Sunday, 31 January 2010

First lessons

Most of my teaching takes place at the community center in Abu Dis (see pictures above).

The lessons are small and relaxed. Many students just want to develop their already advanced English through conversation. Yesterday i taught two children, a girl called Hadeel (aged 8) and a boy called Salah (aged 10). We went through Michael Rosen's Lovely Old Roly together and then did words for food in english.

Today i taught a group of 7 women aged from around 27 to 55. It was a collaborative process, with me starting things off and providing direction, and the more advanced students helping with clarification for the less advanced. We did a couple of activities which i had planned, and then just talked more generally about life in Palestine and London.

Unemployment is very high in Abu Dis and there is no doubt that the community center is vital as a meeting point for learning and cultural activities. There simply is not much else to do, particularly for the unemployed youth.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Israeli soldiers create disturbance in Abu Dis

Last night Israeli soldiers attacked two shop workers in Abu Dis, injuring one of them, a 16 year old boy. They also smashed the windows in a nearby cafe and physically assaulted the customers.

Today i was able to see the CCTV footage showing the soldiers in the shop. One of them grabbed the staff member behind the till and pulled him forward by the neck, and then pushed another worker off a step ladder. One of the workers, the 16 year old boy, was taken outside and received a blow to the head which drew blood. When we visited the shop today the boy was still working with a bandage on his head.

The cause of this violence was an attempt/plan to a throw a stone or molotov cocktail at the nearby Israeli army base. I was not able to obtain more precise details. The army base is of course in Abu Dis and so is part of an occupying force detested by the inhabitants for it's routine harassment and intimidation.

The response was an uncontrolled physical attack on innocent shop workers and cafe customers. Activists in Abu Dis are gathering evidence in the hope this will lead to the arrest of the soldiers involved.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Birthday by the dead sea

Yesterday was my birthday. One of my students Ibrahim, along with his brother and his friends, took me to the hills near the dead sea. They cooked up a great lunch of grilled chicken and tomatoes, bread, gherkins, and tea.

On one side we could see the dead sea and the hills of Jordan beyond. On the other side we could see the Israeli settlements. Even out in the hills there are reminders of conflict. We found part of an old Israeli missile, probably from the 1967 war. The hills were a major battleground between Israel and Jordan.

As we sat chatting and drinking tea into the night Ibrahim and his friends said that what we were doing is actually 'illegal'. If a group of Palestinians are found on the hills by Israeli soldiers they will most likely be searched and told to move on. Of course, the Israeli settlers are free to come to the hills and do as they like. Welcome to 21st century apartheid, Zionist-style.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Trip to East Jerusalem

Today me and my friend took the bus to east Jerusalem from Abu Dis. It took around 40 minutes. This seemingly unremarkable journey is something which most people in Abu Dis can no longer do. It made me think about what a terrible injustice the separation wall is. East Jerusalem is absolutely central to the lives of the people of Abu Dis - in religious, cultural, family and economic terms. And yet most are unable to travel there unless they have a permit from Israel for very specific reasons.

In east Jerusalem we went to see the Palestinian family in Sheikh Jarrah (see pictures above) who have been evicted from their home by Israeli settlers, backed up by the Israeli police and courts. The family had lived in the house since 1956. Now they live on the road outside in protest at the settlers who now live in their home. Everyday Friday their is a large protest outside the home, including many internationals who have heard about the case.

I also found a great book shop in east Jerusalem which stocked (amongst other things) one of the best books you can read on Israel/Palestine, The Myths of Zionism by John Rose. You can purchase a copy of this book from the best bookshop in the world

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Makloubeh, stuffed vine leaves, sweets, coffee

I experienced some of the legendary Palestinian hospitality today. Some of the women students at the community center cooked a wonderful lunch for me and the other english teacher, which we all ate together.
This is the first time i have tried the traditional Palestinian dish makloubeh - a mix of rice, chicken, potato and carrot - and it was delicious. Combined with this we had piles of stuffed vine leaves and gherkins, little pastry parcels with cheese inside and sweets made from carrot, sugar and coconut.
This was washed down with some rich, thick arabic coffee.
The women at the center are great to be with - kind, friendly and a great sense of humor.

One of the women is a doctor who works in refugee camps and villages across the west bank. She was telling me of one village where she works which recently had half its land taken for an Israeli settlement. The villagers protest every friday, and every time the Israeli soldiers fire tear gas at them. She regularly has to deal with the after effects of this - including cases of asthama aggravated by the tear gas.


Me by the separation wall, the empty Palestinian parliament building in Abu Dis which Israel has stopped the Palestinians from using, students at Al-Quds university, water storage tanks on the roofs of Palestinian homes in case of Israel stopping the water supply.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Life in Abu Dis

I am still having trouble uploading pictures, but hope to get this sorted soon.

Today me and another teacher, who has been in Abu Dis for three months, went for a walk around the town.

In the jargon of the misnamed Oslo 'peace' accords Abu Dis is a 'zone A' area. This means it is under full Israeli military control. Walking through the town center you see the squat green Israeli army jeeps, with iron mesh across their windows. These soldiers invade homes and schools in Abu Dis to look for 'stone throwers'. They shut off roads in the town and detain and search local men. This is the reality of occupation.

Israel also controls the water supply in Abu Dis. In summer, when the water supply is under pressure, Israel can cut off the supply to Palestinian homes in order that the nearby Israeli settlements can maintain their swimming pools and garden sprinklers. As a response to this threat, the roofs of the Palestinian houses are dotted with water storage tanks.

Abu Dis is really a suburb of Jerusalem. In the past, it provided a lot of the produce for the east Jerusalem markets. Many residents of Abu Dis taught in schools and worked in hospitals in Jerusalem. But the separation wall built by Israel cuts Abu Dis off from Jerusalem and has devastated lives and the local economy. Unemployment now stands at 60% and the vital trade links have dried up. Families and friends are trapped on opposite sides of the wall.

Monday, 25 January 2010

A safe arrival and a welcome coffee

I have arrived safely in Abu Dis. The only casualty of the journey seems to have been my bag. The zip broke as it was being unloaded off the plane and when i received it back it was stuck together with Israeli police tape. Don't know what they made of the contents which included Flaubert's 'A Sentimental Education' and Mighty Boosh series 3 DVD.

I was pleased to meet the other english teacher in the cafe of the Jerusalem Hotel. I had a lovely think arabic coffee and we then headed to Abu Dis.

It is hard to gain impressions of a place speeding along in a taxi in the dark, but an immediate contrast is the roads. Smooth, modern roads and motorways link Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but as soon as we hit Abu Dis, only 30 minutes drive from central Jerusalem, the roads were rough and full of holes.

I hope to put up some pictures tomorrow, watch this space!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

About this blog

I am a soon to be resident of Abu Dis, a small town on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, in occupied Palestine.
I will be teaching english in Abu Dis, and hope to provide some practical help to the people there, and to find out how the occupation effects their everyday lives.
I hope to update this blog regularly with words and pictures, covering different aspects of life in Abu Dis. I hope you find it interesting.