This building was built by the British during the Mandate control of Palestine, and was later used by the Israeli military as a prison. In the late 90’s, the Israeli military pulled out, and most of the buildings have since been renovated. The building is now a community centre for local groups, arts and theatre.
Palestinian and international activists from Ramallah, Budrus, Bil’in, Al-Khader, Um Salamona and Jenin gathered in the village of Al-Aqaba in the Jordan Valley on Saturday to express solidarity with the villagers in their effort to maintain their presence in spite of Israel’s attempt to wipe their village off the face of the map.
Now, we are in a place where the occupiers have really demonstrated the subtlety of their sense of humour. This place has a haze to it. It’s a nice day, but tense. Jeeps filled up with soldiers, taking an inordinate amount of interest in anything that moves, punctuate the day. An old man asks us, “so are you tourists here, or perhaps you are concerned about our situation?” He grins. We are sitting with our backs to a nearby water structure. It’s clearly a good one, because Palestinians are considered too dangerous to use it.
Running up to our time to head in to Palestine, I had a quick sniff round the mainstream Israeli media. Typing ‘Israeli news’ into Google rewards me with a paper called Haaretz, which has got a range of opinions ranging from stuff which criticizes the occupation to stuff that is so right wing that it reads like Noel Edmonds has taken over the country using an army of Teletubbies.
Our first night was spent in Al Jiftlik, a village with the surreal scenario of being half area B and half area C, meaning half gets electricity and building rights while the other half lives in the 9th Century. (We ate in area B and slept in area C, at least Palestinians still have permission for this.)
Day One It takes a while to fully process what is going on. The past few weeks have been a blur of preparation, meetings, Arabic lessons, lies to parents (sorry mum, I’m afraid this isn’t Turkey), 30+ hour coach journeys, Lonely Planet guides, and border crossings. As such, it is only when we are actually in the taxi with Fathe that it finally hits me that we’re in the Jordan Valley, West Bank, Palestine. Fathe is a rich vein of information, and is truly passionate about the situation the Palestinians of this region have been forced into.
News Release: Tuesday 8th April