Urgent Action: Please oppose the creation of a new settlement in Hebron.
Settlers have won a victory in their ongoing attempt to grab land for a new settlement in Hebron. On March 11 the Israeli Supreme Court agreed to hand over the Al-Rajabi building in the Old City of Hebron to settlers, despite the devastating humanitarian impacts of the decision on Palestinians living in the neighborhood. The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) has appealed to the international community to speak out against the creation of a new settlement in the Old City of Hebron, and to appeal to the Defense minister to prevent settlers from moving into the building.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon will decide by April 11 whether or not settlers will be allowed to move into the Al Rajabi building in the Palestinian neighborhood of Wadi Hussein. If settlers do move in the humanitarian impacts of their presence and the increased military presence in the neighborhood will be severe.
On the afternoon of March 20, about 20 soldiers arrived at the Al Rajabi house and moved luggage and food into the building, while a settler sat parked in a car in front of the building. A neighbor two buildings away reported that the previous day he received a stop work order from soldiers for work he is doing to improve his house, and the owner of a nearby barber shop reported that during the night the previous week settlers damaged the doors to his shop.
The presence of settlers in the Al Rajabi building will trigger an increased military presence and is likely to lead to increased restrictions of movement for Palestinians living in the neighborhood. Other likely humanitarian impacts on the surrounding neighborhood include additional checkpoints, closure of pedestrian paths, closure of shops, stop work orders and demolitions of nearby hones, increased danger to children traveling past the house to reach school, difficulty in accessing the cemetery and mosque adjacent to the building, and possible loss of agricultural land in Wadi Hussein.
The Al-Rajabi building is on Prayers road, across Wadi Hussein from the settlement of Kiryat Arba. It is directly in front of a Mosque and cemetery, and surrounded on both sides and across prayers road by multiple Palestinian homes and businesses. Prayers Road is closed to Palestinian traffic, and connects the settlements of Kiryat Arba, Givat Harsina and Givat Ha'avot to the synagogue at the Ibrahimi Mosque and the settlements of Beit Romano, Beit Hadassah, Avraham Avinu and Tel Rumeida in the Old City area of Hebron. Several Palestinian families live in homes in the valley of Wadi Hussein, a narrow strip of agricultural land between Prayers road and the settlement of Kiryat Arba.
Settlers have occupied the house on numerous occasions since March of 2007 during the extended court proceeding to determine ownership, and each time the neighborhood has experienced settler violence, including assaults, damage to cars, shops and homes, and injury to Palestinians from the use of live ammunition. In December 2008 over 20 Palestinians were injured in clashes with settlers near the building when settlers were evicted from the building by border police.
Residents and human rights advocates are now extremely concerned that if settlers are allowed to take control of the building it will become impossible to insure the safety of nearby families.
A 30 minute walk from the Al Rajabi building settlers are using "archaeology" in an attempt to rewrite the history of the city and take control of two large plots of land on top of the hilly neighborhood of Tel Rumeida.
Israeli settlers recently hung this banner on the wall of the Islamic cemetery on closed Shuhada Street. Ironically, only a few blocks from where the banner hangs, Israelis have unearthed and desecrated what Palestinian archaeological experts believe are three Muslim graves, constructed on bedrock with stones pointing toward Mecca. Until early this year the graves lay peacefully beneath the orchard of the Abu Haikal family in Tel Rumeida.
Since January settlers have used heavy earth-moving equipment to remove truckloads of soil from the orchard. Tall metal fences now cut the Abu Heikal home off from the orchard. Soldiers have fenced the land and declared it a "closed military zone", cutting off access to shops and the mosque for residents of Tel Rumeida.
According to Hamed Salem, chairperson of Birzeit University's archaeology department, the dig is illegal and is merely an attempt to "advance the settler's political agenda by using archaeology to justify their presence in Hebron". (Electronic Intifada) An archaeologist from the Palestinian Ministry of Antiquities recently attempted to inspect the site but was denied access. The Israeli Culture Ministry and Civil Administration are financing the dig, and expect it to cost an estimated NIS 7 million. Residents of Tel Rumeida fear that because such a large sum has been allocated there may be plans for much greater destruction of surrounding ancient olive trees and orchards. The Abu Haikal family is currently challenging the legality of the excavation in the Israeli Civil Court system.
Midway between the Al Rajabi building and Tel Rumeida, Settlers have opened the door to the Al-Sharif House. Settlers and soldiers frequently inter the Al Sharif house, which is vacant, by going through the home of the Al Atrash family. On March 20, 18 soldiers entered the house with an armed settler in the morning, and two settlers returned with soldiers and again came through the family's home in the afternoon. (read more)
Settlers are also attempting to gain control of four other buildings: The Boudieri House and the Tomb of Abner, both directly outside the entrance to the Ibrahimi Mosque, the Ashhab Shops, across the street from the Gutnick Center, and the Abu Rajab house near Checkpoint 209. If settlers are allowed to occupy these seven sites the humanitarian impacts on residents of Hebron's Old City neighborhoods will be devastating. The targeted properties are links in a chain which, if completed, would effectively encircle the Ibrahimi Mosque and link the four existing settlements inside the Old City to the larger settlement of Kyriat Arba which borders the Old City. This would result in many Palestinian neighborhoods and homes being cut off from access to schools and services, and put all of the Old City under increased risk of settler incursions and violence.
CPT introduces Palestinian School Children to the Red Hats.
Starting in March, CPT has been entering schools in H2 and introducing them to the work of CPT and letting them know why people wearing Red Hats are at the checkpoints near their schools each morning.This has been an amazing experience that has let the
kids know we are there to help, what exactly we stand for, and how they can trust us to make sure they stay safe.
On March 12th, CPT held a meeting, bringing together different organizations to discuss important issues and coordinate the proper responses to Child Detentions and Arrests by the Israeli Forces in the Old City of Hebron. Over 40 people representing International Organizations, the Palestinian Authority, and Humanitarian Relief Agencies collaborated and decided on measures and guidelines to our responses to the illegal, and detrimental, detentions and arrests of children living under Israeli Military Occupation.
As CPT continues its work of nonviolent grassroots support of the Palestinian resistance to the Occupation, we are very happy with this recent work, knowing that we have much more to accomplish alongside Palestinian Peacemakers.
An Issue of Perspective
CPT was represented at the third annual Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem, sponsored by the Bethlehem Bible College on March 10 and 11.
Before the conference began, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that the Christ at the Checkpoint conference â€œis anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. The newspaper Israel Today, referring to the conference called it â€œa serious long term threat to Israelâ€™s securityâ€¦using religion for the purpose of incitement.â€
In response, organizers of the conference quoted parts of the conference manifesto; â€œâ€¦commitment to the kingdom of God and the values of the kingdom of Godâ€¦it also underlines our commitment to peacemaking and reconciliation and our rejection of violence.â€
The two presentations that CPT attended clearly spoke to the tenets of the conference manifesto, stressing the need to own up to our own shortcomings, and the need for forgiveness if there is ever to be peace.
These two opposing points of view on the importance and value of the conference, stresses how difficult this road to peace truly is and the importance of continuing conferences such as Christ at the Checkpoint promoting peace and understanding.