FROM: Janet Lahr Lewis
Executive Director
Friends of Sabeel-North America
PO Box 521
Chardon, OH 44024
Tel/Fax: 440 286 8996
Check out our website: www.sabeel.org

Testimonies
March 2001

My name is Audi Al-Zalmout. I live in the village of Beit Fourik near
Nablus. My family has olive groves not far from the village, which have been
cared for by my family for generations. The olives are our main source of
income. Not long ago my father, who was 75, went out to the groves to pick
the olives from our trees. It was still early in the morning, but already he
had gathered the olives from four trees. He had gone out very early because
we had been having many problems with the settlers from Eitamar. They would
come in gangs with guns to burn and uproot our trees. They began taking more
and more land for the settlement. Our trees were already in danger. We did
not know that my father would also be in danger. The settlers came in the
early morning. They did not want to use their guns because they were afraid
the sound would bring many villagers out to the fields. Instead they beat my
father, my father who was kind and cared for his family even in his old age.
They threw him on the ground and threw rocks ant his head until they had
crushed his skull. Later when I went out to help him I found a man lying on
the ground.  If it were not for the scarf my mother had made for him I would
not have been able to recognize him.

For all those who have fallen victim to hatred and inhumanity, for those
loved ones who are left behind to mourn, for the souls of those whose hearts
are cold,
Lord, hear our prayer.

My name is Mona Al-Jaj. I am from Al Fawar Refugee Camp. One evening when my
husband was away from home I felt very sick and began to go into labor with
our third child. Because of the curfew my neighbors were all in their homes
afraid to come out. I needed to get to hospital. Our camp had been cut off
from electricity and it was very dark out, so I left my children asleep in
their beds and snuck out of our home and into the darkness. There were no
cars on the road. The soldiers fired at any cars that dared to approach the
dirt barrier that blocked the road. They would throw gas grenades or rip
apart the tires of the cars with their bullets, even if the passengers were
women; even women about to give birth.  I had to go on foot, despite my
pain. Twice I feel, tripping over the rubble and debris left by the Israeli
bulldozers. Finally, somehow, I reached the main road which is more than a
kilometer from the camp. Suddenly a car approached. The driver had brought a
shovel and was bold enough, under cover of darkness, to clear away some of
the Beit Haggai barrier and get his car through. Miraculously we were able
to escape detection by the soldiers. By this time I had been on the road for
more than an hour. I knew it would not be long before my baby would be born.
With this brave man’s help I was able to reach Aliya hospital in Hebron
where I gave birth to a son.

My name is Amina Balout. I am from the village of Rantis north of Bir Zeit.
One afternoon about 2 weeks ago I began to go into labor. I knew that it
would take us a long time to get to hospital in Ramallah, so I told my
husband immediately. Normally it is about a 40-minute drive. But these are
not normal times. They had set up many roadblocks between Rantis and Bir
Zeit about 3 months ago. The main entrance to Rantis has been completely
blocked. The only way out of the village now is over an unpaved track
through the fields, which are very muddy this time of year.  My husband, my
mother, and my sister came with me in the taxi. We had not gone very far
when a jeep from the Israeli Defense Force and another from the security
stopped our taxi and would not allow it to pass. We argued with them
insisting that they let us through. After about 30 minutes the rain had
become so bad it would have been impossible for us to go back to Rantis. The
soldiers finally let us pass. We continued on the road until we reached the
next roadblock near the Jewish settlement of Halamish. Soldiers aimed their
rifles at the taxi and ordered us to stop. My husband and the driver got
out. While they argued with the soldiers for another 30 minutes my pains
became harder and harder. I was screaming from pain. When finally they let
us pass we had not gone far before we ran into a long line of cars waiting
near the village of Um Safa. The taxi driver drove past the line of cars
until he came to a military jeep. The soldiers aimed their rifles at the car
and ordered everyone to get out. We shouted that there was a woman about to
give birth, but the soldier said he would have to get permission from his
commanding officer before he could let us pass. While he was away I could
feel the baby coming. I began screaming, “The baby is coming, the baby is
coming.” By the time the soldier had returned I had already delivered my
baby in the van. My mother and sister wrapped the baby in a blanket and gave
her to me to hold against my body to keep warm. An officer finally came and
saw the baby and allowed us to pass.  About 200 meters down the road another
jeep stopped us. The soldier aimed his gun at us and demanded to know who
had let us pass. The officer who had permitted us to go on saw what was
happening and ran quickly to order the soldier to allow us to pass. We kept
on in the direction of Bir Zeit where we came to another long line of cars.
The taxi passed them all until 4 soldiers stopped us. My husband and mother
opened the windows and shouted that they had someone with them who had just
given birth. They ordered us to wait. One of the soldiers came around and
opened the door of the van. When he saw me there he began to laugh. They
ordered us all to get out. My mother became very angry and slammed the door.
They tried to open it but my mother continued to scream at them to let us
pass.  They insisted that we all get out of the taxi. What could we do? We
had to get out. I was holding my baby who was still attached to me by its
cord. I collapsed on the ground. I could not stand up. I was too weak. My
husband told me later that the soldiers just stood there and laughed again.
Finally another soldier came and shouted for them to stop and to let us
drive on. Nobody noticed that my house slipper had fallen off. It was left
on the ground at the roadblock.  Around 8:30 in the evening we arrived at
the hospital in Ramallah. We had left Rantis at 5:00.  We named our baby
Sabreen, which comes from the word for “Patience”.

For the welfare of the unborn children who struggle to be born, for the
women who must suffer needlessly, for the will to survive even the worst
hardships, for those who show compassion, for the kindness of strangers,

Lord, hear our prayer.
 
 

My name is Nawal. My father founded the Everest Hotel in Beit Jala near
Bethlehem. He named it this because it sits on the top of a mountain. On a
good day you can stand on the balcony and see Jordan. “I am in exclusive
charge of the kitchen and the menu for the restaurant here. When times were
better we would serve 500 people at once. Many tourists came here and we
held many wedding banquets for the local people. But you don’t see even one
tourist now, and there is nothing to celebrate. For months now I have not
seen a single person here. This place – I can hardly describe what it used
to be like. I used to be so busy in the kitchen from morning to night. I
didn’t even have time to stick my head out and see what was going on in the
dining room. And now, look, we have moved the ping-pong table to the center
of the room. The hall is empty anyway. The whole family used to work here.
What are we doing now is the same thing our leaders on both sides are
doing – playing ping-pong.”

For all those who have been forced into unemployment, who long for the
return of a strong work ethic and traditional family values,
Lord hear our prayer.