2 December 2012

Thank You

Salam Alaikum/hello everyone

Everything comes to an end and so does the Gaza Awareness Week. I would like to thank everyone who has participated, from the bottom of my heart. It's really heartwarming to see people from all walks of life, pulling together for such a great cause. Don't let this be the end of it, keep spreading awareness around you, keep reminding people of the situation in Palestine. Just because there is a "ceasefire", it doesn't mean the occupation has ended or the Palestinians aren't suffering anymore..

I want to send a special thanks to Fozia who has inspired me and helped me out here. Without her, I doubt this would have become a reality.. I know you've not got alot of time on your hands, so I really appreciate your time and effort

Also a special thanks to Belal Almassri, who designed our Gaza Awareness Badge. I would highly recommend his business, he's so pleasant to work with and has done an amazing job for us

And finally special thanks to Hayley Kemp, who is such an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing your stories and for the great support you've given us

From Aisha's Lips

Omar's Story

written by Hayley Kemp, humanitarian worker


I wanted to tell you the story of a man I visited in Tulkarem Refugee Camp called
Omar Mohammed Amara whose family had been driven out from their village during
the Nakba (Catastrophe) in 1948. Omar’s story demonstrates just how long the
Palestinians have been and are still suffering. Omar was mayor of Tulkarem Camp
in 1964 and has participated in many political decisions. He has 6 sons, all have
been in prison for resistance to the occupation.

Omar was born on February 22nd in 1933 and says he is still very strong, and he
looks it. He seems very fit and articulate. He says that the Palestinians are not
against anyone in the world. He says that the Israelis call the Palestinians anti
Semitic when they resist the occupation, but he says they cannot and must not be
anti Semitic because they are also the sons of Abraham and so they are his brothers.
‘But when I feel that the Israeli government want to uproot me I am committed to fight
for Palestine.’

He says that he was one of the best students in school but when the occupation
came they took everything, his future. He was very sad that he could not continue to
study and had to leave to find work and food for his family. He says that everyone
sends aid but that they don't need aid, they would be able to sustain themselves. It
is just the occupation, the control on the movement of people and trade that causes
the problems.

When his family left their village, Miskha, it was because they were scared because
they had heard about the massacres in the other villages. Miskha was obliterated in
1948 with the Jewish settlement of Ramat Ha Kosvesh built on it’s 2,019 acres.
More than 500 villages were depopulated and destroyed during the Nakba and
thousand were forced to flee their homes. For a list of destroyed villages

‘We wanted to stay and fight but Palestinians were not allowed to buy guns and so
we had nothing to fight with,’ he tells me. ‘I was 14 at this time in 1947. The Israeli
government sent an Arab man to the village to tell us that if we want to stay in the
village then we must fly the white flag and the Israeli flag and we will be under
Israel's control. People refused and told the man that nobody would accept this.’
After 2 months the man came back and gave them 2 choices, to live under Israel or
to leave. They were told that if they refused this time then they would have a war
with the Israelis. The villagers were told that the Arab soldiers couldn't help them
and so they had to think if they could fight against the Haganah and Irgun (Israeli
Zionist terrorism organisations in Palestine during the British Mandate). ‘Of course
we could not and so we had to leave.’

We went to the nearby village of Al-Tira, ‘It was only 1 kilometre away and we
packed and took some things with us as we thought we would be back home after
about 1 month.’ Then the Israelis attacked Al-Tira. ‘They attacked us three times
and we fought them off this time. I was 15 to 16 years old at this time. We took all
the women and children up into the mountains and the men stayed in the village and
fought. I took my mother and sister up into the hills and then returned to the village
to fight alongside my father. We put observers out and Al-Tira is famous for it's vines
and one day the observer saw some vines moving, the Israelis were using the grapes
for camouflage. The men shouted and took their positions and were fighting the
Israelis all day and defeated them.’

Omar says that many were killed on both sides. After 2 months the Israelis returned
on the other side of the village and they defeated them again. ‘Nearby villagers
came to help but the problem was that now we had no bullets, they were too
expensive and too difficult to buy. One man though had one bullet left and saw a
soldier creeping up with a machine gun ready to shoot many people, he shot him and
saved many lives. The Palestinians took all his bullets and so now we had many
bullets ready for when the Israelis came back a third time a month later. The
Palestinians defeated them again and the Israelis lost their mind that it was just
villagers defeating them.’

Finally in the Armistice signed between Israel and the Arab countries in 1949, Jordan
gave the village to Israel, it is now called the Mishmeret Settlement. ‘We were placed
under curfew, we had no home and nowhere to return to as we were under constant
curfew. We could not work or get a home and so my father decided we should leave.
We went to the military to try and get a permit to leave the village but they would not
give us one but we spoke to the soldiers who said that they would let us through to

When they first came to Tulkarem Omar says they had to sleep on the streets. ‘In
1950 the UN provided some tents for the refugees here because winter was on it's
way. There were 6 in our family and our tent number was number 36. We were
amongst the first people who came to the camp.’ From that day until now he says he
is still waiting for a decision on the refugees right to return to their homes.

When we asked what kept him strong, he told us that it was his bicycle and that he
trains before he sleeps. He has a library and listens to the radio 18 hours daily. His
father lived to be 95 and his mother lived to be 105 and so he also says he has good
genes. 'I have the ability to have these problems and to keep strong'. In 1985 3 of
his sons were in jail and after their arrest the Israeli military closed his office. The
military offered the release of his sons and to reopen his office if he 'cooperated' with
them. He refused. He showed us his bicycle that he has had since 1964. It is a
British Phillips bicycle and was happy to ride it around and show us.

Omar’s story illustrates just how long the people here have been occupied and
oppressed. It also illustrates how they cannot change their situation. You can work
as hard as you can, do the best that you can, all those things that the ‘democratic’
Western governments say we should do to succeed. But even if you do all this, here
nothing changes. Nothing improves. There are no choices. You are still oppressed.
‘This is the life. This is Palestine’, as they say here.

From Aisha's Lips

1 December 2012


Written by Hayley Kemp, humanitarian worker

I visited the Bethlehem Ecumenical Accompanier team and we monitored Gilo checkpoint, it was so depressing. We have to get there at 4.30am as it's due to open at 5am. When we get there, there are over a 1,000 people queuing already. Some of them have been there since 1.30am. The queue starts outside the checkpoint inside the fence running alongside the separation barrier, which is a wall here. Only 20% of the barrier runs on the Green Line, the internationally recognised border between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the remaining 80% runs on Palestinian land. 

As you approach it looks like a city of homeless people, sat or sleeping on cardboard boxes, but these people are not homeless, they are on their way to work.  From 5am until about 7am more than 2,000 people will pass through the checkpoint to go to work. That's why they start queuing early. All of this to go to work.  Then the most astonishing sight at about 4.40am.  The call to prayer starts from the mosques and the men stand up and use the cardboard they have been sitting on as prayer mats and start their prayers.   Even in the dire situation that they are in they do not forget to give thanks to God.

When it finally opens, most days late, the people have to go through a terminal at the top, going through what they jokingly call a ‘chicken ring’ (a full length turnstile) and showing their IDs and permits.  Then they have to go down into a covered terminal where they go through another turnstile and then have to remove their shoes and belts etc. and pass through a metal detector, again showing their ID.  After this they then move through another booth where they have to show their ID again and also put their hand on a pad for fingerprint testing.

Each stage is crowded with people desperate to get to their bus to get to work on time. After all this they have their journey to work.  It usually takes the last person in the queue at least 2 hours to get through the checkpoint and sometimes takes more than 3 hours.  Remember this is not a checkpoint on the Green Line (internationally recognised border of Israel) to pass between the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) and Israel, this is a checkpoint for people to pass from one area of OPT to another area OPT. For example if this were in Plymouth it would be for people to pass from Mutley Plain to the City Centre.  The people are passing from one area of Bethlehem to the other.  I have never even seen this much checking at airports in the UK. 

As the crowd of Palestinians on their way to work moves, so do the Ecumenical Accompaniers to different parts of the checkpoint, so that they can see where the bottle necks are and to keep a presence at as many points as possible.  I have to go through the metal detector partly so that I can pass through to the final ID and fingerprint check and partly to see how many people are waiting to pass. I take off my jacket with my mobile phone in, I take off my earrings and watch and put all of these through the x-ray scanner.  I then try and pass through the metal detector but it keeps bleeping.  I tell the soldier, who is now shouting at me to go back through, that I do not have anything else on me.  He now screams at me that I do and to take it off.  The men are crowding behind me desperate to get to work but also trying to help me.  They tell me to take off my shoes, the soldier shouts at me ‘it is not your shoes’.  I take them off and put them through anyway.  The metal detector is still going off when I try to pass.  He shouts at me to get back.  The men behind can see I now just have my trousers and top on and nothing else, except my underwear.  I don’t know what to do as the soldier is shouting at me to get back but my things have gone through to the other side.  I panic and worry that it must be metal wiring in my bra setting the metal detector off. I try and tell the soldier but he shouts at me to get back.  I try indicating my bra to him by pointing to it but do not want to take it off in front of all the men.  The soldier ignores me so I just walk through to try and talk to him and amazingly the metal detector does not bleep and he lets me pass.  During this process I felt totally humiliated and scared.

Many men came up to us as they passed through and thanked us for being there and sharing this with them.  I had set off with the intention of taking some photos of the checkpoint but just couldn't actually bring myself to photograph these people in the state they had been reduced to by the Israeli occupation.  It truly is the worst thing I have ever seen.

What struck me most about Bethlehem is just how much the barrier has carved up Bethlehem and how difficult this has made it for tourists to visit.  In one place alone the barrier is in triple where it keeps doubling back on itself, to totally enclose Rachel’s Tomb.  There is a real lack of tourists here and people told us that the Israeli buses drop off tourists to Nativity Square and then pick them up an hour later and tell them not to wander off, ‘as it is too dangerous’!  The irony is that I have never been in any country where I have felt safer amongst the local population.  I caught the bus by myself from Tulkarem in the north of the West Bank to Bethlehem in the south and the only thing you have to worry about is the amount of people who want to give you their seat, give you water, shade you from the sun and even pay your fare!  When you get to your destination the only danger is that you will ‘suffer’ from an overdose of hospitality where people want to take you home and feed you!  It is amazing that people who are treated in such an inhumane way have so much humanity within themselves.

here are a couple of videos, so you can see how it looks like

From Aisha's Lips


written by Hayley Kemp, humanitarian worker

The Tulkarem refugee camp, on the edge of the West Bank town of Tulkarem dates
from 1949 in the wake of Nakba (the Catastrophe) when thousands of Palestinians
were forced to flee from their homes in what is now territory occupied by Israel.

Initial numbers of refugees in the camp are unclear, but by the 1967 war the UN
estimated that the camp was home to some 5,020 refugees. By 1989, the population
had grown to 10,500 and by 2006 there were 17,800 people living in the camp.

Many of the kids are Afro-Palestinians, refugees from villages inhabited by the
descendents of slaves brought by Bedouins from the Sudan many years ago or
descendents of a regiment from the Sudan who fought with the Ottoman Empire.
Many of the people we speak to have grandparents that came here from Haifa during
the Nakba. There are 18,000 people living in 1 square kilometre of land.

I visited the camp to hear some stories from some of the people I had come to know
living there. One of the women I spoke to was Menel Renim, aged 32. Menel lives
at the camp with her husband, 3 boys and 1 girl. One of her boys is aged 4 years
and his story is remarkable because he was born in prison and 'released' from prison
when he was aged two and a half years. His name is Noor, meaning light, because
his mother said that he provided light and hope for the women in the prison. Menel
was detained in prison and released in April 2007. The Israeli government claimed
she helped fighters and wanted to help suicide bombers enter Israel. She does not
know why they thought this, she had not been doing anything wrong and had never
had problems with the military before.

Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, over
650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel. This forms approximately 20% of
the total Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). As the
majority of those detained are male, the number of Palestinians detained forms
approximately 40% of the total male Palestinian population in the OPT. Of the 9,273
prisoners currently held by Israel, only an estimated 1,800 have actually been put on
trial [and then unfair by international standards] and convicted of any offense at all.
… Israel currently holds an estimated 800 Palestinians detained in prison camps who
have not been charged with any crime under what is called “administrative
detention.” (The Institute for Middle East Understanding)

When we enter her house it is like many houses on the camp. They are not really
proper houses. There are no windows, just holes in the bricks and no proper roofs or
structure. She has one brother who was a soldier in the Palestinian Authority,
another brother who was in jail for 13 years and another brother who was a martyr.
Her brother who was a martyr was standing outside the Tulkarem Youth Centre,
where we give English lessons, when he was shot in 1991 during the First Intifada
(uprising). He was aged 17 years. I think that everyone I have spoken to has either
a family member in/has been to prison, has been in prison themselves (usually for
throwing stones), has a family member that has been shot/killed or has been shot

She tells me that when she was arrested more than 100 soldiers came and
surrounded her house. It was winter but they made the children go outside whilst
they smashed the house up. Menel was sent to Hasharoon Prison when she was 3
months pregnant. She says the soldiers beat her and when she told them she was
pregnant they just said they wanted to get rid of her baby. When she was giving birth
they kept her arms and legs tied up. She was not allowed any visitors and she says
she was not allowed to call her family to tell them she had a baby son. Menel says
that when she first saw Noor she forgot about all the hard times. She says that all
the women loved him and that he had 600 mothers in the prison. ‘It was not easy to
get a doctor or medicine in prison and so all the women made sure he didn't get sick
and helped to look after him. They protected him from germs and diseases.’

When Noor was two and a half Menel was taken back to court and told by a female
judge that the baby was to be released as he was at an age when he no longer
needed his mother. Menel begged the judge to let her keep Noor with her as she
said he did need his mother but the judge refused. She said that she couldn't believe
that they thought two and a half was an age when a baby did not need his mother
and she couldn't believe that it was a female judge that had said this. Her husband
came to collect the baby, Noor, when he was 'released from prison'. When Menel
herself was released she says that many people came to meet her, her husband, her
children, her family and many people from the camp. She said she has had no more
problems since from the IDF and to this day does not know why they imprisoned her,
as there was no evidence, as she had not done anything.

I asked her if she noticed if her son was any different in his behaviour from her other
sons because of what he had already been through. She said that he is different
from his brothers, that he knows he was born in jail and so he feels different. She
says he was a light in the prison. ‘How will he forget this, how will he forgive,’ she
asks. It made me wonder what the future held for Noor.

After the visit to the camp I felt very drained of energy. It had been a harrowing and
difficult day to just listen to the stories, let alone experience them. When you look at
children like Noor you wonder what the future holds for them. How will they turn out
when they have already been so affected so much by the occupation at such an early

From Aisha's Lips


Salam Alaikum/hello everyone

 Alot of people think protests are useless. An unnecessary disturbance.. I used to think so aswell.. What's the point? Why should you stay on the street with banners and shanting slogans? The government won't listen anyway.. Well after recent events in Gaza, I decided to participate in a smaller protest outside Theatre Royal, when the Israeli company Batsheva, were having their final performances of a UK tour.
 As it was my first protest, I was quite nervous. Didn't know what to suspect and the fact that it was going on during the evening, didn't make it better. But as soon as I arrived, I was greeted by the other protesters, they were all such a lovely bunch, from all walks of life MashaAllah. As people started to arrive we were handing out leaflets and MashaAllah most people took them, some had a little chat about our protest, but they were all very friendly and understanding.. It was a very successful evening and we all went home with a buzz!

The following day, I couldn't think of anything else, it was such an amazing experience. I then convinced my other half to let me go for the final evening too. He looked out at the window and laughed, it was torrential rain and up to 60 mph rain! he was sure I wasn't going to last long lol!
But this evening, was even more special than the first. It's hard to describe, but the atmosphere was perfect and I would not hesitate to do it all over again and with the exact same people, lol still buzzing just thinking of it

This whole experience has given me so much hope! Just to see how little people in this society actually knew about Israel/Palestine, was shocking!

Here is an article written by the organiser about the event, MashaAllah was a great success

From Aisha's Lips

Israeli Propaganda

Salam Alaikum/hello everyone

 Here is a documentary which really hits the nail on the head when it comes to Israeli propaganda. It's actually terrifying to see how manipulative they are and how they've managed to convince people to support their sick and inhuman acts.

From Aisha's Lips

About Me

aisha Lips
I'm a busy mum of 4, trying to make the most out of our lives. As much as i enjoy parenthood, i too need to escape from the real world sometimes. So this will be the place where I will explore random things, share hobbies etc, hope you'll enjoy
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