by Bob Palmer (July delegation)
During our CPT delegation Rashid* took us on a tour of the al-'Arub Refugee Camp near Hebron. Then he brought us to his home outside the camp for lunch and a visit with his wife Nibaal and their four kids.
After sharing a home-cooked meal, we gathered in the living room for dessert, coffee and more conversation. Ten-year-old Tarek invited me outside for a game of hide and seek with his seven-year old sister, Nowal, which brought laughter all around.
Our visit was much like one I might have with new neighbors in Chicago, but the stories Rashid and Nibaal shared were specific to a life under military occupation: about the extended process to satisfy the Israeli government that his family had long owned the land on which he wanted to build a house, so the property would not be given to Israeli settlers, who make up an increasing number of his neighbors; about the denial of a building permit, once ownership was resolved; and about being forced to build illegally, subjecting the home to demolition at any time. The Israeli government has destroyed 18,000 Palestinian homes since 1967.
Like most Palestinians in the West Bank, this family may not travel to Jerusalem or outside the West Bank without a special permit. To reach their house, they must take a much longer route than Israeli citizens, because the occupation has closed many West Bank roads to Palestinians.
Nibaal told us about taking Nowal to the hospital one night. On the way home, soldiers made the family get out of their cab and walk with Nowal in their arms, because they had closed the road to Palestinians. Ironically, an Israeli family eventually picked up the family as they struggled along the dark road, eventually driving them home. Israelis and Palestinians will have to undertake similar boundary-crossing risks in the future to obtain for everyone the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of their state, as well as the other basic human rights.
*Names have been changed.