Witnessing the steadfastness of the Palestinian people

By EA Sandra, northern West Bank

Comparisons do not seem appropriate, but it is not difficult to see parallels between the experiences and resourcefulness of the Palestinian people living under occupation, and what we have read of the feelings and actions of other peoples who have suffered under occupation.

Many here have found positive ways to resist and to demonstrate ‘sumud’ – the Palestinian word for steadfastness. I have seen many different examples of this during my service here.

Thirty kilometres  from Jerusalem is the village of Taybeh, a mainly Christian village. The Khoury family have created a thriving business there.

The oldest part is their Taybeh Brewing Company was established in 1994 following the Oslo Peace Agreement (1993), when David Khoury and Nadim Khoury were inspired by their late father to return to their home village of Taybeh after spending more than twenty years in the United States and establish the first microbrewery in the Middle East.

The goal was to invest and boost the local economy by introducing new styles of natural hand crafted micro-brewed beers with no preservatives or additives, making a high quality Palestinian beer and also creating a feeling of pride in Palestine. Nadim’s daughter, Madees Khoury, now runs the brewery, and is the only female brewer in Palestine.

Madees Khoury [Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne]

Madees Khoury, owner of the Taybeh Brewing Company [Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne]

The family has now founded Taybeh Winery. They say this business was founded for one simple reason – “to bring truly exceptional wine to the Palestinian market and abroad”. There are currently three red wines and two whites, made from grapes grown in Palestine.

They plan to plant more vines but at present, we were told, they also have to fight the confiscation of some of their land by the Israeli military for what they are told are “reasons of national security”.

Maria Khoury said, “We are just a normal people wanting normal lives. If we had a country we would do more beautiful things.”

They told us the occupation also impedes their business, primarily the water shortages and access or permit restrictions suffered by Palestinians, for example, getting the necessary permits from Israel to transport the products at all, and then getting the products through checkpoints without damaging and costly delays. Despite the obstacles they have now also opened a hotel and hope to welcome visitors from all over the world to this part of Palestine.

Photo credit EAPPI S.Horne.

EAs learn about the state of the art winery at the Taybeh Winery [Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne]

The wine and beer is sold in Israel and the family would welcome Israeli visitors to Taybeh. However since 2000, Israeli visitors have faced large red signs warning that Israeli citizens entering the area in which Taybeh is are violating Israeli law.

Photo credit EAPPI: S.Horne

[Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne]

Usually our blogs ask you to learn more. This time, if you drink beer or wine and wish to support this small sector of the Palestinian economy, you could ask your local suppliers to stock Taybeh! You can click here to find out more about the brewery and here for information about the winery.

A very different form of resistance can be found in the Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center which began operations in March, 1995. “Wi’am” in Arabic means “cordial relationships,” and developing relationships is the essence of their mission.

The centre focuses on helping to resolve disputes within the Palestinian community by complementing the traditional Arab form of mediation, called Sulha, with Western models of conflict resolution. They provide services for women and children and seek to educate the local community on human equality and basic rights.

Zoughbi Zoughbi, Wi’am’s director states, “The work of Wi’am is on the ground, with people, as we address the urgent needs of Palestinians.”

The centre also runs summer camps for children giving them play space, a sense of empowerment, and teaching nonviolence.

The children play under the shadow of the Separation Barrier.

They paint their own small wall as a peaceful gesture of resistance. Zoughbi told us, “Here we paint stones, not throw them”.

Photo credit: EAPPI S.Horne

Children painting their own wall in the shadow of the Separation Barrier at one of Wi’am’s summer camps [Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne]

Photo credit: EAPPI S. Horne

The summer camp’s playground by the Separation Barrier [Photo: EAPPI/S. Horne]

Sadly, the Israeli authorities decided to build a sewage pipe under the Separation Barrier and the pipe runs into the centre’s garden.

Photo credit: EAPPI S. Horne

[Photo : EAPPI/S. Horne]

Please do visit Wi’am’s website and read about their work – the centre welcomes support, volunteers and ideas for cooperation.

And then there is the brave resistance of the people of Susiya. EAPPI now has a team living in the village who are on the spot to report events as they happen. Fears that the whole village will be demolished to have been confirmed last Sunday when Israeli officials came to the village to tell its residents the demolitions would take place before August 3.

August 3 was the day the Israeli High Court was due to hear a petition brought by the residents against the demolitions.

Photo credit: EAPPI: A.Forsberg

EAs witnessing the arrival of bulldozers outside Susiya on July 2 ahead of its demolition [Photo: EAPPI/ A.Forsberg]

On the June 29, the British Consul General, Dr. Alastair McPhail, and a team from the Consulate in Jerusalem visited Susiya to express support for villagers. You can his comments about it here. While this visit is greatly welcome, more concrete action is clearly needed.

Resistance to an occupation, and sumud, comes in many forms. It may be by the building of businesses to provide employment and stability, by strengthening civil society and providing education and services or equally by calling on others to stand with them and grow the resistance to occupation across the world.

Take action box 2

If you want to write to your MP (in the UK) or TD (in Ireland) urging them to act immediately to prevent the demolition of Susiya, you can use our template letter/email here.

You can read Rabbis for Human Rights’ background information on Susiya here.