is a grassroots, political movement in Israel that responds to the
military occupation of Palestinians through nonviolent resistance
and humanitarian relief. For the last five years Ta’ayush,
an Arabic word that means “life in common,” has been building
longstanding relationships between Israelis and Palestinians in
the region. The network consists of thousands of Israeli-Jews and
Arab-Israelis who bring food, water, blankets, and labor resources
to Palestinian villages in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
They demonstrate against the wall as well.
After the second Intifada began in September 2000, Israeli-Jews
and Arab-Israelis established Ta’ayush. “We moved from
a protest culture to a resistance culture,” Yigal Bronner—an
activist in the group who teaches South Asian Studies at Tel Aviv
University and the University of Chicago—explained.
The movement creates long-term relationships with Palestinian communities.
First, Ta’ayush sends an envoy to the Palestinian community
and they decide with the residents what would be most helpful and
effective. Then they establish an ongoing presence in these Palestinian
communities. If needed, Ta’ayush participants rotate sleep
shifts in the Palestinian communities. These Israelis and Palestinians
maintain ongoing dialog—even if they are on opposite sides
of the wall. “We’re going to be together and not let the
policies separate us,” Bronner said. “To exist is to resist.”
For several years Ta’ayush has been working in the South Hebron
Hills where violent settlers attack Palestinians, bringing food
and water to the Palestinians, who live primarily in caves. Israeli
forces have a history of destroying the caves and water cisterns
in these communities, leaving the people homeless and without drinking
In January 2002 Ta’ayush established a “blanket convoy”
for the Palestinians who lost their homes. The Ta’ayush convoy
consisted of hundreds of people in scores of cars carrying blankets
for the homeless.
In most cases the Israeli military finds out about the upcoming
events, so the soldiers have a signed form declaring the area a
military zone. On arrival, the resisters are told to go back. In
the case of the blanket convoy some people were arrested, but most
walked with the blankets to the homeless residents.
When Ta’ayush found out that settlers near the Maon farms were
leaving barley containing rat poison for the Palestinians’
livestock, Ta’ayush participants collected the poison and disposed
Ta’ayush sees such activities as a way to highlight the injustices
taking place. “We don’t have the ability to solve the
problem, but let’s attract attention to this situation,”
Bronner said. People cannot imagine how much damage one settler
does to an entire Palestinian community. During a presentation,
Bronner showed a photo from South Hebron of a group of settlers
carrying semiautomatic weapons toward the camera. “This is
a picture of the settlers before they attacked us,” he added.
The settlers shoot livestock and people, yet the Israeli military
does not stop them. The Israeli military uses tear gas, water cannons,
and shock grenades against Ta’ayush because the participants
are considered a public threat. When asked if the settlers fire
their weapons at Israelis also, Bronner said they shoot at Ta’ayush
participants with rubber-coated metal bullets. He explained that
the settlers in this area like the extremists to attack the Palestinians
and wreak havoc, but the settlers do not want the extremists living
in their communities.
As a result of expanding settlements Israel is annexing South Hebron
in a massive effort to brutally transfer the Palestinian cave dwellers.
In the West Bank, the wall is having the same social and geopolitical
impact. “The Palestinian people are becoming a landless people
through the wall,” Bronner said.
Bronner noted the cement blocks of
the wall are dated with the day of their erection. During the week
of the Gaza withdrawal, Bronner noticed overwhelming construction
of the wall around East Jerusalem. Many sections had completion
dates corresponding to the time of the Gaza withdrawal.
Since the wall annexed thousands of dunums of Palestinian land,
thousands of trees have also been uprooted. Ta’ayush has planted
tree saplings in several communities where tree razing took place.
For several farmers who could not reach their land Ta’ayush
sent envoys during harvest time.
Ta’ayush has several chapters throughout the region so people
participate in various activities near their own homes at different
levels of commitment. For example some people attend meetings and
activities while others attend the activities only.
In mixed Israeli and Palestinian communities, such as Haifa, Lod,
and Ramleh, local municipalities discriminate against Palestinians
through lack of housing permits and they allow Palestinian neighborhoods
to deteriorate. Ta’ayush participants go to these areas and
renovate the streets.
Within Israel there are many Palestinian villages that Israel does
not recognize geographically and financially. Israel will not allow
the people in these villages to have running water, electricity,
or to perform infrastructure construction. Ta’ayush participants
have gone to these communities and helped to pave roads. When Israeli
forces demolished a Palestinian home of a widow and her nine children,
Ta’ayush rebuilt it.
Although the group formed to cross psychological barriers, the occupation
and the wall made the movement about crossing physical boundaries
as well. Bronner expressed concern for the Palestinians living in
the Occupied Territories because he foresees the wall’s completed
construction will turn these communities into ghettoes, with life
at subterranean levels.
However, he believes the planting of olive tree saplings is most
symbolic of the Ta’ayush movement. As the trees have grown,
so has the potential for change.
Nettnin is a journalist who writes about social, political, economic,
and cultural issues. Her focus is the Middle East.