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PHOTOS: IDF brigade commander vs Hebron's kindergarten

+972-Hamakom Hebron special coverage

In the middle of Hebron, volunteers and activists built a kindergarten. Even a kindergarten, an attempt to bring a small piece of normalcy to the area, has turned into a target for the army, police and settlers. 

Text and photos by Dana Direktor / ‘The Hottest Place in Hell’
Read this article in Hebrew1

The State of Israel offers compulsory education from the age of three. But for the residents of the H2 area of Hebron, under Israeli control, there are no educational institutions. Period. Thus, a Palestinian child has two options: pass a few checkpoints on the way to school, or stay at home. The farce which surrounded the long-overdue establishment of a kindergarten in H2 can teach us about the situation in Hebron in a time of relative calm.

Hebron could serve as a museum for the occupation. It is the only city in the occupied territories in which Jews began settling from 1968, with the consent of every Israeli government. The place is so messed up that settlers live in an IDF base in the heart of the city (which is made up of approximately 750 Jews and 175,000 Palestinians). Several tens of thousands of Palestinians live in H2, which is under direct Israeli control. It has become a ghost town, a city of enclosure, an island of insanity. The residents must find creative solutions, such as climbing on roofs, in order to get home – even the elderly among them. Even the children – the same ones who are supposed to be in kindergarten.

Those who are trying to look out for the children is an organization by the name of “Youth Against Settlements,” which was established by a group of Palestinian residents of Hebron who oppose violence and work for the betterment of H2’s Palestinian residents, to enable them to live as much of a normal life as possible. There are no municipal services, and to a great degree, the organization’s volunteers make sure to fill that gap. They remove trash and paint and fix homes. According to Issa Amro, a resident of the Tel Rumeida neighborhood and activist in Youth Against Settlements, the organization found a home that was abandoned by a Palestinian family that moved to H1 in March 2013. With the consent of the family, the organization decided to establish a kindergarten in the building. Amro describes how the volunteers removed mounds of trash, fixed up the dilapidated building and brought in a team of kindergarten teachers. By September the kindergarten had opened. The military and the police, however, did not like this. Security forces have arrived at the kindergarten 16 times since it opened, each time ordering it to be closed, despite never bringing a court order. Amro says that even the brigade commander of Hebron paid a visit to the kindergarten to try and shut down the building that poses such a grave security threat.

And that is how even a kindergarten, a small attempt to create normalcy in the area, has become a target for the military, police and settlers. The harassment against the kindergarten manifests itself in several ways: once, during the renovation stage, the volunteers were stopped at checkpoints, which forced them to carry the building materials on their shoulders. In another case, the activists were forced to destroy the bathroom that was built for use by the children outside the building. Issa further states that his neighbor, Mufeed Sharbati, who also helped build the kindergarten, received a message stating that despite the fact that he has a building permit from 1972, he can only build additional rooms in his home if he helps advance the closure of the kindergarten.

If that wasn’t enough, the kindergarten also suffers harassment from settlers. A few months ago, a settler attacked Issa and then went to the police, to whom he claimed that Issa was the one who attacked him. Issa was promptly arrested. Graffiti reading “Death to Arabs” as well as Stars of David have recently been sprayed on the kindergarten. The graffiti was sprayed right next to the Spongebob mural that was painted by volunteers on the building. This is what relative quiet looks like.

 

Related:
In Hebron, terror begets a reign of terror
PHOTOS: 20 years since Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre

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    COMMENTS

    1. bob wisby

      The question arises, why don’t the families who suffer such alleged harassment just leave the area? They could relocate into Tel Aviv, for example, or even go abroad. History is filled with stories where people who perceived themselves as threatened secured exit visas and started new lives elsewhere. Nobody ever seems to bring this option up, which maybe in itself is very revealing.

      Reply to Comment
    2. sarim_786_rashid@msn.com

      The answer lies in the question why should the Palestinians leave their land through annexation, Buldozong homes already occupied.. Calling more illegal settlers in homes that a occupied from abroad. That news is old where people have left with less choice or were paid to do so secretly due to payment protection. Majority have right to return simple. The options are limited with a fascist Zionist control by coward gunmen. 🙂

      Reply to Comment
      • bob wisby

        It’s not uncommon for people’s homes to be demolished to make way for roads and new development. That happens all over the world. You can read about this happening in nearly every country. Why single out Israel for attack? Double standards?

        Reply to Comment
        • concerned1

          Bob, have you ever heard of a country ,occupying land of neighboring country and building roads and new developments?
          What are you talking about ,Palestinians cannot even built their water infrastructure why dont israel build it?

          * Israel doesn’t give water to the Palestinians. Rather, it sells it to them at full price.

          * The Palestinians would not have been forced to buy water from Israel if it were not an occupying power which controls their natural resource, and if it were not for the Oslo II Accords, which limit the volume of water they can produce, as well as the development and maintenance of their water infrastructure.

          w.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/1.574554

          Reply to Comment
          • bob wisby

            Corncerned1, the planet is replete with examples of invasion, occupation, expropriation and exploitation. Israel happens to be working in these areas now. But they’re not the first nation to find itself in this position. You can’t stand in the way of progress.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Lamis

      Bob, the families who suffer such harrassement (not alleged, you should go and check) leave when they have the means to do so. My family lived in this area for hundreds of years but relocated in the seventies when harrassement became too much for them. They had the money to relocate elsewhere in the city. Those who remained are the poorest among the poor, they have no other alternative. This is exacerbated by all sorts of bans and limitations on building permits everywhere in Hebron, making real estate quite expensive. As for settling in Tel Aviv, you might be aware that citizens of West Bank are not allowed in Israel unless they have special permits. These permits rarely extend to allow for prolonged stay, let alone resettlement, in Tel Aviv.

      Reply to Comment
      • bob wisby

        Lamis, I doubt that you’re correct in saying Israel makes it difficult for West Bank residents to stay in Tel Aviv. My reasoning is this: Israel controls the West Bank. What reason could Israel have for denying freedom of movement to people who are under Israel’s control? That doesn’t make sense on a logical level. Secondly, to restrict the movement of innocent citizens and operate a cruel system of lottery-like permits, granted at the whim of a racially-minded teenage soldier, would be contrary to everything Judaism stands for. Israel would never do something like that. So probably you’ve made a mistake.

        Reply to Comment
        • Dee

          I agree. If Israel wants this Kindergarten closed, my guess is that they have a logical reason. Possibly it is in an area that is not safe for the children of Hebron. It seems to me that they would not have made 16 visits to the school if they just wanted it closed for no reason. If Israel was as horrible as this article claims, wouldn’t they have simply destroyed the building?

          Reply to Comment
          • bob wisby

            Precisely, Dee. Or they might have needed the building for strategic, military purposes.

            Reply to Comment
        • JG

          Do you have knowledge of anything that is going on aroud Israel or is your life so boring that you have to put some nonsense under every article here?
          This is so lame

          Reply to Comment
          • bob wisby

            JG, as an Israeli, I’m perfectly aware of what’s ‘going on around Israel’. Unlike many countries, Israel enjoys a lively, open democracy. The Israeli State hides nothing from us. And why would they? They have nothing to hide!

            Reply to Comment
          • Sarah Robinson

            Bob, clearly you are either naïve or misinformed. Israel doesn’t make it difficult for Palestinians to relocate in places like Tel Aviv, they make it near impossible. This fact is well documented. The reason Israel gives for denying freedom of movement is cited as security risks. You are right, it makes no sense, but so much of the occupation makes no sense. Have you heard of the wall? Have you read about the hundreds of checkpoints around the West Bank? Have you witnessed the roads around Palestine that Palestinians are forbidden to access even when they live on such roads? There is very little logic in these actions taken by Israel. These rules and restrictions are against the fundamentals of Judaism. But this is not religious occupation, it is political. I have spent a lot of time in Palestine and have rarely witnessed true Judaism practiced by Israeli settlers or Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. Judaism is used as an excuse and motivation for supressing and oppressing the country of Palestine. You say you are an Israeli; you need to find out what your government is doing in your name. It is horrific.

            Reply to Comment
          • bob wisby

            Sarah. I do try to keep myself informed on what’s going on here. We have a very free news service, including Channel 2, which station hosts some very daring, far left political satire. So I don’t think the wool is being pulled over my eyes.

            As to the security risks you seem to doubt, they are very real. As recently as 1995 we had several explosions in the heart of Israel, in Tel Aviv. So we do need to be fair here, and try to stay even-handed.

            And finally, as to the conflict being political, I fail to see where politics enters the equation. And it’s certainly not an ideological conflict, either. No, this is just another battle in a much larger race-war. And Israel can’t afford to lose.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gearoid

            You seem to be trolling. Begone troll, back under your bridge.

            Hebron is an example of the worst of the Occupation laid bare, which is why ardent pro-Occupation apologists try to avoid the subject. Elsewhere they hide their actions better, but in Hebron the inhumane machinery of the Occupation and its racist foundations are on full display.

            Reply to Comment
          • bob wisby

            So we agree, Geroid, that it’s a race-war, rather than an ideological conflict?

            Reply to Comment
    4. Have you ever seen kids repeat everything you say until you get angry? Sort of opting out of social interaction while still playing at it, denying there is any import to it, that no harm is being done because you being mocked is doing nothing. Bob is like that. Overall he has a bias toward the underdog, and it you read him carefully you will find his replies often mock the right. But he will mock anyone who takes him seriously. Ginger Eis and Kolumn9 of this site want to silence you into submission through insults. Bob ironies you into unimportance. Both strategies lead to an erasure of the actual piece upon which comments are suppose to be made.

      But, hey, that’s the life of inner Hebron, ja? We laugh all away with absurdity.

      Take a look at the first photo after the written content, the back yard of the kindergarten. Transplant the scene to Germany or the US, still the backyard of a kindergarten. If those stars of David were swastikas–the authorities would strive to find who made them. And that is the tragedy of Israel in Hebron.

      Reply to Comment
      • bob wisby

        “If those stars of David were swastikas–the authorities would strive to find who made them.”

        Usually the same people nowadays, Greg, no?

        Reply to Comment
        • The same mind set. But in one case the law would search for them; in the other, rather the reverse. And that is the tragedy of Israel in Hebron.

          Reply to Comment
          • bob wisby

            Exactly, Greg. Double standards, anyone?

            Reply to Comment