After a wonderful breakfast enjoyed outside sitting in the sun, we say good-bye to Nabi Saleh and our journey continues to At-Tuwani.
The drive takes us past the largest illegal settlements and the landscape is now littered with the infamous watch towers from which many innocent people and children have been shot at the whim of a soldier.
It becomes very clear that there is much more military presence, there are many road blocks and armed soldiers are at every corner.
This morning news reached us that the occupation forces have entered Jenin camp to assassinate a 22 year old man. Three people were martyred, at least eight people ended up in hospital with injuries, some of them are still in critical condition. Having been to Jenin and visited the camp, having watched the slideshow of pictures from the Jenin massacre 2002 with Vangelis’ masterpiece Voices playing in the background… the news puts a damper on the entire group’s day.
Many sit on the bus quietly reflecting on the trip so far – many still process yesterday’s demonstration and the experience of teargas and sound bombs and… walking in Palestinian shoes for that stretch down the hill around the bend where the army already waits…
After lunch we take a walk up the mountain where the views are breath-taking – not only because of the landscape’s beauty, but also because it is clearly visible how At-Tuwani is surrounded by a growing number of illegal Israeli settlements. These illegal colonies are to be connected if the occupation regime gets its way – this means Palestinian communities will be further divided and what will be created is comparable to Bantustans in apartheid South Africa.
Because of its location, At-Tuwani is considered a gate from one region to another and amongst many other attempts to drive Palestinians out, one of them is that the occupation forces constantly set up road blocks that make it nearly impossible for the local Palestinians to leave or return to their homes.
The community here permanently faces some of the worst illegal Israeli settler violence – water and live-stock are poisoned, shepherds and school children are subjected to harassment and even physical abuse, the village suffers constant attacks… to name only few of a long list of violations and issues.
In the evening we all enjoy time with some of the locals, delicious dinner and a talk by Mark LeVine about the history of the occupation in Palestine and how economical as well as political interests prevent solutions.
Many are exhausted and so we return to our accommodation and our fatigued group members prepare for an early night, whilst those who are charged with energy sit outside by a fire, marvelling at a clear and starry night-sky, listening to tunes played on guitar and oud.
Our real mission in At-Tuwani begins tomorrow – so watch this space. Today was about taking a much deserved break and reflecting on what we have seen so far.