The following editorial appeared in Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, and has been translated for us by The Villages Group. It concerns the school in the Palestinian village of Susiya, a school with a demolition order as you will see. The editorial is by the school’s headmaster. I am using my blog to amplify the voice of the headmaster and the Villages Group, because sometimes someone else can tell a story better than I can, and because it is always better to let people speak for themselves when possible. I hope you will find this as compelling as I have. I visited the school several times, including right after it received its demolition order. How distressing to the community after having built a small school building to have a threat of losing it.
The children of the Susiya community live in tents and caves. They have little in the way of material possessions, but they value family, their traditional way of life, and education. To have a school in their community should not be too much to ask.
All the rest of this blog post is copied from The Villages Group.
“In a rare direct expression of an Occupied Palestinian voice in the Israeli printed press, the school’s prinicipal Muhammad A-Nawwajeh published an editorial in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper about the demolition order on his school. Unlike most of Haaretz op-eds, this article was apparently not translated to the newspaper’s English site. We provide the translation below.
Muhammad Jaber Hamed A-Nawwajeh
Our elementary school at Susiya is small. It has two classrooms, in which a total of 35 pupils – girls and boys – study. The staff includes four teachers and the principal, who is also the English teacher. The school opened in late 2010. Before we established our school, local children had to walk 4 km each way, every day, to reach the nearest school. To avoid this, many had stayed with relatives during the school week, without seeing their parents, causing severe psychological problems. No doubt, it is far better for young children to live with their families and attend a school near home.
Our school has no electricity, no running water and no schoolyard. Still, students arrive each day with excitement. When they grow up, they want to be doctors, police officers, teachers. Even though the school is in an area under Israeli control, it is not the government of Israel that built it. We, the residents of Susiya, have built it ourselves, with the help of the Spanish organization ACF and the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
Our elementary school, whose area is 100 square meters, is the only structure of this size around Palestinian Susiya. All students live in caves. Before the school structure was erected, we had used five tents. We live in a hilly high-altitude region with cold winters. First water leaked into the tents, then a strong storm blew them away.
Our new school might be demolished at any moment now, without any justifiable cause. The “Civil Administration” has issued a demolition order against it. Among the pretexts for the demolition order, the “Administration” cites the presence of “portable bathrooms” and a cistern that we had dug with our own hands, so that the children will have water to drink.
If the Israeli government demolishes the school, it will deny education to our children. More than half the students will stay at home and not go to school anymore. All the world’s children are entitled to education. It is a basic right enshrined in the United Nation’s Human Rights Charter. I am trying to comprehend: what would Israel accomplish by demolishing our school? What is the position of Israel’s Education Minister? What do Israeli teachers think? How will they explain to their own students the destruction of our little school at Susiya?
Mr. A-Nawwajeh is the principal of Susiya’s elementary school.
(Translated from Hebrew by Assaf Oron)
At the Villages Group, helping Massafar Yatta (South Hebron Hills) residents in their efforts to realize the right to education for their children has been one of our central missions over the years. Until 2010 when the Susiya school opened, we helped arrange student transportation from Susiya to Tuwani. In 2010 we brought a report about a tent school in a neighboring village, where teachers tried to educate under conditions much like the ones described above by Mr. Nawwajeh. Here are a few pictures from that visit, illustrating the learning conditions which we then described as “the worst in the Middle East”.
Please do not let the Occupation force these disgraceful conditions upon the children of Susiya. Please don’t let them rob these children of their dreams, and rob teachers, volunteers, and donors of the fruit of their hard labor.
The formal authority presiding over the deceptively-named “Civil Administration”, that pretends to be “the legal authority” in the area – is Israel’s Defense Ministry. Here are a few contact details:
Israel’s defense minister, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, fax +972 3 6976711 (they are said to hate faxes), or the ministry’s US outlet (email@example.com, fax 212-551-0264).
Israel’s Education Minister whom Mr. Nawwajeh mentions in his article, is quite likely deny any responsibility. Personally, I (Assaf) think that the fraudulent “Civil Administration”, and all other arms of Israel’s government, should just keep out of West Bank Palestinian civil affairs, on which they have no genuine jurisdiction – only a fraudulent one.
But Mr. Nawwajeh has a point. Israel’s Education Ministry, after all, constructs and heavily subsidizes schools in the Jewish settlements all around Susiya, and pays for teacher salaries. The minister himself, a politician named Gideon Sa’ar, is a rather vocal proponent of the ideology that all of Israel-Palestine belongs to the Jews. Well, with ownership comes responsibility. Since the government behaves in the West Bank’s “Area C” (where Susiya is located) as if it is Israel’s to keep, it should provide the same level of education infrastructure to that area’s Palestinians, as it lavishes upon the Jewish settlers.
In short, here’s a link to the Education Ministry’s main contact. The Minister’s email addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Phones – 072-2-5602330/856/584, 972-3-6935523/4/5. Faxes: 972-2-5602246, 972-3-6951769. And finally, here’s an online comment form.
Feel free to let Mr. Sa’ar know what you think about this blatant discrimination, and about the criminal neglect of, and the atrocious assault upon, right to education of children in what he calls “The Land of Israel”.
And please help spread Mr. A-Nawwajeh’s words far and wide.