“Imagine somebody moves into your house and takes three rooms… you don’t negotiate with people like that.”
After nearly two weeks living with little water and hardly any opportunity to take a shower, people have a whole new appreciation for water. When we clean the two rooms at the clinic, lots of water bottles are found with some water left in them. People feel bad about throwing them away and start to drink the water instead.
Today we are off to Beit Sahour where all of us are longingly looking forward to the first hot shower in nearly two weeks – the Freedom Ride 2014 will conclude in a guesthouse with twin-bedrooms and ensuite bathrooms.
After long and heartfelt farewells in At-Tuwani we are ready for the home stretch of the Freedom Ride 2014. The previous evening had concluded in a meeting with the community and the feedback from locals was praise and gratitude connected with warm wishes and an open invitation to return to visit At-Tuwani anytime.
The Freedom family gets on the bus and the drive to Beit Sahour turns out something wonderful and very special. Listening to songs about longing for freedom from artists such as Tracy Chapman, everyone quietly reflects, looking out the windows over the by now so familiar, beautiful landscape, Palestinian towns, villages, Bedouin communities – all interspersed with fortress-like settlements and military watchtowers. Together with the music this drive feels magical, we all have so many achievements and great results of hard work to be proud of and look back at.
Upon arrival at the Saviour guesthouse in Beit Sahour, which is a converted greek orthodox church, our group disperses instantly, all heading for the longed-for hot shower and some rest.
The guesthouse is very beautiful, high ceilings, arches adorn the upper hallway, cooling marble floors, soft light flooding in through the windows – just upon entering reception we all feel instantly relaxed and comfortable.
After yet another delicious lunch some take a quick break outside in the garden, sitting in the sunshine, enjoying the bliss of this peaceful oasis whilst others have a quick power nap before the afternoon’s BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions) workshop.
Our BDS lecture, given by a member of the by now well-known Palestinian BDS movement, takes us through the different types of boycott, divestments and sanctions that the organization pursues and talks about examples of current success stories. The boycott of Israel is growing and increasingly proving to be the strongest weapon next to cultural resistance in the fight against occupation and apartheid.
We work our way through the BDS one letter and category at a time, starting with “Boycott” which is the main instrument for all of us as consumers. “Divestment” is directed towards Israeli companies or foreign companies that invest in Israel and thereby profit from the system of occupation, apartheid and colonialism that Israel pursues. The company Veolia, who is involved in the light rail project in East Jerusalem that entails confiscation of Palestinian land, is one example of a company that has suffered great losses due to global BDS efforts. The “Sanctions” part of BDS is up to governments and transnational organisations such as the EU and the UN but as individuals we have the power to influence them to take such steps.
Back in the day the South Africa apartheid regime finally collapsed thanks to a similar approach – because it all starts with the people. First the people move and by that eventually the governments are forced to follow and international pressure will increase until the apartheid regime finally crumbles.
Opposite initial doubt, the BDS movement is growing worldwide and rapidly at that! The goal is to pressure Israel until it adheres to international law.
Finally we discuss the struggle BDS faces within Palestine. Palestinian society is not poor but impoverished – natural resources exist but are controlled by the occupation regime. Palestinian consumers are oftentimes more likely to buy the cheap Israeli products as the local business are unable to compete on the markets. This is coupled with circling propaganda that Israeli products are much better than those of Palestine. BDS still celebrates successes; more and more Palestinians are willing to make sacrifices and more conscious choices when shopping.
The BDS workshop leaves us all charged with new information, ideas and inspiration.
The rest of the afternoon we are free to spend at our own leisure – some go into town for some shopping, others just enjoy the beautiful gardens around the guesthouse in its tranquillity.
After everything we have witnessed since day #1, we all agree that today almost feels like a holiday!