Hiking up Masada and Floating in the Dead Sea

It was May 28 and the temperature was already climbing, my colleague Ulrike and I hustled to catch a bus from Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station to the Dead Sea.  We made it with 2 minutes to spare.

Soon the bus was traveling along the western shore of the Dead Sea, with Jordan on the far side.


Our first destination:  Masada, an ancient fortification on the eastern edge of the Judean desert overlooking the Dead Sea, and listed as a World Heritage Site of global importance.  Herod the Great built castles for himself and visitors between 37 and 31 BCE. Over 900 Jewish rebels and their families committed mass suicide during the First Jewish-Roman War rather than be captured by Roman troops.  Two women and five children were found alive in one of the two underground cisterns for water. Later, a Byzantine church was built on the site. (see http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1040).

Along the way there we saw banana and date plantations like this one, a sign of an abundant supply of water.


After arriving at the Masada, visitors have two options for reaching the top.  For a mere 29 shekels ($8.20 Canadian) you can hike up the Snake Trail or pay the same price for a 3-minute ride up in a gondola.  What to do, what to do?

With map in hand, we chose to hike the Snake Trail which is said to take 45 minutes for those in good shape.  With two bottles of water in my pack, the adventure began.  Here is a view from the start of the Snake Trail to the top. The next view is of Wadi Masada which separates Masada from the adjacent mountain. A wadi is a dry stream bed.



Reaching the top in 40 minutes, we were soaked to the skin with perspiration.


Looking down on the Snake Trail that we just ascended.


We toured the site in a clockwise manner, moving from the Rebel’s quarters on the eastern wall, to the eastern outlook, along the southern wall, to the northern wall where Herod’s palace and baths were built, and then finished at the guest’s quarters near the western ramp.  Below we could look down to the Dead Sea, into Wadi Masada, and to the various Roman siege camps.




The eastern lookout, where you can shout into the void and have a resounding echo return.


Looking down, down, down into Wadi Masada.


Monks caves, carved into the hillside.


Rainwater cisterns, to catch and channel scarce water for domestic uses.




Byzantine church constructed in the northern part of the plateau, with mosaic floors.




And here I sit in a Jewish synagogue.


This man is faithfully copying the Torah, letter by letter, in an air conditioned, lit room beside the synagogue.






In the eastern part of the site, there was a columbarium for the departed:


And looking down to the east, there is the remains of a small Roman encampment:


And to the west, the large siege camp which was used to construct the western ramp, a large wooden siege engine and battering ram which eventually breached the fort’s western wall.


Descending from the top via a 29 shekel gondola ride, we ate lunch and then departed for Ein Gedi beach, our second destination.

The sun was high and the temperatures in the mid-40’s. The pebbles on the shore were very hot and coated in a thin layer of salt.  The Dead Sea lies in the Jordan Rift Valley. It is over 400 metres below sea level, over 375 metres deep and hypersaline with a concentration of 33.7 % salt. The Jordan River is the main tributary into the lake.  There are no flows out of the lake.

Trying to swim is a challenge, as the density of the water is so high that bodies float.  Standing is nearly impossible, as your limbs bob above the surface.  One of the attractions is coating your body in Dead Sea mud, letting it dry and then washing it off.  But watch out – DO NOT PUT YOUR FACE INTO THE WATER.  From personal experience, it can be painful.

This is how you might look:

Norman - Dead Sea Mud - Ein Gedi Beach - 130528

On the journey home, the Dead Sea seems to stretch forever, although it is only 55 km long from Jericho in the north to Neve Zohar in the south.  It is 18 km wide at its widest point.


Nearby are the Qumrun Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves.

This will be an adventure for another day.

Posted in Palestinian Families | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Taking an Early Morning Walk, Visiting a New Donkey and Bringing in the Wheat Sheaves

On June 10 I set out from Upper Yanoun for the routine morning walk.  We have two options on our twice daily walks: Old Nablus Road (7 km) or Jordan Valley View (6 km).

My destination was the Jordan Valley Road via Lower Yanoun.  I live in Upper Yanoun with four other internationals and six families. Lower Yanoun is 2.5 km down the valley from Upper Yanoun and has 10 families.

Lower Yanoun lies within Area B, with shared Israeli and Palestinian administration and control.  Development is possible in Area B.  Upper Yanoun lies within Area C, the area under complete Israeli military administration and control.  Development proposals for building new homes, renovating old homes, upgrading water systems, and other community improvements are rarely approved under the current Israeli administration.

These areas were set out in the Interim Israeli-Palestinian Agreement of 1993, also known as the Oslo Peace Agreement (http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/the israeli-palestinian interim agreement.aspx).

As I arrived in Lower Yanoun, the long-awaited birth of a new donkey was over.  This little guy was up and moving around with a frisky nature.  His mother, a shy brown jenny, has come to love the carrots, pears and apples that I bring as a treat.  She lets us come up to her offspring and pet him.





The mom shows no concern when we are around her colt, even when he is picked up.  He’s frisky, but when in my arms, he was relaxed and seemed content.


After a quick visit, I joined Khader, one of five brothers who lives in Lower Yanoun.  We took his sheep and goats to the fields of wheat which had been harvested the day before.  Once the sheep were grazing on the wheat stubble, I set off to the end of the Jordan Valley road, to monitor a new illegal settlement development behind Hill 777 that is heading in the direction of the small village of Ad Dama. After taking photographs of a new barn, I started my return.

In the early morning sun, Khader’s field looked like this, with sheaves of wheat bundled from the harvesting machine.

Norman Williams - Jordan Valley Road - Khader's wheat harvest - 130608

Further along, there was huge pile of wheat sheaves in the middle of the field.  Together we gathered up the remaining sheaves of wheat at the far edges of the field and added them to the big pile in the middle, leaving the field looking bare except for the olive trees.


Khader is one of five brothers who lives in Lower Yanoun.  He is married to Miriam and they have 3 children with a fourth on the way.  He is industrious and loves his land.  In addition to wheat, he has a flock of sheep and goats and several acres of okra which will fetch a good price in the market.  He is standing with some of his sheep in front of one of the trees passed down from his grandfather’s father:


And on that tree were olives that will ripen and be harvested in October and November.


This land has sustained Palestinians and earlier inhabitants of this land for many, many generations.  Under the Israeli occupation, Palestinians have less land on which to produce their crops to feed themselves and their animals.  Land which they used in the past has been taken by Israeli settlers without compensation.  This is putting the squeeze on communities, especially in Area C, where families have less land, cannot build homes for the next generation, or make any improvements that would benefit the families.

What will their future look like?  Where will they live?  How much longer can they remain?  Will they see peace in their lifetime?

These were the questions on my mind on my early morning walk near the Jordan Valley.

Posted in Palestinian Families | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Day Off in Bethlehem

I traveled from Nablus to Bethlehem on Wednesday evening.  I had planned a short visit to a city that had no room at the inn for a young couple from Nazareth.

I was luckier.  There was a room reserved for me at the Bethlehem Inn, not far from Rachel’s Tomb.  I had hoped to visit that place, but found an obstacle in the way – a tall, impenetrable object made of concrete.  And this is what I saw from my window the next morning.



I had heard that the Separation Barrier, also called The Wall, was creating problems for those living in Bethlehem and the many pilgrims that come to see the place where Jesus was born.  The Wall in front of the Bethlehem Inn seemed to snake around a small area – Rachel’s Tomb as I later learned.  In so doing, it isolated several families from the rest of the neighbourhood and the shops that are their livelihoods.



I was visiting my EAPPI colleagues whose residence is located nearby, in fact, two doors away from the vehicle gate that separates Bethlehem from the access road to Jerusalem.

With my trusty guide Ulrike from Germany, I explored the graffiti statements painted on the wall.  Some of the images I saw follow, including several by the well-known artist Banksy:










As we left this area, we encountered two other originals by Banksy — the donkey and the soldier, and the targeted dove of peace: Image


We walked on to find the birthplace of Jesus:




And then, the Door of Humility presented itself and in we went to view the altar and the mosaics:



Norman Williams - Bethlehem - Ch of Nativity mosaics 1 - 130613 Norman Williams - Bethlehem - Ch of Nativity mosaics 3 - 130613

Norman Williams - Bethlehem - Ch of Nativity main altar - 130613

As we left, the carillon in the bell tower was ringing out.  I will return for a more thorough visit on a day when the crowds are few.

Norman Williams - Bethlehem - Ch of Nativity carillon - 130613

After a visit with my colleagues, I departed for the pedestrian checkpoint that they monitor four mornings a week as Palestinians cross into Israel with their work permits.  This is what it looks like as you enter the crossing:


A lot packed into a morning and early afternoon.  And that’s all I have for you, dear follower, in Bethlehem.  More to see and do than time permits.


Posted in Palestinian Families | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Here we go again – Four Bedouin Homes Demolished near Jericho

The Israeli military demolished four concrete houses and one animal shelter on June 4, 2013.  All houses belonged to the same family, Mohammed Hussein Al-Zaid and his three sons.  They live in the Bedouin village of Nuwei’ma Al Fauq, just north of Jericho.

On Tuesday June 4, Saleh Al-Zeid was on his way to work as a teacher at an UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) School (http://www.unrwa.org/).  He saw a bulldozer and the Israeli military driving towards his village. At that time he didn’t know that they were going to demolish his family’s houses. His children were still sleeping in the house.  When arrived at the school, he was told that houses in his village were being demolished.

He returned to the village to find his brother’s house demolished. Dayef Al-Zaid lived with his mother, his brother and two sisters.



The owner of this house was distraught and sat crying as we took the story and photos.


Later she showed us how strong winds on Sunday ripped the tent that had been provided by the International Committee for the Red Crescent.


The bulldozer then started to demolish Saleh’s own house, where he lived with his wife, two sons aged 4 and 2 years and their 4-month old daughter.



Saleh’s two sons, followed us closely, appearing to be tense.Image

This where they now live.


The families were not given time to remove their possessions. When people from the nearby village came to support the family and to protest against the demolition, the Israeli military surrounded them, shooting tear gas and sound bombs towards the people trying to reach their houses.

The Israeli military shot a sound bomb at his oldest son, and the canister landed just at his feet but did not explode.  His wife injured her hand while trying to save some items from the house.  Here he is holding the unexploded bomb …


Hussein Al-Zaid lived in the third house with his wife, six children, his mother and older sister. The mother had to be taken to hospital because of high blood pressure. Notice the clothes hanging on a line stretched from the wreckage to their emergency tent.


Suliman Al-Zaid lived in a fourth house just down the hill from Saleh and Dayeh with his wife and five children.


The families reported that some items were stolen from the houses by the civilian personnel who supervised the demolitions. A complaint has been filed with the Palestinian DCO.

Saleh told me: “As a grown man, I can take anything that the Israeli military does to me.  But how do I explain this to my children?  How do I keep them safe, keep them warm when the winter comes?”

Saleh told the team that the problems started in 1998 when they settled in the area. Until 2010 they received demolition orders from the Israeli District Coordination Officer (DCO), and in 2010 the Palestinian DCO together with the Israeli DCO came to the area and explained where the family was allowed to build and which shelters they had to move. Since then it has been quiet. Both the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre were present at that time providing legal advice to the families.

Where will this family live?  They cannot build again on the same land without receiving another demolition.

Here is his wife and his 4-month old daughter.  Image

Who will care for them?

Who cares about their situation?

What can you and I do to end this violence and inhumane treatment of innocent people?

From the hot and windy Jordan Valley.

Posted in Jordan Valley, Military Violence, Palestinian Families | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Home demolition in the Jordan Valley – Al Jiftlik

On May 28, our EAPPI team was called urgently to document the demolition of a home in the village of Al Jiftlik, in the Jordan Valley.

The home of Rashid Salaami, his mother, 2 wives, and his children, was demolished by the Israeli military. Twelve soldiers carried out the demolition order.

The family have lost all their possessions, had a fence and water tank destroyed, and approximately 120 of their sheep were scattered.

The International Committee of the Red Crescent visited the family, but no local aid has been given as of yet. This is the second demolition the family has suffered in the space of 4 months.


The family has since evacuated their land.  The Israeli government has accomplished its goal of displacing this family from their land.  It is only a matter of time before Israeli settlers take over this land.

Is the goal of Israel to clear this land of all Palestinians and then annex it to Israel, completing what it started in 1967 with the occupation of the West Bank?

Who is directing the military to carry out demolitions and evacuations in the Jordan Valley?

Which western governments are allowing this to happen in clear violation of international humanitarian rights and their obligation to hold Israel accountable for its actions as “a temporary occupying force?”  It’s only been 46 years …

What is our government doing to uphold human rights and international human rights?  Does your Member of Parliament know and care about these issues and Canada’s reputation?

What will it take to bring a just peace to this holy and troubled land?

Posted in Bedouin, Jordan Valley, Palestinian Families, Palestinian villages | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

13-Year Old Boy Injured in Qaryut

The Palestinian village of Qaryut is located in the Nablus Governate near Highway 60 that runs between Ramallah and Nablus.  Previously, a road connected the community to Highway 60, but the Shiloh Settlement blocked the road and is building a religious centre for Jewish tourists.  This means that those who live in Qaryut must travel north to the Za’tara Check Point and then backtrack through the settlements of Yatma and Qabalan, an extra 20 kilometres.

On May 16 the EAPPI team from Yanoun was called to Qaryut to investigate a settler attack on a group of young boys from Qaryut.  We were told by the secretary of the village council, Bashar, that the boys were going to the spring west of the community when the head of settler security from the illegal outpost of Esh Kodesh (Holy Fire in Hebrew) began shooting live bullets into the air.  The youth scattered.  On of them, Myassar, hid behind a large rock.  When the Israeli military arrived, they searched the fields and found Myassar. Bashar filmed this incident on his video camera.

The chief of the security, Moshko, punched him in front of the soldiers and pointed his weapon at Myassaar, telling him to stand up and walk. All of this happened in front of the army. The army tried to placate the settler, but took no action to restrain or arrest him.

130516 Incident Report - Israeli soldiers and a doctor negotiating Myassar Moussa's treatment with ICRC - Bashar Alqaryoute

Bashar and a number of villagers arrived to give first aid, but were turned back by the Israeli military. A number of settlers arrived in their cars and were stopped by the soldiers.

Two of the villagers were allowed to stay to give first aid to Myassar.  They asked if had been shot; he explained that he had fallen down and broken his leg.

By this time he was in a great deal of pain. Once Bashar provided first aid,  the army explained their intention to bring Myassar with them, but Bashar said he already arranged an ambulance to bring Myassar to the hospital.

130516 Incident Report - Myassar Moussa in significant pain following his injuries - Bashar Alqaryoute

The army refused this arrangement, and after a while an Israeli doctor arrived. Apparently Myassar had sustained a double fracture to his leg and needed an X-ray.

130516 Incident Report - Myassar Moussa receiving treatment from ICRC ambulance service - Bashar Alqaryoute

Bashar explained that Myassar is 13 years old and doesn’t have an ID with him, but the army insisted on taking him with them and administering the treatment themselves in Israel, so that they could arrest and detain him. The army presented a knife they had retrieved from the scene and claimed that Myassar had been in possession of it, and they explained this as their reason for wanting to arrest and detain him. However, Myassar insisted it was not his property. The army then took the boy into the military ambulance, accompanied by a member of the village who was able to translate Hebrew.

130516 Incident Report - Myassar Moussa's leg injury - Bashar Alqaryoute

Bashar called Red Crescent and Palestinian authorities to register a complaint. After a 3-hour long discussion between Palestinian and Israeli officials, the Israeli military released Myassar. Once Bashar was able speak to Myassar, he learned that Myassar didn’t receive the appropriate care, only painkillers while being subjected to a 3 hour interrogation in the nearby Alay settlement. Finally, Myassar was taken in the Red Cresent ambulance to Rafidiyeh Hospital in Nablus.

We have learned that the Israeli military confiscated Myassar’s mobile phone, contacted his friends and tried to intimidate them and threatened to arrest them.

How would we feel if one of our children was treated in this manner — questioned for over three hours, with no first aid treatment and no pain killers for a compound fracture?

How would we react if authorities called children and threatened them with arrest if they did not give authorities information on their friends?  What kind of military force would treat people in this way?

What is going on in this part of the world?  Why does our government support a so-called democracy that consistently and systematically violates the human rights of others?

This is a holy and very troubled land.  A land ruled by fear by those who appear to have been raised on fear and feel the need to intimidate and humiliate other human beings?

Unfortunately, this incident is all too common.  From near the Jordan Valley …

Posted in Palestinian Families, Palestinian Youth, Settler Violence | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Palestinian Youth at the Za’tara (Tappuah) Check Point/Round-About

We live in Yanoun, a small village near the municipality of Aqraba, a town with a population of just under 8,200 (2007, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics). We come home to the village from Jerusalem or Nablus by way of the Za’tara Checkpoint/Round-about.  It is a busy intersection and is not a permanent checkpoint. However, Israeli military and border police often put up flying checkpoints to check Palestinian documents.

On May 23, 2013, we passed through Za’tara on our way to Huwarra, at approximately 12 noon.  We observed a young Palestinian dressed in a red t-shirt, mid-calf light blue shorts and running shoes.  He was being questioned by two Israeli military on the east side of the highway. This is not unusual in Palestine.  The Israeli military routinely detain and interrogate young male Palestinians.  Several with whom we spoke on that day said that they were detained and questioned for over 50 minutes each.

We returned at approximately 12:45 p.m., and to our surprise, the young man was now on the west side of the highway, down on the ground, surrounded by a dozen Israeli military.


Three members of our team left our vehicle and walked quickly to where the military were gathered.  The young man was unconscious, lying in a semi-sitting position with his back against a concrete structure.  He had blood over his left eye.  And he was not responding to attempts by the military to rouse him.

Before we could photograph him, two soldiers, one them a captain who didn’t speak English,  stood between the youth and us and ordered us to cross the road to the east side.  They then escorted us to the sidewalk immediately below a another armed soldier in front of the guard tower on that corner, and told us to stand there. I asked for the major in command to come to tell us what had happened.  I then asked how the youth had come to be on the west side of the road and unconscious. One of the two soldiers who spoke English told me that he had heard the young man became panicky in questioning and tried to run, then ran into a light pole. Anyone running in the Za’tara checkpoint risks being shot.

The English-speaking soldier said that we were doing Israel harm.  I replied that we are not the enemy.  I then pointed to the unconscious young man and asked: “If it were you or me lying there, what should be done?  What’s happening to him right now is a violation of his human rights and his humanitarian rights.  He’s not even being given first aid.  Is that right?  As human beings, is that how we would want to be treated?”  He looked thoughtful for a moment and didn’t reply.  When his captain asked for a translation, he gave a dismissive snort.

There were a total of five military vehicles (jeeps, heavy transport vehicles) and up to 18 soldiers on the site over the next two hours.  Two ambulances and a physician arrived from the Red Crescent society.  We could see them, time-to-time, trying to revive the youth and bandage his head.


The young man was kept in the direct sun for over an hour.  He was not placed into a recovery position.  He was not shaded from the sun.  He was not given water. He was not transported to hospital for a more thorough check up.

After more than an hour and a half, he eventually revived, and with the help of the Red Crescent staff, was able to walk with assistance to the military compound on the west side of the checkpoint. The Military then ordered the Red Crescent to leave.  The youth was kept in custody.  And the major never came to speak with us.


We are trying to determine the identity and condition of this youth as well as where he lives so that we can take statements from him.

This incident was disturbing.

Several of the young man’s international human rights were violated: his right to life, his right to food and water, and his right to health.  International human rights law is applicable to the territory of a state, and also extends to any territory under its effective jurisdiction, even outside its borders.

His international humanitarian rights were also breached. Under a belligerent occupation, like that in the occupied Palestinian territory, civilians have the right to be protected: respect for their person, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs.

The fact that this young man needed assistance and was not getting it, was not treated for his injuries and given first aid, was not sent to hospital for complete physical assessment of any damages, and was kept in custody — all are more than enough for concern.

Our team is following up on the details of this incident through the International Committee of the Red Crescent.  When we know his identity, and if he gives consent for us to publish his story and photos, I will come back to you.

For more information in international humanitarian rights, follow this link:  http://www.diakonia.se/sa/node.asp?node=776

From the troubling land of our common ancestors, until next time.

Posted in Military Violence, Palestinian Families | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

No Water In Yanoun

Today is sunny and hot in Yanoun, a village of some 75 people.  And those of us in Upper Yanoun face the prospect of having no water. No water for showers, no water to do the dishes, no water for cooking, no water for the toilet.  What to do, what to do?

Yanoun has two parts:  Upper Yanoun where the EAPPI team lives with six families and a population of 36 people. The nearby spring has been the source of water for years for most months, for the residents and for their flocks of sheep and goats.  However, when the spring runs dry, water has to be bought, trucked in, and shared among the families.  And the spring is now dry.

Norman Williams - Upper Yanoun - 130501

Lower Yanoun is a brisk 20-minute walk down the hill.  Thirty-nine people in 7 families live there.  Lower Yanoun gets it water piped in from the nearby city of Aqraba.  Water is available at the turn of a tap in these homes.


Why the difference in the two locales?  It’s simple and it’s complex: Upper Yanoun lies in Area C and Lower Yanoun lies in Area B.

So what’s the deal on areas?

When the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Oslo Peace Accord) was negotiated in 2004, the parties divided the West Bank into three zones: Area A is land under the administration and control of the Palestinian Authority (by Palestinians for Palestinians); Area B, land under joint Israeli and Palestinian administration and control; and Area C, land under full Israeli administration and control. (http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/the israeli-palestinian interim agreement.aspx)

Over 60 percent of the West Bank is considered Area C.  Less than 1 percent of Area C has been planned for Palestinian development by the Israeli Civil Administration; 70 % of Area C is off-limits to construction, and 29 % is heavily restricted.  Communities depending on tankered water pay up to 400 % more for every litre than those connected to the water network. In communities without water infrastructure, consumption drops to 20 litres/per capita/per day. one-fifth of the World Health Organization’s recommendation.

Source: http://www.ochaopt.org/ – find Humanitarian Atlas, West Bank and Gaza Strip, December 2011 under Featured Items and click on it to download the Atlas (100 Mb). United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

So, anticipating that the spring in Upper Yanoun would run dry this year, those with foresight arranged to have the water network extended up the hill.  Back in April, the head of Upper Yanoun received a Stop Work Order from the Israeli Civil Administration.  So none of the homes were connected and water did not flow.

Recently, we noticed work in Lower Yanoun to connect the water network to the pipes leading to Upper Yanoun.  So did the Israeli military from their Hill 777 military camp on their daily patrols.   So, on Tuesday, May 28, the Civilian Authority, escorted by the Israeli military, delivered a Stop Work Order to Upper Yanoun.

On Wednesday, our water tank was empty.  The dishes are piling up.  Laundry is waiting.  And some of us need showers.

The head of the village is making alternate arrangements to get water into the community, expensive as that may be.  In the meantime, with the Municipality of Aqraba, Yanoun has engaged a lawyer to submit a plan for a water network to the Civil Authority.  Given that only 1 % of all applications for development are approved, the answer will likely be no.  All of the legal actions available will be pursued to delay the destruction of the water network that is now in the ground but not connected.

This is one of the features of everyday life in Area C in Palestine.

Blessings, Shalom, Salaam,

Posted in Palestinian Families, Palestinian villages | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Senseless Destruction of Homes and Belongings in Kafir Qalal

It is now time to return to the brutal reality of life here in Palestine.

Kafir Qalal is a small village perched on the side of Mount Gerizem, one of the two mountains that create the valley in which the city of Nablus is found.

Mr. Nadir Sulieman, his wife and four son, three daughters-in-law and two granddaughters live in a multi-story home that Mr. Sulieman has poured his soul and energy into.  In Palestine, families build homes for their married sons so that the new families get off to a good start in life.  Mr. and Mrs. Sulieman have lived in their original home for more than 25 years.  Their sons Nidar, Khalid and Tarik and their wives live in the apartments of this four-storey house.  Things seemed to be going well, and Tarik and his new wife of two weeks had just moved in.

However, …

… in the early hours of Monday, May 20, 1:30 a.m. to be precise, approximately 100 Israeli soldiers arrived at the home and stormed it.  The soldiers did not enter or damage Mr. Sulieman’s portion of the home.

Firstly, they broke into the apartment of Nidar at the back of the first level of the house, tossed all the furniture, clothes and belongings, destroyed furniture, broke dishes, mirrors and keepsakes, slashed cushions and mattresses and dumped everything into the middle of the rooms.





The soldiers did not knock, did not identify themselves, did not ask permission to enter.  Instead, they forced Nidar, his wife and two daughters into one room while they ransacked the rest of the apartment. They took the keys to his home and car and locked one of the access doors.

If that wasn’t bad enough …

They next affixed an explosive charge to the door leading into the newer floors of the house.  The charge tore the door open and propelled it into the entry and stairwell, carrying with it part of the door frame, the door glass. Image


The charge then blew open the door to the apartment of Khalid, who was sleeping on a couch several metres from the door.  The force of the blast shattered a floor-to-ceiling mirror.  Glass from the exterior door was also blown into Khalid’s part of the house.


Twenty soldiers then entered the room and stood by the couch on which he was sleeping. And that was all that happened on the second level.

But it gets worse …

… The soldiers continued up the stairs to the home of the newly-weds Tarik and his wife. They broke open the door, tossed all the furniture and belongings, damaged the new bed and dressers in the master bedroom, tore cushions and clothes, and made a huge mess of everything.




They searched the water reservoirs of the toilets, opened fridges and tossed food on the floor, went up to the water tanks on top of the house and searched inside.

When they left at 5 a.m., the soldiers broke the windshield on one of the son’s cars and then demolished a wall in an outbuilding that housed the family’s pigeons, from which most of the flock escaped.


The soldiers gave no reason for their actions. They did not question anyone.  They did not arrest any member of the family.

Our team was shocked. We were speechless.  We were angered at the senseless destruction.

Two questions came to mind and linger:  WHY??  HOW could human beings carry out such senseless, wanton destruction without any provocation.

What took over 20 years to build was significantly damaged in a mere 4 hours.  It will takes years for the families to repair the damage and replace their furniture and belongings.

How long will the memories of that night stay with the two granddaughters aged 3 and 4?  How will the lives of these families return to normal?

One of us was interviewed on Palestinian Broadcasting TV.  We filed the incident report early this morning so that it can be shared with international organizations and our national coordinators.  And each of us has taken the time to blog about this.

Nadir Sulieman is a strong man, a loving family man.  His wife made us tea and then coffee.  He and his neighbours took the time to know our names and to share of themselves.  He wept.  And then he thanked us for coming to witness and report on this incident and wished us a good life. As he shook my hand warmly and hugged me, he said: “You are my brother.  I thank you for coming here and seeing this with your eyes.  Let those at home in your country know about this.  This is life in Palestine. Yes, you may use my name.”

What more can we do, you and I?

Our government supports Israel. Canada is said to be Israel’s strongest ally.

One of our Cabinet ministers, the Honourable Jason Kenney, recently congratulated Israel on its independence: (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/statements/2013/2013-04-15.asp?utm_source=media-centre-email&utm_medium=email-eng&utm_campaign=generic)

“Canada was one of 33 countries that voted in favour of the United Nations resolution calling for the creation of a Jewish state. Canada was also one of the first countries to formally recognize the State of Israel upon its founding.

“We are proud to celebrate not only Israel’s independence, but also warm Canada-Israel relations based on fundamental, common values. The strong ties between our two countries continue to flourish and are enhanced by our shared commitment to freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

“Israel is a pluralistic democracy that celebrates freedom of religion, equality of the sexes, and minority rights.

These are among Canadian’s most cherished values.  But they simply do not exist in the occupied Palestian territory. Why is Canada turning a blind eye to the illegal occupation of the West Bank, to the human rights abuses that we here report on daily, to the illegal creation of Israeli settlements that appropriate lands owned by Palestinians with no compensation, to the wanton and gratuitous violence and destruction against Palestinians by ideological, radical settlers and the Israeli military?

I don’t understand.  It’s not rational, it’s not humane, it’s not just, it’s not fair.

So, I return to my question above — what is it that you and I must do to change this?

May you sleep through the night.  May strangers announce themselves at your door.  May your children not have nightmares about soldiers.  May your home be your refuge.

Blessings and grace, shalom and salaam to you and your loved ones. From the West Bank of Palestine, near the Jordan Valley.

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Around the Sea of Galilee – Visit Six: The Golan Heights

Up, up, up we went, climbing ever higher from below sea level to the heights of the Golan overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Jordan and Syria.


We drove up to an abandoned Israeli bunker for a bird’s eye view of the landscape – enormous in scale and breath-taking in height:

Here is the border between Israel and Jordan, a patchwork of barbed wire fencing, electrified further down the mountain side.


And how about a look in Syria and Jordan?


And way down below, the Hammat Gader hot springs.


And a closer look into Jordan:


and to the abandoned Jezreel Valley Railway, opened in 1892, that once connected Haifa on the Mediterranian with Damascus in what is now Syria.


It’s now time to travel south along the western shore of the Sea.  Beaches, crowds, wealthy kibbutzim, plantations of bananas, lychee, mango, palms and abundant flowers line the road way.


At the southern end of the Sea of Galilee is the kibbutz of Degania A, renowned in Israel for single-handedly repulsing the Syrian army in 1967.  An old Russian tank used by Syria and captured by the kibbutz reminds them of those days.


That’s it for the tour.  Hope you enjoyed it.

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