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A pattern of attacks.

22nd February 7pm soldiers enter the village.

28th February  3pm- settlers and soldiers enter and attack the village.

3rd March 4pm settlers and soldiers enter and attack the village.

6th March 7pm- soldiers enter the village.

9th March 4:30pm – settlers and soldiers enter and attack the village.

If the pattern continues, the next attack will be settlers and then within a day Burin should be due a visit from the soldiers. According to the last 3 weeks statistics of Burin  the soldiers will come in numbers of approximately jeeps, they will put a checkpoint at beginning of Burin and they will stay for around 4 hours.  The time exactly can not be predicted because this seems to be the only aspect of their visits that are not predictable. In the last few weeks they have entered at around 7pm but really, it can be at any time adding to the psychological games that the Israeli military enjoy playing so much. The residents of Burin know it is always coming, but when is the mystery.

The last settler attack on Burin was 9 march. Before that was the 6th and 3rd of March. All three recent attacks are all identical. The settlers have all come from the same direction, from the stolen land now refered to as a settlement named Baracka. They have come in numbers between 10 and 25 and they come armed, weapons ranging from handguns to M-16. Attacks have been focused on the Sofan household. They are not new to the suffering, having had their house set on fire twice. The second time resulting in the death of Atallah Sofan after he suffered from a heart attack due to the sight of his home in flames. They have had their chickens, sheep, horse and donkey killed and their house stoned and paint bombed. This is what happened on the latest occasions, bottles and stones were thrown at their home. Their sheep were also under attack. As usual, the youths from the village came down to protect their land. They were soon met by Israeli soldiers who are there to protect the settlers, contrary to what they claim about wanting to provide security for the Palestinian residents. There were clashes between all three parties lasting between 30 minutes to 90 minutes.

And so it will continue. In days to come the laptops will be turned on and more reports will be written about the unforgivable antics of the settlers.

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Life resumes as normal..

I do not wish to put my words into other people’s mouths, I assure you I have agreeance that the past few months in Burin have been quite. This does not undermine anything that has happened, it just illuminates that after the late summer break, business is as usual for the soldiers and settlers and there antics on the village of Burin.

The last two weeks have seen two settler attacks, evening sieges on the village including multiple house raids and the arrests of three young men.  One member of the village describes how he feels about the consistency of the soldiers entering the village ‘we all know that in the hours between 11pm and 4am the village is the soldiers, not ours’.

The settler attacks left a Palestinian man injured resulting in a visit to the hospital, windows damaged and an attempted break in. The house raids leave families vulnerable and tired with their privacy taken in a swoop, trodden on with dirty military boots and left. They leave the children tired. They leave one and all on guard. Residents of Burin have the past to remind them of what might happen again tonight.

The escalation of harassment is not just in Burin. Madama and Asira Al Qibliya have also been frequented by soldiers and settlers in past weeks. The most recent to report on was the arrests of 4 men in Asira Al Qibliya, taken from their homes in the middle of the night after house raids. They have not been released and I will update this post when I know more.

Burins arrests came on the friday just gone (13.1) Soldiers surrounded three men with the ages of 20,20 and 21. They were enjoying a tin fire on their holiday.They were quickly surrounded  by the military. They were taken at around 2pm and later returned with no charges a little after 5pm. I suppose the commander of this set of arrests would expect all the families to be thankfull for this?

And so I repeat myself…life continues as normal. The village is the soldiers playground once again. The men are there for the taking, there in full view to be indiscriminately picked to be the next in a long line of political prisoners. The doors are open for searches and the air is ready for the tear gas. But this does not change the attitude of the village. Still there is an overwhelming amount of restraint and calm. This is life. This is Burin. This is Palestine. This is occupation.

BUT, this is not humane.

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Settler attack on Burin….again.

As I was leaving Burin today, it seemed the settlers were just arriving. From the service(yellow bus) on the road out of Burin we could see small groups of settlers on the hills, all coming from the illegal settlement of Bracha. Parked near too all of these groups of settlers were one of their two comfort blankets, the private security of the settlements, there to make them feel safe. As we drove a bit further I noticed their other comfort blanket, Israeli soldiers, and many of them. As we turned the final corner of the village we was passed by three more jeeps of soldiers.

I was later informed by Ghassan Najjar, director the of Bilal Al Najjar center in Burin that there were approximately 50 settlers, 10 of wich were armed with M-16.

Inevitably clashes broke out between settlers and the youths of Burin, as always the tactic was to get the settlers off nearby land and away from residents homes. Stones were thrown back and forth and a group had broken away and taken favour to attacking a Palestinians home. This group of settlers eventually grew restless with just throwing stones and tried to break into the house, this however was unsuccessful due to the youth of Burin forcing them to retreat.

Soldiers were present the entire time adding nothing more to the chaos then the usual concoction of rubber coated steel bullets, sound bombs and tear gas.

Two settlers and one Palestinian were injured.

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Call for urgent financial help.

Call for urgent financial support for youth center in Burin near Nablus.

Dear all,
As some of you may know, I have spent the past half-year in and close to the village of Burin in the Nablus area. Those who have visited this beautiful village know that Burin is situated between two settlement.  It is also surrounded by three military camps. I originally came to report on a settler attack that burnt down 400 trees in early June, since then it has been hard to stay away from the special village.

One project that has grown particularly close to my heart is the Burin youth center. The center provides projects that need to be kept alive, not only does the center serve the community it also gives the youth of Burin a sanctuary. A place that is theirs, where they can work, learn, plan communal activities and unite. These activities have an overwhelming importance within community. To bring children and adults together, to feel united and most of all to have  and create new happy memories to be taken with everyone in the future.

The youths who run the center have not been able to pay the rent for seven months, and are now in a situation where they urgently need the amount of 5000NIS for the period of June 2010 – January2012, or else they will have to leave the premises. The center up to this point has been completely self-sufficient. The founding member even saved for two years previous to the opening to ensure enough to be succesful.

I am so convinced of the work of this center that I can only urge you to please try to help, or to please spread this wide. Between all of us, it is a small sum, I think, and if we could raise it, we would enable a beautiful place in Palestine to continue to exist.

Please contact me at wallahloveyou@gmail.com if you are able to contribute any some. Thank you

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Football in Burin.

burin team
The Burin football team (All Photos: Ben Lorber)

On the 7th of December, a windy Wednesday morning behind the boys’ school in the Palestinian village of Burin, 15 teenagers, dressed in red uniform, took to the football field under the coach’s whistle. As the team began its warm-up exercises, another youth team arrived from the neighboring village of Huwwara, led by its determined coach. Under the morning sun, the football game began. As fans, coaches and players cheered and yelled from the sidelines, a Burin teenager scored a goal in the first ten seconds, setting the tone for the rest of the match. Two hours and two injuries later, Burin came out on top 4-0 against Huwwara, bringing the season’s record to 8 wins for Burin, 1 win for Huwwara, and 2 draws. As the boys walked away sweaty and satisfied, the school bell rang and children poured outside for recess.

huwwara team
The Huwwara football team

In occupied Palestine, the youth football league becomes, not a routine taken for granted, but a rare blessing. “We love to practice and to play,” said the Burin goalie, “but usually we cannot play on this field, because we are afraid of the settlers or the army. And there is nowhere else to play.” Overlooking the boy’s football field on all hilltops, the illegal Israeli settlements of Yitzhar (birthplace of the extremist ‘price-tag’ campaign of violence), Bracha, and a Bracha outpost loom menacingly.

“When times are good”, says Ghassan Najjar, co-coach and former Burin football player, “when there are no attacks, we can play. When times are bad, we cannot get together and have games.” At 21 years old, Najjar’s memories of his own days on the field are still fresh in his mind. “Children here have no outlet. They are lost. They cannot play on the streets because it is too violent, but they do not want to sit at home…my outlet, when I could play, was football.”

yitzhar best
Playing in the shadow of the Yitzhar settlement.

Though the last month has spared the village of settler attacks, Israeli soldiers arrive at the school almost on a daily basis. “The boys’ school,” says Ghassan, “is right by a settler military road that heads up to the settlement. Sometimes the army comes into the principal’s office and says that he cannot let the boys outside of the school to play, for no reason. There is a 24 hour presence of the army outside the school, and the boys are frequently forbidden from leaving.” A football game, like outdoor recess, is a precious window of opportunity for children accustomed to living in fear.

Football- of which the Algerian philosopher Albert Camus, a devoted football goalkeeper before turning to intellectual pursuits, once said “all I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football”- has long cemented Palestinian culture and spirit. Time and again, it appears on the scene as a potent weapon in the resistance struggle, as on October 11, when a football game erupted on the front lines of a hunger strike solidarity protest outside of Ofer Prison in Ramallah.

Once a locus of national consciousness, Palestinian football was deliberately denied international recognition until the Palestine Football Association was recognized by FIFA in 1998. “Prior to 1948”, says Issam Khalidi in ‘Body and Ideology- Early Athletics in Palestine (1900-1948)’, an excellent study of the politics of sport in Palestine,

“there were some 65 athletic clubs in Palestine…these clubs had a tremendous impact on the lives of Palestinian young people, shaping their character and preparing them for social and political involvement…these athletics teams provided a social, national and institutional base for Palestine’s political organization in the first half of the twenty-first century. They developed alongside and in response to Jewish immigration and the Arab-Zionist confrontation. Athletic clubs were important in evoking the Palestinian national consciousness, [and] sustaining connections between villages and cities…the advancement of organized sports in Palestine was closely linked to the development of education. Even though education officials did not emphasize physical education programs in schools, most institutions had competitive football teams.”

In 1998, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, in his book Remnants of Auschwitz, recounts Holocaust survivor Primo Levi’s tale of a football match in Auschwitz concentration camp, held between members of the SS and members of the Sonderkommando, a Jewish unit forced by the Nazis to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims. The match was improvised at Auschwitz, during a brief respite from the work of death. “Members of the SS,” remembers Levi, “and the rest of the [Sommerkomando] squad are present at the game; they take sides, bet, applaud, urge the players on as if, rather than at the gates of hell, the game were taking place on the village green.” Agamben comments that this moment of apparent normalcy is “the true horror of the camp…for we can perhaps think [now] that the massacres are over- even if here or there they are repeated, not so far away from us.  But that match is never over; it continues as if uninterrupted. It is the perfect and eternal cipher of the ‘gray zone’, which knows no time and is in every place.”

Agamben was drawn to the simple normalcy of this football match, chillingly suspended in the furnace of utter moral depravity. The everydayness, the banality of Levi’s football match reappears in the timeless normalcy of this Wednesday morning football match in Burin. In the heat of the game, oblivious to its surroundings, football is football. In Burin, however, everyday life is juxtaposed, in the football match, not with, as in Auschwitz, the barbaric evil of the oppressor, but with the resilient spirit of the oppressed. Even in Auschwitz, a mundane game of football, suffused with the smell of burning flesh- a testament to the banality of evil; even in Burin¸ a mundane game of football, surrounded by the foreboding faces of illegal, violent settlements- a testament to the strength of a people’s right to exist.

In each case, the ‘match is never over’, the struggle ‘continues as if uninterrupted’, and we are reminded and warned of the constant reality of oppression. In Auschwitz, the oppressors were there on the field, and the football game thereby showed itself as a sadistic, macabre dance of death; in Burin, the oppressors sit silently on the hilltops, and the football game thereby shows itself as a spark of resistance, feeding a flame of survival.

soccer game
Burin vs. Huwwara

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A center for all with an agenda of hope.

The Bilal al Najjar center can be found in the heart of Burin. The center plays a vital role in the community work within village, not only implementing  activities but also giving a place for the youth to feel they have a place that is theirs. Within Burin facilities are limited so back in 2005  young men and women of the community decided to take on the responsibility of opening the center. It didn’t come easy as funding was and still is a major a problem especially as this initiative was taken from youthful members of the village who were not taken seriously. Some people seemed to have no hope for its benefits but this attitude only added to the drive of the men and women whose vision it was. For two years members saved weekly donations in order to build enough of a honey pot to open. Finally the center opened in 2007. It is evident that projects like this need to be kept alive, not only does the center serve the community it also gives the youth of Burin a sanctuary. A place that is theirs, where they can work, learn, plan communal activities and unite. These activities have an overwhelming importance within community. To bring children and adults together, to feel united and most of all to have  and create new happy memories to be taken with everyone in the future.

     Girls enjoying a weekly English class.                                                             Mr.Jacop in action.

Activities organised by the center include cultural, communal and educational. There is not an area within the village that the center does not try to assist. In the past the children have enjoyed yearly festivals celebrating Palestinian folklore dance (debka) also an annually held kite festivals held on the mountains of Burin and enjoyed by all.  English lessons are also attended everyday by both girls and boys and are held by Project Hope volunteers; Miss.Gabby, Mr.Jacop and an independent activist Mr.khaled.

    Kite festival, August 2011.

The Bilal Al Najjar center also work very closely with the farmers of Burin, in any country being a farmer is not an easy job but to be farming on land that is preyed on by fanatic Zionists work becomes a whole lot harder. The members of the center help with all aspects of farm work from ploughing the land, organising land repair after brutal attacks to the trees and harvesting the fruits and olives. The olive harvest is a particularly uneasy time as it is when the farmers will be in the most volatile areas, on the doorsteps of the settlements as well as the constant threat of soldiers denying them access to their land. The center also tries to document all attacks on the land by the settlers with film and stills and can be found on Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/pages/To-document-settler-attacks.

Olive harvest, October 2011.

Fires in Burin, September 2011.

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Learning and Laughing

Anticipation, excitement, uncontrollable giggling and inquisitive eyes are what the English teachers of Burin are faced with when entering the classroom. There is nothing that gives such feelings of hope then seeing children rush from their classroom at school straight to a makeshift classroom within the village to learn English.

The children  are now nearing the end of their first semester and i think it is safe to say that we are all delighted by the success of the lessons. As numbers increased and chairs became like gold dust every day saw the face of a new child enter the classroom.

The target of the classes is conversational English and is taught to children from the ages of 7-16.  But what we see and feel from the children is so much more. Day after day we witness no less than 100% effort, they give us everything they have within the class room and are an absolute joy to laugh and learn with.

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