Bearing Witness

Olive harvest & Palestinian hospitality

Today I participated in the annual olive harvest with other international volunteers from Project Hope . It was a small grove in town and the trees where relatively young, only 20 years old. The grove was planted during the first intifada as Palestinians where in lock down for most of it and could not access their farm lands, let alone get food transported in. So all manner of fruit and vegetables where planted in town to sustain the population. The harvest only took five hours and every couple of hours we where brought tea, coffee and tasty treats. After the harvest we where taken on a tour of the city including the outlying villages, then feed an amazing meal, the food just keep coming. After dinner we where invited back on Sunday for a traditional Palestinian dinner, the family was incredibly grateful, as where we by the end of the day.

I also heard stories about Project Hope bringing food and medicen to the Nablus population at the peak of the first intifada. As mentioned above, Nablus was in lock down and Project Hope staff and volunteers risked their own lives to deliver live saving medicine and essential foods to the locals. Often playing a cat a mouse game with the Israeli military to get to sections of the town where the  heaviest fighting was occurring. I also discovered that Nablus is the second oldest constantly inhabited city in the world, no wonder it has an historic feel to it, and that before the Zionist movement started Samaritans – a branch of Judaism – Christians and Muslim all coexisted happily in the city. With the Grandmother of the family we pick olives for, a Muslim lady, telling me they even celebrated each others religious holidays.

Tomorrow I am assisting with my first “Bridge to the World” {BTTW] class, where young Palestinians are taught how to set up and maintain their own blog’s. The aim of the program is to help the participants feel less isolated from the rest of the world, while helping to raise awareness of the occupation and it’s impacts on Palestinian life. I also have a meeting with a local youth center about setting up my own English class. The arts coordinator is currently on leave so the music program my take a little longer than expected to set up, but atleast I will be kept busy in the mean time with BTTW and English. I am unable to put into words how amazing this experience has been so far and I sure it will only get better as I start to deliver my own classes.


Olive harvest

Olive harvest

Palestinian hospitality

Palestinian hospitality

Sunset over Nablus

Sunset over Nablus

 * Photo’s courtesy of Sadie – a British volunteer here to teach digital photography.

November 9, 2008 Posted by | My Thoughts, My Travels | , , | Leave a comment

Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000 – )

On September 28, 2000 the Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, with a Likud party delegation, and surrounded by hundreds of Israeli riot police, visited the mosque compound of the Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) in the Old City of Jerusalem. The mosque compound is the first Qibla of Muslims and the third holiest site in Islam. It also contains the area for the most holy site in Judaism. The pretext for Sharon’s visit of the mosque compound was to check complaints by Israeli archeologists that Muslim religious authorities had vandalized archeological remains beneath the surface of the mount during the conversion of the presumed Solomon’s Stables area into a mosque.

A group of Palestinian dignitaries came to protest the visit, as did three Arab Knesset Members. With the dignitaries watching from a safe distance.Palestinians saw Sharon’s visit as an assault on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. For this reason, the whole conflict is known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada. On September 29, 2000, the day after Sharon’s visit, following Friday prayers, large uprising broke out around Old Jerusalem during which several Palestinian demonstrators were shot dead. Already in the same day, the September 29, 2000, demonstrations broke out in the West Bank. In the days that followed, demonstrations erupted all over the West Bank and Gaza.

* The above information was obtained at

October 29, 2008 Posted by | History of the Occupation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intifada , 1987 – 1991

Palestinian uprising refers to a series of violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis between 1987 and approximately 1990.

On December 8, 1987, an uprising began in Jabalya where hundreds burned tires and attacked the Israel Defense Forces stationed there. The uprising spread to other Palestinian refugee camps and eventually to Jerusalem, the eastern part of which was and is occupied by Israel. On December 22, the United Nations Security Council condemned Israel for violating Geneva Conventions due to the number of Palestinian deaths in these first few weeks of the Intifada.

Much of the Palestinian violence was low-tech; dozens of Palestinian teenagers would confront patrols of Israeli soldiers, showering them with rocks. However, at times this tactic gave way to Molotov cocktail attacks, over 100 hand grenade attacks and more than 500 attacks with guns or explosives. Many Israeli soldiers were killed this way. The IDF, in contrast, possessed the latest weaponry and defense technologies.

In 1988, the Palestinians initiated a nonviolent movement to withhold taxes collected and used by Israel to pay for the occupation of territories. When time in prison didn’t stop the activists, Israel crushed the boycott by imposing heavy fines while seizing and disposing of the equipment, furnishings, and goods from local stores, factories, and even homes. On April 19, 1988, a leader of the PLO, Abu Jihad, was assassinated in Tunis. During the resurgence of rioting that followed, about 16 Palestinians were killed. In November of the same year and October of the next, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions condemning Israel.

As the Intifada progressed, Israel introduced various riot control methods that had the effect of reducing the number of Palestinian fatalities. Another contributor to the high initial casualties was Yitzhak Rabin’s aggressive stance towards the Palestinians (notably including an exhortation to the IDF to “break the bones” of the demonstrators). His successor Moshe Arens subsequently proved to have a better understanding of pacification, which perhaps reflects in the lower casualty rates for the following years.

Attempts at the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were made at the Madrid Conference of 1991.

* The above information was obtained at

October 29, 2008 Posted by | History of the Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment