Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Day 1 - Jerusalem & Bethlehem: report

August 23, 2005

After a short night, the delegation experienced an impressive day of its fact finding mission to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In the morning, a settlement tour was conducted in the East-Jerusalem area. The tour was guided by Jeff Halper, head of the
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. The delegation saw various settlements, which are continuously expanding and thereby undermining any prospect of a viable Palestinian state. On its way, the delegation also encountered Israel’s illegal Wall in the West Bank, which is being constructed at an unprecedented speed.

The delegation then had lunch with Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. She was accompanied by another Palestinian parliamentarian, Azmi el Shuaibi, and Sumaya Nasser, a Palestinian writer.

Consequently, the delegation embarked on a trip from Ramallah to Bethlehem, taking a detour that Palestinians are forced to take as a result of movement obstructions imposed by the Israeli authorities on all Palestinians indiscriminately. The trip, which should usually take about 40 min. at the maximum, took close to two hours and had almost twice the length of the actual distance between both cities, because of the fact that Jerusalem is not accessible for Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The delegation passed two checkpoints on this route, which prevent Palestinians from moving freely even within occupied territory.

The day was concluded with a dinner with the mayors of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, three Christian communities that are heavily suffering from the expansion of settlements and the construction of the Wall.

Pictures:[will be added later]

1. Jeff Halper explains to delegation members about settlement
expansion and the construction of the Wall.
2. The delegation in front of the Wall in Abu Dis.
3. The Wall in Abu Dis, a suburb of occupied East Jerusalem.
4. The delegation is having lunch with Hanan Ashrawi, Azmi el Shuaibi
and Sumaya Nasser.
5. An Israeli checkpoint within occupied territory, on the way from
Ramallah to Bethlehem.
6. Palestinians trying to get through the checkpoint, a daily
experience for most Palestinians.