Caroline continues to share the stories of those she encountered on her overseas visit to the Holy Land as part of CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme.
During January 2019 CAFOD’s Gap Year programme conducted a visit to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. These stories have been transcribed as faithfully as possible and share stories and experiences from those who have experienced working for the occupying power and living under occupation have been collected and displayed. These stories emerge from a visit in partnership with both Israeli and Palestinian organisations, and with people of all faiths and none. It should be noted that the views expressed are that of the individuals and not the views of CAFOD.
I am 65 years old and I can’t visit Jerusalem because I have no freedom of movement, but I should be able to because of my age. Where I live, Burin, it is the hotspot of the West Bank. Extreme violence is committed due to the outposts nearby and the settlers. In this area the settlers attack houses as well as farmers. We experience much suffering as a result of the occupation. I can tell you a lot of sad stories of Palestinians living under occupation. It is part of settler policy to try and push us from our lands and prevent us from working by attacking our lands. We can see that these outposts which are violent towards us are still expanding with the support of Israel, often we see swimming pools, gardens and a good water supply in the hills even though these outposts are illegal. The most violent season is harvest. Settlers cut the olive trees or poison them, this makes our lives even harder as lots of families get their main income from the olive harvest.
I have suffered from settler violence since 2005, I have filed 42 testimonials about the violence. All of my complaints haven’t been investigated, but I continue to resist. Settlers surround me, I have pictures and documentation but there is no punishment. In my home they attack me with their dogs and their weapons in the middle of the night. They do it because they face no punishment, the Israeli Defence Force come and arrest me for making complaints against the settlers. They say you’re giving us a headache, just stay near the village, but I will continue to go onto my land. A big part my land is now inside the settlements and the outpost buildings. I spend most of my time in the mountains but other farmers are afraid. I am not afraid, I am known as the fighter farmer. In the last two days settlers have thrown stones at my leg and I can’t walk as well but I will not give them what they want. I’ve been shot at, I know I am in danger all the time. I am going to my land next week near the outpost, I am sad that other farmers will stay away but I will be a message for other farmers not to give up. They have burnt hundreds of my olive trees. This is my daily reality under occupation but I will not give up.
When you’re deprived you must progress, faith is behind it all. Where there is conflict, you’re either historical or you make history. The Palestinians aren’t against the Jewish people, they’re against the system of the occupation. There are three stages to this occupation, the Nakba creating the refugee camps in 1948, the building of Settlements starting in 1967 which continue to be built and the construction of the wall in 2002. We need to use our land to creatively resist, making parks and art and planting gardens. It’s time to let go of the garbage of anger and turn it into the flower of compassion.