In Other News

I have been studying Arabic in Jordan for the last few weeks, but looking back over my blog I realize that I hadn’t posted some pretty cool stories from Palestine. So here is a catch up blog:

School Bus

At a meeting I attended about six months ago about ‘Firing Zone 918‘ someone mentioned wanting to get a school bus that kids could take from outlying Firing Zone villages to the centralized school. Over the next months different NGOs got funds, researched the best types of vehicles for that terrain, and navigated the oddly complex legal system to get everything running. But after everything was set up there was a huge worry that the jeep would be confiscated by the Israeli military. A few NGOs have recently had there vehicles confiscated, so this was a real worry. Further, Palestinian drivers were afraid of being arrested by the army. That’s right, there was a good chance a Palestinian would be arrested for driving children to school in an internationally purchased vehicle.

3 (Small)

Not the big yellow bus I’m used to, but perfect for dirt roads.

Now CPT really had nothing to do with this the purchasing of the Jeep. This was for ‘aid’ organizations, while our job is more on the ground ‘human rights’ focused. But when the Jeep drivers asked for internationals to ride along with them and the kids to school and stay with the Jeep, we, along with other on the ground organizations, were excited to help. So, as part of CPTs weekly Firing Zone visits we would ride in with the jeep as it picked up kids, stay at the school all day with the jeep, then watch the bus drop the kids off and drive out of the Firing Zone. Then we would visit other villages for the rest of the day.

This arrangement is so great. First of all it is the best coordination I have seen between NGOs. They worked like a well oiled machine. The bigger aid organizations did their thing, we on the ground organizations did ours, every organization had it’s part to play and now kids get a ride to school. Second I get to hang out at the school all day. I play with the kids at recess, and I chat with the principal. I found out that CPT has a history with that school. When it first opened, about seven or eight years ago, CPT rode in with the teachers to make sure they didn’t get arrested. The school was a bunch of tents back then. Now it is a series of building with electricity, computers, and running water. I love seeing its development, and hearing how CPT was part of that.

I’m in Jordan now but CPT is still going there once a week (with other organizations the whole week is covered), and after two months the jeeps have not been confiscated.

Update on the 27 boys

Of those 27 boys that were arrested none were ever charged with anything. Of the three that were still in prison as of my last post two paid ‘bail’. Bail for Palestinians isn’t really bail. It’s basically a fine so you don’t go to court. Since children can be (illegally) held in military prisons for almost an indefinite amount of time without going to trial most parents just pay the bail. One family did not, either to make a statement that they will not play this sick game, or because they do not have the money.

The NGO response to the situation has been strong. At a meeting that took place right before I left, a plan was made to report all the crimes against children that had taken place in Hebron over the past two months. This would be used to pressure Israel to stop what we describe as their war on children. We gathered records, photos, pictures, and interviews. About a week ago I received the report. It can be found HERE. We also wanted to create a documentary by interviewing all the 27 boys, but with talking to the families and the kids we quickly realized that the emotional and mental damage of being arrested for no reason and treated so badly was quite severe. We decided to hold off and tone down that project for the kids sake. The last time CPT was involved in a project like this we got an abusive brigade of soldiers transferred out of Hebron. This time we are trying to get a general (unofficial) policy change about how soldiers treat children. Basically we hope they will start at least following their own laws.

I’m coming home

I will be coming to the States on April 22nd. I am currently booked for seven speaking engagement, but looking for more. If you know of any possibilities please let me know. My contact information is HERE. You can find my schedule HERE. I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family and sharing more stories from Palestine soon.