Our day starts as usual – delicious breakfast, diary updates and morning exercises followed by the daily check-in circle.
Whilst some of the group participate in a spontaneous Playback Theatre workshop with Ben Rivers, the rest of us set out to take a long walk up and down steep slopes to visit some communities in the surrounding area. The dusty, pothole-riddled tracks make way for smooth tarmac roads connecting illegal Israeli settlements and outposts that are illegal even to Israeli law. Whilst the high court “publicly” orders those colonies to be removed, in reality they are given infrastructure and the plan is to connect them – as mentioned in previous blog posts – to create apartheid Bantustans and fragment Palestine even more.
The heat is stifling, we are exhausted as we reach the top of a hill and look at surrounding areas whilst we stand on a road that is made for illegal settlers. We see Yatta in the distance, the landscape is so beautiful yet broken by illegal settlements and outposts. There it is: the ugly face of occupation, land theft, water theft, human rights violations… Concern and appalled disbelief is written on everyone’s face.
The real owners of the land live in dust and poverty, subjected to frequent and violent Israeli settler attacks, army incursions and worse.
After arriving in Mofaqarra we all get to cool off sitting down on comfortable mattresses in a Bedouin home – a cave. Makeshift shelves are fixed to the ceiling, storage is improvised by means of bags hanging off a wall in the most decorative fashion… There are some very beautiful vintage clocks, vases and other bric-a-brac – this cave exudes the feeling of roots, steadfastness.
Another local guide tells us about the struggles of this community: evictions, violence, killing, suffering – and as always his talk finishes with an unspoken conclusion: we are not about to go anywhere, this is our home, this is where we are born and this is where we will die.
Our host spoils us with the usual delicious tea served steaming hot in glasses, and sitting in that cave, looking at the daylight flooding in through the door giving this homely space an incredibly warm and comforting glow, this tea tastes special.
Outside we listen to our next local guide talk about how the army forces families to leave their homes, claiming the land as military firing zone and in general doing their best to make live unbearable for communities.
While he talks we sit on rubble that once was a mosque.
The walk continues through the typical stunning Palestinian landscape that tell so many tales of beauty and suffering without speaking a word. Sometimes we get brief explanations, other times we all reflect looking out at sandy, stony hills interrupted by pastures of the lushest of green you want to dive right in!
We pass further Bedouin communities and meet some children on their way home from school. Palestinian children are a miracle in themselves, every single one of those tiny people can teach you more about life than any books or universities could. They are polite, warm, open and you can sense that inner strength we have come to find as a Palestinian trait. We are not “helping” them, they are helping us to make this world a better place by suffering so bravely yet holding their ground.
After nearly three hours of walking, we are ready to return to At-Tuwani and most of us are positively starving at this point. Everyone deeply enjoyed this walk, new food for thought – now for some food for the stomach!
The afternoon is spent taking naps or relaxing in different ways, some help at the local school to prepare decorations for tomorrow’s festival.
In the evening we all gather with the locals at the schoolyard to witness another great Playback Theatre performance and by that finishing the day bearing witness to more stories of the past, the Nakba with its sad and dark anniversary coming closer.
66 years since more than 700,000 Palestinians were uprooted, driven off their land and the atrocities committed to them and the suffering they endure until this very day leave us in silence…. There are no words.
The 2014 March Freedom Ride is special, this group consists of so many unique individuals from all walks of life who have gathered to bear witness, to spread the word, to gather humanity to put an end to the slow killing of Palestine and her children at long last.
We have one thing in common: we are truly, deeply and irrevocably in love with Palestine – its culture, people, landscape… this is a special place and we need to safe it.
This is Palestine. And we are a voice for those who have been silenced for too long.