In 2004, Israeli settlers were regularly attacking children as they walked to and from school in the South Hebron Hills village of at-Tuwani. Local villagers and their Israeli partner, Ta’ayush, asked CPT and the Italian peace group, Operation Dove, to provide accompaniment for the school children.
CPT, having made regular visits to villages throughout the Hebron District over the years, accepted the invitation and partnered with Operation Dove to maintain a presence based in at-Tuwani while continuing a long-time presence in the city of al-Khalil (Hebron).
Seven years later, CPT’s time in at-Tuwani has drawn to a close. The growth of the South Hebron Hills nonviolent organizing work has made CPT’s presence less critical. The shepherds of at-Tuwani and surrounding villages are now part of a large nonviolent resistance network encompassing various regions of Palestine. They belong to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee and their 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 villagers have constructed ten new homes, a health and community center, electrical infrastructure, a paved road through the village, a new cistern, and a mosque.
The women formed a co-op that sells traditional crafts to visiting groups. The income generated from their work helps support families and the new infrastructure.
The village has also received various grants including one to buy computers and provide IT training for village youth.
CPT-Palestine will continue to support villagers in the South Hebron Hills 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 region.
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) 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 said, “I think we have done a good job of accompanying the community in doing nonviolent resistance, mostly by creating a safer space for people and easing some of the heavy pressure of living under occupation, so that they had the time and energy to organize themselves.”
“The olive tree we planted in our courtyard on Christmas day 2005 has yielded, for the first time this fall, a full bucket of big olives,” she continued. “Maybe that tells the story better than anything else.”