Editor’s note: On 26 August news of an open-ended ceasefire erupted. Earlier in the week, EPF PIN member Peggy Bronson shared an update from Usama Nicola, Citizens’ Diplomacy Project Coordinator at Wi’am, the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center in Bethlehem, and Usama graciously consented to share it with the PIN community. Many of you have likely met with Usama while in Bethlehem. While the spotlight has been on Gaza, the West Bank hasn’t been quiet.
Here is Usama’s update from 19 August:
Although the worst of the violence is continuous again today in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank continues to be affected by the Occupation. The situation has grown more tense and desperate in the past several months. There have been clashes near our office near the wall and the military watch tower almost every day and night for a month as well as demonstrations throughout the West Bank. There is a sense of tragedy and trauma across Palestine. Because of the current troubles, tourism has almost halted completely. Since so many people in Bethlehem depend on the tourism industry for income, the economic and financial situation is growing grave. The situation does not seem to have affected work permits but there is increased “security” throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, meaning there is greater intimidation. My wife Mira experienced thyroid problems during the past Israeli shelling against Gaza in 2012: she experiences it more now, our children are living with more fear refusing to go to their summer activities, they want to stay at home, they keep calling me asking me to come back home, all of us sleeping in the same room because they are afraid to sleep in their room, we are stressed, no normal life at all for us, no summer activities or celebration any more, soon we need to prepare the three kids to go back to school, we need to purchase the books, stationary and clothes for them, Tuition and Registration Fees — everything is very expensive in comparison with our income, we are tired on all levels.
More anger among the people and many are losing hope, the majority of our society believe that the best way is to continue our resistance in a nonviolent way, but more people today agree and support the armed resistance as a way towards the end of the occupation. We pray that the demonstrations around the world will make an impact, and I hope that tonight the fire will not start again. We were hoping for a long ceasefire agreement — if the international community will not impose on both sides a solution based on restorative justice, there will never be peace.
Our work at Wi’am continues to the best of its ability with mediations, training, women’s groups, and summer camp. We are working with young people and scouts in areas of peace-building and human rights issues. We are continuing building the capacities of children and young people as leaders of change in their community. We are working with women’s groups to empower them in areas of gender equality and as advocates of justice and human rights. We consider women as a motor of change — the mothers of the future.
Due to the current atmosphere in the Bethlehem area, there have been a greater number of mediations needed. During the Summer Camp, we witnessed how much children need care and a space for learning and playing. Seeing children portraying their feelings and frustration through their drawings gives us more energy and incentives to continue working with them despite all odds. Our youth and children are volunteering their time in initiatives that serve the needy. We are also participating in initiatives calling for justice in Gaza and an end to human rights violations. We are expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza through calling for the collection of donations and funds and calling strike days.
We continue to experience a need of funding because of the lack of groups and increased importance of working with families and serving their endless needs through mediations, advocacy, voluntary work, capacity building, counseling, gender empowerment and non-violence trainings.
We certainly pray for justice to prevail and for the respect of human rights that are starkly violated.
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers,
Peace, love and hope.