www.banksy.co.uk - adaptation by shadow

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Tree Planting/ Permaculture Workshop @ Al Wallaja, January 3rd

On the 3rd of January there will be a workday/ permaculture workshop in the village of Al Wallaja, close to Beit Jala. The day will start at 10am, working through until the sun goes down.

Abed is a friend of ours whose land is threatened with confiscation by Israeli Authorities, lying as it does close to Gilo settlement, in a zone that is slated for settlement expansion.

Together with Israeli and Palestinian friends, Abed has been resisting eviction from his land, moving into a cave on site, and in spite, or perhaps because of, the lack of water, electricity and sewage infrastructure, he has been building a model for sustainable living and food production, using traditional Palestinian farming and building techniques.

This Saturday we will be joined by Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals, working together to resist colonization and build towards a more positive future for land and people.

We will be sending a delegation, leaving from Bustan Qaraaqa at 9.30am. If you would like to join, call us on 02 2748994 or call Ayala (the organizer) directly on 0546223652 for directions. Bring some food to share for lunch if you can.

Hope to see you there,


the Bustan Qaraaqa team
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Gaza Crisis Appeal - How You Can Help

Donate to UNRWA Special Gaza Appeal تبرعوا لنداء الاستغاثة الخاص بغزة

1. Arab Bank PLC
UNRWA USD Current account100191-4-510
El-Rimal Branch Omar El-Mukhtar St, Gaza

2. HSBC Bank
UNRWA USD Current account 002/057511-185
Swift Code: BBMEJOAX
Amman, Jordan

What can you do? Please read bellow:

So far hundreds of civilians have been killed in Gaza. Five sisters in one family, four other children in another home, two children on a cart drawn by a donkey. Universities, colleges, police stations, roads, apartment buildings were all targeted. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian areas issued a statement that "The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent s evere and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war."

Twenty things to do to bring peace with justice:

1) First get the facts and then disseminate them. Here are some basic background information
http://www.mepeace.org/forum/topics/the-true-story-behind-this-war The true story behind this war
http://www.unitedforpeace.org/downloads/If%20Gaza%20falls.pdf If Gaza Falls
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10055.shtml Gaza massacres must spur us to action

2) Contact local media. Write letters to editors (usually 100-150 words) and longer op-eds (usually 600-800 words) for local newspapers. But also write to news departments in both print, audio, and visual media about their coverage. In the US http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/media/ You can find media listings in your country using search engines like google

3) Organize and join demonstrations in front of Israeli and Egyptian embassies or when not doable in front of your parliament, office of elected officials, and any other visible place (and do media work for it).

4) Hold a teach-in, seminar, public dialogue, documentary film viewing etc. this is straightforward: you need to decide venue, nature, if any speakers, and do some publicity (the internet helps).

5) Pass out flyers with facts and figures about Palestine and Gaza in your community (make sure also to mention its relevance to the audience: e.g, US taxpayers paying for the carnage, increase in world instability and economic uncertainty)

6) Put a Palestinian flag at your window.

7) Wear a Palestinian head scarf (Koufiya)

8) Wear Black arm bands (this helps start conversations with people)

9) Send direct aid to Gaza through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). http://www.un.org/unrwa/

10) Initiate boycotts, divestments and sanctions at all levels and including asking leaders to expel the Israeli ambassadors (an ambassador of an apartheid and rogue state). See Palestinian call http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10056.shtml

11) Work towards bringing Israeli leaders before war crime courts (actions along those lines in courts have stopped Israeli leaders from traveling abroad to some countries like Brigtai9n where they may face charges)

12) Calling upon all Israelis to demonstrate in front of their war ministry and to more directly challenge their government

13) Do outreach: to neighbors and friends directly. Via Internet to a lot of others (you can join and post information to various listservs/groups).

14) Start your own activist group or join other local groups (simple search in your city with the word Palestine could identify candidate groups that have previously worked on issues of Palestine). Many have also been successful in at bringing coalitions from different constituencies in their local areas to work together (human rights group, social and civil activists, religious activists, etc).

15) Develop a campaign of sit-ins at government offices or other places where decision makers aggregate

16) Do a group fast for peace one day and hold it in a public place

17) Visit Palestine

18) Support human rights and other groups working on the ground in Palestine

19) Make large signs and display them at street corners and where ever people congregate.

20) Contact local churches, mosques and other houses of worship and ask them to take a moral stand.
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New Year Newsletter

Bustan Qaraaqa, Beit Sahour, December 31st 2008

Dear friends,

As Eid al-Adha and Christmas have come to Bethlehem and the year is turning, it seems an appropriate moment to send a message from our farm in the Shepherds Fields, updating you on our activities over the last few months and our plans for 2009. We feel it is also important at this juncture to mention the situation in Gaza, as the missiles keep falling and the death toll rises daily, and to express our deep sorrow at such terrible events and our hope for a swift ceasefire. You can sign a petition calling for an immediate ceasefire by clicking the following link:


Let us hope that from such an inauspicious start, 2009 will be a year of peace-building and positive change in the region. We will certainly be approaching it with a renewed determination to help create a better future from the grassroots up, and to work for ecological sustainability, environmental justice and protection of human rights.

It is over 3 months since our last newsletter, and we have passed a turbulent but productive autumn, with thrills and spills coming thick and fast. In fact, so much has happened that it is difficult to know where to start: to recount the curious events of the olive harvest, the departure of our much beloved Bustan Qaraaqa co-founder; Nick, the arrival of Roman, the sojourn of the Dancing Dishwasher, Alice’s adventures in the United Kingdom, not to mention all the work that has been done with the help of many volunteers to build towards sustainable living and food production both at this site and at others.

Perhaps it is best to start, as they say, at the beginning, or around the time of our last correspondence. The team wilted in the late August heat, doggedly digging swale after swale as the Middle Eastern sun beat down relentlessly out of an azure and cloudless sky. As September progressed, the heat began to dissipate somewhat and the number of guests and volunteers declined. We were able to make a few forays away from the site, going on seed collection missions to Kibbutz Lotan in the far south of Israel, to Jerusalem Botanic Garden, to the Judean desert to the east of Bethlehem and north to the Golan heights, besides tree planting in Bedouin communities in the Negev Desert alongside our partner organization; Bustan. We also received glad news in the form of our first grant, courtesy of the Allan and Nesta Ferguson foundation, enough money to secure the rent on the site until June 2009, pay for materials for a tree nursery and begin work on sealing the rainwater cistern, as well as supporting the living expenses of our long-suffering project founders and volunteers.

As September turned to October the first rains fell and the season of olive harvesting began. We were delighted to be approached during this time by a group of North American and European activists called the Olive Tree Circus, who needed a base from which to conduct their activities supporting Palestinian farmers in accessing their trees and land and restoring some of the joy to this important cultural event. The olive harvest 2008 turned out to be one of the most problematic years experienced by Palestinian farmers, with more attacks by Israeli military and settlers occurring during the first 2 weeks than in 2007 altogether according to UN reports. A wave of nationalistic fervour appeared to sweep through the settler movement, coinciding with the Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Sukkouth. Arab-Jewish clashes and riots in the northern city of Akko (Acre) added fuel to the fire, and Beit Sahour was not left out of the fall out.

A group of settlers who had been active all summer, have been attempting to seize a piece of land in Beit Sahour known as Ush Ghrab (the Crow’s Nest) less than 1 km from Bustan Qaraaqa and stepping up their activities (watch a video about Ush Ghrab). The site used to be an Israeli military base, but was evacuated and handed back to Palestinian control in 2006. Since then it has been redeveloped by Beit Sahour municipality to create a community space for picnics and sport, a childrens’ playground, and the headquarters of youth development organization and a Bustan Qaraaqa partner, Paidia. In addition, a plan is underway and funding has been secured to build a childrens’ hospital there. However, Israeli settlers who oppose Palestinian control of the area have been organizing activities there in order to reassert Israeli ownership of the area (read settler organization blog).

On the Jewish holiday of Sukkouth, hundreds of Israeli settlers and activists arrived at the site. Local Palestinians and international NGO workers, including staff of Bustan Qaraaqa and Paidia, had decided to be present in the area, in order to demonstrate the fact that it is already in use by the local community, and is a valued space. The action was designed to be non-confrontational in nature, comprising a nature walk and environmental surveying activities in the nearby valley. Unfortunately, the delegation was attacked by Israeli border police and military and 6 people were seized, amongst them Bustan Qaraaqa team member, Nick Marcroft (read article).

While the other 5 were released after a few hours, Nick was detained in Israeli jail for several days before his anxious colleagues were able to obtain bail conditions. During this time, the Olive Tree Circus arrived at the farm to begin their programme, filling the house with accordion music, jugglers, stilt-walkers and good cheer. The trials of the Qaraaqa team were not yet over, as on the day of Nick’s release and the first day of the olive harvest at the farm, Alice fell from the one branch of the one olive tree on the site overhanging the newly dug cistern, and plummeted 6 metres to the ground, landing badly and ending up being stretchered off in a Red Crescent ambulance and taken to Bethlehem hospital. Fortunately no bones were broken and she was discharged on the same day, dazed and staggering, but fundamentally unharmed. The next morning Nick was re-arrested by Israeli police due to not possessing a valid visa, but was later released on condition that he obtain one before November 10th.

Throughout this whole ordeal, the members of the Olive Tree Circus proved to be wondrously supportive and tolerant, fielding phone-calls, helping to leaver Alice out of the cistern, carrying out their own activities and creating music and magic in the midst of the carnage, both at the farm and across the West Bank as they travelled to support Palestinian farmers (watch a video about the Olive Tree Circus). In addition, a wide array of volunteers from all over the world came to help the team bring in the olive harvest – over 150 kilograms from 60 trees – and to them we offer our undying gratitude, for without them the crop would have soured ungathered on the trees.

November saw the departure of the circus, and also of Alice, who left to go on a speaking tour of the UK, visiting a wide array of groups across the country; from Palestine solidarity groups to students at agricultural colleges and permaculture groups. Soon afterwards, to our lasting regret, Nick was deported, having not been granted a visa by Israeli authorities to work in the West Bank, despite having filed a request with Palestinian authorities which had been accepted.

This left the team extremely diminished, with a lone and faithful Tom at the helm of the project, and a mountain of work to get done. But just as things were looking desperate, reinforcements arrived in the form of Roman Gawel, an experienced conservation worker and qualified biologist who will volunteer long-term with the project, and Yohan Yohanson, the Dancing Dishwasher, an Olive Tree Circus survivor and resident of Auroville sustainable community in India, who span chaotically into the Qaraaqa orbit with revolutionary zeal and lent us his accumulated wisdom and joyous energy for a spell. As well as this, Steve and Rania Al Qass Collings, co-founders of the project who had been absent on parental leave, were able to rejoin the team, and so work not only continued through November but even gained momentum.

With the help of volunteers Brittany Baltimore, Erin Abshire, Neasa McNulty and Maggie Coulter, a tree nursery was constructed, winter vegetable beds were prepared, the swales were finished, additional water storage was built, a composting scheme was set in motion at the nearby SOS childrens’ village, workshops on non-violent communication and creative reuse of waste materials were carried out and field visits to local farmers were made.

In December Alice returned after a successful speaking tour, and work continued to gather pace as Bustan Qaraaqa hosted volunteer groups from Birzeit University and the International Palestinian Youth League. Huge amounts of work were accomplished: the tree nursery was finished, winter beds were prepared, pathways were built around the site, a water catchment was built above the cistern and rocks were collected for building projects. As well as all this, the team attended volunteer days in Al Wallaja (with the All Nations Cafe) and Nahalin (at the Tent of Nations), and Alice and Tom went south to give a tree planting workshop in the Bedouin village of Um Batin, near Beer Sheva, in cooperation with Bustan.

And then Christmas was upon us, and the farm turned into a huge campsite and bunk house, as all the room at the inn was rapidly filled and guests were housed in caves and under tables. We had over 30 people staying on Christmas Eve, and a joyous celebration with a barbeque, a bonfire, music and dancing. As the evening progressed we were blessed with rain, which kept falling all night, a much needed christmas present for land and people. Sadly it was not long before bad news began to dispel the festive cheer. On Christmas day, Israeli authorities demolished a straw-bale and mud eco-mosque in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Wadi El Naam (read full story), and we learned that our friend Abed in nearby Al Wallaja had received a demolition order for his small cave where he stays on his land. And then the bombs started falling on Gaza.

And so now we hang between the old year and the new, between hope and despair, watching and waiting to see how events will unfold in this troubled land. Elections are imminent in both Israel and Palestine, the political landscape if shifting and ominous clouds gather on the horizon. Of one thing we are certain, however: the environmental crisis that threatens the well-being of all the people in the region will not go away as the soil erodes and is destroyed by pollution and overgrazing, the water resources are contaminated with untreated sewage and industrial effluents and the threat of drought hangs heavy through this dry winter. So we have great plans for 2009 and a lot of work to do, both on this site and others as we continue our journey towards full sustainability, to work with our partners to increase environmental awareness and to develop and implement strategies for sustainable living that have real relevance to peoples’ lives.

Upcoming events:
In January 2009 we look forward to tree planting workshops in Um Batin and Al Wallaja. In February 2009 we will hold a 2 week Spring Action Camp (from February 17th to March 1st), when we will be working at Bustan Qaraaqa and with local farmers, learning about the Palestinian environmental situation, hiking in the Judean Desert and visiting the cities of the region. We invite people of all ages and backgrounds to participate – please email info@eag-palestine.org for further information and see the attached poster and flyer.

Support our work:
As ever, we are greatly in the debt of our volunteers, and our network of grassroots fundraisers and private contributors for the continuation of our work. We welcome volunteers to come to Palestine and work with us for whatever length of time you can spare. In addition, we are particularly in need of funding at the moment to help finish the rainwater cistern that will form the foundation of our work growing native trees and food crops. If you would like to fundraise for us, please be in contact for a support pack. If you would like to make a donation, cheques payable to Bustan Qaraaqa can be sent to The Old School, Lydfords Lane, Gillingham, Dorset, SP8 4NJ. Or, if you would like to make a monthly contribution, please email us at info@eag-palestine.org and we will send you our bank details. All help is deeply appreciated!

Special thanks:
We owe great debts of gratitude to so many people that it is impossible to list every name here, but in particular we would like to thank the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Foundation, the Bangor and Anglesey Peace and Justice group, the Permaculture Association, Ger Morgan, Mazen Qumsieh, the Olive Tree Circus, the International Palestinian Youth League, Brittany Baltimore, Erin Abshire, Neasa McNulty, Maggie Coulter, Philip and Mary Gray, Jan Bang, Alon Shepon, George Rishmawi, Adnan Atiyeh, Baha Hilo, Rebecca Vilkomerson, Ra’ed Al Mickawi, Eric Winter, Yohan Yohanson, Suzi High, Ed Hill, Michael Whiting, James Cox, Hanni Schoelerman, Yamin El Abed, Jared Malsin and Cosimo Caridi for all the many things you have done for us.

And so it remains only to wish you all joy and light for the New Year, and to hope to see you here in Bethlehem. Merry may we meet!

In peace and love,

Alice, Tom, Nick, Steve, Rania and Roman

the Bustan Qaraaqa team
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Thursday, 23 October 2008

Olive Picking @ Bustan Qaraaqa this weekend

This weekend - Friday October 24th to Sunday October 26th, we will be harvesting our olives at Bustan Qaraaqa. Anyone in the area is warmly invited to join us, learn more about the project, and meet the Bustan Qaraaqa team and the Imaginaction Olive Tree Circus group.

If you can make it, please give us a call on 02 2748994 and we will give you directions of how to find us.

Hope to see you there,

All the best from the Tortoise Garden,

Alice, Nick, Tom and Steve

The Bustan Qaraaqa team.
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Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Israeli Settlers and Soldiers attack Palestinians harvesting olives

Olive Tree Campaign (www.ej-ymca.org)

Keep Hope Alive


October 20, 2008

Increasing violence during Olive Harvest 2008
Israeli soldiers & settlers attacks on farmers

A report from the UN declares that there has been as many attacks on farmers so far this year, as in 2007 all together. Even Israeli politicians have declared that the situation is getting out of control. Prior to the olive harvest season, Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed that the Israeli defense force would prevent the settlers from assaulting farmers during their olive harvest. Instead, the Israeli soldiers accompanied settlers in harassing farmers in several occasions during the last two weeks. Farmers are being forced to start their harvesting before the actual season has started, or will have to leave their trees half-full of olives. According to the Israeli High Court ruling of 2006, it is a violation of the law for soldiers to obstruct farmers from harvesting.

- http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=32281
- http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3735&Itemid=1


Ramallah Area

Ni'lin 10.10.08 - One hundred Israeli and international peace activists accompanied farmers to the olive harvest. The soldiers used teargas and sound bombs towards the farmers and peace activists. The Israeli soldiers injured ten people, including two children.


Bil'in 10.10.08 – Farmers and international peace activists were obstructed to reach the olive groves behind the wall. Israeli soldiers shot at them with rubber bullets, gas and concussion grenades.


Ni'lin 3.10.08 – Israeli and international peace activists clashed with settlers as they accompanied farmers to their olive groves on the other side of the wall.



Nablus Area

Azmut 18.10.08 – Israeli settlers from the settlement Alon Moreh attacked a Palestinian farmer by throwing stones at him. The farmer was sent to the hospital for treatment.


Nablus area 16.10.08 – Sheep released on olive field.

Israeli settlers from the settlement Itamar released a flock of sheep into an olive grove. Several olive and fig trees was injured by the animals.


Gith 13.10.08 – Israeli settlers cut down some 20 olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers.


Salim 12.10.08 – Soldiers prevented farmers from accessing their land. The farmers are cut from their lands by the bypass road linking the two settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh..


Qrayut 12.10.08 - Settlers preventing farmers to access their land. Settlers blocked the path of farmers wanting to start their olive harvesting.


Hawwara/Burin 11.10.08 – Palestinian farmers were attacked by settlers from Yithzar settlement. The settlers came bearing machine guns and harassed the farmers by throwing stones at them, and then cut down five olive trees. Soldiers then came to the area, only to order the farmers to leave their land. The Israeli soldiers claimed the farmers did not have the proper permission to enter their olive groves.


Nablus area 10.10.08 - Israeli settlers injure six Palestinians as they are harvesting olives. The settlers threw stones and beat the farmers. Among the victims were two children.


Tell 06.10.08 - Israeli soldiers interrupted farmers while harvesting olives. The farmers had been picking olives for a couple of hours when soldiers came and said they had to leave because the area was apparently a “closed military zone”.

Salim 06.10.08 – Farmers discover theft and damage to their olive trees. The village had been granted protection from the Israeli District Co-ordination Office for three days during the olive harvest season.



18.10.8 – Journalist injured by settlers while helping family harvest olives. Another two peace activist was injured in the attack.


3.10.08 – Settlers clash with Rabbis for Human Rights as they protect farmers while harvesting olives. In the aftermath, the peace activists were accused to have attacked the settlers.




Tulkarem Area

Al Ras 04.10.08 - Settlers supported by Israeli soldiers forced a family by gunpoint to leave their tractor and carry on by foot, leaving most of their equipment behind in order to reach their lands. Israeli authorities have during the last couple of weeks set fire to large areas of agricultural land in the area.





Kafr Qaddum 20.10.08 – More than one hundred Israeli settlers attacked and beat up farmers and international volunteers as they were harvesting olives at Jabal Odala. Several people was injured in the attack.


Qalqilya 16.10.08 – The olive groves of a Palestinian farmer in the village of Kafr Qaddum were set fire to by Israeli settlers from the Quedumin.


Kafr al-Labad and Shufa 16.10.08 – Israeli soldiers impose road block: A bulldozer was set up on an agricultural road thereby preventing farmers to bring their olive harvest to the olive press.


Kafr Qaddum 05.10.08 – Farmers preparing to harvest olives was attacked by a group of Israeli soldiers and settlers. The soldiers claimed the land belonged to the settlement of Qedumim.



Jenin area

Jenin 18.10.08 – A group of settlers from the illegal settlement Mevo Dotan attacked a Palestinian family during their olive harvest. The settlers also stole the olives harvested by the family. One of the farmers was injured due to the attacks.


The Israeli settlers regularly harass the surrounding villagers by burning their lands, shooting at Palestinians, stealing their farming equipment, and attacking houses. The farmers has in total lost more than fifty percent of their olive groves.


Further readings

- http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3735&Itemid=1
- http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2008/10/01/settlers-engaged-in-price-tag-campaign/
- http://www.imemc.org/article/57224
- http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=71419§ionid=351020202
- http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1222017576844&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
- http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1222017576865&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
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Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Abu Zakariya - a Bethlehem Farmer

abu zakaria

Abu Zakariya is from Al Khader, a formerly and predominantly agricultural area at the centre of Bethlehem district that stands to lose the vast majority of its farmland if construction of the separation wall continues unheeded. Since the construction of the wall on the hill tops behind the residential part of the town, Abu Zakiriya’s journey to the family farmland has been at least doubled. The 2km detour he makes with his donkey takes him out and around the town, through an Israeli military ‘flying checkpoint’ and then down the hard shoulder of a busy dual carriageway – the Jerusalem, Hebron route 60 – a now infamous settler Bethlehem bypass road used by settlers to access not just Heron but a number of large Israeli West Bank settlements. There are no facilities or facilitations for farmers on this road. After walking down the dangerous hard shoulder for more than 1km farmers must then cross the busy dual carriage way unaided.

Abu Zakariya’s family land is a relatively large, 50 dunums (5 hectares), consisting predominantly of ecologically important ‘marquis’ scrub and trees including oak, blackthorn, pistachio, carob, as well as a number of cultivated fruit varieties. For most part however, due to older age and the little help Abu Zakariya receives, he is only able to farm perhaps just one dunum of this land, upon which he has a number of new fruit trees and grape vines, as well as older olive trees. Certainly the most significant factor contributing to the demise of Palestinian farmland in general is the issue of access. While Israel may negate claims that it is stopping Palestinian farmers from using their land, especially in areas that Israel considers of strategic importance, it is certainly hindering farmers to such an extent that to farm this land viably is becoming increasingly difficult as well as far from an enjoyable experience. When the hard work that goes into this land gives very little return it is easy to understand how family land is slowly being given up in favour of more profitable business. The younger generations are of course in need of higher wages, especially in consideration of the cost to support the large families that Muslims tend to have in this region. If Palestinians want to hold onto this land, however, huge steps must be taken to help farmers like Abu Zakariya. When land such as his sits untended for more than three years Israel has given itself the power to confiscate it as ‘state land’, declare it militarily closed, and ultimately at a later date ‘develop’ upon it. If money could be raised to repair farm tracks and allow ease of access for larger trucks at harvest time, to transport farmers themselves to their land, to build rainwater storage cisterns, this land can be saved and a viable healthy living made from it.

If anybody is interested in working as a volunteer with farmers such as Abu Zakariya, please contact us.
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Saturday, 4 October 2008

Abu Juda, a Bethlehem Farmer

Abu Juda

Abu Juda is a 61 year old farmer. His land, whilst inside Bethlehem Governorate, has long been inside an Israeli West Bank settlement, but only recently separated from Bethlehem by Israel's separation "fence". Since the completion of that section of the wall, Abu Juda has to make an 8km detour walk, with his donkey, to reach his land. At a military checkpoint in the wall Abu Juda must show his ID and permit to farm his own land, land that has been in his familiy for generations.
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Abu Akrum, a Bethlehem Farmer

Abu Akrum - Bethlehem

Abu Akrum lives in Bethlehem's Deheisha refugee camp. His family was displaced from their village near the "green line" as a result of Israeli violence during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Of all the people I have met in Palestine Abu Akrum is one of the most inspiring. He turned an area of cactus overrun land, within the refugee camp, into a thriving jungle of a garden that provides many of his family's vegetable needs.

10 years ago Abu Akrum bought a 23,000 square metre area of farm land in an area of bethlehem district called Al Khader. He now makes a small living as a farmer of fruit, vegetables, and honey. This living is, however, far from easy. The land that Abu Akrum farms is now on the wrong side of Israel's separation wall, and upon the wall's completion there is no guaruntee that Abu Akrum will be able to use this land as he does now. The dirt track that connects Abu Akrum's land to the main Jerusalem-Hebron road is in a state of such disrepair that to farm this vast area of farmland in a way that is economically viable is next to impossible.

Recently Abu Akrum's farmland summer house was broken into and set alight, ruining over 1km of irrigation piping as well as tools. With a small Israeli outpost settlement just over the hill above his land, Abu Akrum suspects the settlers. There are many other reports of abuse of Palestinian farmers by Israeli settlers in this particular area, including claims of farmers being shot at.

In the background of the above picture is the Israeli settlement of Betar illit, another colony illegal under international law but now considered by israel as part of the defacto state. Betar illit is on the hill tops above the village of Wadi Fukin, another formerly highly productive area within the west bank. Now, however, due to israel's economic constriction of palestinian farmers Wadi Fukin is slowly becoming a village operating at little more than self-sufficiency.

Abu Akrum
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Thursday, 2 October 2008

Bustan Qaraaqa to host Imaginaction Group

Bustan Qaraaqa staff are excited to be hosting the Olive Tree Circus from Imaginaction, a travelling theatre arts company, for the second half of October. Imaginaction, a north-American group, are joining us in Palestine for the Olive Harvest, and with us will be supporting the activities of the Olive Tree Campaign of the East Jerusalem YMCA, helping Palestinian farmers to harvest olives in areas that are threatened with confiscation or are difficult to access.

We are also working together to create an exciting program of workshops and performances throughout the West Bank - watch this space for updates
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ARIJ report on the activities of Israeli settlers and occupation forces in the Bethlehem area during July 2008

• The Israeli Occupation Army removed Al Container checkpoint northeast
of Bethlehem city. Maan News (Jul 2, 2008).

• The IOF searched a house belonging to the family of Mahmoud Hassan Al
Wardian in Bethlehem city. PCHRGAZA (Jul 3, 2008).

• The IOF moved into Al Duhaisha refugee camp to the south of Bethlehem
city raided and searched a house belonging to the family of Ziad Rahhal.
PCHRGAZA (Jul 3, 2008).

• The Israeli Occupation Forces moved into Al Shawawra village to the east
of Bethlehem city raided and searched a house belonging to the family of
‘Ali Mohammed Hamdan. PCHRGAZA (Jul 3, 2008).

• The Israeli Occupation troops staged into Al Khadr town south of
Bethlehem city and broke into the houses of Muhammad Hussein Gharib
and his sons. Wafa (Jul 7, 2008).

• The IOF staged into Al Khadr town south of Bethlehem city and broke into
the house of Ramzi Salah the mayor of the town. Wafa (Jul 10, 2008).

• Some 60 Israeli settlers, including a Knesset Member and local rabbis
invaded Osh Ghrab camp in Beit Sahour city. IMEMC & IsraelNN (Jul 11,

• The IOF invaded Al Khadr town south of Bethlehem city and broke into
Sbeih stores, causing extensive loses to the properties. The IOF also raided
and searched a house belonging to the family of Nadeem Mahmoud
‘Eissa. PCHRGAZA & Wafa (Jul 12, 2008).

• Israeli Occupation troops raided an apartment in the old section of Al
Khadr town west of Bethlehem city, shouting at the inhabitants and
claiming that a Molotov cocktail had been thrown at an Israeli vehicle in
the area. Meanwhile Israeli Occupation forces stormed Wadi Em ʹAli
neighborhood of Bethlehem and arrested people. Separately, undercover
Israeli forces infiltrated ‘Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. The Israeli
military vehicles infiltrated ‘Aida refugee camp north of Bethlehem city
and surrounded the houses of Ayman Al‐ʹAmareen and Hammuda Srur
and arrested them after ransacking both houses. Maannews (July 13, 2008).

• The Israeli Occupation Forces closed Al Container checkpoint east of
Bethlehem Governorate and carried out an intensive inspection campaign
which obstructed the Pedestrian and vehicular movements for hours.
Wafa (July 13, 2008).

• More than 100 Israeli settlers invaded Osha Ghrab camp in Beit Sahour
city and tried to construct tents in the area in an attempt to erect new
outpost. Wafa (Jul 14, 2008).

• The Israeli Occupation Forces staged into Nahhalin village west of
Bethlehem city and carried out house to house search campaign after
forcing dwellers to evacuate their houses under the threat of weapons.
Wafa (Jul 14, 2008).

• The IOF moved into Bethlehem city and raided and searched a house
belonging to the family of ‘Abed ‘Aziz al‐Hraimi. PCHRGAZA (July 15,

• The IOF moved into Beit Ta’mar village, east of Bethlehem, raided and
searched a house belonging to the family of Hmaid Mohammed Souman.
PCHRGAZA (July 15, 2008).

• The Israeli Occupation Army invaded Beit Fajjar town south of Bethlehem
city, closed all its main entrances with earth mounds and cement blocks
and took over a four‐ storey residential building owned by Muhammad
Sham’on, turning it into military post after forcing all dwellers to evacuate
it. PNN & Quds (Jul 15, 2008).

• The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected a plan to build 800 new
housing units in Bittar ‘Illit settlement but he agreed on issuing bids to
build 286 units in the settlement. Haaretz (Jul 16, 2008).

• The Israeli Occupation Petrol set up a temporary checkpoint at the
entrance of Al Shawawreh village east of Bethlehem city. Israeli Soldiers
stopped and searched vehicles, detained passengers after confiscating
their personal ID cards which hampered their arrival to their destination.
Wafa (July 23, 2008).

• Israeli Occupation forces accompanied by bulldozers and trucks to
transport machinery and equipment staged into the industrial zone east of
Beit Fajjar city and started razing the front yards of some factories and
confiscated more than 20 machinery, including bulldozers and machinery
and equipment for digging and cutting stone; initial losses are estimated at
millions of dollars as the occupation forces destroyed a number of stone
cut machines, each of which costs about a quarter of a million dollars.
Among Factoriesʹ owners, the following were known: Khalil Naʹim
thawabteh, Asʹad Mazen Jaradat, Muhammad Hassan Thawabteh, Nabeeh
Hasan Diriyah, Hatim Ahmed Natsheh. Maannews (July 2008).

• Six Israeli military vehicles invaded the village of Al Manyia south of
Bethlehem city and imposed a closure lasted for a couple of hours. Israeli
troops searched and ransacked several houses forcing civilians out of their
homes under the threat of weapon. The troops kidnapped Nawaf Abu
Nur, 44, after damaging his residence. IMEMC (July 24, 2008).

• Twenty sheep died after Israeli settlers sprayed the fields located in close
parameters of Tequʹ settlements south of Bethlehem city with poisonous
substances in the lands. Sheep belong to Mahmoud Hussein ʹAli Sabbah.
Wafa (July 28, 2008).

• The Israeli Occupation Forces stormed the house of Muhammad Saʹade al
muhseri composed of three floors in Al Khader old city west of Bethlehem
city alongside Bypass Road 60 and carried out an intensive house search
after detaining the families in one room. The house is inhabited by three
families. Maannews (July 30, 2008).

• Around 70 Israeli settlers invaded Osh Ghurab Park east of Beit Sahour
and forced international and local volunteers to stop the painting work
that they were doing in the site. The settlers, started to paint over the
murals, and to kick the painting buckets. The Army arrived at the site but
made no move to stop the settler provocation. It is worth mentioning that
the painting action was organized by a number of organizations in
Bethlehem area, including the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement
between People, PAIDIA, Alternative Information Center (AIC) and
Decolonizing Architecture in addition to a number of volunteers in
Bethlehem area. IMEMC (July 30, 2008).

• The Israeli Occupation Bulldozers continued expanding Al Container
checkpoint in Abu Dis city on the expanse of Palestinian Lands located in
the vicinity of the Checkpoint in an attempt to transfer it into a crossing
terminal. The checkpoint connects the southern and middle West Bank
Governorates with the northern Governorates. Al Quds (July 31, 2008).

Read more!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Olive Picking in Al Walaja, October 3rd - October 4th

A message from our friends in Al Wallaja:

Dear friends,

As the summer sun gives way to autumn winds, the olives are ripening and the time for their harvest is soon to come. Though picking olives seems like a simple enough activity, it has become an increasingly difficult task for Palestinians whose land is under threat by Israel.

As such, on Friday and Saturday, 3-4 October, from 9:00 am until evening (around 17:00), we will be joining two friends, Abed and Abu Abdullah, to help them harvest their olive trees.

Many of you have already been to Wallajeh, have heard Abed's story and have participated in activities that stand with him in friendship and solidarity. For those who haven't, here is a brief background:

located on the southeastern-most hill of Jerusalem, Wallajeh was formally annexed to
the State of Israel in 1967, but its residents, who mostly live today in Daheisha refugee camp, were not given residency status and are therefore not legally allowed to enter their lands. More than a decade ago, Abed left the dismal conditions of the camp to live in a cave in Wallajeh and plant trees on his ancestral lands. Unfortunately, this did not suit the plans of Israeli politicians and real estate developers. Strategically situated between Gilo and Gush Etzion settlements, there are plans pending approval to build a new settlement on the lands of Wallajeh to be called Giv'at Yael. The contractors have been working closely with the municipality and the army to use every measure possible to embitter Abed's life and force him off his land. He, along with his many friends, has stood strong against all their attempts.

**Directions by Car**: *From the train station at Malha, continue to the traffic circle directly behind; turn right toward Ein Yael. Continue on this road until you get a checkpoint, on the right there will be a dirt path. You can park there and go by foot or brave the steep incline by car.**

Directions by Transport: *There will be transportation to Wallajeh leaving Malha at 9:00.*

Please let us know if and when you plan to join us, if you need transportation or if you have extra space in your car! Also, bring lunch, water, and protection against the sun. For any further questions call Sarah on 054 736 8419

With many wishes for a new year that will bring an end to the Occupation.

Read more!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

August Newsletter

Dear friends,

As the summer heat haze begins to dissipate in the Palestinian Territories and we start to look forward to the autumn planting and the winter rain, we at Bustan Qaraaqa would like to take a moment to fill you in on what we have been up to over the last few months and to let you know more about our plans for the future. We would also like to thank all of our many volunteers, guests, friends and supporters for your ongoing help with the project which has made it possible for us to achieve all that we have done.

The story so far:

Bustan Qaraaqa was founded in February 2008 by Steve, Tom, Alice and Nick, four young British environmentalists who came together with similar ideas about the need for a grassroots environmental movement in the Palestinian Territories. The aim of the project is to create a model permaculture farm with the aim of propagating a grassroots permaculture movement to help address the humanitarian and environmental problems facing the Palestinian people, and to create an international movement calling for environmental justice for Palestinians (learn more about the project).

The four were lucky to find an amazing site with a beautiful old farmhouse, outbuildings, caves and 12 dunums (4 acres) of land in a valley in the ancient town of Beit Sahour (Shepherds’ Fields), close to the city of Bethlehem. After lengthy negotiations with the owners of the site, a five year renewable lease was secured and the process of renovating the house could begin.

In the meantime, the group helped organize a series of environmental workshops with local youth focusing on the problem of waste management, in cooperation with Paidia International Development; and helped organize and attended a week long permaculture course at Marda Permaculture Farm in Salfit governorate (listen to radio broadcast about the course).

In April, work to make the house habitable began and in May, Alice, Nick and Tom were able to move onto the site. By June the guesthouse was open, and the first guests and volunteers began arriving. The first in a series of weekly volunteer events was held on June 15th, with a group coming together to help install a greywater system to filter and reuse water from the showers and sinks in the house for growing food. This event was well attended, and received coverage in the British broadsheet newspaper, the Guardian (read article).

Since June, the project has been going from strength to strength. The site now boasts a greywater recycling system, composting bays, a composting toilet, a series of swales across the valley floor and the beginnings of a huge cistern for rainwater harvesting. The guesthouse has hosted over 55 visitors from countries all over the world including Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Mauritius, Mexico, the USA, Canada, and New Zealand, as well as Palestine.

Bustan Qaraaqa staff have been active in the community as well, paying field visits to nearby communities, giving lectures and workshops on environmental themes at the nearby Alternative Information Centre (read about our latest workshop) and hosting groups for educational activities at Bustan Qaraaqa itself. The largest of these was a group of 50 young people from the Birzeit International Summer Work Camp, who spent 5 hours at Bustan Qaraaqa learning about permaculture and the Palestinian environment, and surveying and digging rainwater harvesting ditches.

The team also participated in organizing a fact-finding tour to the Negev desert in Israel which was attended by over 50 people from all over the world, aimed at better understanding the water situation in the Bedouin communities, in cooperation with our partner organizations, Bustan and LifeSource (read tour write-up).

Ongoing projects and future plans:

We are currently working on many levels and with many organizations to encourage grassroots environmental activism in the local area and to advocate for environmental justice for Palestinians.

Community Initiatives:

In cooperation with Beit Sahour municipality, we are attempting to organize a community composting scheme in two neighbourhoods in our immediate vicinity, raising awareness of the landfill problem and collecting a valuable organic resource for growing food.

In cooperation with the Phoenix Centre in Dheisha refugee camp, we are hoping to organize a series of workshops and community initiatives to address the most pressing problems currently facing refugees: water shortage, waste management and food security.

Environmental Education:

We will continue our participation in and support for the Paidia IMPACT program, an initiative to foster the desire and ability of young people to make positive contributions in their communities through nurturing principles of leadership, tolerance and environmental awareness.
We will also be holding a series of workshops with the AIC Womens’ Group, looking at household water conservation and pollution prevention.

We hope to attract more groups from every sector of society to attend workshops and training at Bustan Qaraaqa, and to these ends are working to build better networks with the local community.

In addition to these group events, we are hoping to attract a number of undergraduate and postgraduate students to Bustan Qaraaqa as the new academic year starts, offering our resources and expertise to support them in the execution of the research elements of their degrees.

Implementation of the permaculture model and ecosystem regeneration:

The design for the integrated guesthouse and farm along permaculture principles is gradually progressing towards completion and sustainability. The design components will continue to be built and implemented as we have the resources to do so, taking care never to miss the opportunity to use our experiences as educational workshops for interested neighbours and guests. In the coming months the water-harvesting earthworks will be extended across the whole site. The water catchment area of the house and yards will be constructed and cleaned. The winter water storage cisterns will be completed and sealed. A bathroom, laundry, propagation area and workshop will be built with water filtration and reuse and solar energy harvesting systems. A native tree nursery will be established to grow a diverse stock of species to reforest the site and supply land owners interested in replicating agroforestry techniques pioneered at Bustan Qaraaqa. To supply the nursery with wild native stock, seed and germplasm will be collected from the remaining wild trees of the Judean Hills and Jordan Valley. With the first of the winter rains the tree planting can begin coupled with sowing the winter crops and sheet mulching with cardboard and compost.

International Outreach:

Bustan Qaraaqa has attracted many visitors already and has a number of long-term volunteers signed up for the winter who are committed to working with us for several months. As we develop as a project, we will create detailed volunteer programs for Gap Year students and summer volunteers, although we will continue to accept volunteers on an ad hoc basis as well.

In addition, together with the Siraj Center and Bustan, we are developing a program of short (1 week to 10 days) environmental tours of the Palestinian Territories and Israel, aimed at educating international visitors about the environmental dimensions of the political struggles that are taking place in the region, and the work that is being done to counter environmental degradation, cultural erosion and socioeconomic decay.

Upcoming events:

Bustan Qaraaqa team member Alice will be visiting the UK this winter from November 6th until December 8th, and touring the country with a presentation about the environmental crisis in the Palestinian Territories and the politics of people and the environment. If you would like to invite Alice to speak to a group in your area please get in touch – be aware we will need some help with travel expenses!

Special thanks:

We would like to take this opportunity to give particular thanks to some people whose support has been crucial to the project, without whose help we would not be where we are now: Kristel Letschert, Ala Hilu, Jan Bang, Nadi Farraj, Adnan Atiyeh, Simone Awad, Murad Alkhuffash, George Rishmawi, Ricca Edmondson, Faith Rowold, Philip and Mary Gray, Susan Koppelman, Nachy Kanfer, Phil Behan, Nathan Dannison and Laura and Dennis Hampton.

Support Bustan Qaraaqa:

So far Bustan Qaraaqa has been sustained entirely by the dedication of its founders and volunteers, grassroots fundraising, revenue from the guesthouse and the generosity of a few individuals. We are working on securing more stable sources of funding, but until we do, we continue to depend on the support of our friends. If you would like to visit us here in Bethlehem, hold an event for us or donate to the project, please get in touch.

Our next news letter will be coming out in December – for updates on the project until then, please visit our blog: www.greenintifada.blogspot.com, or contact us at info@eag-palestine.org.

We wish you all the best from the Tortoise Garden and hope to see at least some of you in Bethlehem before too long,


Alice, Nick, Steve and Tom

The Bustan Qaraaqa team.

Read more!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


The other day I was asked if our project was in any way political. How was our project to be seen in the light of promoting democracy? While I would like for simplicity’s sake to declare this project apolitical in terms of party politics, this is not to say that our true sentiments are not those of activism.

To the traditional conservative democrat, the act of farming land, or collecting winter rainwater, designing a waste water recycling system, recycling our household waste may not seem political, or might not appear to behold any sort of power, but it is in these very acts that we can as individuals place ourselves at the heart of the true democratic process.

What is the democratic process at the level of the individual if not the potential to directly affect change within the communities in which we live? What is the democratic process if not the potential to create the communities we dream of living in - free from excessive bureaucracy, - free from the apathy of assuming ourselves powerless in shaping the future.

By democracy, I do not mean the “democratic” economic model so unquestioningly prescribed by western governments, but the democracy that begins with personal empowerment. Only when individuals play an active role in bettering local society and are able to see directly the fruits of their labour, only then will they feel included, empowered and further able to contribute positively to the community in which they live.

Only when individuals can look at their community, their environment, and believe with confidence that they have the ability to change things for the better, and from there set about achieving this transformation, only then should we consider democracy to be working.

If we want to see progressive change, it is up to us, as individuals, to instigate that change. Only then can we be truly happy in the knowledge that our ideas and thoughts can be translated into the communities we want to see.

By choosing to harvest our own water, by choosing to treat and reuse our water, by generating our own electricity, by growing our own food, by choosing to attain sustainable cooperation with our neighbours, in all these things we are making a statement. We are saying that we as individuals have the knowledge to survive, we have true respect for the people around us and the land we share, and we have the ability to make a difference.

When we give ourselves this freedom, we are declaring politics accessible to anyone, not just through the ballot box, but by what we do directly, through our own actions.

Read more!