Thanks to Morgan Bach, who I met a few weeks ago in Oakland, and whom I am copying in this email, John and I arrived in the 300 person village of Al Aqaba today. We are staying in the guest house here, which Morgan arranged for us. Living here now is an Estonian English teacher for the local school and an American documentary maker who is involved with various projects in the village. The inspirational leader of the village is Haj Sami, who is pretty much responsible for the continual existence of Al Aqaba since it is under demolition order by the Israelis.
The village is a symbol of resistance to the Occupation and the underlying goal of ethnically cleansing the West Bank. Haj Sami is constantly writing letters of protest to the IDF, the Israeli Supreme Court, the American ambassador, and others here and abroad. He has made himself famous, or rather, infamous for calling attention to his village and the Israeli determination to make it too hard to survive here. There are ongoing water problems. The IDF destroyed much of the infrastructure for storing water. It has enough water for people but far too little to support the agriculture it needs to thrive.
Help from various foreign governments, Norway, for example, have allowed the community to build a school, a clinic,some housing and a mosque. They have initiated cheese and herbal tea cooperatives. Haj Sami has travelled abroad to lobby and seek assistance. Morgans organization, Rebuilding Alliance, sponsored his trip to the US and is funding the construction of houses here.
I spent a long time talking to Maurice, the documentary maker, about his perceptions of the West Bank and Gaza, where he lived for a year. The guy knows a lot and I took copious notes, as usual. Right now he is in the middle of a project to photograph and interview everyone in the village for an exhibit and book he has in mind. He is also trying to solicit help from international artists to first paint every house in bright pastel colors and second, paint a mural on each building. With the international exposure and acclaim that would come with such a unique and beautiful village, the Israelis would be too embarrassed to demolish it.
The four of us were just finishing dinner when Haj Sami called for us to go to his house. Right outside he had a huge barbecue going, and for the next 90 minutes we ate a second dinner of beef, lamb, chicken, and veggies in addition to highly spiced olives and the best stuffed grape leaves Ive had. Please excuse the lack of apostrophes in this email. The Estonian keyboard seems to lack it.
Tomorrow John and I are going to Jenna, the largest city in the north West Bank. Morgan alerted me to this coming weeks freedom march down the Jordan Valley for water access and rights. A few dozen activists from abroad are joining Palestinians for the march, and tomorrow, at Jenins famous Freedom Theater, there will be some opening events, including a tour of the citys refugee camp, a film, and an evening cultural performance. Should be a very educational experience. I dont know if I will be able to get on a computer in Jenin, but if I can I will write about it.
Monday we leave the West Bank after an eye opening week. We will spend the following three days in Nazareth and the Galilee, which is in Israel proper. I will be sorry to leave Palestine, which has the friendliest and most helpful people I have encountered. You can not walk long on the street of any Palestinian town without being told you are welcome by people you pass. Every shop and cafe we have gone into we have been treated with great respect and good cheer. I just hope the Israelis I meet next week will not present too much of a contrast.
OK, to bed. Hope all is well with all of you.