After saying goodbye to our hosts in New Asker, we visited the old city of Nablus. The buildings are made with large heavy stones, and the streets are narrow. Every now and then we came upon a large open parking lot. We learned that the buildings that once stood there were destroyed during the second Intifada. Some of the buildings still have bullet holes around the windows.
We stopped to visit a lovely hot bath, and a spice shop that smelled delicious. Nablus was once known for its many soap factories. Many of them had been destroyed from bombing, and today only about 6 remain. The city once had a museum with many historic artifacts. The items were stolen and placed in a Jewish museum. Items they did not want were destroyed.
Our guide Wajdi Yaeesh told us many stories about what happened during the height of the second Intifada. In April 2002 the city was bombarded, and almost destroyed. From 2002-2009 hundreds of invasions took place. Soldiers stormed houses and destroyed everything. They shot holes in water tanks, and in one case even poisoned the water. Paramedics were prevented from entering the homes of injured residents, and could not even help injured children. In one case a child died from a stray bullet that went through his bedroom window.
We stopped at another window were paramedics had to pass food and water to people inside their home. They were forced to go to the bathroom in plastic bags. The people also had a curfew and would only be able to leave their homes for a certain number of hours. Even hospital workers were prevented from entering the building to help patients. While touring Nablus, we also learned about how the dead bodies of prisoners or freedom fighters are kept by Israeli authorities until their sentences are up before returned to their families. In one case, a martyr from 1976 (Palestinians frequently refer to anyone killed by the state of Israel as a such, not necessarily suicide bombers in the way that Westerners may think) recently had his body released back to his family as his sentence was over. We were told that sometimes they don’t even give the correct body back, as evidenced by a family who recently did DNA testing on the cadaver and it wasn’t their relative. When some people are killed by the state, the Israeli government charges the dead person with a crime and then keeps their body until their sentence has expired. Wajdi Yaeesh a paramedic himself told us he was shot while rushing to help others. The bullet went through his legs, but thankfully he is completely healed today.In 2002 the Human Supporters Association began with a party for children in the area, and later started a summer camp program. About 72% of the youth living in Nablus are still experiencing the effects of trauma from the second Intifada. With the support from international donations and volunteers they provide children classes in art, theater, dance, and support for under achieving students among many other activities.One activity they began doing is to ask children to write responses or letters for the soldiers. As part of a non-violent demonstration members began to have picnics at the checkpoint. They did not bring any children with them but did bring their messages to share along with food and music. International supporters also came with them. Unfortunately, the group was met with violence. Some people including international individuals were badly injured. While visiting this organization, they showed us this powerful short film (11 minutes) aptly titled, “Nablus: Pains and Hopes.”
The Human Supporters Association continues its work through aid from many different countries. However, they do not accept aid from the United States, because if they do they must sign a promise that the money will not be used for terrorist activities, and other restrictions on how to use the funds. The group believes signing such documents is a way to define them, or to divide the Palestinian people.
– Stephanie & Amber