2015 Freedom Ride, Day #7: Jericho & Jerusalem Gate

Waking up in Jericho, our seventh day was supposed to be a day of rest and relaxation. Some of us planned to spend our time sightseeing in the city; others intended to catch up on e-mail or sleep. During our morning breakfast, however, we learned the urgent news that several Israeli soldiers were currently in the process of clearing a piece of land in Abu Dis near Jerusalem which protesters have renamed “Jerusalem Gate.” As a group, we decided that rather taking the entire day off, we would leave Jericho early to pay a visit to Jerusalem Gate.

We arrived at the site in the late afternoon to the sound of bulldozers. Next to a busy road, several Israeli soldiers were guarding the demolition in a fenced off area. A number of Palestinian demonstrators were also at the site, waving flags, shouting slogans, and spraying protest graffiti against the occupation. One of the activist leaders addressed the group and told us about the history of the area. The Israeli attempt to control this area constitutes an attempt to divide the West Bank in half, from north to south. Several times during his talk, Israeli soldiers interrupted him in Arabic, with demands about where we could and could not stand.

Leaving Jerusalem Gate, we went to Ezariyah, a nearby hilltop inhabited by a group of Palestinian Bedouins. They live in very harsh conditions, in shacks and tents with little or not access to electricity or running water, and the Israeli authorities have issued them multiple demolition orders. Ezariyah thus threatens to become the next Jerusalem Gate. From Ezariyah’s high vantage point, one can see the Israeli settlements that are gradually being constructed to the east and west in defiance of international law.

As it began to get dark, we boarded our bus to head south to Atuwani. On the way, we made a quick detour to the refugee camp of Al Aroub where Freedom Bus coordinator Habeeb invited us into his home for dinner and refreshments. We stayed longer than we had planned, talking to Habeeb’s family and enjoying a wonderful impromptu musical concert. Even though our day of rest turned out to be filled with many stories of ongoing oppression and dispossession, the warmth we experienced in Aroub gave all of us a wonderful moment of generous hospitality.

Written by Greg Burris, 2015 Freedom Ride participant
Photos by Bridget Mullins, 2015 Freedom Ride participant


Jerusalem Gate

Press Release: International arrested by IDF during peaceful walk in South Hebron Hills, others injured

Press Release

For immediate release: 29.03.13

The Freedom Bus, Jenin Refugee Camp, Occupied Palestine.

For further comment, contact: media@thefreedomtheatre.org / Ben: +972(0)592-902256

International arrested by IDF during peaceful walk in South Hebron Hills, others attacked and injured

An international participant from the Freedom Bus has just been arrested by IDF soldiers during a peaceful solidarity walk in the South Hebron Hills. The man, from the United States, was hauled away from the group and arrested at approximately 10.40am this morning. He was taken to the police station in Kiryat Arba.

This followed the attempted arrest of Abu Mosa from the local Popular Committee, who fainted while in Israeli custody and had to be removed by the Red Cresent. The IDF are currently attempting to stop the walk altogether, and have injured several participants. One international had her leg twisted and others were hit in the head with rifle butts. There are an estimated 150 people taking part in the walk.

The planned walk brings Palestinian artists, activists, and community leaders together with internationals in a peaceful solidarity walk through five communities in the South Hebron Hills. Located in Area C, Mufaqara, Tuba, a-Sfay, Maghayir al-Abeed and al-Fakhit are five of 12 communities located within “Firing Zone 918” – an area of the South Hebron Hills used by the Israeli Forces as a training zone. Residents have been issued with evacuation orders. All homes in these villages are faced with demolition. Each person is faced with forced expulsion from traditional homelands. [1]

This is not the first intervention by the Israeli security forces. Arab artists from Eygpt, Tunisia, and the Sudan attempting to join the event were denied travel permits by the Israel Civil Administration. [2]

The planned walk included community visits, discussions and music, with a focus on the life and resistance of residents in the South Hebron Hills. Palestinian musicians, and artists joined the ride, including Abu Naji, renowned traditional Zajaal poet, and musicians from the band Toot ‘Ard.

Details and background info:

• The March Freedom Ride: From 21 March-29 March. Palestinians and international allies will take part in a 13 day solidarity ride, joining Palestinian farmers and herders at risk of forced displacement from lands they have inhabited for generations.

• The March Freedom Ride will include building and reconstruction work, protective presence activity, guided walks, home-stays, interactive workshops, educational talks and cultural events.

• The Freedom Bus is coordinated by The Freedom Theatre: a Palestinian theatre and multi-media centre based in Jenin Refugee Camp. A range of other Palestinian community based organizations and associations are involved in Freedom Bus initiative. [Website: http://www.thefreedomtheatre.org/]

Notes to Editors:

[1] For more details see B’Tselem: http://www.btselem.org/south_hebron_hills/firing_zone_918 and http://nofiringzone918.org/ and http://almufaqarah.wordpress.com/

[2] See Freedom Bus Press Release: http://bit.ly/Z3MCqn