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Business As Usual

March 2004

Jerusalem and the surrounding towns were again quiet today. Outside of Gaza, there has been relatively little reaction to Yassin’s assassination. Certainly not the firestorm that some were expecting. The general atmosphere is still very tense and one can see evidence of flare-ups. As we crossed the El Ram checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem we saw the still smoldering remnants of fiery demonstrations. The smell of burning tires still lingered in the air. Later in the afternoon, we watched as about 20 youth threw stones and exchanged insults with 2 Israeli soldiers. The youth stood at a safe distance atop an embankment behind a barbed wire fence and the soldiers were standing below. Eventually the soldiers grew weary and fired their weapons into the air, letting the youth know that the game was over.

We spent the morning with some of the staff from the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), one of Grassroots’ partners. Grassroots supports two pieces of PARC’s work – an Urban Agriculture Project in several refugee camps in Gaza (which we visit this weekend – inshallah) and the Women’s Clubs Project run by the Rural Women’s Development Society (RWDS), an affiliate of PARC. There are currently 73 clubs in villages throughout the West Bank and Gaza with 20,703 registered members. The clubs provide a much needed space where women can come together and share their experiences – it is also a way for women to organize around both their strategic and personal needs. PARC/RWDS facilitate leadership training, capacity building and income generating activities with the Women’s Clubs’ members.

In the afternoon, we headed north to Ramallah to visit with Mustafa Bargouthi from the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC), another of GRI’s partners (more on this visit later). Crossing over into the West Bank was not a problem – at least today. It was only on the way back out that we had to go through two checkpoints – El Ram and Kalandia.

Going through the checkpoint means walking through a long corridor of concrete barriers to reach the 18 year old Israeli soldier with an semi-automatic weapon waiting at the end. Even though I’ve gone through a number of these checkpoints now, it still shocks me how young these soldiers are. As internationals we passed through with relative ease. I am still at a loss as to how to describe exactly what I was feeling as I was crossing the checkpoint but I can’t imagine this being part of one’s daily life and the resentment and frustration that must build.

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