January 12th saw Hanwell Friends of Sabastiya’s second AGM and third birthday. 30 people braved the snow to attend and were treated to a scrumptious high tea and birthday cake.
Unfortunately we were missing Abu Yasser, our representative in Sabastiya, because our government refused to give him a visa (we were however able to include him via Skype). We think this is very unfair and that there is an apartheid system in place here: Israeli citizens can come and go as they please and are not required to apply for a visa. Palestinians have to fill in a huge application form that includes very personal questions. Then, they have to travel to Ramallah to have their finger prints taken, like criminals, and then wait for at least 4 weeks before hearing the good, or bad news, as in our case. The reasons given for the refusal were that he does not have a bank account and that HAFSA did not guarantee to cover all his expenses while in the UK, which is totally untrue as we did say we would in our invitation letter. We are now looking at involving MPs on this issue.
News from Sabastiya
The good news is that 400 of the trees we bought have been planted, 100 remain to go in soon.The bad news is that since Christmas the illegal neighbouring Jewish settlement of Shave Shomron is discharging their sewage onto Sabastiya farm land. We hear that the stench is unbearable and the sewage is flowing like a river through the land. Many of us have written to our MPs, the British Consulate was alerted as well as many NGOs, the Palestinian Authority protested to the Israelis who said more than once that they will stop it. Yet nothing changed and the sewage keeps pouring.
We now have a facebook group:
You can join it to get updates. Below is a link to a short video that Abu Yasser posted on our facebook page. It concerns another village near Sabastiya that also suffers from the presence of the Shave Shomron settlement : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6wE0i7dpCI
Visit to Sabastiya and tour of the West Bank
The people of Sabastiya are looking forward to hosting us this spring. We are running this, our fourth tour, from 29th April until 9th May 2013. We will visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, Hebron, Nablus and of course Sabastiya where we will stay 4 nights in the magnificent guest house. It is not too late to join us. If you are interested e mail me, Andree : *protected email*
We usually ask you to renew your £ 5 membership at the AGM. If you have joined at the end of 2012 you do not need to pay again. If you have not renewed yet, please send a £5 cheque made to HAFSA and send it to: HAFSA Treasurer 9 Cardiff Road, Hanwell London W7 2BW or you can pay by bank transfer, thank you.
The Cooperative Bank, Ealing Branch
Sort code: 08 92 99
Account number: 65449004
Guest house project
A decision we took at the AGM was to consider supporting the Arab Women’s League of Sabastiya by furnishing 6 bedrooms in the renovated Al Kayed Palace (old Ottoman palace). They wish to run a guest house there and will give any HAFSA members that visit a discount. The cost of this project will be around £4,000. We insisted that the beds should be bought or made locally as well as the bedding etc. We would welcome donations towards this project, again please send cheques to the address above or by bank transfer. We will organise some fund raising events too.