More than just a tragedy, and still sumud

By EA Sandra.

Last month Sandra, who returned to the UK recently after serving as an EA, wrote about the arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma, which killed baby Ali and his father Saad. Now we have the grim news that Ali’s mother Reham has also died of injuries sustained in the attack. Four-year-old Ahmed, remains seriously injured.

Some of you may have read a report in Al Monitor recently on the efforts of the Israeli peace group Machsom Watch in the village of Duma as people prayed for the life of Reham, a maths teacher. Reham has since died of the injuries she sustained in the unprovoked arson attack on her house, an attack which had already claimed the lives of her husband and young son.

In an early blog from Palestine, I noted that it would be easy to think that the Palestinian people would be overwhelmed by the tragedies and the difficulties of just living a life under occupation. A very recent UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report on demolitions for example highlights that the Israeli government plans to demolish up to 17,000 structures, most of them on privately owned Palestinian land in the part of the illegally occupied West Bank under full Israeli military and civil rule.

Demolition in Abu Khash, Nablus, August 2015. Photo: UNOCHA

Demolition in Abu Khash, Nablus, August 2015 [Photo: UNOCHA]

However, amid all of this, it is important to note that the Palestinian people resist nonviolently by keeping their own lives, and commerce, education and civic society going. This “steadfast perseverance” in the face of adversity is known among Palestinians as “sumud”.

The photo above was taken after a demolition near the town of Nablus. But Nablus is more than just a tragedy, and the few examples below remind us of the capabilities and strengths of the Palestinian people, and how their lives could flourish if the occupation was ended.

Nablus public library Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne

Nablus public library [Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne]

The Nablus public library, founded in 1960, is home to a vast collection of books and ancient manuscripts, some are over 800 years old. It also holds over a million documents which date back to Ottoman times, as well as archives of Palestinian newspapers, some dating back to 1918.

Director Dirar Tuqan Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne

Director Dirar Tuqan [Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne]

The director, Dirar Tuqan, told us when we visited that plans are in hand to digitize the library’s amazing collection of books and manuscripts. For English readers there is a large collection of English books, and the whole Harry Potter collection in English and Arabic!

Nablus is famous for many other things too, among them soap and ice cream. Olivia’s ice cream shop may be the best in Palestine! An article in Haaretz captures some of the energy of ice cream making in Nablus.

Nablus soap manufacturers also showed us their shop selling soap and herbs and coffee – the Nablus soap industry featured recently in Al Monitor.

Soap selling shop in Nablus. Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne

A soap selling shop in Nablus [Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne]

Rich display of Palestinian herbs. Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne

The rich display of Palestinian herbs in Nablus [Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne]

EAs also regularly attend church to support the small Christian population in Nablus.

 The church of the Good shepherd. Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne

The Church of the Good Shepherd in Nablus [Photo: EAPPI/S.Horne]

It may seem insensitive to talk about ice cream after referring to the tragedy in Duma, but the Palestinians we met did not want the world just to see them as victims. They wanted the world to know they could have a viable country if the occupation were to end.

A report published earlier this year by UNOHCA, called Fragmented Lives: A Humanitarian Overview 2014, states:

“This crisis stems from the prolonged occupation and recurrent hostilities, alongside a system of policies that undermine the ability of Palestinians to live normal, self-sustaining lives and realize the full spectrum of their rights, including the right to self-determination. Were these factors removed, Palestinians would be able to develop their government institutions and economy without the need for humanitarian assistance.”

The town of Nablus has perhaps another claim to fame. It is twinned with Dundee, and this year a new street in the Scottish city was named Nablus Avenue.

Nablus Avenue in Dundee. Photo: http://www.dundee-nablus.org.uk.

Nablus Avenue in Dundee [Photo: http://www.dundee-nablus.org.uk ]

To follow UK support for Nablus and the surrounding region, look at the work of Friends of Nablus and Surrounding Areas (please note, this is not a request for donations). The site also features work with Yanoun, the northern West Bank village where EAPPI provides a protective presence.

And to end, the Palestinian organisation The Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling has issued its own statement on the death of Reham in Duma.