Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Friday, November 12, 2010

Waiting for Justice in Elarakib--Part II, Elarakib, Israel--073110

This post is a continuation of the story of the Elokbi tribe of Elarakib. It is about my experience spending the night with the people of Elarakib after the first demolition of the village in July 27th. As I was editing this post, three months later, the village was already demolished for the fifth time, as per Al Jazeera.

The Bedouine hospitality is amazing, they don’t even have a roof on their heads and yet they offered us tea, coffee, and one man was walking with a box of tomatoes and also bread. I had a tomato! The kids from the village were painting a big banner with the village’s name. I stood by one of the girls that was painting and showed her how to put some color on her hand and print it on the big banner; next, she had like 20 hands on the banner. I was so excited to see all the kids having fun that I started to paint also, but I put more paint into myself than on the actual banner.

Warda and other kid painting the big banner

After all the speeches and a hot afternoon cracking, the buses were ready to leave the village, but me and my friend Rachel decided to stay the night. We wanted to be an international presence in the village in case the government decided to appear again, which they had promised. Everybody was worried, offering water and food to keep for our stay. To our surprise, after everyone left, the guys were serving ice cream, which is a very unlikely dessert to have in the desert, but which we were craving for, so we were very, very happy, like two little girls. Then we chilled out a little on the tent and our hosts brought some tea. We were just talking and watching all the dynamics in the destroyed village.

Having ice-cream in the desert after all were gone....so nice!

Later one of the men came and invited us to eat. The men were sitting by a big plate of chicken, salad, olives fries. There was plenty of food. After that we were chatting and the kids were playing chess besides us. Then one of the men suggested that we go with the women into the other tent. It was hard to read the customs, as we had never been among the Bedouines before. So we did. There were some children with the women. I asked one of the girls if she wanted to draw. And she nodded, so I gave her my notebook and a pen. Her name was Warda, she was the girl I showed how to paint her hand in the banner before. Then another one came, Safa’. They also wanted to use my camera to take pictures of each other and the things around the village. After that we went into one of the ruined houses, there, the girls were looking for things under the rubble. They found a lipstick, some perfume bottles, and a bottle of sunscreen.

Safa' and Warda wandering on the rubble of a demolished house

Me and sweet Safa'

I forgot to mention that after the people that came for the visit left, we were walking around the village and we found a kid in a bicycle looking to a big pile of furniture and different stuff. It was stuff either that was saved before the evictions or maybe stuff that was donated for the families. He found a pink bottle and started to spray his bicycle as if it were WD-40 for the wheels. He had a wound on his head. There was a man from the village that was showing us the construction that was going on, he told us that the kids had had an accident recently where the car he was in had flipped upside down. Two guys from Anarchist Against the Wall where talking to the same man in Hebrew. The man was explaining what happened when the soldiers came.

Back to the girls in the rubbish, they were climbing the remnants of a demolished house. Warda was wearing the red lipstick she just found while she was writing a name in the shattered mirror. The name was Nari, I asked who Nari was and she replied that it was the woman that lived in that house. After playing for a while, I told them to climb down; I was worried that they could get hurt.

Playing with the camera on the rubble, who is worst, me or them....

We went back into the big tent, this time two new girls joined us, Bayan and Ana3am. They were very outgoing and were talking to me in Arabic and explaining everything carefully to make sure I understood. They asked everything about me, my family, they also asked me if I was a journalist. I could only understand Ana3am only after Bayan patiently explained things to me more than once, of course in Arabic. Anam said that she livd with her grandmother and that her mother lived in Jordan. After a long conversation, and three more girls that joined, we went to the kitchen tent. The women were cooking and we stayed there ans listened to some music on my phone and played with the kids all night.

After some time we ate and people started to leave the village. We went to an improvised toilet which was a box with a hole in the floor, it was pitch black (Reminder: we were in the middle of the desert), so I was using my phone, hoping not to drop it in the hole. When it was time to sleep, Bayan, one of the girls insisted to sleep with us. All the other children had left. So when we were going to turn the lights off, which were powered by a generator, Bayam didn’t want the lights off and she started to cry, she was afraid of all the insects, ants, flies and some other visitors t including 5 or 6 geese that came to our ten. So we were attempting to sleep for at least 2-3 hours without success. She was so scared and couldn’t keep her eyes closed. After several attempts to sleep, we decided to leave Bayan and move to the other big tent, the one we were during the day, away from all the species of insects from the desert. It was around 3 o'clock in the morning. In the end I don’t know if she slept, but I doubt it. We were so tired that we just wanted to sleep.

In the morning, Sheikh al Turi woke us up speaking in Hebrew, I think he thought we are jewish activists…..and when I asked what he was saying, he was kind of frustrated that we didn’t understand him, and I said, (bil arabiyya- in Arabic) and then he repeated in his deep voice, what he was asking was if we needed something or if we wanted to eat. There was no-one in the village, just a couple of people. We went into the kitchen and Bayan’s grandma prepared breakfast for us and one of the older kids that spoke English sat with us. By the end of breakfast, people started to arrive, among them Bayan’s mom and sister and they brought supplies for the day and started daily cleaning. Nothing seemed to be unusual, just the fact that when you looked around, there were destroyed houses all around you. The big kid said that if everyone works together they can build a house in 5 days. They put up a structure in a couple of hours, so I think they are not worried about the reconstruction, they just want to live in their land, which the Israeli government wants to convert in the Ambassador’s park. We saw a sign on the highway, when one of the Bedouines from the village was giving us a ride to the bus stop.

The land they received was smaller than the one they had, their farming land was reduced and they only allowed the men older than 40 years to farm the land. Now, since they refused to leave this land, they live in an unrecognized village, this means no services provided by the state, no trash collection, no schools, no water, nothing, so on top of that, the government has the right to destroy everything???? That, despite the court has yet to give its final decision in this case. I can’t believe that the government can do this to their own citizens just because they are Bedouines (Palestinians). Isn’t it the government’s duty to protect their children and ensure its security and welfare? Then what kind of government from a developed western country comes like a thief, when people is sleeping and destroy their homes and leave the most vulnerable (women and children) homeless so they can reforest the desert????

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