Supreme court orders rerouting of wall

4 September 2007

Israel’s supreme court has ruled that the barrier surrounding the village of Bil’in must be rerouted. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6977400.stm

During the Boomchucka tour of Israel and Palestine we performed in the village of Bil’in.  The next day we partook in the 2 year anniversary of weekly protests against the barrier which cuts the villagers from more than half of its land.

The supreme court ruling is proof of the effectiveness of persistent cross community non-violent protest.  It is a major success for Palestinian, Israeli and International cooperation in undermining the illegal construction of a barrier which negatively affects thousands of peaceful Palestinians.  Together we can take down the walls that separate us.

I wish all the best for the future to the villagers of Bil’in.

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Wicked Boomchuka pictures

7 June 2007

Our friend Graeme has published his collection of stunning pictures of our time in Palestine.  Be sure to check them out and look out for my cheeky grin 😀

www.photo-g.co.uk and look under projects

Why not sponsor him on his walk and raise money for circus2iraq


Boomchucka 2007

14 March 2007

[blip.tv ?posts_id=173526&dest=9516]

The Boomchucka 2007 tour of Palestine and Israel.
See some pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/80015558@N00/

For more info: www.circus2iraq.org


Tour’s over, time to go home

28 February 2007

That’s it.  After 40 shows to 7000 kids and 20 workshops teaching circus skills – the 2007 Boomchucka circus tour has ended.  Relief (it had been very hard work) is mixed with great sadness – we have only done so little.  There is also hope, because during our time in the West Bank we have met many people who are actively working to ensure a healthy future for circus in Palestine.  To mention only a few: The Palestinian Circus School in Ramallah, The Freedom Theatre in Jenin, The Children of Bethany in East Jerusalem and Shirra Circus in Bethlehem.

As for hope for a resolution to the deteriorating conditions of the Palestinian people – well that’s harded to find.  Perhaps one has to look either to the small but growing number of activists within Israel who are beginning to question they government over its actions or the residents of Bil’in who continue their nonviolent protests.  But maybe we have to go further afield to the US, where the publication by President Jimmy Carter of Palestine: Peace not Apartheid has (in my opinion) helpfully added the concept of Apartheid into the debate.  Or perhaps to the UK where a recent commons select committee has questioned the EU preferential trade deal despite Israel’s continual breaking of conditions.

Hope is sometimes a rare thing; it must be nurtured for it to blossom into peace and freedom.  One must by continually vigilant to water and feed what hope we can find.


The making of a Settlement

18 February 2007

Travelling through the West Bank you don’t go far without spotting an Israeli Settlement; modern buildings, in regimented rows with red roofs.  Located on hill tops they are heavily heavily fortified and have something of the medieval castle about them.

The means by which the are created and the reasons for their development are highly controversial and a major stumbling block along the road to peace.  The following is the summation told to me, separately, by a number of International volunteers who have spent many years in the West Bank:

In the middle of the night ideological settlers (Zionists driven by the belief that the land belongs to the Jewish people) park their mobile homes on a hill top.  This land has, generally, been used or cultivated by Palestinians for many hundreds of years.  The collection of mobile homes are set up in a defensive formation and is called an Outpost.  Outposts are illegal under Israeli law, however in practice the State is either unable or unwilling to stop their creation.  These Settlers are aggressive towards the local Palestinians as a means to drive them from their villages and seal their claim over the land.  I was told of stories of harassment, beatings, poisoning of livestock and water sources, shootings and killings.

Once an outpost has become established the Settlers start to demand amenities from the Israeli authorities – water, electricity, roads and schools.  Over time an Outpost turns into a fully fledged settlement with full Israeli government backing.  Established Settlements are supported by the Israeli state by giving people economic benefits to live their – thus creating a new breed of Settler – the Economic Settler.

——————— 

Last week we made 9 shows in and around the small town of Salfit which is located just South of the second largest Settlement in the West Bank – Aerial population 30,000.  Looking at a map of the West Bank (for more details) you can see Aeiral Settlement is the nail of a finger sticking out into Northern West Bank almost cutting the territory in two.

 Deir Istiya and Settlement in the distance

Travelling to villages in the Salfit area meant that we would very often have to go many miles out of our way to traverse the length of the finger, and when we got to the tip there was a check point to keep track of movements.  Another feature of the development of Settlements is the construction of segregated roads.  Palestinian plates?  Drive on narrow, winding, damaged roads.  Israeli plates? Please use straight, smooth, duel carriage ways.  The new road to Aeiral mans that the residents can commute to Tel Aviv in under an hour.

It was great to get out to some small villages and make some great intimate shows.  At one village called, literally, Little Chicken we had a film crew from Al-Jazeera Children record the show and us teaching some skills.  Watch this space for a clip!


The many lines of an occupation

15 February 2007

Lines on maps representing lines on the ground.  Lines on the ground made real by concrete, wire, cameras, check points and guns.

Monday; three shows and many crossings of these lines.

First show in a kindergarden in Shufat camp – inside East Jerusalem but outside (the Palestinian side) the dividing line.  From the school playground you can see the no mans land where the wall will be constructed.  Once completed it will stop the Israeli headteacher from coming to work.  No one knows what will happen to the school; no one wants to think about what will happen when Shufat is cut off from the rest of the world.

Second show was in Anata a suburb of East Jerusalem behind an already constructed section of the wall.  Along with an Israeli only road the wall surrounds Anata.  We wanted to make a show in the play ground of the local school which was cut in half by the construction of the wall, and was the site of the fatal shooting of a very young local girl by the Israeli Defence Force.  Unfortunately because of high tensions the local council couldn’t guarantee security and we made the show in the community centre a stones throw away.

Third show was in the French Cultural Centre – in East Jerusalem but inside (the Israeli side) of the wall.  Jerusalem used to be the cultural centre of Palestine; now due to constant hassle from the Israeli authorities many people have left for Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron or Jericho.  Now muslim (East) Jerusalem is devoid of cultural activity – once there used to be three cinemas, now there are none.  This lack of entertainment was brought home to us when over two times the expected number of people turned up for our show!

Crowd incursion:

Crowd Incursion

The rest of the week we will be in and around Salfit just North of Ramallah.  We have 9 shows arranged in 9 different locations over 4 days!  Watch this space for more news and stories.


Jenin

10 February 2007

Driving north the hills become greener with small crops of trees here and there.  We passed along broken roads and through small villages.  Donkeys and horses shared the highway with ancient vehicles over loaded with people and produce.  The hills in the North of the West Bank are beautiful dressed with the pink of cherry blossom and dark green of olive.  We were heading to Jenin and to work with The Freedom Theatre and a new circus group called Street Circus – 4 days of shows and workshops (Fun with a parachute) – our most extended visit yet.

Jenin is split in two; Jenin city and Jenin camp (dating back to 1953).  The theatre is located in the camp – a network of narrow winding lanes navigating around haphazard concrete houses across the hill side.  Images of young men (either drawn stylized or photos) holding large guns – martyrs – are all most the only images on the streets.  Some are lit up almost as shrines, others are faded posters on shop front shutters.  The imagery is pervasive; for it to be normal is as far alien to me as anything else I have ever seen.  But yet for the residents normal is what the martyr has become.

On a walk into the city centre the martyr images continue, but the roads become worse not better; the telltale marks of tank tracks break and cover the tarmac.  These are the product of an Israeli offensive which turned Jenin into a war zone.  Now taxis and pedestrians have to navigate the terrible road conditions made worse by the winter rain and mud.

During our second night in the camp we were woken by the sound of gun firein the distance.  After a while it came closer and I started to become concerned, then a grenade exploded and I was now fully awake and damn worried.  Gun fire faded into the distance and eventually I fell asleep; my consequent dreams were disturbing.  As this kind of Israeli incursion is fairly common one can only imagine the stress caused to the residents and their children.

3 shows and 5 workshops later, it was our last day in Jenin.  We were in the city centre buy felafels for lunch when we saw a procession coming towards us.  Thankfully it was a joyful (if a little muted) march to celebrate the agreement between Fatah and Hamas in Mecca.  At the front of the procession one man was dancing holding a model of the al-Aqsa mosque.  Not wanting to get caught up in the march we made a quick get away.  Back at the theatre I was checking the internet for news regarding recent developments in Jerusalem and building work near the mosque.  Up appears a picture of the mosque on the screen.  Over my shoulder a couple of kids recognised it and indicated to me that this building was theirs and how important it was to them.  Such is the passions that are being stirred in the Middle East.