Aida Refugee Camp - Bethlehem

 - by Mutasem -
Aida is a Palestinian refugee camp situated 2 kilometers north of the historic centre of Bethlehem in with a population of approximately 5,498 refugees.

Named after a famous coffeehouse (maqhah) located on the site in the early 1940s, Aida camp was established in 1950 by refugees from the Jerusalem and Hebron areas, and covered an area of 66 dunams. At the time, Aida housed 1125 refugees living in 94 tents.
The camp came under special hardship during the Second Intifada, when the school sustained severe damage and 29 housing units were destroyed.

Pope Benedict XVI visited the refugee camp during his Middle East pilgrimage visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories in May 2009. He said that the refugees lived in "precarious and difficult conditions" and that "It is tragic to see walls still being erected".

On 29 October 2015, at dusk, a video filmed on his iPhone by a resident of the Aida Refugee Camp, Yazan Ikhlayel (17), captured a megaphone address made from an Israeli military vehicle during a raid into the camp. The speech warned residents that, if they did not desist from stone throwing they would be gassed to death -children, youths and the aged. Referring apparently to the arrest of Qassan Abu Aker, the speaker added that one of the arrested would be killed as the residents looked on if the throwing did not stop.

Aida camp is adjacent to Rachel's Tomb, walled off from Jerusalem by the Israeli West Bank barrier and contiguous to the Israeli settlement of Gilo. The Aida Refugee camp is adjacent to a new 4-star hotel, the Intercontinental, on the Jerusalem-Hebron road. On the camp's entrance gate a huge "key of return" is pictured, and on the separation barrier a largo graffito has been painted with the words Gernika 1936 – Palestina 1948.

For the Bethlehem tour, which includes a visit to the refugee camp - >> Details here >>


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Israel Orders Demolition of Entire West Bank Bedouin Village

 - by Yotam Berger - first published in Haaretz - 

In a rare occurrence, the IDF’s Civil Administration in the West Bank on Sunday distributed some 40 demolition orders in a Bedouin village in Area C, which is under full Israeli civil and military control.

Demolition of a Bedouin home in El Araqib (Negev Desert)
2010 file photo
A few hundred people live in temporary structures without any infrastructure in the Bedouin encampment of Khan al-Ahmar, just east of the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. Among the buildings at the site is the “Tire School,” built of worn-out tires, which is used by students from a number of illegal villages in the area.
The structures in the village were built without permits, but the Civil Administration has avoided demolishing them or evacuating the entire village, despite political pressure to do so.

Residents say the issuing of dozens of demolition orders is unprecedented in the area. “All the houses received [demolition] orders,” A’id Khamis Jahalin, a local resident, told Haaretz. “I’m scared. This time is different. Then they gave one [demolition order] or two, but such a blow, it’s something. They gave 42 orders. They gave for everything, there are no structures here in all the area that didn’t receive an order. I spoke with our lawyer, they gave us up to five days [to object], that’s a short time,” said Jahalin.

A Green Olive Delegation delivering needed solar lights
to the Jahalin Bedouin. > > > more details
Israeli authorities confirmed that such a widespread issuance of demolition orders was unprecedented in the area, and this is a declaration of intention in advance of an attempt to evacuate the entire village.
In the past, the Civil Administration has offered residents to move to a permanent location, which the residents say does not meet their needs in terms of Bedouin lifestyle, amount of land and proximity to other Bedouin tribes. The government has avoided any large-scale evacuation of Palestinians in Area C, partly because of the involvement of European and American diplomats.

The Bedouins living in Area C near Ma’aleh Adumim endure harsh conditions and poverty, and the EU has often provided structures in their villages. These buildings have been put up illegally, but the EU makes sure to put a large sticker with the EU flag on all of them. The Civil Administration sometimes removes these structures. The Tire School was built in 2009 by an Italian NGO, and has since become a symbol for the Bedouins in the region.

Last week, the State Prosecutor’s Office informed the High Court of Justice in two cases that the government wanted to postpone the sessions on the demolition of structures in the Bedouin community in the West Bank, in light of the attempts to formulate a new policy on the matter.

Editorial from Green Olive - The Green Olive Collective has been raising funds and distributing solar lamps to the Jahalin Bedouin who live off the grid in the Judean (Jerusalem) Desert. Their Jewish neighbors live in the beautiful suburban town of Ma'ale Adumim with all modern conveniences which the local Bedouin are denied basic services and have their homes demolished by the Israeli authorities. Here's what you can do:

  1. Write a letter to your nearest Israeli Embassy protesting the inhumane treatment of the Bedouin (suggested text below)
  2. Help the Bedouin by donating solar lamps, or buy one for yourself and we'll donate one in your name. > > More Details here > >
Sample Letter:

To the Israeli Embassy
Re: Demolishing Bedouin Homes

It was with great dismay that I learned that on Sunday 19th February, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria issued demolition orders to all the homes of the Bedouin Village of Khan al-Ahmar, near Ma’aleh Adumim in the Judean Desert, East of Jerusalem.

The Jahalin Bedouin are living in an area that is traditional for their tribe, and it is outrageous that the Israeli government should seek to move them in order to facilitate the growth of all-Jewish settlements.

Israel claims to be a democracy yet discriminates between residents based on their religion. The Bedouin human rights are being violated and this needs to stop. Please pass this letter to the appropriate authorities.

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Land Day Matters - of Mourning and Commemoration

- By Sam Bahour and Fida Jiryis -
First published in +972 -

March 30, 1976 has been commemorated for over forty years as ‘Land Day’ by Palestinians around the world. while the day’s title may evoke images of environmental action or eco-friendly activities, it is a day of mourning and remembrance. On that bloody day, Israeli police and ‘Border Police’ murdered six Palestinian Arab citizens of the state during a protest against the recent expropriation of Arab-owned land in the Galilee area. The stolen land was designated for new Jewish-only settlements.

Palestinians from the Galilee town of Sakhnin
commemorating Land Day, March 30, 2013.
(Photo by: Yotam Ronen/
The Land Day victims were not Palestinians from the occupied territory but citizens of the state, a group that now numbers over 1.6 million people, or more than 20.5 percent of the population. They are inferior citizens in a state that defines itself as Jewish and democratic, but in reality is neither.

On that dreadful day 38 years ago, in response to Israel’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of acres of Palestinian land for “security and settlement purposes,” a general strike and marches were organized in Palestinian towns within Israel, from the Galilee to the Negev. The night before, in a last-ditch attempt to block the planned protests, the government imposed a curfew on the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Tur’an, Tamra and Kabul, in the Western Galilee. The curfew failed; citizens took to the streets. Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as those in the refugee communities across the Middle East, joined in solidarity demonstrations.

In the ensuing confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed, about 100 wounded and hundreds arrested. The day lives on, fresh in the Palestinian memory, since today, as in 1976, the conflict is not limited to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip but is ever-present in the country’s treatment of its own Palestinian Arab citizens.

The month following the killings, an internal government paper, written by senior Interior Ministry official Yisrael Koenig, was leaked to the press. The document, which became known as the Koenig Memorandum, offered recommendations intended to “ensure the [country’s] long-term Jewish national interests.” These included, “the possibility of diluting existing Arab population concentrations.”

Israel has been attempting to “dilute” its Palestinian population − both Muslims and Christians − ever since.

Thirty-eight years later, the situation is as dire as ever. Racism and discrimination, in their rawest forms, are rampant in Israel, and are often more insidious than physical violence. Legislation aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Israel is part of public discourse. Israeli ministers do not shy away from promoting “population transfers” of Palestinian citizens − code for forced displacement.

Israel’s adamant demand that the Palestinians recognize it as a “Jewish state” leaves them in a situation of having to inherently negate their own existence and accept the situation of inferiority in their own land. Recent efforts in the Knesset to link loyalty to citizenship threaten to target organizations and individuals who express dissent and even the revocation of citizenship, a practice unheard of in other countries.

Budgets for health and education allocated by the Israeli government to the Arab sector are, per capita, a fraction of those allocated to Jewish locales. Although hundreds of new Jewish towns and settlements have been approved and built since Israel’s creation, the state continues to prevent Arab towns and villages from expanding, suffocating their inhabitants and forcing new generations to leave in search of homes. Palestinians living in Israel are heavily discriminated against in employment and wages.

Memorial commemorating the deaths during the events of 1976.
Annual Land Day commemoration in Sakhnin, March 30th, 2007.
(Photo by
The message is clear: Israel has failed, abysmally, in realizing its oft-cried role as “the only democracy in the Middle East” with such discriminatory policies and a culture of antagonism and neglect vis-a-vis a fifth of its citizens. The original Land Day marked a pivotal point in terms of how Palestinians in Israel − living victims of Israel’s violent establishment − viewed their relations with the state. Today, with no resolution in sight to the historic injustices inflicted upon them, Palestinians in Israel and elsewhere use this day to remember and redouble their efforts for emancipation.

The names of the six victims of Land Day are written on the front of a monument in the cemetery of Sakhnin, accompanied by the words: “They sacrificed themselves for us to live … thus, they are alive − The martyrs of the day of defending the land, 30 March 1976.” On the back of the monument are the names of the two sculptors who created it: one Arab, one Jewish. Maybe it is this joint recognition of the tragedy of Palestinians that is required in Israel to get us beyond the chasm of denial.

Many of us born and raised outside Palestine voted with our feet to return to the land of our fathers and join the struggle. We support the Land Day commemoration both to provide a vehicle for mourning and loss, and just as importantly, to appeal to the democratic instincts of Jews in Israel and worldwide, to understand that one cannot separate the free ownership of land with other freedoms and rights in democratic societies. It is one package, and the only one that will bring a lasting peace to our country.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian business consultant from the Palestinian city of El Bireh. He blogs at
Fida Jiryis is a Palestinian writer from the Arab village of Fassuta in the Galilee. Her website is Sam and Fida were both born in the Diaspora and relocated to their family’s hometowns in Palestine and Israel, respectively.


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