Three Palestinian individuals, one of them now 80 and a political activist, provide us with the events and changes they have witnessed throughout the years in their occupied lands.
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Haji Fatima was born in 1948.This was the year Palestinians refer to as Al Nakba, the Catastrophe, when Israel wiped the Palestinian inhabitants from 400 villages, some they entirely destroyed, others were re-populated with Jewish immigrants. Haji’ Fatimas family fled from this war within days of her birth, to Beit Hana in the West Bank which is where she has remained her entire life.
Haji Fatima :
First of all this my land and my country. It is not only the 1948 or 1967 borders it to from the sea to the river, 27,000 square kilometers. I am not ready to let go of a centimeter, this is historical Palestine.
Here is Jerusalem the most important one, the capital. This is Bab al Shams and this is Bab al Karameh. The Jordan valley has been conquered and taken over by the Israeli’s. Here is Jenin, we will never let go of this area and north is the Galilee, now ruled by Israel.
My mother brought me into this world on the 14th of July 1948, the day of the Nakba. I was born in a field and left for 24 hours while my father fought in the war.
I now fight with my words. Although this is my only weapon, I’m strong because I’m right.
Since her exile, Haji Fatima has witnessed dramatic changes in the landscape surrounding her home, from the construction of the Israeli wall which eventually encircled her village to the gradual building of Israeli settlements which engulfed what was once Palestinian agricultural land. Her town was once considered the safest path to walk to the holy city of Jerusalem al Quds.
The last time I visited Jerusalem al Quds was 7 years ago, but it is now forbidden by the Israeli’s. They forbid me from everything that I hold dear to me: praying in al Aqsa mosque, buying sweet cakes from the old markets of Jerusalem and walking through the ancient path of the old city.
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There is no place more beautiful than Jerusalem. I would love to be there just to see the markets, the shops, the old streets and to pray in Al Aqsa Mosque.
Haji Fatimas embroidery reveals Palestinian cities that have been destroyed since 1948 but also portrays two new Palestinian villages which were destroyed in the previous year. Bab al Shams meaning the Gate of the Sun and Bab al Karameh, meaning Gate of Dignity.
Bab AL Karameh was built because it is the western entrance for Jerusalem. It is near Jerusalem and this is why we built this village and named it Karamah, it means our pride. Jerusalem is our pride.
Haji Fatima became an unlikely advocate for activism. At what was once the safepath to Jerusalem, Beit Iksa, Fatima joined activists from around the world in building a protest camp.
Haji Fatima described the land to me stating the ‘Land is our Bed and the Blankets our sky’ Palestine to Haji Fatima is not exclusively about the land itself but the Palestinians relationship to their land. She told me that people can and will continue to live from the land and only when their livelihood is taken, that will be the end of Palestine.
Fatima sews each village and city onto the map of Palestine, without borders, without boundaries, without settlements, without Israeli cities and without the infamous wall built by Israel to separate what is now called Israel to the West Bank.
Life under occupation is unbearable. They tightened life, they took the land, destroyed houses, they are building the wall allegedly for security reasons but it is for apartheid. For example this village, Beit Iksa. The number of inhabitants was 18,000, now it is only 1800.
we want peace and they want peace, Our weapons is the rock and words but we are rightful people, this is our land. Our ancestors are from here since 1968 they have been excavating tunnels, have they found a trace of evidence or antiquities? All of these antiquities are Arab, Muslim, Christian. We and our fellow Christians live together here. Jerusalem has the church of holy sepulcher and it has al aqsa.
Whoever they want to imprison let them imprison who they want to kill let them kill. If they want to take a tree we will plant a thousand. They break and we build. We are here for a long time. We are never going to be bored.
This is Gaza. There is nothing more important than another, everything completes itself. Jericho completes Jericho we want Gaza, there is nothing more important, everything compliments and continues. Jericho is important for Jerusalem, Jerusalem is important for Qalqilya. Everything is important we want Gaza, Jericho, Jerusalem, Tiberias, Haifa, Jaffa, Ellat, Ramallah. This is our land and we want it all from the sea to the river.
They asked me why do you sew Palestine like this. This is my country and I can draw it as I want and make it more beautiful.
Fatima joined Palestinian and international activists from around the world in building the protest village Bab al Karameh
They were exiled They didn’t leave their land or houses and therefore they became refugees in their own homeland Jerusalem is near, only a few meters from here so we consider Beit Iksa to be the Western Gate for Jerusalem. If they take this village we wouldn’t be able to reach Jerusalem, but Jerusalem is our capital, the capital of the Palestinian state whether they like it or not it’s ours and not theirs.
We are here today because they are going to take this land to build the wall through it and we do not approve that. It is the land of our fathers and grandfathers and also the land of our sons and grandchildren
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Abdulla Syam , Deputy governor of Jerusalem:
We are here today in the East of Jerusalem on this mountain in Beit Iksa village. The Israeli’s tried to make settlements here in this are for those farmers and villagers in Beit Iksa want their land they want to keep it for their children, agriculture, life. For they came here to camp in Beit Iksa in order to say to the Israelis and the whole world that we are the Palestinians, we will keep our land, we will fight against the settlements and the settlers who want to take this land for them as they do in the other areas of Palestine.
Ed Knight Britain, International Solidarity Movement:
I was at the Bab al shams protest last week and I myself had my head banged against a bus by a soldier and I was taken away. There was a man with a busted eye and a bleeding nose and the soldiers would not allow him to seek medical attention.
Abdulla Syam, Deputy governor of Jerusalem:
In this day they pray here in their land because they know keeping their land is part of their religious beliefs for here in Beit Iksa the village was surrounded by the wall from all parts and directions. They entered the village again and the iron gate this gate was separating the villagers of Bet Iksa from other parts of Jerusalem.
Ed Knight Britain ISM:
It is clear that the settlements and theft of land is illegal under the UN who have repeatedly condemned it and members of amnesty international and other human rights organizations have condemned it. It’s just that every attempt that has been made to fix the situation has been blocked by the US.
Ed knight stated that he barely sees the situation on the ground in the news, including settlements construction and Israeli apartheid.
Jumal Jumaa, Head Coordinator, Stop the Wall:
I think the initiative of Bab al Shams has exposed the Israeli settlements much more and the Israeli confiscations of land so we can have lots of interest from international media international community and I think this is what we are doing now if we continue this kind of initiative they will bring it more and more and they will cover it on a political basis and this is what we want we want everyone to be accountable and responsible for this because Israel is here with the support of the UN with the support of the US, here they are accountable as Israel is accountable for this.
The villagers collected on the hill which they will lose once the wall has been built and assembled for prayers. Following this they erected a tent structure and laid the first bricks for a new mosque they called Karameh meaning dignity.
Jumal Jumaa, Head Coordinator, Stop the Wall:
You know Beit iksas land is confiscated and now they have no land whatsoever, this is the last of the land that has been confiscated which is 450 dunums. So the strategy here is to come and to build the tents as you see here, so we are staying here, we are sleeping here, staying 24 hours in this land telling the Israeli occupation one message this is our land and we are not going to give it easily. You can give orders of confiscations, you can give orders of expulsion but we are going to defend our land. We are going to stay on our land and this is an open battle with the Israeli occupation power so we have no choice but to resist.
Mahr California, Activists from the United States:
This is very symbolic because back in 1948 when the state of Israel was established the villagers here had 15,0-00 dunnums of land, straight away 14,000 of those were taken away and recently they are trying to take away another 700 of them so basically they will be left with 300 dunnums. The village here needs more than that to survive they have a lot of land that they need to grow food and survive on that so Israel’s plan is to build a wall around the village and the village and their land so they can’t grow agriculture to sustain themselves and of courser after that illegal settlements will come and lands will be confiscated slowly. They usually follow that by making it tougher for the Palestinians to travel through checkpoints so by isolating them and making their lives miserable they hope they will give up and migrate out of the area. .
Jumal Jumaa: Head Coordinator, Stop the Wall:
They are already separated because they are surrounded by the wall as you see and if they go anywhere they will be shot by the Israeli soldiers anyone to go in that direction they have only one path that is to come through the gate that is run by the Israeli soldiers. If you want to enter you have to give them your ID and then you enter Beit Iksa. This is a bad situation and we are living in a big jail here.
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Even with immense international support, the Israeli authorities consistently handed the activists a notice of demolition for the new mosque and ordered all people to leave the area.
We’ve been here for 3 days, they always come. Today Israeli’s raided our village twice. Of course we prevented them as we will do every day. At the beginning, they used to build the wall and we would follow them, but now it is the opposite. They follow us, that is why we are staying here. They closed the checkpoint and prevented anyone from entering. It’s winter now, so when they don’t let food in, we take from plants to eat and the rain is our source of drinking water.
Days ago, the Eastern Gates of Jerusalem (Bab al Shams) it is called that because the sun rises from the East and this one is Bab al Karameh, so instead of Israel surrounding us, we will surround them because we are the people with the rights to the land. The one who has the right is the strongest.
Bab Al Shams:
Bab al Shams was the first protest village to be erected. Following great success and popularity, they went up all over the West Bank. Bab al Shams was set up in the E1 Area, a place that has become the most controversial and disputed area of land in Palestine as Israel have made plans to build an illegal settlement of thousands of homes for Jewish only settlers. In a bid to claim back this land, Palestinian activists, with permission from the Palestinian Land-Owners, built a protest village they named Bab al Shams: Gate of the Sun.
Said Yaqi, Beit Uko:
This land is agricultural land you know an now we are surrounded with the settlements and this area has in its history the main road to Jerusalem and the settlements cut this main road and the main road to Ramallah.
Yues Araq, Coordinator of South West Bank Committee:
We have come here today to construct a village on our land, our Palestinian land to practice our right to develop our land to plant our land. This is our natural right to develop as human beings to use our land that’s why we are here today.
Mofeed Ghanam, Land owner:
When we came forward to the high court for the petition and we presented our petition that this is privately owned land we wanted to create a tourist attraction and this is why we set up the camps. We were able to get an order from the high court to not take down the camps for 6 days so the Israeli army’s excuse was that this was a security reasons they were able to announce that this was a military closed zone for 48 hours and that’s when we were able to evacuate the camp and the people in the camp without taking them out. After 48 hours myself and some of the landlords were shocked to see that some of them remained there after 48 hours. They even didn’t allow us to enter claiming that it is a military zone.
Said Yaqi, Beit Uko:
Now we are livening in miserable conditions because we are isolated from the other areas of Ramallah and Jerusalem. We have no work as all of our agricultural land is behind the wall.
Mofeed Ghanam, Land owner E1 Area:
The Israeli soldiers told us it was a military closed zone until the 13th February and I was shocked to see that he had a legal warrant from the head of IDF to extend this matter to the 13th February. After the end of the 6 days, the Israeli court granted the forces the rights for what they ordered in their petition in that it is a military zone and take the tents down. These are false accusations and not only false but unreasonable. This area is isolated. Tehre are no Israeli highways or military bases there, no centres or peope who are Israeli, there is nothing and no sort of danger from this land on Israel or anybody. It is open land. This military zone excuse is rejected so let the Israeli government know that these accusations and excuses are refused.
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Mustafa Barghouti, Director and politician with The Initiative Party, Ramallah:
‘This is the system of apartheid, they allow Israeli settlers to stay here illegally on illegal stolen land and then arrest us the Palestinians who are non-violently resisting oppression and the resistance enemies.
The Israeli police including different border police have completed the evacuation of the area and are relocated at the moment between the areas of Jerusalem and Maale Adumim. All the trespassers that were located in the area have been taken to another area .
Bab al Shams was encircled by the Israeli army, all protesters were evacuated and Palestinians are now banned from the area. Although Mofeed filed a petition in the high courts in Israel where he gained permission to remain on the land for an additional week. The Israeli police refused this petition and dispersed the protesters without a warning or warrents.
Two weeks ago there was an open day near the wall. We marched towards it and planted olive trees and buried with them the names of martyrs killed by Israel. The soldier attempted to stop us, but we continued digging, The soldiers came, but we did not allow them to destroy our work. We resists. Our work is on the land.