PALESTINE REFLECTION: A right to education
16 May 2013
On May 12, we arrived at Al Fakheit School where we were met by “Al Jazeera” journalists filming a documentary about the difficulty that children face in getting to school in Occupied Palestine. They told us about one school near East Jerusalem where children have to pass through a sewer pipe to reach their school.
As we were describing similar difficulties faced by children in the South Hebron Hills, and the dangers of living in a live firing zone, the headmaster approached us looking crestfallen. He told us that soldiers had just stopped three teachers as they were driving to Jinba School and told them that the police would arrest them since they were not allowed to be in a closed military area. Police then came and took the teachers into a nearby illegal Israeli settlement and held them for two hours before release. They allowed two teachers to continue on to the school, but made one return home. The police had previously arrested him at a non-violent protest against the firing zone, and said he was not permitted to return to the area.
Children in Al Fakheit and Jinba face daily disruptions from the army, whose helicopters often hover over their schools. As we were playing football with the children in Jinba, they suddenly started shouting “jesh, jesh” (army, army) and we saw a large military jeep whiz through the village, passing very close to the school and houses. Within five minutes it was back again, speeding through the village, kicking up stones and dust. Children have got used to the military presence near their homes, but are still fearful of what might happen. Will the army stop and arrest someone? Will they come to demolish something? On our way home, we stopped in the village of Mirkez. An old lady invited us in for tea. She told us that a few days ago, while a 14-year-old boy was herding his flock, the army took him into a nearby settlement but later released him.
Imagine the insecurity of living in an area where soldiers or police could pick you up any day for no reason. The people living in this area also face threats and acts of violence from settlers. A few days before our visit, settlers damaged 60 thirty-year-old olive trees. The olive tree is a symbol of peace. Villagers in the South Hebron Hills are committed to non-violent resistance. I am inspired by their continued strength and struggle. They face so many obstacles just trying to do things that people I know take for granted, like getting an education and grazing their sheep on their own land. Who knows how the daily intimidation and fear will affect these children in the future? I hope and pray that when they are ready to bring up children themselves, the occupation will have ended, and they will be able to go to school and herd their flocks free of fear.
Please remember the people of the South Hebron Hills in your thoughts and prayers, and sign this petition to tell Israel that this behavior must stop. The South Hebron Hills must remain a civilian area and not a firing zone.