Settlers attack with rocks (Photos: Juliana Irene Smith)
Saturday October 1st in the valley behind the village of Dura al Kara, a group of twenty locals, internationals, men, women and children, experienced rocks falling from the sky.
Except, it was not. It was a group of five teenage settlers from Beit Eil. They were directly above us and threw stones in the size of a fist down upon us. We took cover. Which place was safe, we had no idea. Luckily we had made some rain and shade covering, otherwise who knows what would have happened.
Three young army men came ten minutes later. We wondered how they had heard what happened. They were snide. They told us there are cameras. Where we
asked? Then you can know who came? Apparently the cameras are not good enough to recognize faces. Apparently.
Three hours later, our camera was good enough to get images of their faces. This time they came from both sides of the valley, five of them on one side and seven on the other. One had a gun; at least we only saw one. The army did not come. One tear gas can was blasted.
This is one day and two incidents in one location. This is happening everyday all around Palestine.
We are a group of seven local and internationals working on a social art project called Vertical Gardening / The Carpet. We are working with the village and everyday we have at least thirty to fifty people on location. We have volunteers from the University. The festival opens this Wednesday the 5th and lasts ten days. The core of the art project is to reclaim the space that is already theirs, through culture, agriculture and recreation.
The village of Dura, behind Jelazon, has a population of 3,000 people. It has vital farming land which is being used currently only by a few farmers. A middle-aged woman came by last week and claimed when she grew up in Dura, the valley was always active with farmers, fresh food and gatherings. Now it
has an umbrella of fear from violence and annoyance from the Beit Eil settlers.
Beit Eil is one of the fastest growing settlements, reaching Al Bireh, Dura and beyond. We have been told that many of the settlers from Gaza are now living there and are known for being some of the most violent.
We are not politicians. We are calling upon the local and international community. How do we take action? We will not leave out of fear. We stand with the village. We stand with any person who has been afraid to go into his or her own land. Settler violence must stop.
Please join us in the valley of Dura and help us decide how to handle this situation. We are there everyday from now until the 15th of October. What happens then after? We need support. The village, like many others, needs support and action.
Juliana Irene Smith teaches photography and video at the UNRWA vocational college in Ramallah and curatorial studies at Dar Annadwa in Bethlehem. Visit her website www.julianairenesmith.com.