Notes from the Field: West Bank

[pics] Hanna cries as she tells us about the constant harassment she faces from the Israeli settlers.
Mona and Nabil are overjoyed as they show us their rehabilitated home.
Dear Friend,
This is the first of our 2013 Field Notes email series, and we’re eager to tell you what we’ve seen since arriving in the West Bank. This past year has been extremely difficult for refugees here: protection of refugees is becoming increasingly difficult and quality of life continues to decrease. Within the past two weeks, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has killed 4 Palestinians (including one woman walking and two minors), leading to protests and clashes. In the first of our Field Notes email series, we’ll tell you about some of these issues; and stay tuned because there’s much more to come from our visits to Gaza, Lebanon, and Jordan where we’ll meet more refugees whose lives you’re helping to improve.
Our trip to Hebron yesterday was very tense. The IDF trailed us through Arroub Camp (where the young woman was killed inciting recent clashes in and around the camp) near Hebron, and we saw Israeli tear gas canisters strewn throughout the camp, even some near UNRWA compounds and schools. Many people in the camp now have respiratory problems, and by the end of our time there, we could feel the gas in our lungs.
In Hebron, we met Hanna Abu Haikal who lives in a beautiful old home overlooking the old city. But, her home is surrounded by Israeli settlers who make her life nearly unbearable. Settlers have unleashed dogs to scare Hanna and her family and have burned five of her cars. They often sit outside her bedroom window to disrupt her while she sleeps. In 1959, Hanna’s father built the road in front of her house, now only Israeli settlers have vehicle access to the road, leaving Hanna completely isolated. She has many health problems now, and fears that if she becomes sick, she won’t be able to get to the hospital, and an ambulance won’t have access to her. She cried as she told us her story, but through it all, she hasn’t given up hope. Later, she told us funny stories from her childhood, laughing and letting us know that her spirit wasn’t be broken. UNRWA staff visit her at least once a month to check on her wellbeing, document, advocate, and provide legal support on her behalf. She calls one UNRWA staff member who visits frequently her brother.
Yesterday we also had the joy of meeting Mona and Nabil whose lives were changed by the rehabilitation of their home with funds made possible by generous American Friends of UNRWA donors like you. Mona was overcome with emotion as she told us how much her life had improved now that her home in Dheishe Camp, Bethlehem has working plumbing and is no longer infested with black mold. The unsafe living conditions were taking a toll on the family’s health, but now they say they’re feeling healthy again and have more hope for the future. Nabil was very proud that through UNRWA’s self-help approach, he was able to work on much of the reconstruction himself, empowering him to provide for his family despite the many limitations imposed by the occupation.
You can help protect and support refugees like Hanna, Mona, and Nabil by making a tax-deductible donation to American Friends of UNRWA. Your contribution is an investment in their futures.
Look for an email from us next week as we visit life-saving UNRWA projects in Gaza.
Until then, in gratitude,
Abby Smardon
Executive Director
American Friends of UNRWA
P.S.— for more images from our trip, visit our Facebook Photo Album!
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) provides humanitarian assistance and human development and protection programs including food aid, education, health care, and job training to registered Palestine refugees living in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Today, in times of both conflict and calm, UNRWA supports, protects, and empowers more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in need. All donations to AFU are tax-deductible to the fullest extent under the law.
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By piotrbein