“The Occupying Power shall, with the cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children.” (Article 50 of the Fourth Geneva Convention)
The tent school at Arab ar Ramadin about which I wrote in October entitled ‘Education, education, education’ received a “Stop Work Order ‘ almost as soon as it had opened. A “Stop Work Order ‘ is the first step in the demolition process. It was not entirely unexpected though the speed with which it was served was dispiriting.
Stop work orders require the owner of the building or structure to refrain from any further construction and contain a summons to attend a hearing. As Arab ar Ramadin school was built on land belonging to the local benefactor, Kassab Shour, it was served to him. With the help of the Director of Education in Qalqiliya district , Yousef Odeh, Kassab has found a lawyer to submit an objection. This is now in train.
Many people in the village of Arab ar Ramadin also have demolition orders on their houses one of which was carried out in December 2011. The village is in the ‘seam zone’ between the separation barrier and the Green Line. They feel that the Israeli authorities are pressuring this community of 300 inhabitants to leave. The Stop Work order on the school is only part of this.
I had felt alternately angry and upset when I heard about it and made the complicated arrangements to visit last week. Instead of it being a sad occasion we found Hyam Salman, the headteacher, as full of enthusiasm as ever. Things had improved since our last visit. Kassab had arranged for the playground and the area outside the teachers tent to be tarmacked. The staff tent now has running water and a new fridge. The bottom sections of the tents, missing last time, had been put on against the sudden cold weather. The garden had been landscaped and planted with shrubs. ‘It looks more like a school now.’ Hyam remarked in a satisfied tone.
How are the children? I asked. Again, Hyam beamed and said they were settling well. They had got the hang of it all and now stayed in the school instead of sloping off home at break time. Children who had not thrived when they had to go through the checkpoint to school in Habla were beginning to read and write. ‘Slowly, slowly.’ Hyam said. They have hired a new Arabic teacher, the original Arabic teacher had been unable to get a permit into the seam zone. The new 23 year-old Arabic teacher had been dismayed by the primitive conditions when he first arrived but had got used to it. They all keep extra clothes at the school because it gets so cold.
She invited us to see round. The children were relaxed and happy, variously dodging our cameras or posing for photos. Mousa, the Bedouin teacher from the community, put the children through their paces. They were keen to take part. Hyam recounted that in the teachers’ strike (they haven’t been paid all they are owed) some of the children had begged her to keep the school open.
‘What about the Stop Work Order’ I asked. ‘We haven’t.’ was the reply. The court process will take a while, certainly months, possibly years. The school is unlikely to win, but it will buy them time. In the meantime they will provide these children with the best education they possibly can.
I work for Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) as an ecumenical accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained in this email are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer (QPSW) or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting it on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the QPSW Programme Manager for I-oPt firstname.lastname@example.org for permission. Thank you.