May 26, 2016

Jabal Al Baba - Not ready for evacuation!

This tragic story is about the Palestinian Bedouin village Arab Al Rass ("Arabs who came from the village Rass"), located on Jabal Al Baba ("Hill of the Father"). 

Jabal Al Baba is home to about 40 families, close to 320 people, mostly children, from the Jahalin Bedouin tribeThe village is built of huts made of aluminum and wood, though in the last years the European Union has provided basic housing structures. Living conditions are poor. Villagers live primarily from their flock of animals. The separation barrier hampers their life severely, but since it is not yet closed, they still have ways to go around. 

Jabal Al Baba can be found between Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement Ma’ale Adumim, adjacent to the Palestinian town Al-Eizariya. It is the highest hill in this area and has a beautiful view on its surroundings. The village on top, Arab Al Rass, was established by the Jahalin Bedouins, after their expulsion from Tel Arad, in the south of Israel, in 1952.

Jabal Al Baba is one of the places - in an area named E1 - that is planned to be evacuated by Israeli authorities in order to connect Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim through the building of housing units and industry. Already in previous years and lately once more, villagers received requests from Israeli authorities to leave their homes. However, they have not done so, since they live on the Jabal for almost sixty years and without being offered a viable alternative housing plan, they have nowhere else to go.

Recently, through collaboration of a range of organizations, including the British Council and Birzeit University, a group of artists from different countries in Europe (United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, Norway) came to Jabal Al Baba. Together with some local people, they lived on the hill for ten days and learned about the life and customs of the Jahalin Bedouins. As a matter of fact, they lived on the "Pope's Hill", a small property, belonging to the Vatican, on top of Jabal Al Baba.

At the end of their stay, the artists put up a performance, which included visual arts, puppetry, storytelling, dancing and singing. Old and young came to watch and listen, with on one side the Palestinian women and their many children, in the middle the Palestinian men, and on the other side representatives of international organizations. It was amazing to see how these foreign artists performed the tale of Jabal Al Baba. They told the history of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe. They showed the harsh daily life of the women, envisioned by a giant Bedouin mother. One of the actors shared - in a most funny way - how she actually had managed to milk a goat. There were cotton wool sheep, and the struggle against the Israeli occupation was symbolized through a monster.

During the years, the villagers have made attempts in Israeli courts to prevent evacuation, but without success. Since they themselves do not have Israeli entry permits, they cannot attend the court hearings. As part of the performance, a British lawyer invited some of the spectators to tell their story, as if they were in an Israeli court.

In fact, two houses funded by the European Union were demolished recently. Moreover, on the day before the performance, Israeli authorities demolished 12 houses, leaving many without shelter. This was traumatic not just for the villagers, but for the visitors as well. As the Dutch/Italian actress said: "Yesterday was my worst day, and today - standing in front of you - is my best day here".

The United Nations immediately called "on Israeli authorities to stop destruction of humanitarian aid and respect international law".

For more pictures, click here.

For video, click below.

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