I am grateful and very glad that I have you as my friends.
I am here in the village of Bani Naim east of Hebron under SIEGE. All exists from the village are blocked by high mounds of dirt that no car or truck can go over. When I came here I had to walk across the mound of dirt and I had a young boy to transport my suitcase in his wheeled cart for a dollar.
I have not left the village for the last ten days. I was offered to travel to Jerusalem today by one of my cousins and after he described what the journey would entail I declined the offer since my health does not allow me to take that kind of risk. I have to carry my Insulin and other medicine with me. Also there will be walking through rough terrain that I am not sure I could do. He wanted me to experience what they experience daily to get to where they need to make a living if they can.
The situation is desperate and people are determined to continue their march to freedom and independence no matter what the Israeli army will do. They know and experience the risk every day. But they tell me that they will never accept to live under the Israeli occupation no matter what.
I am grateful for the friends amongst you who wrote to me. I will try to answer your personal messages when I have a chance.
It was difficult for the young man who runs the computer store here in the village to find an alternate ISP to connect to. The Israeli army yesterday cut the ISP cables in Hebron and the computer store here lost its internet ISP connection. He was able to find an ISP to provide me with this connection to read your e-mails.
My immediate family is OK but living under total siege is unbearable conditions.
I missed your company last Friday and I hope that I will be there in October.
See you all then.
I sent this to my daughter since she is traveling and hope she will be able to access her e-mail.
I am back home in Naperville I arrived last night. It took me a whole day to travel from your grandmother's house in the village to the Allenby Bridge. You remember it took us less than two hours when we traveled together few years ago. And it also cost me about 10 times what it would cost normally. The reason for all this human tragedy is the military Israeli occupation. The Israelis want to confiscate the Arab lands and build Jewish settlements to replace the Arab Palestinians.
Every village and every town in Palestine is blocked and turned into a large prison. Bani Naim is no different. No Palestinian car is allowed to reach the main roads where the Israeli civilian and military cars travel. No car with the Palestinian license plates can travel on the main roads. Every exit from the village is blockaded either by mounds of dirt and large stones or by huge cement blocks turning every village into a large prison. And Israeli army checkpoints are setup every where, either stationary or mobile depending on the importance of the pass to the Israelis.
I spent 11 days in the village and I did not leave to go anywhere else because it was dangerous. No one knows when the Israeli army will impose a 100% curfew on a town or village and for how long. I didn't want to take chances as I promised you and your mother. I had long visits with my relatives in the village and sometimes-heated discussions about the Current events there. People are afraid, outraged, angry and hopeless. They don't see a better future for their children and they are determined to be free from the Israeli occupation. But they don't believe that is possible since the great power of the USA under George Bush supports the Israeli occupation.
The Palestinians are puzzled and confused about George Bush and his policy towards them. They know America is for freedom and liberty but Bush is supporting Israel against their freedom and independence. I tried to assure them that there are a lot of Americans who support them and when the truth is known the American people will challenge the government's misguided policy.
One morning we were watching a local TV station that broadcasts from Hebron (6 KM away) when the live coverage of the destruction of three homes started. They showed the Israeli army arriving at the location of the first house, few jeeps and a truck. The soldiers and their commander got out of their vehicles and one could see the commander giving the orders to the soldiers. Explosives were unloaded from the truck and carried to the house to be destroyed. Few minutes later with the camera zooming in and out on the house an explosion and a huge cloud of dust was seen. When the dust settled there was no house, every thing was destroyed, the walls the roof, nothing was left standing. And then the camera focused on the people there, the women and the children yelling and shouting at the Israeli army. The men were trying to restrain and calm the women. And the army just left as if they were on a little excursion.
This was repeated two more times that morning. Three families left with no homes. The feelings of outrage and anger were building up in every one watching, but the frustrations were the reality, no one could do anything to stop that.
I left early last Monday morning with your cousin Mohammed to help me with my suitcase. We arrived at the first blockade of dirt near the village of Halhul. Mohammed carried my suitcase and I walked behind him up the mounds of dirt and down the other side, walked about 200 feet across the major highway to the other side where I waited for a car to take me closer to the crossing point on the bridge to Jordan. I needed a car with yellow Israeli license plates to take me to Jerusalem. Few hours past with no cars in sight and then a van with few passengers in it came and he agreed to take me to Jerusalem for a price which I agreed to pay.
I said good-bye to my nephew and we drove towards Jerusalem and just before we reached the first major Israeli army checkpoint at Etsion three men and a woman passenger got out of the van and walked on the dirt road about 20 feet away past the Israeli soldiers. At the checkpoint the soldiers checked the other passengers papers and my passport and waived the van to proceed.
About 100 feet from the checkpoint the three men and woman passenger rejoined the group in the van. I was puzzled so I asked the young man sitting next to me about what I saw. He told me that the Israelis issue permits for some to travel on the main roads and those with no permits will not be allowed to ride into the vans/taxis so they stop the van and they walk to meet the van beyond the checkpoint. I said but the soldiers see that and they can shoot to stop them. The young man replied that the purpose is to humiliate the people since they know they can't stop them. The people simply will walk further from the main roads into the hills to bypass the checkpoints and rejoin the taxis/vans transporting them. This off course increases the fares that people have to pay to the taxes/vans.
There was another checkpoint before entering the tunnels; do you remember the tunnels on the road to Jerusalem? The same was repeated but the people with no permits left the van for good since they could not enter Jerusalem without a permit. And if they were caught, they will be jailed and fined thousands of dollars.
We arrived in Jerusalem around 1 PM. There were no other passengers going to the bridge from Jerusalem so I had to hire a taxi and pay about $60. It was only a short trip to the checkpoint before the bridge. The Taxi was not allowed to proceed beyond the checkpoint and he had to let me out about 50 feet from the soldiers checkpoint. This is the River Jordan Valley and it is the lowest point on earth. The sun was very hot and I did not have a hat. I started to wheel my suitcase while I was carrying my laptop and my medicine bag. The Israeli soldier was yelling at me to stop and go back. I continued to walk and I held my US passport and shouting in English that I was not going to go back. I continued to walk and he was continuing to yell at me.
Then another soldier who spoke English appeared and was telling me to go back. I kept walking forward while yelling at them that I was a human being and I demand to be treated as such. I was not going to stay in the blazing sun while they were standing in the shade. In that time I have reached the checkpoint and I found a shaded spot where I stood. I was very mad and I started telling the English-speaking soldier that I was an American and I expect to be treated as an American. And I added that my tax money pays his salary and he better read my passport where it states that the US Secretary of state requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen of the US named herein to PASS without DELAY or hindrance. The soldier understood what I said and he calmed his comrade in arms.
I waited for another taxi to take me to my final Israeli checkpoint. Few minutes and a taxi were waived by the soldiers to transport me to the processing center. It was only few minutes drive. I paid another $6 for the taxi. The processing center is air-conditioned. I paid the exit tax of $33 and I waited for the bus to transport me to the Jordanian side of the River Jordan. The bus arrived and drove over a newly built bridge donation of Japan. Luckily the Jordan processing center was also air-conditioned.
It seemed it took forever for the Jordanian police to check the passports and our luggage. Finally I took a Taxi to my sister's house in Amman. I arrived exhausted and hot but relieved from the Israeli soldiers.
During my visit to Palestine I observed that the mood of the people in Palestine is defiant and outrage at the Israeli military. They are sad that the US government under George Bush is supporting Israeli PM Sharon and even calling him "A man of peace," when all the world knows better and demands that the Israeli occupation must end.
While I was a prisoner in my little village I talked to many people young and old about the occupation and the war and the future. I did not find any one who wants to stop the resistance, military or peaceful, until the Israeli occupation ends. The Palestinians are convinced that Sharon and the Israeli government are determined to kill as many of them as possible, force the rest into exile so the land of Palestine will be for the Jews only. They believe that this is the Zionist dream and it's being implemented gradually. They are convinced that no matter what the Palestinians will do, the Israelis will continue their aggression against them. They believe that the home destruction, the killing of people young and old in their homes, in the streets, sleeping at night or sitting on their balconies, and the imprisonment of thousands, and the humiliation will continue regardless of what the Palestinians will do. And to prove their point they refer to the quiet 6 weeks recently in August and September 2002, which did not stop the Israeli killings of Palestinians, more than 70 Palestinians were killed during those weeks.
I argued for peace with many of them. But I realized that some of their arguments have the facts to back them up. And I wonder what the Israeli people are going to do. Are they going to continue to support the aggression against the Palestinian people for ever? Are they going to stop supporting the extreme right in Israel? and if yes, then when? Are they going to elect a government and Knesset that supports peace?
There is hopelessness in the future of the Palestinians. They don't see any hope in the near future for a free and civil government either under the Israeli occupation or under Arafat's existing government. They don't know where the next shekel (dollar) is going to come from to buy food and medicine for their children. Some have not been able to go to work for two years. Their situation is bleak. What amazed me is that they are steadfast and determined to be free from the occupation.
I still believe that a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians is not only possible but a must. There is no alternative. All the Palestinians I talked to are willing to sacrifice every thing for their just cause. They are willing to pay whatever the price maybe to achieve their independence and to establish a Palestinian Arab State. How can that be achieved is a good question?