Friday, January 27, 2012

Beit Arabiya Demolished For the Fifth Time

During my three months in Palestine my coworker, Esther, and I planned to visit the Beit Arabiya Peace Center near Jerusalem on a piece of agricultural land in the West Bank belonging to Aribiya Shawamreh and her husband Salim and their seven children.  Their home had been demolished four times as it against Israeli Occupation policy for Palestinians to build on their land without a permit.  The international community and many peace advocate groups had come to their assistance in the past and there were plans to rebuild it again in the summer of 2011.  Much to our disappointment we were not able to arrange transportation to visit the family who were living in tents at the time.

It came to my attention today--I am currently visiting Mexico--by a Sabeel newsletter that I regularly recieve that the home built by the family with the support of volunteers was bulldozed by the Israelis at gunpoint.  I am going to post the article for you to read:

Israeli authorities demolished Beit Arabiya (“Arabiya’s House”) last night (Monday, January 23rd) for the fifth time, along with structures in the East Anata Bedouin compound.  Beit Arabiya, Located in the West Bank town of Anata (Area C) just to the northeast of Jerusalem, is a living symbol of resistance to Occupation and the desire for justice and peace.

As its name suggests, Beit Arabiya is a home belonging to Arabiya Shawamreh, her husband Salim and their seven children, a Palestinian family whose home has been demolished four times by the Israeli authorities and rebuilt each time by ICAHD's Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists, before being demolished again last night.

Aribiya and Salim's Home
At around 11p.m. Monday, a bulldozer accompanied by a contingent of heavily armed Israeli soldiers appeared on the Anata hills, to promptly demolish Beit Arabiya, along with residential and agricultural structures in the nearby Arab al-Jahalin Bedouin compound. 3 family homes were demolished along with numerous animal pens, and 20 people including young children were displaced, left exposed to the harsh desert environment. While standing in solidarity with Palestinians, ICAHD staff and activists were repeatedly threatened by Israeli soldieries. ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain was beaten and sustained minor injuries.

Demolished House
Beit Arabiya was issued a demolition order by Israeli authorities back in 1994, following their failure to grant a building permit. It has since been demolished four times, to be rebuilt by ICAHD activists. Following a reissue of the demolition order last Thursday, came last night's fifth demolition. ICAHD Director, Dr. Jeff Halper, standing astride the ruins, vowed to support Salim and Arabiya in rebuilding their home. "We shall rebuild, we must rebuild forthwith, as an act of political defiance of the occupation and protracted oppression of Palestinians" said Halper.
Beit Arabiya has become a symbol of resistance to the Judaization of the Occupied West Bank and Israeli demolition policy. "ICAHD is as determined as always to rebuild the home, and endure in its struggle to bring about justice and peace" added Halper.

Salim and Arabiya, along with their neighbors and friends stood last night and watched as this tragedy unfold once again. Arabiya and Salim have dedicated their home as a center for peace in the memories of Rachel Corrie and Nuha Sweidan, two women (an American and a Palestinian) who died resisting home demolitions in Gaza. In the past decade ICAHD has hosted numerous visitors at Beit Arabiya, and based its annul rebuilding camp at the house, rebuilding 185 demolished Palestinian homes.

Only earlier this month, ICAHD extended an invitation to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to visit Beit Arabiya during her country visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory scheduled for later in the month. "It is our hope, that while we cannot extend the same hospitality to the Special Raportueor, Prof. Raquel Rolnik will visit the ruins of Beit Arabiya, and report on the utter cruelty, and illegality of Israeli policies and practices, and that members of the international community will follow in her footsteps". " said ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain.

Additional Information

House demolitions and forced evictions are among Israel’s most heinous practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). In 2011, a record year of displacement, a total of 622 Palestinian structures were demolished by Israeli authorities, of which 36% (or 222) were family homes; the remainder were livelihood-related (including water storage and agricultural structures), resulting in 1,094 people displaced, almost double the number for 2010. The Jordan Valley sustained the largest number of demolitions (32% of total structures demolished, 40% of residential structures demolished, 37% of people displaced), with 199 structures demolished and 401 people displaced

Israel now controls 40% of the West Bank through 149 settlements and 102 outposts, housing more than 500,000 Jewish Israelis, as well as through closed military zones and declared nature reserves. In addition, house demolitions, forced evictions, and land expropriation, exacerbated by settler violence and the economic effects of movement restrictions, have left Palestinian communities struggling to make a living. Palestinians live in constant fear of displacement and dispersion, while Israel secures its domination and control. 

The demolition of Palestinian homes is politically motivated and strategically informed. The goal is to confine the 4 million residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza to small enclaves, thus effectively foreclosing any viable Palestinian state and ensuring Israeli control, and to allow for the expropriation of land, the ethnic displacement of Palestinians, and the Judaization of the Occupied West Bank.   

I am posting this in an attempt to let people know what the reality is for many Palestinians who live in constant fear.  It has been difficult to listen to the politicians in this country completely show a blind eye to the evils of the illegal occupation that has kept Palestinians in a defacto police state.  Accurate information and education is our only hope. 


Monday, January 9, 2012

Haiti - January 2012

It is with a big sigh that I begin my reflections about my recent trip to Haiti. 

Group Arriving in Port Au Prince, Haiti
I was very fortunate to travel with a group from my home congregation of Peace Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD.  Our hosting organization was Helping Hands for Haiti which also is based in South Dakota.  After flying into Port au Prince, we spent the night and then assembled ourselves and supplies to head for Jumelle, Haiti.  We traveled in an old but study yellow school bus.  Our driver named Blaze

really blazed through incredible challenges to get us to Jumelle to spend the next week.

As I have done and will continue to do in telling the story of my brothers and sisters in Palestine, I will tell the story of my brothers and sisters in Haiti.

January twelfth marks the second anniversary of the devastating 7.0 earthquake of 2010.  Although the clearly noticeable ruins in Port au Prince are still evident, the ripple effect from such a horrific natural disaster can be seen throughout the entire country. 

Capitol Building Still in Ruins
The earthquake awakened the entire world to the urgent needs of the Haitian people.  Many government agencies and NGOs came flooding into the country after the quake.  I noticed on a building wall in riding through Port Au Prince this three word statement:  WE NEED HELP.   There is no doubt in my mind that this is still true today.  I’m hopeful that the rest of the world will continue to share their resources.  Yes, Haiti needs help but what kind of help?  It is truly overwhelming to witness the daily struggle of all the Haitian people.

I am reminded of a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr:    “We must sometimes accept finite disappointments, but we must never lose infinite hope.”
Jill Callison of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader wrote an article for the paper on Sunday, Jan. 8th entitled:  “Two years after Haiti quake: Progress.”  She outlined the specific encouraging health improvements for children at a school in Jumelle who are regularly given meals prepared from the Kids Against Hunger packets of a rice-soy meal containing 22 vitamins and minerals along with dried vegetable.
Preparing a Noon Meal at Jumelle School (notice Kids Against Hunger Box)

(The Sioux Falls chapter of the organization was established by a man from our church after visiting Haiti several years ago.  They have packed over a million meals in the past two years.  His name is Darrel Johnson and we both traveled to Africa on a mission trip fours ago).  Web address:
We compared recent physical assessments with those conducted a year ago.  There is noticeable health improvement, 

better growth rate and improved mental capacity for the students attending the Jumelle school established in 2006.  That’s encouraging but there also needs to be continued consistent worldwide efforts to assist the Haitian people in building a sustainable infrastructure for themselves.

I would like to share a reflection from a poem by Ann Weems from her book Kneeling in Bethlehem.

Our God is the One who comes to us in a burning bush, in an angel’s song, in a newborn child.
Our God is the One who cannot be found locked in the church, not even in the sanctuary.
Our God will be where God will be with no constraints, no predictability.
When God is ready God will come even to a godforsaken place like a stable in Bethlehem.
Watch….for you know not when God comes.
Watch, that you might be found whenever wherever God comes.