www.banksy.co.uk - adaptation by shadow

Friday, 22 May 2009

'FABULOUS!!': Monthly textile observer

Pleasingly, this post follows on from the last quite well. Almost as if it were planned... almost. I’ve compiled 2 events into a kind of irritating story-with-a-moral that reviewers lazily refer to as ‘compelling romps’. This romp was a 30km walk east from the vicinity of Bethlehem down and down to well below sea level at the Dead Sea, past Mar Saba and across the width of the Judean desert.

The Qaraaqa staff awoke with confusion and anger at upsetting o’clock; with much head shaking and mouthing ineffectual syllables, they congressed with the others – including the Piadia staff. The marauders lumbered away only encouraged by the promise of a barbeque and drinks after the hitch back. Apart from the odd band of curious children and a shepherd chasing his donkey down the mountain then up the next,
things were fairly uneventful until the Kidron at Mar Saba.

To continue, the river had to be crossed. The water courses are astonishingly polluted around the West Bank due to under-development of waste-treatment infrastructure. In fact, chlorine levels in the Kidron are 223ppm rather than the permissible peak for safe drinking water 4ppm. So the monks at Mar Saba would be unlikely to survive another 1700 years had they continued to rely on the Kidron as their water source.

A short, sharp climb later and the desert proper loomed. A 100 strong convoy of camels, young in tow, loped across the dunes and sauntered aloofly past.

Miscreants in jeeps hollered, ploughing through dust, photographed by giggling girls. At one point a roller leapt from a stone next to the sulking river and swept away in a shimmer of blue. It glided along the saddening polluted scar in the land that led across the desert towards journeys end. The stench and sheer quantity of rubbish seemed to stir something in the band. All of them lamented the obligatory flushing their inferior toilet designs necessitated. The staff of Bustan were pleased! Pausing only to fuel themselves with sundry items tenderised by the walk, the line of exploring misanthropes snaked east. The cliffs down to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, opened a surprising view towards Jordan. The walk had been at or below sea level for the past few miles and still worlds opened up below. The Dead Sea squatted across the width of the valley, its extremity vanishing south towards the Red Sea. The view of the mushrooming currents of effluent trudging out of the desert into the Dead Sea 10km south of the tourist resorts offered a real visual no amount of lectures and education could substitute.

The descent down the final cliffs went without a hitch and the bbq was actually inspiring! Thanks to Jason and Sarah for that!

On to this past weekend. Friday saw the Ertas lettuce festival preceded by a walk and talk by Ertasi farmer and activist Awad Abuswai. Internationals and locals had congressed in considerable number. Laughter and Dabka should have drawn the eye; the scuttling Lizards, the – all too rare - crystal clear spring or the impressive ‘Solomon’s pools’.

Instead, the eye gravitated to the rubbish caught in the foliage, trampled into the ground and floating through the pools of cool water emanating from clefts in the rock.

The walk went past rusting, disused pump-houses full of stern cylinders, depressed in their dysfunction. The same ilk of harrowing and sad tales - as is familiar to those who have spent time here – were recounted to shocked ears. The group was rallied at a spot visited last year by some of the Bustan staff. Where once, 58 apricot trees had stood, now was rubble, a road and a large storm drain/sewage outlet.

The nearby settlement of Zayit – part of the Gush Etzion bloc - perched imperiously on a hill; the outlet to serve it and upstream settlements and deposit their untreated sewage in the uppermost extent of the valley in which Ertas nestles. Ertas, currently the envy of much of the surrounding area for its springs, faces an uncertain future. As the community congregated at a stage for speeches and dancing, our friend – Abed – was waiting for us to come and finish the project we had started.

I previously wrote about the wadi separating Wallaje and Gilo. While still beautiful, it is starting to crack and wilt in the heat, the annuals panicking and throwing out their seed. ‘Rex’ - the normally friendly dog lay dejected, having been assaulted by 7 wild dogs the previous night. The time spent at Ertas had seen the Israeli contingent of activists that work Abed’s land beavering away at what looked – to us – glorious: a structure that was mere hours away from being a fully functioning compost toilet.

We made walls (a sprite tarpaulin), a roof and a floor. The sprite logo on something designed to accumulate human waste seemed somewhat apt and made us very happy - to the point where we laughed (we don’t have a television).

We had only to hang the door and it could be launched. It came to be and now you can go and crap on Abed’s land and you’ll be doing him a favour.
We have preached about the issues of waste in the west-bank on this site and may others. Any human with half a brain knows the importance of water. But the past week had realised it for me. This simple structure, made voluntarily by people doing favours in their time off, built primarily with reclaimed materials is a symbol of the power of simple and affirmative action and the pride and freedom it can bring. Through 3 Fridays, we had managed to make Abed’s land easier for his visitors as there was a toilet built to cope with crowds, reduced the environmental damage and risks of downstream eutrophying effects and we had given Abed a large source of organic nutrients with which to supplement his land. That’s one down, 5 million to go! Actually, we should be aiming for the whole earth as your toilet wastes on average 30 litres of drinking water a day. A bedou family of 3 in the Jordan valley survives on less than that! This has struck a chord with some of our friends who now make the effort to use our compost toilet - if they can - to save this country valuable water and to donate their lovely, nitrogenous packets of happiness!

OK, it was neither ‘compelling’ nor a ‘romp’ but at least it’s over!

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