21 October 2011
AT-TUWANI: CPT-Palestine closes
In 2004, the village of At-Tuwani
and its Israeli partner, Ta’ayush, approached CPT’s Hebron team and the Italian
peace group, Operation Dove, asking if they could provide accompaniment for the
children of the village, whom settlers regularly attacked as they walked to and
from school. Although CPT had made
regular visits to the South Hebron Hills villages over the years, the team on
the ground and the organization as a whole deemed it important to respond to
the villagers’ request for a permanent presence in At-Tuwani.
Seven years later, CPT-Palestine
is closing its At-Tuwani project, because the growth of the South Hebron Hills
nonviolent organizing work has made the presence of CPT less critical. The shepherds of At-Tuwani and surrounding
villages now are part of a large nonviolent resistance network encompassing
various regions of Palestine. They
belong to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, and South Hebron Hills
leaders regularly plan nonviolent actions to which they invite Israeli and
international groups. They also
offer nonviolence trainings to men and women in the region.
The village has grown significantly
since 2004, when all its homes were under threat of demolition. Defying these threats, At-Tuwani has
constructed ten new homes, a health and community centre, electrical
infrastructure, a paved road through the village, a new cistern, and a mosque.
It has a woman’s co-op that sells traditional crafts to groups that come
to the village, which helps to support families and the new infrastructure.
The village has also received grants from various agencies, one of which
it has recently used to buy several computers to provide IT training for village
The end of CPT’s permanent
presence in At-Tuwani does not mean the end of its relationship with the South
Hebron Hills villagers. CPT-Palestine
will continue to support them by promoting media and public awareness of the
area, participating in actions organized by the nonviolent Popular Struggle committee
and bringing CPT delegations to the South Hebron Hills.
Because of the villagers’ stalwart
nonviolent resistance, they now have relationships with hundreds of Israelis,
Palestinians, and internationals who support their efforts. Two international groups will continue
to have a physical presence in the area. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and
Israel (EAPPI) now has an office in Yatta, the urban hub of the South Hebron
Hills, and Operation Dove will continue to live in the village of At-Tuwani.
AT-Tuwani team member Laura Ciaghi
writes, “I think we have done a good job of empowering the community in
doing nonviolent resistance, mostly by creating a safer space for people in
Tuwani and lifting some of the heavy pressure of living under occupation, so
that they had the time, the energy and the space to organize themselves.
“The olive tree we planted in our courtyard on Christmas 2005
this fall has yielded for the first time, a full
bucket of big olives, and maybe this tells the story better than anything