colleagues and I pass by several kiosks selling breakfast and tea before arriving to the gate. Many Palestinian men (women do not cross the checkpoint at this time of the day) are already going through the checkpoint when we arrive. Black plastic bags in their hands, their jeans dirty of the white paint, some of them carry also working utensils. Most of these men work in Israel in the construction sector – around Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

Arriving to the checkpoint, we see three gates: one is a “humanitarian line” (for disabled, old persons, small children, and also women) where I have never seen people going through, the exit line (now frequently used as a humanitarian line), and the middle one, which is normally taken. My colleagues pass through the exit line, stay at the middle of the checkpoint and start counting, while I start walking behind the men entering the checkpoint. Somehow the light today is off – nobody knows the reason – and it is dark in the narrow corridor. The gate is closed, so I just wait among the Palestinian men. After waiting around 15 minutes, the mass finally starts moving slowly, step by step. Eventually I arrive to the metal turnstile, cross it, and walk around 100 meters more, until I bump into the next queue for the metal detector. Only two gates are opened this time, but as they are both blocked, I have to wait – again. Patience, waiting. One man comes to me and complains in English. Everything is closed, I should do something. I promise I would tell the soldiers at the exit to do something. Finally the gate opens and we can pass through. Quickly everybody put their stuff on the belt and pass through the metal detector. Most of the men take their stuff in black plastic bags in order not to pass them through the detector. They take their belt off and pass through.


I take off my small bag, my EAPPI-vest, and my winter jacket. Luckily the detector doesn’t beep. After putting everything on again, I pass through another turnstile – to the next queue. This one leads to the ID-counter. Again, patience is needed.

There are only three booths (out of 12) working. Inside sit young Israeli soldiers, around 18-20 years old, who are doing their military service. The Palestinian men show a green card and put their finger on the fingerprint reader. Often these devices don’t recognize the fingerprint, so they have to put their finger again and again, getting more and more nervous. The permits of these Palestinian men do not belong to the person itself, but to its employer. According to the Israeli NGO Machsom Watch there exist around 110 kinds of permits. Sometimes it happens that the permit expired without previous advice and they are sent back home. It can also happen that somebody is enlisted on a blacklist (of which there are several), e.g. because a cousin has thrown stones to soldiers. It is not possible to know if somebody is on a blacklist, unless he/she tries to go to the checkpoint and the entry is denied. More or less every man between 16 and 60 years has been at least once in his lifetime on a blacklist (Machsom Watch). Fortunately, I don’t see any man sent back yet.

I have to show my passport and visa to the young woman behind the glass window and she lets me in. “People are waiting a long time, why are there no more booths open?” I ask. She shrugs her shoulders, looks annoyed and says something in Hebrew which I don’t understand. Then she lets me through. On the walls ahead of me I see posters from the ministry of tourism: Nazareth, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem – places where most Palestinians living in the West Bank have no access to.


It took me 32 minutes to cross the checkpoint. I stay inside the building and start counting the men going through. Yet a soldier sends me out, I have to stand outside. It is cold and windy. “Sabah al kheer”, I greet the men. Walking – some running – out of the gate, they greet me, some of them still putting their belt on. “The situation is terrible on the other side, you should do something” some people tell me. I try to explain that some of us are standing on the other side and that we cannot do much, unfortunately.

At around 5:00 am I hear the call for prayer coming from the mosque. A large group of men starts praying on the sidewalk next to the street, facing the wall. A new smaller group of men gathers on the small footpath which is still part of the checkpoint and leads to the street where buses are waiting. Also there they start praying, next to each other, in a row. Somehow it is a completely surreal and odd situation to watch these persons praying facing the wall, while I continue counting. It gives me a feeling of tranquility and peace, yet also of sadness.

Later, around 5:30, I start a conversation with three young men sitting on the floor next to the exit gate. They are waiting for their bus going to Tel Aviv, which departs at 6:00. They tell me they come from Hebron, a city further south, which means that they have at least 30 minutes of travelling behind them. We talk a bit until the soldier comes out and sends us away. I walk a bit further down, yet come up again, and continue counting – and greeting. The greetings I receive back are the most comforting thing of this work.

For us it is yet not a good morning. My colleague on the other side calls me. The gate has been closed most of the time and has opened only sporadically. “People get desperate, they try to climb on the walls”, she tells me. She had asked what happened; apparently there is not enough staff. Also the exit/humanitarian line is closed. While on her side of the checkpoint it is a complete chaos, on my side people drop one by one out of the gate. After a while – my third colleague made meanwhile his way through the checkpoint and arrived to my side – I leave my site and go to the Bethlehem entrance site. There I meet my other colleague. “There is a man with his sick baby wanting to get through but all gates are closed” she tells me upset. Now I see the man as well, behind the metal door. I had already seen him several times before. He takes his son to hospital in Jerusalem every day. The baby has asthma and has problems being in the queue with all the men smoking and pressing each other. We approach a soldier and tell him the situation. He lets us wait a while, but then he talks with the soldier at the counter. He opens the gate and lets the man with his son pass. I feel we achieved something; it is a feeling of satisfaction among so much frustration.


At around 7:30 almost all people are let through; both lines are open and people drop without any problems. The queues disappeared. We decide to go home and have (second) breakfast with hot tea to warm up, maybe sleep a bit. Our work at the checkpoint is done for today; we leave the checkpoint behind us.

(Sunday 11/12/2016, Sarah/EAPPI)

Weihnachten in Bethlehem

Heute ist der 25. Dezember! Wenn wir nicht gestern hier in Bethlehem angekommen wären, um zusammen mit allen anderen EAPPI-Teams Weihnachten zu feiern, hätte ich es glatt vergessen!

Früh aufgestanden, im Expresstempo gefrühstückt, denn unser Hotel «Bethlehem Inn» ist, abgesehen von unserer kleinen Gruppe, ungemütlich kalt und fast leer. Dann marschiert ein kleiner Trupp von uns los zum Checkpoint 300 von Bethlehem, um den Zugang zu den wichtigen Orten religiöser Praxis zu beobachten: heute ist Freitag, und die Muslime und Musliminnen (oder MuslimInnen) möchten in der grossen Moschee beim Al Aksa-Schrein beten; es ist Weihnachten, und die Christen und Christinnen aus Bethlehem möchten zum Gottesdienst oder zur Messe nach Jerusalem… Das Publikum, das wir am Checkpoint entdecken, ist ganz anders als das vom Checkpoint Meitar in unserer Region südlich von Hebron: sonntäglich herausgeputzte Grossfamilien, viele Menschen mit einem Kreuz um den Hals, doch sonst sieht man keine grossen Unterschiede, ausser dass die muslimischen Frauen ihr Tuch manchmal sehr schick in den verschiedensten Varianten um den Kopf schlingen.

Weihnachten in Bethlehem weiterlesen

Das isch de Stern vo Bethlehem – eine ungewöhnliche Weihnachtsgeschichte

Maria und Josef müssten, lebten sie im Jahr 2015, auf ihrem Weg von Nazareth (heutiges Israel) zur von Herodes ausgerufenen Volkszählung nach Bethlehem (heutiges Westjordanland) neben der beschwerlichen Reise und Marias Schwangerschaft eine weitere Hürde bewältigen: die Mauer. Im Jahr 2002 begann die Israelische Regierung mit ihrem Bau, heute ist sie allgegenwärtig. In Bethlehem windet sie sich wie eine Schlange durch die Stadt. Abschnittsweise aus Betonplatten oder Hochsicherheitszaun bestehend und zu 62% fertiggestellt, soll die Mauer gemäss der israelischen Regierung die Bevölkerung vor dem palästinensischen Terrorismus schützen und schlussendlich das ganze Westjordanland einfassen.

Das isch de Stern vo Bethlehem – eine ungewöhnliche Weihnachtsgeschichte weiterlesen

Bethlehem: die andere Art von Marathon

Zwei Wochen nach den Israel-Wahlen erinnert die Westbank an Besatzung und eingeschränkte Bewegungsfreiheit.

Rennen entlang der Mauer zwischen Israel und der Westbank.
Rennen entlang der Mauer zwischen Israel und der Westbank ©Marcus/EAPPI/2015

Marathonläufer sind Frühaufsteher, auch in Jerusalem. Es ist fünf Uhr morgens am Damaskus-Tor. Noch weht eine frische Brise. Stunden später werden 3093 Laufbegeisterte mit über 20 Grad zu kämpfen haben. Die ersten Busse trudeln ein. Ein Bunsenbrenner sorgt für kochend heissen Kaffee und die Freitagsansprache eines Imams hallt aus dem Kofferradio. Bei der Fahrt in die nahe Nachbarstadt sind alle schon hellwach, Sportler und Zuschauer. Für Gesprächsstoff sorgt die Umstellung auf die Sommerzeit: In Jerusalem und Israel wurde über Nacht umgestellt. Die Westbank ist es erst 24 Stunden später soweit.

Bethlehem: die andere Art von Marathon weiterlesen

Südliches Westjordanland

In dieser Region führt die Ausdehnung israelischer Siedlungen dazu, dass Bauern- und Hirtenfamilien Zugang zu immer weniger Land haben. Dieses wird zum Teil enteignet, zum Teil verhindert Gewalt von SielderInnen, dass Bauern ihr Land kultivieren können. viele Dörfer sind von Hauszerstörungen betroffen. Weil die palästinensischen Ortschaften unter israelischer Planungshoheit stehen, haben die DorfbewohnerInnen kaum Chancen, eine Baubewilligung zu erhalten.

Hebron ist die einzige Stadt im Westjordanland, in der israelische Siedlungen direkt im Stadtgebiet liegen. Deshalb wurde sie 1997 im Hebron-Protokoll zweigeteilt und das Gebiet, in dem sich die Siedlungen befinden, unter israelische Kontrolle gestellt. Dies führt zu erheblichen Einschränkungen für die palästinensische Bevölkerung und zu täglichen Übergriffen auf PalästinenserInnen, die in unmittelbarer Nachbarschaft zu den Siedlungen leben. Arbeitsschwerpunkt des EAPPI-Teams in Hebron ist die Begleitung von SchülerInnen auf ihrem Weg zur Schule durch militärische Checkpoints und und der Schutz vor Übergriffen von SiedlerInnen und deren Kinder.

Hebron - Kassem
Kinder auf der Weg zur Schule beim Passieren eines Checkpoints. © EAPPI 2014

Bethlehem liegt nur wenige Kilometer von Jerusalem entfernt, ist jedoch durch den Bau der israelischen Sperranlage durch eine Mauer davon abgeriegelt. Die EinwohnerInnen können sich nicht mehr frei nach Jerusalem bewegen, etwa um dort zu arbeiten. Aufgrund der angespannten politischen Situation der letzten Jahre und des Baus der Sperranlage halten sich nur wenige Touristen länger in Bethlehem auf, was dazu führt, dass eine der Haupteinnahmequellen der Stadt verloren ging. Die Aufgabe des EAPPI-Teams besteht in der Beobachtung des Checkpoints und im Sammeln von statistischen Daten. Sie begleiten die BewohnerInnen der umliegenden Dörfern bei ihren Aktionen gegen Hauszerstörungen durch die israelische Armee oder bei gewaltfreien Demonstrationen gegen die israelische Sperranlage.

Die Region South Hebron Hills ist fast ausschliesslich als «Area C» deklariert, d.h., es wird vollständig von Israel kontrolliert. Zudem befinden sich mehrere militärische Sperrzonen und Übungsgelände in diesem Gebiet. Dies schränkt die ansässige palästinensische Bevölkerung in ihrer Bewegungsfreiheit und in ihren Landnutzungs-
rechten stark ein. Regelmässig kommt es zu Zerstörungen von Häuern, Zisternen oder gar Zelten durch die israelische Armee. Auch gewaltsamen Übergriffen durch Siedler ist die Bevölkerung praktisch schutzlos ausgesetzt. Das EAPPI-Team gewährleistet Präsenz und dokumentiert Fälle von Übergriffen und Menschenrechtsverletzungen seitens israelischer SiedlerInnen. Teils in Zusammenarbeit mit israelischen Friedensorganisationen oder dem UNO-Hochkommissariat für Menschenrechte.