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Stories on the Wall in Bethlehem

Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 08.11.2011:

The following stories will be writ large on the Wall at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. The stories will appear on large stickers (1/2 meter).

1. Tank at the house

During the days of incursions into Bethlehem in 2002, an Israeli tank was stationed on Hindaza hill in front of our house. All of a sudden, while I was preparing breakfast, the tank started shooting in all directions. I saw people running into their houses. There was a woman fainting. I rushed to her, offered her water and waited at her side until the tense situation was over. After a while, people started to come out of their houses again. Then I heard about a young man who was killed while rushing for safety.

Woman from Bethlehem

2. Through the drainage pipe

My husband used to go to Jerusalem for his work. Because of checkpoints and permit problems, he was forced to travel through the Wadi Nar by-pass road to the east of Jerusalem. But there frequently were mobile checkpoints on this road. One day, my husband and his friend escaped soldiers on the look out by crawling through an underground drainage system. In the end, they safely reached their workplace.

Woman from Bethlehem

3. Heritage

Once I was at an Arts and Heritage Exhibit in Tel Aviv. An Israeli lady approached me while I was touring the exhibition and told me, ”This is our heritage”. I responded quickly, ”No, this is our Palestinian heritage”. The Israeli woman brought a book with the title “Qawar of Jordan,” to show it was not Palestinian heritage. I looked into it. It was written by a Palestinian author living in Jordan.

Woman from Bethlehem

4. I Am steadfast

I am a town councillor: I work hard inside my house: cooking, doing my daily tasks at home, taking care of husband and children while at the same time working to earn a living. I also try to volunteer and participate in public activities. My friends and family strengthen my sumud (steadfastness) and increase my capacities as a woman in the fields of peace-building, Christian-Muslim living together, and interreligious and intercultural communication skills.

Fayza from Doha, south of Bethlehem

5. House demolition

One day I went to the village of Al-Walajah west of Bethlehem accompanied by two university students from France. We went there to visit families whose houses had been demolished by Israeli soldiers. I was translator. As we approached the small house, I saw a large heap of stones nearby. The mother and the father welcomed us. The students started asking questions. The house looked so familiar… I discovered that the mother was one of my students whom I taught at Bethlehem secondary school for girls. Oh poor Siham! She told us that her house had been demolished twice in one year. But it was built again by ICAHD – an Israeli organization opposing Israeli policies of demolishing houses.

Jala’, Beit Sahour

6. The bell

During the first Intifada, Israeli soldiers came to our neighborhood looking for teenager activists. They asked for them but did not find them. Then they kept ringing the bell of our house. We didn’t open the door. At last my mother got a clever idea to stop them ringing the bell. She put off the electricity. The soldiers became angry and started shouting. At last my mother opened the door. The soldiers were very aggressive. “Why did you put off the electricity?” She answered quietly, “It was an electricity cut.” At last one of the soldiers went to the electricity meter and kept the bell ringing in reaction to what my mother had done.

A woman from Bethlehem

7. We lost below zero

The wall affected our economic situation in a terrible manner. As we say in Arabic, ‘We lost below zero.’ In the past people from Bethlehem could work in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, cities presently on the other side of the wall. Now it is very difficult to get there. My husband and I had a drugstore and a store for different kinds of products. We had twenty-three people working for us; twenty-three families lived from our business. Now there are no employees anymore.

Melvina, Bethlehem

8. I am a dying lady

I belonged to the Anglican Church and was a volunteer there. I arranged the flowers and was active with the women. Now I cannot go to Jerusalem; the Wall separates me from my church, from my life. All my life was in Jerusalem! I was there daily: I worked there at a school as a volunteer and all my friends lived there. I rented a flat but I was not allowed to stay because I do not have a Jerusalem ID card. We are imprisoned. All my relations with Jerusalem became dead. I am a dying lady.

Antoinette, Bethlehem

9. The Wall Is on my heart

After the Wall around Rachel’s Tomb was built, I felt terrible. Nobody was walking here, only the cats and dogs. The wall creates a feeling… the feeling that it surrounds you; that you are not permitted to move. Every time, every day you see the Wall. When I look outside through the window to see the sunrise or the sunset the Wall is in front of me. When I go to the Wall I feel that something closes in on my heart, as if the Wall is on my heart… When I see the Wall I also feel ashamed of myself, because it is created by human beings.

A woman from Bethlehem

10. Baking bread

In the Jalazon refugee camp north of Ramallah, during a curfew, the military severed the supply of gas and electricity. The women made a communal fire, which was kept burning by old shoes and rags when the wood had run out. When the soldiers came to put the fire out and throw away the dough, the women resisted, shouting: “Go tell your leaders no matter what you do, no matter what kind of restrictions you impose upon us, we will not allow our children to starve. We will find a way to bake bread, and all your efforts to destroy our spirits are not going to succeed. What God has created, no one can destroy!”

From: Jean Zaru, Occupied with Nonviolence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks

11. The baby and the soldiers

Israeli soldiers were beating up a man in a crowded street. From all sides people rushed to the scene. Suddenly a woman with a baby came forward to the man and shouted: “Why is it always you who makes problems and goes to demonstrations! I am fed up! Take this baby of yours! I don’t want to see you ever again.” She laid the baby in the hands of the man, and ran away. The soldiers left the scene in confusion. When quiet came, the man returned the baby to the woman. They had never seen each other before.

A story from Nablous during the first Intifada

12. Rescue

During one of the Intifada days, I, a young Palestinian woman, was four months pregnant and lost my baby because of Israeli tear gas. I was terribly depressed since it was the second miscarriage I suffered during the last three years. A week later I visited a medical doctor in Jerusalem for a check up. When coming out of the doctor’s clinic, I saw nearby on top of an escalator an Israeli child who was recklessly playing and about to fall down. Thoughts rushed through my mind. Should I leave him and let him die the way the Israeli soldiers let my boy die a week ago, or should I make a desperate attempt to grab him? All of a sudden, I felt an impulse that made me hurry forwards. Throwing myself in front of the boy I prevented his fall.

Sylvana, Bethlehem

13. Tax revolt

During the first Intifada the Beit Sahouris had quite a lot of verbal confrontations with soldiers. At the time they organized a tax revolt under the banner of the American civil war: “No taxation without representation.” They refused to pay taxes and after some weeks, the Israeli army passed by their houses, one by one, to confiscate household items. Some of the Beit Sahouri women told the soldiers after their house was robbed empty, “Please stay, you forgot something, you cannot leave without my curtains.”

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