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Learning from Families in Beit Sahour
Friday, May 28


Baby Diplomacy

I profoundly appreciate the efforts of people seeking to be bridges to peace in Israel/Palestine.  Earlier this week, we met with an Israeli and Palestinian who came together to work for peace after both had daughters killed through violence from the other side.  Another meeting was with the director of a program called Kids 4 Peace which brings Christian, Jewish and Muslim children together, along with their families. 

In our first overnight homestay in West Bank in Beit Sahour, another delegate and I stayed with a Palestinian family that epitomized hospitality ad friendship.  I was especially captivated by their three young children.  Despite our language barriers, communication is remarkably facilitated with goodwill and a smile.  It was so gratifying to easily recognize our common humanity, particularly while playing and laughing with their seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. 

What was probably most touching was often cradling their nine month old son.  The last time I did that, he even fell asleep in my arms. If only “baby diplomacy” could help end this tragic stalemate. 

- Barry Newman


Dark Coffee

Dahlia, from Beit Sahour, a neighborhood of Bethlehem, was 33 years old when she delivered her 4th child by Cesarean section. The child, a boy, developed complications and was transferred to a Hebron hospital for further medical treatment.

Dahlia appeared to be recovering herself when suddenly unknown complications set in. A Palestinian from Bethlehem, she was forbidden from traveling to Jerusalem to a more comprehensive medical facility. Her family, Greek Orthodox, contacted their bishop in Jerusalem, to intercede on their behalf. Once Israeli officials agreed to the transfer, Dahlia was placed in an ambulance for a transfer which should have taken only 20 minutes. When she and her mother, the only family member allowed to accompany her, arrived at the checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, Israeli soldiers obliged Dahlia to get out of the ambulance. She was frisked, her belongings were examined, as were her mother’s, she was obliged to walk across the checkpoint before being allowed to get back onto a stretcher in another ambulance which waited on the Jerusalem side of the checkpoint. Five hours later, when she and her mother reached the hospital, the doctor was unable to save her life. She died shortly thereafter leaving behind a husband and three young children.

Her mother, my hostess for an evening, recalled her dream three days before Dahlia’s death. She was covered with dark coffee followed by layers of death. To her this was an omen predicting her own death.

 - Cathy Sultan


Getting Permission

During my home stay with the gracious J and K from Beit Sahour, J explained to me the process she undergoes in order to obtain an entrance permit into Israel Proper. First she needs to apply for a magnetic card. These can only be obtained if your record is clean (meaning that no one in your family has ever been arrested, which in Palestine is a rarity). This magnetic card costs 100 NIS and is valid for two years. Once she had obtained this magnetic card she could apply for an entrance permit.

The first permit she showed us was one she used in order to travel to Jerusalem for a holiday that was arranged for her through her church. Her husband, K, on the other hand, was not issued such a permit and thus the couple could not celebrate the holiday together. The permit was good for 24 hours and stated that she could not drive a car, nor travel to Eilat (at Israel’s southern point), nor could she at any time be without this permit.

The other permit she showed us was issued so that she could attend a conference with an organization that she works with called “Partners for Peace”. (This organization arranges speaking tours to the US comprised of an Israeli Jew, a Palestinian Muslim, and a Palestinian Christian. J was scheduled to tour the US and speak in various states, but at a checkpoint, the Palestinian Muslim was denied passage so that the US tour consisted only of J and of the Israeli woman.) This permit was only valid for 14 hours and restricted J’s movement to Jerusalem alone. Had she stepped outside the lines of Jerusalem and had been questioned by a soldier she could face imprisonment.

At the checkpoints, she places her hands in a scanner which reads her fingerprints to determine that she is who she claims to be in addition to her photo on her permit and magnetic card.

How she was able to tell me all this in a calm tone of voice is astonishing to me.  I was enraged just listening.

- Keren Carmeli


Family Stories

Our family stay in Beit Sahour was a near-holy experience.  Our host family was a big one - many brothers and sisters.  They built the house together over many years - sort of a family kibbutz.  A very nice, solid, German-type house. 

We heard family stories.  The first, about their daughter, took place more than 20 years ago.  Their daughter, when she was about 22 or so, was going to Lebanon for an exam.  She had her travel papers, and as usual, they held her Identity card at the border control when leaving the country.  The papers necessary to return were lost, however, while she was gone, so the mother had to begin the process of how to get her daughter back home.  She went to a local administrator who said she just had to apply for a visitor’s pass, and to go to such-and-such office.  She did, and told the story of the lost paper to an officer who said, yes, she just needed to apply for a visitor’s pass.  So, she filed the application, and when she got the pass to return, the officer wrote on it something in Hebrew which she could not read.  She didn’t pay attention to it, being so glad her daughter could now return. 

When the daughter returned, and they went and asked for the identity card at the ID office, the officer asked, “how did she get back into the country?”  And she replied, “With a visitor’s pass, that was the only way.”  He then said, “Give it to me”, which she did.  He went to a box and said, “Oh is this your Identity card, is this your daughter?”, and showed it to her. The mother was elated and said, “Yes, please may I have it?” But the officer jerked it away and said “You will never have it. Never.”  “Why?” she asked.   “Didn’t you read what it says here on the visitor’s pass: ‘If daughter ever returns to the country using this pass, she cannot have her Identity Card returned.’”  And they have not seen her in all these years. 

In so many ways things with this family are normal – nice kitchen, nice living room, den area with TV running, eighteen-year-old daughter entranced by Facebook on the computer, and a cute little 7-year-old adoring child.  There is an elegant gentleness throughout.

We heard other stories of the 10 kids from Beit-Sahour that have been killed since 1992, and the peaceful appeals she and the town had made to the Israeli authorities to stop.  Here is one appeal, signed by 12 people representing the Mayor, plus 12 local organizations (including the Co-operative Society; the Rapprochement Center; Holyland Handcrafts Society, Clinic and Family Development Center; Arab Women’s Society; Islamic Charitable Society; Youth Cultural Club; YMCA; Beit Sahour Consumer Cooperative; Friends of Patients Society; Arab Orthodox Club).  Here it is retyped:

The Fourth Cold-Blooded Killing In Beit-Sahour

“On Saturday, May 2 1992 a Palestinian University student, Anton Louis Showmely, 22, was seized by the Israeli soldiers while walking in the street.  He was shot at point blank range, while he was being held by other soldiers.  He was not armed, not masked, not wanted by the authorities, and did not resist his arrest. The soldiers abandoned Anton bleeding on the street, without giving him first aid or calling an ambulance.

On 17 July 1990 Israeli soldiers stationed on a roof-top threw a huge rock (over 30 kilograms) onto Edmond Ghanim, 17, who was returning from the market.  He was killed instantly.  The army claimed the rock was propelled by the wind.

On Oct., 1988 Iyyad Abu Sa’da, 17, while building a road block was shot to death by an army sniper.  (He was the only one involved in the demonstration.)

In February, 1991 Salam Salam Musleh, 1, while watching TV in his home was shot to death by a settler from Tekoa, the killer was investigated but was never been charged or brought to trial.

Anton is the latest victim of recent Israeli policy by which soldiers, special units and settlers, with impunity, can behave as accuser, judge, and executioner of Palestinians.

It’s not surprising that the army, investigating itself, found itself not guilty.  It’s time for Israelis who believe that they live in a democracy to call for an impartial investigation of the executions of Palestinians.  It’s time for the international community to realize that Palestinians are being executed daily on their streets and to take action to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians in the territories occupied by Israel.

Despite our sufferings, we Palestinians remain steadfast in working to achieve a just peace.”

Signed, Beit-Sahour, May 3rd, 1992
(followed by hand signatures of the heads of the above organizations)

- Anonymous


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