I have now been in the village of Bir el-Eid for three weeks. This has been a great time of connecting with the people here, helping with chores with the sheep, going out in the hills with the sheep, and helping rebuild the village.
Israeli settlers attacked a flock of sheep on Saturday, November 28. About 30 Israeli soldiers and police came and did nothing except to remove all the Israeli peace activists from the area.
A major issue continues to be whether Palestinians can use the road they built and paid for back in 1984, or whether they have to drive through fields to get to town for supplies. Under legal and moral pressure, the Israeli military has agreed to allow Palestinians to use their road, but soldiers on the ground are continuing to take orders from the settlers who demand that only Jews be allowed to use the roads. I recently waited with Palestinians who were trying to bring tanks full of water to the village. Soldiers had stopped the two tractors. International activists waited with the Palestinians, while Israeli activists put pressure on Israeli military authorities. After four hours, the soldiers left and the water was brought to the village.
On Saturday, December 5, twenty Israeli activists came to work in the village. That is inspiring. The Israeli military declared the area a closed military zone, but the Israeli activists refused to leave. As a token symbol of their authority, the soldiers arrested one activist. I hid in a cave to avoid being removed from the area.
Israeli settlers invaded one of the homes I was protecting in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem on December 2. Two international friends of mine were arrested while the Israeli police protected the thieves. The settlers are now living in the Palestinian house. One by one, the settlers, with the support of the Israeli government, are taking more and more from the Palestinians. Bir el-Eid is an important exception.
I recently took two days off to visit friends in Hebron. The Sultans and Jabers are doing well, but Israeli soldiers recently stole a thousand dollars worth of irrigation pipes from the Jabers. There seems to be a military assault on Palestinian agriculture. The soldiers recently demolished eight major cisterns holding precious water for Palestinian farms in the Beqa’a Valley.
I am extremely happy here in Bir el-Eid. It is the perfect place for me right now. We might be out in the middle of nowhere, cut off from the rest of the world, but it feels like we are at the center of the universe. Activists, aid workers, lawyers, and the media are coming here. I was interviewed for TV. I sure do not feel isolated. I am experiencing the universal through the particular.
Peace, Art (Jaber) Gish