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
Makram al Arja: “I show my sumud to the Israelis and the world, and this is an indicator of the Palestinian willingness to continue communicating with Israelis for a just peace”
Interview Rania Murra and Sytske van Bruggen
The Everest Restaurant is located at the highest point of Beit Jala, on top of the hill. It is only a few meters away from an Israeli settlement, Har Gilo. For many years, the Everest restaurant was without doubt the most famous restaurant in the area; many important guests found their way to this beautiful place. It was established in 1945 by the family Al Arja. Makram Al Arja is the manager of the hotel. His seven brothers and sisters live from the income of the hotel as well.
Just before the last intifada started in 2000, the family expanded the restaurant and included it in a large hotel. When the hotel was finished, it was decided to enlarge the kitchen as well. The family, which lives in area B (controlled by the Israelis), did not ask permission for this. When the reconstruction was almost finished, the Israeli army discovered it. The family got a warning that the expansion was illegal and that everything would be destroyed. Out of concern that this would happen, the family put only a roof of corrugated iron over the kitchen.
In October 2000, with the second Intifada, the people of Palestine started to actively resist the Israeli occupation once more. The mountain became a hot spot. Because the settlement Har Gilo was so close, there were shootings nearby. Many tourist groups canceled their reservations. Moreover, the Separation or Apartheid Wall and an Israeli checkpoint were established nearby the restaurant. This made it also more difficult and risky for Palestinians to come.
Heavy stress put on the family
On top of the threat of the kitchen’s destruction, the family also faced other problems. The electricity with which the hotel and restaurant were provided was by far not sufficient. It would cost 250.000 shekels to renew the electricity system. They asked the Palestinian Authority to support them, but it was refused.
During the second intifada, the father of Makram al Arja was already quite aged. He got seriously ill, and needed regular medical treatment in hospital. But Israeli soldiers occupied the parking of the restaurant with their tanks, and put mud and rocks in front of the house. It was not possible for ambulances or cars to get at their house. Makram’s father, seriously ill, had to walk 5 minutes through the fields down to the main road in order to be brought to hospital.
Not long afterwards, he passed away.
Israeli tanks used to fire bombs at Palestinian areas next to the Everest. This was not only psychologically, but also physically very demanding. After a bomb exploded, the family felt deaf for three days.
Hosting families from Beit Jala
Not only the area close to the restaurant was bombed; the army fired on different areas of Beit Jala. Many houses were damaged or even destroyed. 18 families were unable to remain in their houses. They went to the hotel, and lived there for several months. Some families even had to stay a full year in the hotel before they managed to repair their houses.
No financial compensation
Makram al Arja heard that these families got financial support from the Palestinian government in order to pay for the repair and reconstruction of their homes. It was a great disappointment for him that his family did not get any compensation, neither from the Palestinian Authority, nor from the families. He felt that this was not fair.
Around 2001, most of his brothers and sisters decided to leave the country. Some went to Egypt, others to the United States. Makram stayed in Beit Jala. Nowadays, the situation of the Everest remains difficult. The settlement Har Gilo is still nearby, and there is an Israeli military zone along it. Many Israeli soldiers are around. Palestinians are hesitant to go there.
The Everest is part of zone B. This means that, at least theoretically Israeli citizens are allowed to enter this area. Despite all difficulties his family faced, Makram is proud to be on such a special spot. “Even though I live in a difficult situation, I am happy that the Everest is a place where Palestinians and Israelis can meet. This provides an opportunity to speak about peace. I never think about leaving my place! In this way, I show my sumud (steadfastness) to the Israelis and the whole world.”