Excerpts from my journal as I explore the situation in Palestine and Israel
Yet another untold story: the Jordan Valley is nominally the West Bank, thus Palestinian, yet it is completely controlled by Israel. Organized by the Jenin Freedom Theater and sponsored by EWASH, the Emergency Water, Sanitation, and Health organization—a walk for equal water rights in the valley (and beyond).
Israeli greenhouses and orchard
Cross hatched area is a closed military zone, Palestinians usually not allowed—most of the Jordan Valley, nominally the West Bank
March 23, 2013, Saturday, Austrian Hospice, Old City Jerusalem
I get up every morning determined both to change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes, this makes planning the day difficult.
—E B White
I joined the water justice walk in the northern Jordan valley yesterday [March 22, 2013]. Some 100 people, most young, many international, assembled at 3 points, Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus, to bus or otherwise reach a small village, Khirbet Samar, and walk to different villages, all Bedouin. The Jenin Freedom Theater organized the day, EWASH paid for it, and the Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign, among other groups, participated. The Freedom Theater performed at the first site, what they call Playback Theater, drawing on stories from the audience. They began by asking for emotions which led the 3 actors to embody each suggestion. The village headman or sheikh gave the last story, probably about soldiers and water. Much like Chicago’s Second City and Boston’s Story Theater by using improvisation to dramatize audience stories.
I observed only partial references to water, at least as long as I was with the group. I’d met the bus in Ramallah at the appointed time 8 am; it left at 9:30 delayed waiting for what might have been key people, like the translator (who vomited into a plastic bag and pail during the bus ride). So we arrived late to Khirbet Samra, the others had already left. After much decision changing we hiked the 3 km or so to the second point where the rest of the group awaited us. Then the performance. And then the lunch provided by local people—delicious but thin lentil soup, flat bread known as taboun, and salad. I mixed my salad with my soup, dipping the bread into the mush. Very tasty.
The walking was invigorating. The first time I’d walked with a group in some time, especially here in the region. And to be in the Jordan Valley—sheer pleasure!
As I emailed several friends:
i just returned from a long hot windy sunny day in the northern jordan valley with a water walk. today is international world water day….info here:
i came back to jerusalem early to make sure i could reach jerusalem tonight. transport is always iffy and i wished to avoid camping out at the kalandia checkpoint tonight.
I bumped into Yonatan, now effectively the Jenin Freedom Theater director and successor to Juliano Mer-Khamis, cofounder and director, murdered 2 years ago, and Yonatan’s wife. I also saw the thin young earnest man who directs the Play Back Theater, and Susan, one of my less dedicated photo students from last year.
Not sure how to get back to Jerusalem before the night and into the Austrian Hospice before they lock up at 10 pm (forgetting to get the key) I hoped providence introduce me to someone driving back, at least to Ramallah by 8 pm when the last bus leaves for Jerusalem. Standing around wondering what will happen next I met my ride benefactors, 3 generous and jolly Italians, I think an older male and female with their young adult daughter—Marcello and family. They were driving to Jerusalem and had space in their car. He works with NGO’s on water issues, mostly providing services and equipment but some advocacy. He told me his organization has to be careful doing advocacy because if they are too visible and demanding they could be in trouble with the Israeli authorities. They are part of EWASH which provides cover.
Driving along the main highway thru the valley, off-limits to most Palestinians even tho in the West Bank, we stopped at the Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign’s center, a house created in the style of traditional valley housing 100 years ago. The architecture surprised me. It was not a tent, my supposition about Bedouin always living in tents demolished. Arches, palm leaf roof (how do they keep the rain out?), internal bread oven, lounging areas with cushions, etc, all quite spacious and fitting into the land. On an outer wall, the words, Friends Meeting House. This I needed to photograph and send to relevant people—a little joke among clued-in people (like fellow Quakers).
To a limited list, mostly Quaker:
who would believe? i found this today, stopped in, chatted awhile, and learned about the jordan valley solidarity campaign.
(http://www.jordanvalleysolidarity.org/). they had no idea who quakers are.
PHOTO ATTACHED. however, just suppose…
The day was extremely windy, whipping plastic apart, driving large plastic barrels along roads, and hurling sand into our eyes. I’m relieved we weren’t riding in a VW bus.
Surveillance camera and balloon over the Jerusalem YMCA
where President Obama was speaking
Incidentally, President Obama was in Jerusalem. I made 2 related photos, a Palestinian couple under an Obama banner, another shows the surveillance balloon over the YMCA where he spoke. Here’s what I wrote a few people about my views of his presence:
…oh, that tricky obama with his clever words and absent actions. the few palestinians i’ve polled here were not impressed. altho at least after genuflecting and making the sign of the cross to the israelis he mentioned the palestinians and their suffering. leading however, wrongly in my view, to the “widely accepted” 2 state solution. fat chance. you outta see all the new construction in settlements.
TO BE CONTINUED
“The Speech That was Not Delivered,” written by Uri Avnery, about Obama in Israel
My trip to Palestine-Israel and Shaliach Mitzvah Gelt (an overview of my trip plan with an appeal to financially support Palestinians)