Schools in South Hebron Hills (Masafer Yatta) are a place of resistance and resilience. According to Gad Nawaja, the principal of Al Majaz School, “After the Israeli court ordered areas in South Hebron Hills as a firing zone, there was a huge spread of the military around. They started checking students more, and even the car that took the students to the schools was once stopped for three hours. The car didn’t carry the students this time; instead, the car had the director of education.”
Furthermore, Nawaja discussed how the occupation and new order affects the students and how they are unable to focus during their classes. He is noticing a large number of soldiers around compared to before the court order. He is becoming increasingly concerned. The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continue to build the apartheid wall and have confiscated teachers’ cars in the Junba area. Around 10 cars were taken, and sometimes settlers threw rocks at teachers’ cars (Nawaja, July 7, 2022). On April 28, 2022, Al-Masafer co-educational high school reported that the IOF took teachers’ cars and made them walk to the school (Al-Masafer co-educational high school, April 18, 2022).
Felesteen Online news reported that 200 students attend schools in South Hebron Hills. Three of the schools are primary schools, and one is a co-educational high school. According to Haitham Abu Sobha, the Israel military training had led to some injuries among students. Nidal Younes, the head of the Masafer Yatta Village Council, has stated that each school in South Hebron Hills needs a lab, library, and counselling psychologist. Also, he emphasized the need to solve the transportation problem since some of the students must walk seven kilometres to reach their school. Between the hot weather in the summer, cold weather in winter, and settlers threatening to attack students on their way to school, it is more important than ever to solve the transportation problem (“Report of the students of Masafer Yatta,” 2022).
CPT members have started hearing this statement from the locals: South Hebron Hills will be the next catastrophe (Nakba) if the international communities do not stop Israel from ethnic cleansing the area. One of the most important reasons people stay rooted in their land is because they have basic rights like education. In South Hebron Hills, the schools and education system operate under the threat of the IOF. The Israeli government is trying to force Palestinians to leave, and this is one form of settler colonialism that we have seen happen in past years.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affarirs (2018) stated that 44 Palestinian schools in the West Bank have demolition orders. This means the schools are at risk of being partially or fully demolished due to a lack of building permits which are nearly impossible to obtain. Children and teachers are not the only ones who are stressed during school time. Parents are also stressed and anxious about what might happen to their children on their way to or from school or even at school.
Muntaha Abu Aram declared that her heart is never calm when her children are on their way to school. Her sons, Hamed and Issa, are in the eighth and third grades, respectively. They were stalked and beaten by settlers (Meshaaleh, 2021). Why do children, parents, and teachers have to suffer from settlers and the IOF? They are simply existing in the land that they were born in—the land that belongs to them.
If international communities and human rights organizations do not stop the Israeli government from attacking the schools and students, the next Nakba will happen. CPT members on the ground have observed that the first way the IOF is going to displace people in South Hebron Hills is by targeting the schools and attacking the children. In this way, the IOF will try to give more power to settlers.
Al-Masafer co-educational high school. (2022, April 18). The IOF took teachers’ cars and let them go through walking to the school [Facebook].
Meshaaleh, F. (2021). Education in Masafer Yatta… Diligent students despite the confiscation of their bags and their lives. Retrieved from <https://cutt.us/YVQAq>
Nawaja, H. (2022, July 7). Personal communication [Phone interview].
“Report of the students of Masafer Yatta” (2022). Report of the students of Masafer Yatta… From shanty schools to the College of Medicine. Retrieved from <shorturl.at/jDIKL>