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Oral History

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Showing 1 - 20 from 33 entries

> Palestinian Women in Resistance
> Mary van Teeffelen-Morcos: Mary's anger
> Violette Lama, Rachel's Tomb area
> Talal Barham, Rachel's Tomb area
> Nicola, restaurant owner at Rachel's Tomb
> Michael and Linda Costa Halabi, Rachel's Tomb...
> Antoinette Knesevich
> Life in Beit Sahour : Jaela Andoni’s Story
> Alexandar Qamar, Aida Camp-Rachel's Tomb area
> Makram al Arja - Everest restaurant in Beit Jala
> Shliby, living at Rachel's Tomb area
> Interview with Claire, living in Rachel's Tomb area
> Marwan, living in the Rachel's Tomb area
> Melvina, on the history of the Rachel's Tomb area
> Dima, a young architect,, about the Rachel's Tomb area
> Antoinette Kinesivich about the Rachel's Tomb area
> Shafiq al-Hout's Story
> A Doctor in Galilee
> My Utopian Jaffa
> Some Personal Recollections: Sixty Years Since 1948
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Melvina, on the history of the Rachel's Tomb area
submitted by Arab Educational Institute

Interview with Melvina

…. As if the Wall is on My Heart

Melvina lives in a house along the former main street in Bethlehem (Hebron Road). The Wall is a few meters from the backside of her house.

They did not plan to build the Wall as it is now. They were planning to build the Wall in the middle of the street, so that it would be separated in two parts: one side connected to Israeli-controlled Rachel’s Tomb and the other side to Bethlehem. But afterwards some people decided to change the plan, I don’t know why, and so it was built along a different route. In front of our house the street remained as it was, but a little further you see it is blocked. People who come to visit Rachel’s Tomb should come from Jerusalem, outside the gate, and should return without entering Bethlehem. They closed this whole area. In the newspapers we saw maps with the planned route of the Wall. We looked at the papers, but had no idea how it would be in reality. A few years ago the army was always here. The Wall affected our economic situation in a terrible manner. As we say in Arabic “we lost below zero”. The area is closed, all shops are closed. In the past people from Bethlehem could work in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, cities presently on the other side of the Wall. Now it is very difficult to bring or send something there. I and my husband had a medical drugs store and a store for different kinds of products. We had 23 people working for us, so 23 families lived from our business. Now there are no employees anymore. The Israelis think that the Wall is for their safety and peace. But if anyone wants to do something in Israel, they can go without the Israelis knowing. After as well as during the building of the Wall there were many problems - both on the Jewish side and on our side. Already before the Wall was built Palestinians needed permission to go to Jerusalem. So, the Wall was not built to prevent people going to Jerusalem. The Wall was neither built to allow the Jewish people to come and visit Rachel’s Tomb; it surrounds the whole West Bank. It is to create a feeling… the feeling that the Wall surrounds you; that you are not permitted to move. Every time, every day you see the Wall. When I look outside through the window to see the sunrise or the sunset the Wall is in front of me. When I go to the Wall I feel that something closes in on my heart, as if the Wall is on my heart… When I see the Wall I feel ashamed of myself, because it is created by human beings. The three monotheistic religions are in one and the same place here. The whole world is represented. God could have put Muslims, Jews and Christians in different places, but he did not. He is not joking or playing with us; he did this because he wants to teach us that we must love each other and live in peace with one another. Actually it is not the Wall but the human being that makes me feel ashamed. We do not love each other. If we do not love each other there will be one problem today, ten tomorrow and one hundred the day after tomorrow, until the end of all life.

My last hope is to pray, because everything is in the hands of God. I do not have hope for the people on both sides. Only faith in God. If he wants he can change all the hearts and the whole situation… if we deserve it. If we do not deserve it; what can we do? We are not living in love and peace.

People who think that they can do something believe in a lie… It is not true. We only hope, because the Berlin Wall, too, fell after many years. We pray, asking that one day everything will be different. But our hope is far… We do not see light at the end of the tunnel, because we have problems every day. And it is getting worse. Look, the people have nothing: no work, no money, no food. So they go and throw stones at tanks. Do you know how many people cannot go to Jerusalem? How many children did never see the sea? If people would have money and can move freely, if you have something to live for, you will just live. If you have not, you will make problems.

An interview like this will never give the whole picture for people who live outside these circumstances. Only a person who is inside, who lives with the problems every day, who knows what it is to ask a permission to go abroad, or who has no business, no bread for his child, knows what it is like. Outsiders will not understand it. Of course they can feel with us, but they only have a rough idea/ Even if we would talk on for years they would not know.
In general, Europeans do have a big role to play, but I believe that they are now making the problems worse. They are giving money to the people here. They give money for food. They do not help people to go abroad, give them an opportunity to work, build a business. In addition, those who get money don’t use it for the benefit of all. America helps Israel with money, weapons, everything. Americans give money to build the Wall and Europeans give money to the people inside. As the EU funding is not for weapons or so, whom do you think is strongest? The Palestinians only have stones. Maybe you’ve seen on television that many boys throw stones at big tanks? There is no comparison… But the weapons or the stones do not solve the problem! They do not bring peace.

Interview: June 2008

Nina Koevoets (24) lived in the West Bank for 3 months doing volunteering work for a non-violence organization in East Jerusalem and conducting interviews for AEI-Open Windows on the impact of the Separation Wall on people’s lives in Bethlehem. The personal stories reflect different thoughts, hopes, despair and ways of coping.

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