Strengthening Those Who Belong to the Land: Mahmud from Susya, the Organic Farmer

(crossposted from The Villages Group Blog, where more pics can be found)
Mahmud from Susya got up one day from his depression, and built a very basic green house. With simple tools and techniques he succeeded to surprise us with excellent organic vegetables.
The vegetables are an essential addition to the family’s poor diet, based mainly on dairy products from the herd which is their main source of making a living. And while both herding and growing grains is restricted by the settlers/army, green-housing is a brilliant solution for growing food which does not require much land.
One day Mahmud discovered a vegetable disease on the leaves of his tomatoes. We could not help with the disease, but by suggested to finance for him an agricultural course.
When he returned from his two months’ course at al-Arroub College north of Hebron, he also built a beehive.  Then, he turned out to be also a guide for Ahmad, from another family in Susiya. He taught him and helped him to build his own green house. Meanwhile, since this area is a draught area, both by nature and by the Occupation (the regime prevents direct water supply), we supported 4 families in building 4 wells.
Recently we joined the building the first prototype home Bio-Gas system. The system was built by Yair Teller from the Arava Institute with our financial support.
This system, the first one to operate in the Middle East, turns animals’ feces into gas for cooking needs. The previous success of the solar and wind based electricity systems which we, with COMET-ME, first build in Susiya two years ago, has motivated us to build this first prototype in Susiya as well.

All the above are actual examples of our way of supporting – strengthening the strengtheners of each community, both personally and communally.
We offer many aspects of support; even when financial, it is always a result of personal contacts and long standing relationships.
In addition to Susya, we also maintain contacts with other communities in the region of south mount Hebron such as Umm Fakara, Umm al-Kheir, al-Tuwani, Tuba and others. The financial support for all the initiatives described above (in Susiya), was kindly provided by a family from London. We, members of the Villages Group and Susyans, thank them sincerely.
Erella and Ehud, the Villages Group

The Global Movement Spreads: New Wave of Protests in Hebron

By Avital Aboody

On April 24, 2010 at around 15:45 a group of approximately 50 Palestinian, Israeli, and International activists gathered in Hebron next to the checkpoint gate separating Shuhada Street from the Casbah.
The protest was organized by a Palestinian group in Hebron called “Youth Against Settlements” and the organizers hope to hold these protests every week with the intention of disrupting the army-accompanied settler tour that goes through the Casbah (Old City) every Saturday. The Casbah is within H2, an area that comprises 20% of the city of Hebron and is considered Zone B, meaning that it is receives Palestinian municipal services but is under Israeli military control.
Both Palestinians and Israelis can access the Casbah, but Palestinians are restricted from walking just a fewer meters further, beyond the imposing gate/checkpoint to the sight of the former marketplace, Shuhada Street.

The protestors stood in front of the gate where the settlers’ tour usually enters, holding signs and chanting slogans in Arabic, English, and Hebrew.; this continued for some time without any disturbance. Soldiers and Israeli police looked onto and videotaped the protest from pillboxes and rooftops nearby and eventually, when the settlers and soldiers never showed up, the protest was declared over.
However, within minutes, the protest was suddenly reignited with news that the settlers had managed to enter the Casbah through another entrance. The protestors then began to advance through the marketplace alleyways to where the tour was said to be but they were met by a line of soldiers who blocked their path.
They continued chanting and tried to push past the soldiers claiming that it should not be a crime to walk through their own city. Protestors also tried several times to run around to different entrances into the market to prevent the tour from progressing, but each time they were met by a chain of soldiers and the face-off /pushing began again.

Amidst the chaos of running back and forth, one Israeli activist was arrested for no apparent reason. When the protesters re-grouped at the original location alongside the checkpoint gate, they formed a human wall in front of the soldiers by linking arms.
The soldiers stood in front of the protestors, blocking them, in order to create a clear path for the settlers to exit the Casbah and pass through the gate back to Shuhada Street. Some Israeli protestors tried to speak with the soldiers, saying that this was not what they were raised to do and that they can refuse and join us.
The soldiers know very well that the settlers are fanatic and that the Palestinians have every right to be there, yet they too are trapped within this insane reality that effectively strips them of their ability to think and feel and act in the way that they know to be right.

I found myself standing mere inches from the young soldiers, looking directly into their eyes to catch a glimmer of their discomfort and their acknowledgment of both my humanity and that of the Palestinians who held my hands.
They could not return my gaze and continued to use their guns and thick vests to push us back and “do their job”. The police then arrived and arrested two more Israeli activists as well as a Palestinian activist and well-known resident of Tel Rumeida, Hebron. One of the arrests was particularly violent as the protestor, a former soldier who had himself served in Hebron during the second Intifada, was pushed to the ground and then dragged/carried away.
The protest ended shortly afterward; the Israeli arrestees were held for approximately 8 hours while the Palestinian arrestee is still being held in the Kiryat Arbah police station, nearly 24 hours later. The protestors will return to the scene again next Saturday and all the Saturdays thereafter until the occupation of Hebron ends and its residents are free to live without constant harassment.
Video of the protest:

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