The main road in Abu-Dis this morning.
The road outside the community center.
Two of my students make their way home with their children.
Weapons used on protesters today in Abu-Dis, probably manufactured in the USA. Metal balls encased in rubber, a rubber bullet and a live bullet.
Today Israeli soldiers clashed with protesters in Abu-Dis and other parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The trigger for the protests was the re-opening of the Hurva synagogue in East Jerusalem next to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, one of the holiest sites in the world for Muslims.
The background to this is a sustained campaign by the Israeli government to remove Palestinians (most of whom are Muslim) from east Jerusalem. This involves forced evictions, house demolitions and the denial of basic municipal services to Palestinian districts. Then there is the separation wall which breaks east Jerusalem off from the West Bank.
I started my day like i do every Tuesday, going to the community center for my lesson with the university students. I had planned an exercise called 'My daily routine'.
About half way through the lesson the protests started. One of the students had just said, "I had cornflakes for breakfast today" when there was a loud bang outside. A student calmly informed me that it was the Israeli soldiers firing tear gas. I asked them if they wanted to continue and they said yes, "we are used to it". So we continued.
"I usually drink a mug of hot cocoa before i go to bed", said a student. Then there was another loud bang and a large group of young boys ran past the window. "The soldiers are coming past the center", somebody told me. We continued, a student said, "I usually listen to relaxing music in the bath". More bangs from outside.
My next lesson was with a group of local women, aged between 30-50. One of the women arrived and told us she had just been pushed by a soldier. She said, "He told me to go home and i told him, 'don't you dare touch me, i am going to my lesson!', i shouted to the boys in the street, 'may God be with you!'"
We finished early because one of the women had her children with her and they were frightened by the banging noises.
We walked past some of the protesters, all young men or boys, who had been throwing stones at the soldiers. They were nothing less than courteous. "Hi, where do you need to go?", "Come this way, it's safe", "Welcome to Abu-Dis". I bumped into a couple of my students from a local school, "Hi Jon, how are you? It's safe for you this way".
I got talking to some university students on the street. They took me through the backstreets to a place where we could observe the soldiers from a safe distance. We watched as the soldiers spread out across the road and started the descent down the road to where the protesters were. I heard later of two protesters injured by rubber bullets.
The students then invited me to their house for coffee. We discussed Palestine, Barack Obama, and the British government. One of the students told me he was beaten for no reason by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint, "I couldn't see for two days because my face was so swollen. After that, i was in a kind of blind rage". We then discussed music and a student showed me his dance moves. These are normal students living in an abnormal situation.
I went back to my flat. From my balcony i could see a helicopter in the distance hovering over the Al-Aqsa mosque.
What is called 'calm' in Palestine just means people submitting to intolerable conditions and the denial of basic human rights. Today people in Abu Dis and elsewhere said 'no' to this false 'peace'.
Only justice and freedom for Palestine can bring lasting peace.