Dear friends, welcome to our Autumn 2018 bulletin. We hope you will find the short reports from both Sabastiya and Hanwell interesting and informative – and that reading this will encourage even more your support for HAFSA.
Our big news is that we have invited Abu Yasser to come and visit us in November. He has applied for his UK visa … and now the waiting starts ….. to see if he is granted it.
Palestinians often find it very difficult to get a UK visa. We hope that the warm and generous letters of invitation from HAFSA, from St Thomas Church and from the Hanwell Justice And Peace Group will ensure that he is allowed to come. We are very excited. You will have a chance to meet and listen to him while he is here: you will see the details from the Palfest programme (Nov 16th and 23rd). It will be a pleasure to return the hospitality he always shows us when we visit.
There will be other occasions to meet him – we will send out information via separate emails.
Many thanks to HAFSA member Tom Robinson especially who has helped with all the visa application bureaucracy.
Fingers crossed! Inshallah.
Jean, October 2018
Report from Sabastiya:
Once again, as always, life in Sabastiya has had its highs and lows. Summer is the time to organise and enjoy cultural festivals – and this year was no exception. Hundreds of people came there for the music and dancing. The Roman Amphitheatre is an ideal place to put on performances.
Some weeks later Abu Yasser reported that sewage was again being dumped on the village and its agricultural lands by the people in the nearby illegal settlement. As you can imagine this made life unbearable for our Palestinian friends in all kinds of ways.
HAFSA was pleased to pay for a day out for the youth of Sabastiya who do a lot of voluntary work in the village. They went to Bethlehem for the day and fitted in so much including the famous Banksy Hotel called the Walled Off Hotel.
For some it was the first time they had been to Bethlehem. We were very pleased the group were able to meet up with some old friends of HAFSA – the wonderful people who run the Wi’am Reconciliation Centre right next to Aida refugee camp and the Wall.
Earlier in October the girls’ school proudly celebrated Palestinian culture – in the traditional way with the wearing of embroidered costumes, dancing and bread-making – in a version of the traditional taboon. Customs in this way get passed on to future generations – important in a land where much is under threat. It’s important to keep history alive.
The head of the girls’ school is waiting for us to give her more details about a local school here who are in principle keen to know more about having a school link. We hope we can give you more updates about this in our next newsletter.
The olive harvest is underway as this newsletter reaches you. We hope it will be a good one … but the signs aren’t that good. The olive trees near the settlement are in very poor condition.
Our summer fundraising social in August was a great success as always. 50 people enjoyed the hospitality of Mary and Chris in their house by the River Brent. Look out for the date next year.
Early in September we had a stall again at the Brentford Festival: lots of helpers came to do a shift. If you can help next year, please contact us.
So many people were interested in our group and the ways in which we support Sabastiya.
Our mini Palfest is taking place on 2, 9, 16 and 23 November. As you will see from the details here we are presenting a very varied programme:
The film is a must-see, beautifully shot and directed it tells a very moving story.
On the evenings in the William Hobbayne Centre we will have music and singing – in Arabic – from Houria Niati (9th) and Julia Aaisha and Fatima Helow (16th). We are expecting more surprise guests! Saadeh George will be lending us some of her Palestine-inspired art work.
Can you help out?
As we are having Palestinian finger food on the 9th, and 23rd of November we need a couple more people to help out with the food and refreshments. We plan to have light snacks on the 16th of November. If you are able to help please contact Marjorie Kelly on 07960 804 650
Zaytoun goods will be available for sale on the 9th, 16th and 23rd of November.
St Thomas Church Christmas Bazaar is on 24 November 2 – 4. Marjorie and co will be having a Zaytoun stall. Come and buy!
Find out how to stay in touch and support our work here
HAFSA Bulletin 14 – Summer 2018
Dear friends, welcome to our Summer 2018 Newsletter.
Once again it contains a lot of news and information which we hope you will find interesting. We keep up to date with life in Sabastiya via regular skype meetings with Abu Yasser: a very special thanks as always to him – “our HAFSA man in Sabastiya” – for his ideas, inspiration and generosity. We hope he will be visiting us this November to coincide with our Palestine Festival. More details below.
Technology (when it works!) is a wonderful thing. We continue to feel very close to our friends over there on skype, face book and what’s app. We hope that through our regular newsletters you do too. If you want more information or would like to get involved please get in touch.
Bree Robbins: as you will know Bree died some weeks ago. Four of us attended her beautiful Buddhist funeral service. She was HAFSA Vice Chair and active with us for a number of years. We will take the opportunity to celebrate her life through our November Palfest to whose organisation she was giving a lot of time and commitment up to her death. Thank you Bree.
1) Report from Sabastiya – Abu Yasser
2) Hanwell Carnival report
3) Events for your diary
4) HAFSA projects – and international links
5) Our contact details
1) SABASTIYA REPORT: the guest house and palace have been busy with guests and workshops. Schools finish in Palestine in May and are back in September. In Sabastiya they try and organise activities for children, families and visitors over the summer.
Often they take place in the Al Kayed Palace Guest house (which HAFSA has supported from the start and where we stay when we visit).
When we spoke to Abu Yasser at our recent committee meeting on skype he told us they had a special visitor at some recent art workshops organised by the Goethe Institute and wondered if we had heard of him. We nearly fell off our chairs when he told us his name: the great Raja Shehadeh – lawyer and writer who is known throughout the world. He was born in Ramallah and continues to live there. One of his best-known books is Palestinian Walks. There will be an exhibition in the palace and the BBC will be there.
Football fever has taken over Sabastiya, thankfully it is relatively calm at the moment and there aren’t many army incursions. Unfortunately, the forthcoming olive harvest looks poor due to freaky weather.
Abu Yasser suggests we help in organising a trip to Bethlehem for the volunteer team. Most of them have never been there, or seen the wall, the Banksy Hotel museum will be very educational, they could also visit Mazin Qsmieh Palestine Natural History Museum which has recycling ideas and meet up with youth group. In principle we like the idea and we have asked Abu Yasser to provide us with a programme and a costing.
2) Hanwell Carnival – report. Once again this was a very successful event for our group. We had lots of helpers on the stall and made over £600. The weather was nice and this brought out the crowds. We were able to talk to a lot of people about our group, about Sabastiya, about Palestine. We have had a stall at the Carnival for quite a few years and find it is one of the best ways to engage with the public.
3) Dates and events for your diary (more details will follow by separate emails. We aim to raise awareness and raise funds for us to continue our projects with Sabastiya.
Tuesday 24 July, 1pm- Social – HAFSA lunch at Ya Sham Lebanese Restaurant, 14 Broadway, West Ealing. All welcome. NB: contact us via our email or text Jean (07739429754) by 20 July so we can let them know numbers. Pay restaurant on the day.
Saturday 4 August – Social – Summer Evening by the River Brent at Mary Short’s house, Tallow Road, Brentford. Starts 6.30pm, food from 7pm. £10 entry, paying bar, live music, raffle…. More details to follow.
NB: let us know if you are coming by 1 August for catering purposes.
Sunday Sept 2 Brentford Festival in Blondin Park 12 – 6. Helpers needed, we will be setting up from about 11, more details via a later members email.
October Visit to Sabastiya – We hope to be able to give more information soon. It is timed to coincide with the very important olive harvest. Please get in touch if you are in principle considering coming. We would be leaving around 8th October, with possibly 2 nights in Jerusalem or Bethlehem before moving onto Sabastiya.
Mini Cultural Palfest : Friday 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd November 7-10pm – Detailed programme to follow.It will include poetry, spoken word , music, talks etc. Venues: Hobbayne Centre and on 2nd November Ealing Townhall – the Ealing Classic Cinema Club have kindly agreed to host the showing of the film When I Saw You by the acclaimed Palestinian film maker Anne-Marie Jacir.
We have set up a fundraising link: we hope you can support us and encourage others too! We have decided to include 2 other organisations as there are local Ealing links: The Chair of the Amos Trust lives in Ealing, and a number of Trustees of Friends of Nablus and Surrounding Areas live locally. It is good to network and help support the work they do which has the potential for cross-overs with HAFSA.
4) HAFSA projects: NEW! NEW! INTERNATIONAL LINKS: HAFSA is well-known in and around Sabastiya and beyond, the guest house which Abu Yasser oversees greets more and more visitors from abroad as well as from within Palestine (and sometimes Palestinians from Israel). He is often asked to lead sightseeing walks around the village even for visitors who come to Sabastiya for the day. He always talks to them about HAFSA and what we do! Many are very impressed and say they would also like to support developments in Sabastiya – in the ways we do – but don’t know how.
OUR SOLUTION? – To set up a paypal account for HAFSA that anyone can use if they want to donate. The money will come into our HAFSA account – and will be paid out on agreed projects in Sabastiya. We feel this has great potential. This paypal link will go live very soon.
Grey water recycling: Abu Yasser will prototype one in his house, if successful, we can help roll it out to other families. The engineer who knows how to install it will train other men in the village. It has become urgent to conserve water as the price of water has doubled. Each Sabastiya family has to pay £50 per month for water and electricity.
Sabastiya Girls School Links: we are still pursuing this and have homed in on some possible links. More later.
Trees: planting trees is always important in Palestine. If you would like to buy one to plant in Sabastiya get in touch – cards are £10 each – makes a good present!
Gas Masks: the 25 masks recently purchased have been allocated to vulnerable families. All the houses in the dangerous area (about 50 of them) have been given masks but they do not cover all the members of each family. More masks are always welcome. People are feeling safer.
Next HAFSA committee meeting: August 22 at 11.30
If you would like to attend just email us and we will let you know the venue.
You can also asked us to send you our minutes, if you so wish
1) Report from Sabastiya – Andree Ryan
2) Sabastiya girls school celebrate their Annual Open Day.
3) Our 2018 AGM
4) Events for your diary
5) Hafsa projects
1) Report by Andree from her recent stay in Sabastiya. April 2018
I have just come back from a month’s stay in the Occupied West Bank, spent mostly in Sabastiya and also Yanoun and Bethlehem.
What can I say? The situation on the ground is worsening by the day. New settlements are sprouting everywhere on top of hills, old ones are expanding, some are now huge industrial complexes. Today, the proportion of Israeli to Palestinians living in the Occupied West Bank is 1:6.
I spoke with many Palestinians, some openly speak of the death of the two states solution, and the Oslo Accords. Many are just waiting, trying to survive and provide for their families, they have lost hope and are “very tired of it all”. They feel cheated by the international community, Israel and their own Palestinian Authority.
Oslo Accords 1993?
The Oslo accords are 25 years old and Israel has not kept their side of the bargain, yet they are still in operation when it benefits them. Take Area C for example, it covers 70% of the Occupied West Bank, is controlled by Israel, but was supposed to be handed over within 5 years of the Oslo Accords being signed. Area C contains most of the natural resources of Palestine and is now covered with illegal Jewish settlements. It has been really and truly appropriated and it is obvious that it will not be given back.
Most of Sabastiya’s rich heritage lies in area C. It is now administered by “The Israel Nature and Parks Authority” which has issued leaflets for Israeli tourists. Visitors are warned not to go into the village and are always protected by heavily armed soldiers, who guard all the entrances to the area and hide in the olive groves. Two Sabastiya men were shot in the leg this April 4th when hundreds of Israeli tourists visited Sabastiya on their Jewish Passover holiday. The young men are now recovering at home. One of them is due a further operation to insert a plate in his leg, he said he was trying to comfort a frightened child when he was shot.
Since then there have been more incursions by the Israeli army, tear gas shot at the village and landing in homes where many children are present.
But who brings Israel to account?
It looks like Palestinians need a new strategy, the Oslo Accords are truly dead.
2) Sabastiya School for Girls:
We have built up a strong link with them over the years. They are always happy when we go and visit. The school has just had its annual Open Day – where girls of all ages put on a show of singing, dancing and performance, as well as displays of their art and craft work – to the rest of the school and to enthusiastic family and friends. Just like here!
3) Hafsa AGM held on 17 February 2018
Dr Marwan Daweish was our Keynote speaker.
A Palestinian, he is Principal lecturer in Peace Studies, at the University of Coventry and MA Course Director and tutor at the MA in Peace and Conflict Studies and author of Popular Protest in Palestine.
His main points: He expressed his appreciation for all we do for Palestine.
He was particularly interested in our support to the village at the time of the sewage crisis a few years ago when we helped their nonviolent resistance. It is vital that we encourage nonviolent resistance.
He believes that Palestine cannot just by themselves solve the current situation, the imbalance of power is too big. Palestine needs the international community. Like the anti-apartheid campaign for South Africa, we need a similar wide campaign for Palestine to add leverage. The BDS movement is very important. We need to speak out, educate, lobby, it will not happen overnight, but it will happen. Things have already changed a lot since the 80s when hostility towards the Palestinians was everywhere.
Internationals can do different things and some even act as protective shields in Palestine, it all counts and amplifies the voice of the Palestinians.
The difficulty we have, compared to South Africa where there was one authority, the ANC, is that in Palestine there is no unity. One role as internationals can be also to try and help facilitate unity.
We need to reach out to different people in whatever ways we can, including the Jewish community.
Visiting Palestine is also very important as this is when people see the truth and the severity of the situation for themselves.
He wished us good luck and said that we bring a human message of the Palestinians to the UK.
4) Dates and events for your diary (more details to follow): we aim to raise awareness and raise funds for us to continue our projects with Sabastiya.
- Hanwell Carnival Stall Saturday June 16 – help always appreciated
- Brentford Festival Stall Sunday Sept 2 – likewise!
- Summer Social on Saturday 4 August (details to follow)
A mini cultural Palfest : every Friday evening in November: poetry, talks, music, film.
October Visit to Sabastiya – we hope to progress details of this in the next few weeks. It is timed to coincide with the very important olive harvest. Please get in touch if you are considering coming in principle. We would be leaving around 8th October, with possibly 2 nights in Jerusalem or Bethlehem before moving onto Sabastiya.
5) Hafsa projects:
Grey water recycling: we are working with students from an Najah University in Nablus. A prototype will be tried out in one house and evaluated. For this to be rolled out more widely we will need to apply for funding.
School Links: we are still very keen to establish a link with a school in Ealing and have several leads to pursue. The National Union of Teachers organise regular annual visits by teachers to Palestine.
Trees: planting trees is always important in Palestine. If you would like to buy one to plant in Sabastiya get in touch – they are £10 each.
Gas Masks: all the gas masks we bought have been distributed, but more are needed as incursions by the Israeli army are now more frequent. This month already two older citizens have been taken to hospital for inhaling tear gas that were shot towards their houses. A gas mask cost £50 and can also be used against chemical attack.
As 2017 draws to its end, we are organising three events for this autumn: Abu Santa’s Grotto; a stall in West Ealing; and a pianolla concert. Details of all these events can be found on our events page
News from Sabastiya:
Four of us visited Sabastiya this autumn. The light was fantastic, here is a view of the Al Kayed Guest House at dusk.
It was relatively calm while we were there. The village was closed on one occasion, when the Israelis decided to celebrate their religious feast of Sukkot at the Sabastiya ruins. This happens quite often at the time of Jewish religious festivals. The next day it was noticed that some damage had been done to one area of the historical sites. It was not clear who was responsible, but when the Sabastiya municipality called in expert help to repair the damage, the Israeli army arrived and called a halt to it. Sabastiya municipality has formally complained to UNESCO.
We have made contact with the Department of Engineering at An Najah University of Nablus. They have agreed to assign a small team of students whose final year project will be to devise a practical and economical device to recycle grey water. This would be for home use to water trees and gardens. We would initially fund the prototype and, if all goes well, help produce more models.
The Women’s Co-operative, based in the Al Kayed Palace, beneath the guest house, have extended their work: besides producing snacks for the schools, they are now offering take-away dishes and cookery workshops
The olive harvest has just finished. Now is the time to plants more trees and we have sent £500 to buy olive and almond trees to be distributed to families. The trees we provided last year, mostly fruit trees, have done very well. We have also funded the purchase of 10 more gas masks to be given to homes close to the area where tear gas is usually fired.
The Al Kayed guest house, run by Abu Yasser, our rep. in Sabastiya, is doing well. They have now installed air conditioning in three rooms which makes it more appealing to visit in summer. Bara’ delivers eggs for our breakfast from the hens we bought his family and 30 other families three years ago in. Here is a photo of Bara’ when they received the hen and now selling us fresh eggs
The girls’ school has a new head who is determined to improve the school and involve parents more. The school is going to be modernised and extended. We have received a generous donation by one of our HAFSA members to finance the installation of a modern toilet block. Another member had generously donated money to clean up the village cemetery and plant trees and bushes
We visited the nursery the tables we provided for them last year are in use in every classroom adding a splash of colour.
Our Annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place on Saturday January 20th from 2.30-5pm
At St Thomas Church Hall, 182 Boston Road, W7 2AD.
Our guest speaker will be Dr Marwan Darweish – Principal Lecturer in Peace Studies at Coventry University. More detailed programme at a later date.
We will be looking for new committee members. Please consider standing, it is not that onerous – we meet circa 5 times a year. Most importantly, we will need a new Treasurer as Cathie is standing down after seven years.
To keep up-to-date with our activities you can join our Facebook page here
Information on how to donate to support our work can be found here
It has been a very hot summer in Sabastiya, the temperature reaching 40c. The lack of water is becoming chronic. This is why we are envisaging supporting a new project of water recycling, more details below.
Here in Hanwell we have been busy fundraising and we thank all those who participated in one way or another. Despite being in the middle of a general election, 70 people attended our Balfour event in the Town Hall in May where MP Steve Pound spoke. We even managed to raise £60. Many groups of all kinds up and down the country have been organising an event relating to the Balfour Declaration which is a hundred years old this year.
Our stall at the Hanwell carnival was busy all day and we raised £555 with the sale of cakes, jewellery, and the tombola and reflexology sessions. We even got our MP Virendra Sharma to buy a tombola ticket!
The last event of the summer will be the Brentford Festival on Sunday 3rd September from 12 noon -6pm. This will be at Blondin Park W5, one entrance is from Boston Manor Road, not far from Boston Manor station.
We hope to see many of you there! We will have a stall selling books, cakes, jewellery and a tombola, we may also do some busking!
Please if you can donate items it will be very useful: Tombola prizes: anything as long as it is new (bottles, tins, games, etc….). Cakes:any shape or form. Jewellery (even used) and good books. Please bring to the stall on the day or deposit at Marjorie’s, phone beforehand: 0208 567 8655. Also needed are lavender heads for Gillian to make lavender bags which sell very well, so if you have a plant please can you collect them and leave them on newspaper to dry until they get to Gillian:*protected email*
News from Sabastiya: Ahmad Kayed reported that the water situation is dire. It seems that Nablus has taken Sabastiya’s share of the water allocated by the Israelis. The municipality is trying to resolve this, meanwhile villagers have to buy tanks of water from the Israeli water company.
On the positive side: A new committee was created to improve tourism in Sabastiya with the help of World Vision of which Ahmad is a rep. for the North of Palestine. They will fund this venture through the municipality, a movie will be made about the village. Publicity organized to bring local tourism and tourism from Israel. There are also plans to revive the yearly Sabastiya International Festival, as it existed before the intifada, hopefully starting next summer.
Our Projects: The first aid and emergency course for a group of 17 men and women has been completed. They have all been kitted out with gas masks and first aid boxes. The team has already been out three times to help. The gas masks are found to be very useful and we have been asked to buy some more to protect older people and asthmatics living in the areas where tear gas is usually fired. A mask costs £54 if you would like to donate a mask, or half a mask or a quarter of a mask, bank details are at the bottom of the bulletin.
For our next project we are looking at providing families with equipment thatwill allow them to recycle grey water. The water shortage is acute in the West Bank and as described above Sabastiya people are suffering. Recycling dirty water would allow them to water their fruit trees and vegetable gardens. One recycling plant costs around £100 and will help one family. If you would like to contribute to this project please donate. Details are at the bottom of this bulletin.
Visit Palestine: we are told again and again by Palestinians that our visits are important to them. It shows that they are not forgotten and helps break their isolation from the world. Three of us are travelling on September 5th. If you would like to come with us please contact us.
The Cooperative Bank, Ealing Branch
Sort code: 08 92 99
Account number: 65449004
Or send cheques made payable to HAFSA to: HAFSA Treasurer, 9 Cardiff Road, W7 2BW
We had our AGM on February 11th and a new committee was chosen (see below). We discussed future projects, and updated our constitution. We had a talk on the effects of the occupation in the West Bank and we socialised.
We usually ask for membership renewal at the AGM, if you have not paid for 2017 and would like to remain a member please do so. You can send a cheque of £5 to HAFSA at: HAFSA treasurer, 9 Cardiff Road W7 2BW. Or pay by bank transfer, the details of which are at the end of this bulletin
If you want to be taken off our list, please let us know by email.
2017 HAFSA Committee, in alphabetical order we have: Ahmad Kayed (our man in Sabastiya, aka Abu Yasser), Andree Ryan (Secretary), Cathie Bjarnason, Colin Lomas, Jean Fitzpatrick (Vice Chair), Lynne Ringuet, Marjorie Kelly (Membership Secretary), Mary Short, Monika Eady (Chair), Pam Case, Simon Quinn (Publicity Officer) Thurayia Muhammad.
Welcome to our new committee member Mary and welcome back Andree
News from Sabastiya: Ahmad Kayed reported that the Israeli military are now entering the village daily to take down the Palestinian flag that is flying on the hill in area C of Sabastiya. Young people are putting it back and there are frequent confrontations, burning tires, stone throwing and graffiti on the ruins and Roman columns. What was a village backed nonviolent action is now out of control. Tear gas is being used regularly and is affecting families in the area which are getting fed up. This year already eight young men were injured with live and rubber bullets. And eight were arrested, now out of prison. The village has been warned that things may escalate if unrest doesn’t stop.
Two Israeli peace organisations visited Sabastiya: Yesh Din (concerned with law) and Emek Shaveh, (a group of archaeologists critical of the digging and against the occupation). They are helping the village keeping their historical sites, of which many are situated in area C.
Sabastiya is now working at improving the look of the village to become listed as an area considered to be of tourist interest.
Two festivals are planned for this spring: 7-9th of April a Sufi festival with dance, music, a film on Sufism and children magic shows. Performers are coming from Morocco, India and other places. Followed by a spring celebration on 15-16th of April. Funded by an NGO.
Our Projects: last year we bought ten of these round tables and chairs for one of the nursery we also provided the girl’s school with a photocopier.
Future projects are still being discussed, we will keep you updated and we are open to ideas. If you can volunteer a skill, Sabastiya would be very happy to hear from you! Eg teaching music, martial art training or expert advice on pruning trees etc…..just email us.
Visit Palestine: we may organise a tour to Sabastiya in early autumn, no dates fixed yet, if you are interested email us and give us your availability.
If you would like to attend our committee meetings, you need to let us know in advance and we will give you the details, here are the dates for 2017:
Coming Events for your diary: these are all fund raising events, we are not charging fixed entry price, please donate what you can.
There will be a collection to cover the cost and raise funds for HAFSA.
Tuesday 25 April 2pm- High Tea and film at Marjorie’s house: we will show the film: “The Stones Cry Out” the story of the Palestinian Christians. Pllease let Marj. know you are coming by emailing her: moc.l1579899753iamg@1579899753605131579899753yllek1579899753jm1579899753 or texting/phoning her on: 07960804650
Friday 19 May 7.30pm- Balfour Centenary- British Betrayal? At Ealing Town Hall. Come and hear historian Dr Peter Shambrook explain how the Balfour declaration came about and how it has not been implemented in its entirety. Guest speakers: Ealing MP Steve Pound and Brentford and Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury. There will be a collection to cover cost and raise fund for HAFSA- there will also be a Zaytoun stall selling Palestinian products
Sunday 21 May 2.30pm- Pianola Concert and cakes at Bree’s Save yourself the trip to the musical museum and instead listen to a variety of music on an automatic piano while enjoying a chat and some tea/coffee and cake. There will be a choice of Jazz, Scott Joplin, Classical and popular Dance Music. Space is limited and booking essential. Please phone or email Bree: 02088101826 , firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a place and get venue details.Sunday 14 May 2pm, Thursday 20 July 10.30am, Sunday 10 September 7pm and Thursday 9 November 10.30am
We have a Facebook group, you can join at:
In April-May 2016, two HAFSA committee members, Jean and Lynne, visited Sabastiya. Read Jean’s report of their trip below.
Sabastiya – Spring 2016
Travelling: no problem at passport control either way.
The arrangement to get taxis directly from and back to Tel Aviv worked well. A good system: cost this time £70 each way (per party). Good to talk to the Palestinian driver from Tulkarem during the journeys.
Guest house: largely unchanged and still comfortable and welcoming. Not as many guests as in past years due to worsening of the situation (ie knife incidents etc.). While I/we were there we met a twinning group of 3 from the Midlands, 2 PhD students from Germany and Switzerland studying at the British Study Centre in Jerusalem, a family from Hebron (academics), a group of 6 from France who had come to do some walking /exploring, 6 people (from Cyprus, Jordan, Italy) attending the International Mosaic Conference; 2 French and one British EA, an American student studying Arabic in Jordan.
Abu Yasser was expecting later in May a group of about 40 younger Palestinian Israelis (from Haifa/Nazareth) to come with their professors and use the Palace and rooms for a day to explore closer links with the West Bank. And a couple from the West Wales group en route to their twinned village of Rummaneh (very NW corner of the West Bank close by the Israel border).
Enaya Kayed, Abu Yasser’s sister: she was a really active woman, in the village, regionally and nationally in Palestine. At the celebration of her life 40 days after her death, they had a big gathering in the Holy Land Sun, with a lot of national dignitaries paying their respects. She was instrumental, with her brother, a GP and now the Deputy Mayor of Sabastiya, of getting the authorities in Nablus to agree to the filming of Paradise Now. There had been stiff opposition. In the film, in her honour, Sabastiya is mentioned (but not shown).
In the village: we reconnected with some of the young guys I taught English to, particularly Shadi who used to run the original guest house, but who now runs the third, newest guesthouse called the Mosaic Guest House owned and run by the organisation that has links with the religious charity in Italy, who created the original guesthouse, and in so doing uncovered many of the ancient ruins and mosaics in the centre of the village. They were the group that organised the successful Mosaic Conference. Abu Yasser and Shadi now work together in terms of putting up large groups who come to Sabastiya.
There have been considerable problems with the running of the original guest house: the municipality in May got rid of the latest manager and are appointing someone else. Abu Yasser may be involved in helping out the new person.
Watched 3 games of international football – once with Lynne on the large screen set up in the central café, and twice in the café up near the Holy Land Sun. Lots of tea, coffee and squash and biscuits consumed. Very chilly evening.
We were warmly welcomed to the central café by Abu Majdi as usual. People were friendly and said hello. It is looking very beautiful and pristine. They have a few sunshades on the tables now.
I met a group of 3 older guys who spoke to me in German …. All of whom had gone to live in Germany some 50 years ago. A couple still lived there and came back to Sabastiya for 2 months around Ramadan. They told me that there were in fact 20 men in the village who were like them and that a German documentary maker had been to film them recently to make a film about their stories/lives.
Girls School: We thought it very important to try and really connect with them. We were very warmly welcomed (more tea/coffee/biscuits/chocolates). Miss Amani the head showed us around the office etc. They now have 3 teachers of English, the newest one is part time and was the most proactive: it was through her we got to hear about the dire need for a new photocopier. A good replacement costs £1400. They have £400 from Anaya Al Kayed’s estate. This leaves £1000. It was agreed that the money we send goes via Abu Yasser. Everyone was happy with this. I have the email addresses of all 3 teachers and connected with one on FB.
I made short videos of these 4 staff talking about twinning (for something the Twinning Network wants to produce). Miss Amani’s daughter has just graduated in medicine from an Najah university. Speaks excellent English, I have done a lot of corresponding via her.
Need for books: there is a shortage in the school and the girls complain they have to read the same ones over and over again. Wafa, one of the teachers of English would like to do drama with them: they used to perform little plays in English when she was at school (she’s in her early 50s): could we find some plays to take over: or, we could adapt a story into a play format and email it. She would like a play that has a moral! Why not!!! I think we should take books over each time we go.
Our involvement: they said some very nice things about HAFSA! We are welcome any time … but May is the very worst month to do more than just pay visits to the staff room to drink coffee. March and April are better … and maybe we can actually do stuff in classrooms with the teachers and students….
Two Annual Hafsa Prizes/certificates to commemorate Enaya: this was enthusiastically agreed to: for contributions to the community: school and village. As it was the end of term almost, I was invited to a staff lunch at the Holy Land Sun a few days before I left.
Village Library: This time I took over some books from the Oxfam bookshop in Ealing in excellent condition. I asked Abu Yasser what to do with them .. he suggested the library. Library?! This is in a room in the Municipality building. It is run by Zainab who volunteers her time. She had not heard of HAFSA. Originally from Sabastiya, she has just retired back here after spending 36 years as a high school science teacher in Jordan. She was delighted to see us. And get the books … HOWEVER, when I was browsing around I saw they had in fact loads of books in English, clearly largely unborrowed. But, kids who come like playing games …. So maybe we can think of this in the future. Zainab speaks good English, and said we were welcome to visit the library any time – and get to interact with the kids a bit as I did. It was all very relaxed and informal.
In the next room is the clinic where we met Maryam one of the main nurses. She lives in Nablus. She had not heard of HAFSA. She spoke excellent English, partly because her husband works and travels in Palestine a lot with and on behalf of international NGOs. Very outgoing and chatty. In Sabastiya there is a higher incidence of cancer than in comparable areas and they don’t know why.
“Special Needs” Project: Before any centre is established, it is necessary to find out what the range of needs are, what the priorities might be. We visited Marwan in Jenin refugee camp who along with others started a centre offering replacement limbs, physio and speech therapy. His paid day job is working for the ministry of youth and culture in Ramallah. We attended an afternoon of a 3-day summer camp for about 60 young people with learning disabilities. Students came from various places in the West Bank. It was fun and very inspiring. Hani, Abu Yasser’s son came along too. This camp was held in a centre in the Jordan Valley owned by the ministry of youth now … it had been built in the thirties as a British prison …. very eery being there!
What should/can HAFSA do? A needs analysis needs to be done; Abu Yasser says they already have some information. Marwan could assist in helping with this and costing it. Abu Yasser was keen on replicating a summer camp for just a day for Aabastiya and neighbouring villages …. Marwan could help organise this. It might help get the ball rolling ….
Women’s project to make and supply pizzas and filled bread to school tuck shops: This has absolutely nothing to do with HAFSA as it is funded by a foreign NGO. They have equipped a larger downstairs room in the palace as a kitchen. It seems ideal. But, we did get to meet and spend time with the group of 5/6 women who do this every day … some getting up at 5.30 to begin all the prep and baking … etc etc. One morning Lynne and I went with Samar, Abu Yasser’s wife, to help deliver all the food. We went to 3 other neighbouring villages. it was so interesting, the drive through the hills so beautiful! And the reception in one of the girls’ schools literally overwhelming. At the last stop we went back to someone’s house for a cold drink and a biscuit.
The women chop onions and peppers by hand …. For all the toppings and fillings. It takes 2 women at least an hour … I thought maybe a small, labour-saving food processor might be handy ….?? But maybe they like doing it in this traditional way? Like picking, preparing, rolling all the vine leaves… takes so much time …. But that’s what they do. Any thoughts?
Developing the Northern West Bank tourist/friendship network: For a few years now, Abu Yasser has been very keen on the idea of improving communication/tourism in this area, and networking with like-minded Palestinians … i.e, north of Ramallah up to the border with Israel. He feels this area is neglected by international visitors/NGOs etc. He has established contacts and is building on these: visits, joint projects, maybe forming a committee to discuss possibilities.
The annual Palestine Festival of Literature takes place at the end of May which I told Abu Yasser about. It transpired that he knows one of the organisers from Bir Zeit university in Ramallah. The only one event they had up north was in Nablus, at the library. He wants to talk about the possibility of having something in Sabastiya. You may have read that Ahmad Massoud, one of the artists due to take part, the author of Vanished who came to our Ealing Palfest, was denied entry at the Allenby Bridge … by Israel, who said he was from Gaza. He has a British passport, but no, he is from Gaza, so can’t visit the West Bank. All the other international artists got through. I heard him speak recently and he said this experience has really shocked and traumatised him… as if he is a non-person.
Israel/settlers: Soon after we arrived, Abu Yasser told us that they had been told that Israel would be back within the week to continue to their development of the ruins area, ie Shomron National Park. They knew no further details … and no further news came . ……
It was Passover while we were there, and for 2/3 days all the area from the far side of the large carpark/football pitch, to the ruins in the hills … was out of bounds to people from Sabastiya/Palestinians. It was popular with Israeli visitors who came in cars and coaches.
The army was present with jeeps and guns, and one evening there was some trouble with them throwing tear gas canisters through the windows of a house where there were a number of young people at home. Late one night there had also been stone throwing by settlers on the main road to Nablus, which caused long traffic jams and much fear. We were coming back from a concert of the first Nablus Cultural Festival and got caught in this … our driver had to take a detour into the hills to get us to Sabastiya. He was clearly very fearful.
Other things: It was a packed programme the 6 days Lynne and I were there together – we also went up to meet people from the new group in Rummaneh to help forward a project for their nursery. We had lunch in Jenin with the main guys. We visited a women’s craft fair in Nablus and sourced a number of items, discovering the wonderful women who run the Tubas Soap Company.
Outside of this, when Lynne had gone home, I also caught up with friends and ex-students from the university, did some English conversation there, visited homes, had so many dinners, so much coffee and tea. Heard about one large development project in Bethlehem, Tubas and Tulkarem governorates …. And financed by …. The British Government! I could hardly believe my eyes and ears. If you google this you can also find some fine-sounding words that were written to report the signing of this agreement at the posh Movenpick hotel in Ramallah. You remember Huda, my ex-student who spoke at our AGM… her father is involved in this and invited me to the ceremony. It would have been amazing to have gone but I would have already left by then.
I went to meet a friend who works at the British Council in Ramallah, went back to my favourite restaurant there, Ziriyab, and discovered a new one offering curries and oriental cuisine .. the owner learnt his skill in San Francisco and is married to an American. But of course! I treated myself to a nightie and a ring from THE silver shop in Ramallah ……details of which I am sure you are dying to hear about. I was offered gifts to bring back for everyone! Jars of jam, honey, olives, olive oil, zatar, bars of soap, lemons, grapefruit, mint, sage … and literally, the shirt off their backs…. Such is the second to none hospitality as we all know. Sadly I had to leave these all behind. And my heart.
Jean, June 4 2016
View photos of their trip in the Gallery
The AGM held in January was well attended with excellent presentations from the speakers Vincent Fean, former British Consul-General to Jerusalem, Huda Sameer, a former student of Jean’s in Nablus now studying landscaping in Greenwich and Birgit, a young German woman who was in Palestine helping with the olive harvest when her group was attacked by settlers.
At the first committee meeting in February elected officers were:
Chair: Monika Eady
Vice Chair: Jean Fitzpatrick
Treasurer: Cathie Bjarnson
Secretary: Lynne Ringuet
Membership and Minutes Secretary: Marjorie Kelly
Publicity: Bree Robbins
News from Sabastiya
Sadly Abu Yasser’s sister, Anaya, passed away at the beginning of the year. Anaya was a wonderful woman who was very active in the village community, leading the women’s co-operative, mentoring young girls, always helping out women in difficulty and leading in the setting up of the guest house. The committee will speak to Abu Yasser about setting up an annual prize in her memory to be awarded to a young girl who contributes towards the community. He has more recently also lost a cousin and a nephew. Our heartfelt condolences go to Abu Yasser and to his family.
On a more positive note, he has been in contact with the Israeli Archaeological Society about protection of the ruins and further meetings have been arranged with the Minister for History. This is very good news for the village as they will now be officially involved in any future developments regarding the ruins. They are very heartened by this.
Jean will be visiting Sabastiya for three weeks from 24th April and Lynne will join her for a week. They will be meeting old and new friends and the chickens, admiring the newly planted fruit trees and bringing back Palestinian goods for Hafsa to sell. Jean is also hoping to visit an outreach clinic of SAMA, the St John’s Eye Hospital in Jerusalem which has a network of clinics run by Diana Safier throughout the West Bank.
Marjorie Kelly and Kathy Tomlinson have taken over the sale of Zaytoun products so please contact them for your supplies of olive oil, za’tar, soap etc. Kathy can be contacted on 02085795282 Marjorie can be contacted on 07960804650. Zeytoun goods will be available for sale at the socials and summer festivals.
In March, Hafsa sent £1,500 to buy fruit trees for 41 village families. They included almond, lemon, peach and two types cherry tree, planted in gardens and on farms. They are very appreciative of this contribution.
Longer term, the committee is also exploring ways in which we can set up some form of assistance for the special needs children and young adults in the village. This will require local professional input and ideas. There are several schemes operating in the West Bank especially in Bethlehem. Some provide care and therapy or activity sessions while others are occupational with members making bags or felt products. This is a project that needs careful preparation and clear understanding of what Hafsa is be able to commit to in the long term.
There is also a suggestion that Hafsa support a project to deal with ‘grey’ (waste) water. This again needs further research.
Bree and Monika have produced a new Hafsa leaflet after stocks of our last one ran out. This will be published soon.
We will be showing the wonderful Palestinian film ‘Paradise Now’ at the Northfields Community Centre on Tuesday 24th May at 7.30pm. This film by Hany Abu-Assad won the 2005 European Film Academy award for best script and was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film. Filmed during the Intifada amid real life violence, it deals with the grim subject of suicide bombing but with a darkly comic theme running through it. Simon Quinn has studied Paradise Now in depth and will introduce it.
We are trying to widen the popularity of our film showings so please bring a friend who might be interested.
There will be Hafsa stalls as usual at the Hanwell Carnival (18th June) and the Brentford Festival (4th September).
A Summer Social will be held at Jean and Colin’s (109 Southdown Avenue) on Saturday 16th July starting at 6pm. These socials are always great fun, delicious food and a chance to get together and to raise funds for our village projects.
Balfour Year 2017
Next year will mark the centenary of the infamous Balfour Declaration, a letter written in 1917 which ultimately led to the woeful situation in Palestine today. Go to www.balfourproject.org for more information on it and on activities that are being planned for next year. Some members would like to participate in this and we will be planning local informative events. This may not be under the Hafsa banner if it is deemed political and therefore not within our constitution.
The annual membership fee of £5 is due at the beginning of the year so a reminder if you haven’t joined for 2016. You can send a cheque to Marjorie Kelly, 5 Cardiff Road W7 2BW or make a bank transfer to the Hafsa account, Co-op Bank, sort code 08 92 99, account number 65449004. Please don’t forget to put your name in the reference box if you make a transfer.
Dear HAFSA members,
You are invited to attend the Hanwell Friends of Sabastiya 5th Annual General Meeting. This will take place on:
Saturday 30th January 2016 from 3pm until 6pm
At St Thomas Church Hall: 182 Boston Rd, Hanwell W7 2AD
we will have the usual formal AGM (draft agenda below) and a speaker or two (TBC) then socialising round a buffet and drinks
DRAFT BUSINESS AGENDA:
· Minute of previous AGM (attached)
· Matters arising (will be included in the chair report)
· Chair report (illustrated), questions and adoption of report
· Treasurer report, questions and adoption of report
· Nominating a new committee (minimum 6). The new committee will chose from its members a chair, vice chair, treasurer, secretary at their first meeting. it would be good to have new faces in our committee, If you are willing to become a committee member, please e mail me. Nominations will also be taken on the day from the floor.
· Any Other Business and general discussion
If you would like to add anything to the agenda please send me your request by January 10th
Andrée (HAFSA Secretary)