Monday, September 3, 2012

RE-BLOG: Haikus for Palestine and Operation Days of Penitence (2004)

Dear friends,
as you will be aware, I have started to "re-blog" some of my posts from my very first blog, Palestine Eyewitness, which documented my first visit to Palestine in 2004. 

Please find below my second "re-blog" installment.  This installment is a little different in that it is a series of Haikus (or Japanese) poems which were written by my friend and team mate Hannah.   

Hannah is an American Jewish activist and is just one of the amazing women I have been fortunate to work with and become friends with in Palestine.  Hannah wrote the Haikus in the first days of "Operation Days of Penitence", which was the name given by the Israeli military to their 17 day assault on Gaza from September 30 until October 16, 2004.  The name given by the IOF was given in recognition of fact that it coincided with the Jewish religious holiday, Yom Kippur.

More than 130 Palestinians were killed, including approximately 30 children.  It was the largest Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) assault on iGaza since the start of the Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000.

At the time, it was my first experience in Palestine of an all out assault on the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza. Like our Palestinian friends in the West Bank, we anxiously followed the news of what was happening closely. I recall at the time being shocked, distressed and angry at what I read, saw and heard.  

During the assault, Israel sent in an estimated 200 armoured vehicles into Palestinian towns, village and densely populated refugee camps.  The IOF  launched regular raids into civilian areas, attempting to carry out extrajudicial assassinations and firing on Palestinian targets from the air and ground.  The IOF sealed of sealed off Palestinian villages and townships, restricted both the freedom of movement of Palestinian civilians, as well as humanitarian/emergency relief workers. In the 17 day operation, they destroyed large areas of agricultural land and destroyed Gazan infrastructure, destroying schools, businesses and other public works.  In particular, the IOF also dug deep trenches across several main roads, severing sewage, water and electricity lines. Hundreds of Palestinians homes were also destroyed.

During the operation, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Beit Hanoun, Izbet Beit Hanoun and parts of Jabalia camp  were under siege. Many thousands of civilians were unable to leave their homes.

In one of the poems, Hannah mentions Kate, another of our team mates who is also an American Jewish activist campaigning in support of the Palestinian people.  At the end of her post, Hannah includes a list of the those killed in the first days of the assault and asked her friends, family and networks to not ignore the assault and Israel's actions.

After leaving IWPS several years ago, Hannah and another team mate, Dunya, went onto found Birthright Unplugged, which as its website notes originally "began, in part, as a response to fully-funded, Jewish-only trips to Israel and as a rejection of the notion of a “birthright” for Jewish people to the land of Israel/Palestine.  Israel has denied Palestinians the internationally recognized right of return for refugees, instead creating a “Law of Return” that extends citizenship benefits to any person of Jewish heritage, thereby excluding millions of Palestinians from living in the land in which they were born".

Birthright Unplugged is designed to offer opportunities for people to gain first hand knowledge and to  use that knowledge to make positive change in the world.  In particular the group focuses on support for Palestinian led non-violent campaigns of all kinds that seek to pressure Israel to comply with international law and supports their participants' getting involvement in human rights-based and justice-oriented efforts, including contributing to the international  Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Today, Hannah is also works with Adalah in New York in support of the Palestinian BDS campaign.

I hope that you will find this series of "reblogs" interesting and that they may provide, in part, some insight of what was happening on the ground in Palestine at the time.

Please note that due to being very new to blogging at the time, a number of my earliest posts on Palestine Eyewitness are all dated 4 November.  The posts had been written at earlier dates and shared via email with friends, family and supporters.  My blog was not established until some weeks into my trip, so where possible I will noted the date of when the post was originally written, as well as the date posted on Palestine Eyewitness.

In solidarlity, Kim
Haikus for Palestine
Original blog here


Written 1 September 2004, posted on Palestine Eyewitness on 4 November 2004

Kim writes:
I thought you might enjoy reading some Haikus (Japanese style poetry of 3 lines and 17 syllables) that one of my IWPS colleagues, Hannah, has written as part of her regular report to family, friends and other Palestinian Human Rights supporters in the USA.

The Haikus are just a snapshot of many of the things we experience here, both good and bad.

Hannah has provided some explanation for them in her introduction, but I will add a little additional explanation about one or two things.

For example, there are two Haikus listed under the title Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the Jewish festival of the Day of Atonement. It is the day is considered to be the holiest and most solemn day of the Jewish year, as it is the day of repentance and atonement when Jews repent for the sins of all Jews and try to atone for them .
Hannah and another team member, Kate, are both Jewish and this year for Yom Kippur they distributed/pasted-up a penitance prayer in two of the closeby illegal settlement (see

It has been during Yom Kippur, that the Israeli govt and the IDF has launched their operation in Gaza calling it "Days of Penitance". As of today, over 60 people have been killed (one third of them under the age of 15 years) and 300 people wounded.

Hannah's Haikus reflect both the good, humourous, the bad and the ugly, including the brutality of the occupation but also the hope and the resiliance of the people of Palestine.

cheers, Kim 
Hannah writes: 

October 1, 2004
Dear friends,I can’t believe it’s October already, the month that I come back to the US. I’ve started to think about my presentation, so you’re welcome to start thinking about where and when you’d like me to present. :) I think I’ve been boring myself with articles, but from boredom springs creativity, right? So for this e-mail, I’ve composed 17 haikus (they’re 17 syllables each, so it seemed an apt number). 

I’m afraid they’ll be quite incomprehensible to those of you who are not here with me, but hopefully you’ll understand and/or appreciate some of them. There are a few Arabic words in them. "Alhamdulilah" means "Praise God" and is said all the time here. "Nos nos" literally means "half half" but can be translated as "so-so."

On a more serious note, I’ve included at the end only a few of the names and ages of those killed in Gaza in the past 48 hours. I j!ust heard that Israeli security forces have dubbed the operation "Days of Penitence," as they supposedly try to force militants to repent. I find this gross misuse of the Jewish tradition absolutely disgusting.

Enjoy the haikus, and please don’t ignore the growing list of victims of this war and occupation.

Child in Jayys
She sings for us in English
"We Shall Overcome"

Demo in Budrus
All arrestees get released

Does the donkey have
a name, I ask. "No," she says.
He: "His name is Bush."

Fatima comes in
Sheds her hijab and her coat
Sprawls out on our couch 

Settler women
Called by soldiers at checkpoint
Come to harrass us

Bus stopped for hours
Why? I ask the soldier there

"Hamil." Lovely word.
Pregnant. Used both for women
And the olive trees 

Zajid sweeps the floor
Three years old, he’s almost four
Hope in Palestine

Border policeman
"How my English?" he asks me.
"Nos nos," I respond.

Killing in Gaza
The army shoots randomly
Forty, forty-one…

On the birth of our friends’ twins:
W-ard’s two new siblings
Cousin Zajid wants to share
"No, they’re both for me."

Faisa brings home twins
Says to me about the girl
"Heba looks like you"

On Sounds:
Vehicle blares sound
In the village, jeep or truck?
Curfew or veggies?

Gunshots in Hares
A wedding or invasion?
Laughter. A relief.

On Yom Kippur:
Waiting for nightfall
Our landlord searches for stars
Asks, "Does the moon count?"

Houses demolished
Kate:"Did the soldiers repent
Before or after?"

Writing my haikus
Lesson in being concise
Palestine in brief

The following is a list of 18 people killed yesterday in Gaza. Overnight last night and throughout the day today, the toll has risen to 40-something dead and at least 130 wounded:
"The Ministry of health released the following list of residents killed in the military raid conducted on Thursday; the ministry said that the list is not final yet;
1.Tawfiq, Al-Sharafi, 24, Jabalia.
2.Saed Mohammad Abu Al-Eish, 14, Jabalia.
3.Mos'ab al-Barade'ey, 21, Jabalia.
4.Fathi Al-Sawaween, 23, Jabalia.
5.Khalil Abu Naji, 23, Jabalia.
6.Ahmad Madhi. 16 Jabalia.
7.Usama Al-Barsh, 21 Jabalia.
8.Abdul-Hai Al-Najjar, 21, Jabalia
9.Rafat Jadallah, 23, Jabalia.
10.Sofian Abu Al-Jedyan, 40, Jabalia.
11.Mohammad Al-Habal, 60, Beit Lahia.
12.Hamza Ahmad, 24, Jabalia.
13.Mohammad Al-Jabeer, 17, Jabalia.
14.Mohammad Al-Hilo, 60, Jablia.
15.Mohammad Al-Masrey.
16.Rami Thaher. Jablia.
17.Atef al-Ashqar, Jablia.
18.Sofian Abu Al-Jidyan, 33, Jablia."

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