AT-TUWANI REFLECTION: Another place, another time, another name

December 4, 2004

AT-TUWANI REFLECTION: Another place, another time, another name

by Maureen Jack

At-Tuwani is in the hills south of Hebron. I arrived here on November 17,
2004 with a member of the Italian peace group, Operation Dove and Joe, a
fellow CPTer. We took taxis/buses to get here and had to walk the last mile
or so because the path was impassable to vehicles.

I felt as though I had stepped back in time. As we arrived, people were
picking olives in a field below the village. Our first job was to collect
water from the well, over 250 paces from our house. On the way we saw two
girls carrying containers of water on their heads up the hill. Just up from
our house a small building houses a communal oven. On top of a fire are
stones on which the women put their bread to bake and then cover it over
with a lid and dry earth.

About 150 people live in At-Tuwani--the main village in the area; others
have fewer amenities. One can buy essentials at a small store. The
vegetables available are onions, potatoes and sometimes tomatoes. There is
a school and a small mosque. The villagers are building a clinic beside the
well. A generator for the village provides street lighting and power to the
houses for five hours each evening.

When we arrived, People not been able to work in the fields for two days.
It rained one night and the next day was Friday, the Muslim holy day.
Friends called by with gifts of cake and soup. A few men stayed to drink
tea or play Shish Bish (like backgammon).

Joe and Ugo sat on the roof playing the guitar and singing. We played
volleyball with the children and visited neighbours.

 Like the villagers, we sleep on mats on the floor and use them for seating
during the day. With the colder weather we now all sleep in the museum, an
old building that houses the village's wealth, the collection of thirty
traditional dresses and other needlework the women have sewn.

Apart from bursts of aggression from the camel it felt very peaceful here
when I arrived . But on November 18 we saw an Israeli jeep send up a flare
on the nearby road. This village is where Israeli settlers harassed and
attacked children from the outlying village of Tuba as they walked to
school. We are here because of that harassment. Twice, young Israeli
settlers with small baseball bats and chains attacked my colleagues as they
accompanied children to school, causing serious injuries.

Tuwani is such a different place from any other I have visited. The village
seems to exist in an older time altogether. Sometimes the villagers give
us their own names. So Joe is Yusuf. And I have become Miriam. Another
place. Another time. So why not another name?