Last chance to save Bedouin school

I visited this Bedouin school last year and am horrified to learn that it is under threat.  Read more about its fate HERE and Eid Khamis account of how it came to be built: He says:

Eid Khamis tells the story of the Khan al Ahmar school

Our children were travelling 15 miles to Jericho or ten miles to Bethany to get to school.  Many of the girls did not even go to school. We asked for a school, but were refused. So we decided to build a school ourselves here at Khan al Ahmar to serve five Bedouin villages.
We are forbidden to build anything using breeze blocks or cement, so we looked on the internet and we saw that in South America, in Brazil and Argentina, they are building with used car tyres and mud. So we brought that picture here and we started to build a school, not just the Bedouin but international volunteers from Europe who were working with us, the Sisters of Camboni from Italy, French activists and a Dutch NGO.

The Israeli authorities caught sight of the building before it was finished and they put a stop-work order on us.  If they came back and found anyone helping us to build the school, they would have immediately arrested them and taken them to court if they were Israelis or taken them to the airport and put them on a plane – and probably banned them from returning for ten years – if they were Europeans.

So we had a meeting and decided to split into two groups. One group would go on working and a second group would be watchmen, keeping look-out.  Whenever the Israeli police or army came by, we would dress the European and Israeli women as if they were Bedouin. The men would hide in a tunnel. And that way we finished the school.

The people from the nearby Israeli settlement were using a drone to spy on our village, so as soon as the school was finished, they called the army and the army put a demolition order on the school.

So I invited the head of the settlers’ village council and the headteacher of the settler school to visit our school. They came and the teachers came without children and they said what a wonderful school you have made out of garbage! A week later we got a court order  and it said you built a school on our land and it’s a threat to our security and our lives.

In 2014 the Italian Consul-General visited and we asked him for a donation of some playground equipment for the school. Two weeks later the Consul-General arrived with a lorry full of equipment for the school and the settlers activated their drone and saw the lorry and immediately called the army.  The army came and took away the lorry and all of the playground equipment.  The Consul-General was standing there watching it all with his own eyes.

And two weeks later, after he had used his diplomatic channels to ask why they had confiscated the equipment, the reply came that as you had to dig ten centimetres into the ground and put in cement to anchor the equipment, the playground equipment was regarded as a building and confiscated.

Now there are 150 children studying in this school from the age of six to fourteen and there is also an out-of-school-hours literacy course for adults. Once a week Medical Aid for Palestinians runs a clinic in the school.  There are also plans for English classes and human rights classes.

There will be a hearing in the Israeli High Court in December. We fear they will use the Christmas break to demolish the school. It would not be the first time that the High Court ordered a demolition at the end of the year, because at Christmas all of the diplomats and the international organisations and all of the journalists are away.  It’s taking advantage of that fact.

A generation ago the Bedouin lived totally independent and sustainable lives.  We didn’t need any outside help.  We used to have 1,600 sheep and goats and 28 camels.  Then they came and declared most of our land to be a ‘military area’ and after a few years they gave that land to the settlers to build settlements.

Now our biggest problem is the settlers.  They kill animals, they beat people up, they commit arson, they cut down trees.
Now if we go 600 metres into the desert it is a closed military zone.  There is nowhere for the Bedouin to graze their animals.  There are no markets for us to sell our food in since they built the wall to stop us going into Jerusalem.

Now we have barely 240 head of sheep and goats and no camels. Every year we are falling further below the poverty line, so we are knocking on the doors of all the humanitarian organisations asking for help.

We do not choose to live like this. We see our future as being through education. We have Bedouin professors, doctors, PhDs, but our children often have to go abroad to get their degrees because they have not done military service.

A consortium of five organisations is giving us caravans, toilet and shower blocks, solar panels, but when the organisations come to deliver aid, it is being confiscated on the way and if we build any structures, even solar panels, they come with bulldozers to demolish them or carry them away.

Donor agencies don’t know how to help. The Israelis are taking away their visas and preventing them from coming in. They want to take the Bedouin out of this corridor between Jerusalem and Jericho. That will cut the West Bank in two and it will also prevent Palestine from having Jerusalem as its capital or from being a viable state.  If this happens, it is the last bullet in the head of peace.

It is not just the future of our school and our village that is at stake. It is the future of Palestine.