November 2, 2011 | Christian Peacemaker Team – Palestine
In 2004, the village of At-Tuwani and its Israeli partner, Ta’ayush, approached CPT’s Hebron team and the Italian peace group, Operation Dove, asking if they could provide accompaniment for the children of the village whom settlers regularly attacked as they walked to school.
Although CPT had made regular visits to the South Hebron Hills villages over the years, the team on the ground and the organization as a whole deemed it important to respond to the villagers’ request for a permanent presence in the village of At-Tuwani.
Seven years later, CPT-Palestine is closing its At-Tuwani project. The growth of the South Hebron Hills nonviolent organizing work has made the presence of CPT less critical. The shepherds of At-Tuwani and surrounding villages now are part of a large nonviolent resistance network encompassing various regions of Palestine. They are part of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, and South Hebron Hills leaders regularly plan nonviolent actions to which they invite Israeli and international groups and offer nonviolence trainings to men and women in the region.
The village has grown significantly since 2004, when all the homes were living under threat of demolition. Defying these threats, At-Tuwani has constructed ten new homes, a health and community centre, electrical infrastructure, a paved road through the village, a new cistern, and a mosque. It has a woman’s co-op that sells traditional crafts to groups that come to the village, which helps to support families and the new infrastructure. The village has also received grants from various agencies, one of which it used to buy several computers to provide IT training for village youth.
The end of CPT’s permanent presence in At-Tuwani does not mean the end of its relationship with the South Hebron Hills villagers. CPT-Palestine will continue to support them by maintaining media and public awareness of the area, participating in actions organized by the nonviolent Popular Struggle Committee and bringing CPT delegations to the South Hebron Hills.
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) now has an office in Yatta, the urban hub of the South Hebron Hills, and Operation Dove will continue to live in At-Tuwani.
AT-Tuwani team member Laura Ciaghi writes, “I think we have done a good job of empowering the community in doing nonviolent resistance, mostly by creating a safer space for people in Tuwani and lifting some of the heavy pressure of living under occupation, so that they had the time, the energy and the space to organize themselves. The olive tree we planted in our courtyard on Christmas 2005 this fall has yielded for the first time, a full bucket of big olives, and maybe this tells the story better than anything else.”