On January 31 2014, the Popular Struggle Committees participants united as part of the “Melh Al-Ard” (salt of the Earth) campaign with the objective of revitalising the abandoned village of Ein Hiljeh in the Jordan Valley.
The choice of the location wasn’t random; it’s strongly connected to the political requests of the action: stop the on-going effects of the Occupation’s plan and reconfirm the Palestinian sovereignty over those territories in the Jordan Valley (Area C) that Israel want to annex with the assent of the negotiations carried out by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
More than 300 Palestinians from different villages of the West Bank gathered on the first day. An increased participation compared to that of 2013 in Bab Al-Shams, the Palestinian encampment erected on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where Israel wanted to build 35,000 housing units creating a corridor of settlements with the intent of fragmentising and isolating the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The transformation and appropriation of Palestinian land, implemented by Israel, doesn’t only aim to the establishment of the Zionist idea of “Greater Israel”, it also has a less visible agenda: the control of the Palestinian population and resources.
The Palestinians counteract by refusing the occupant’s authority, reclaiming the Palestinian sovereignty, denouncing the occupation in all its elements and looking for new forms of nonviolent popular struggle.
The aim is to create an alternative grassroots movement able to escape from corrupt government policies but with a national impact. Direct nonviolent actions as Ein Hijleh have a powerful resonance: they raise consciousness and use creative tension as a mean of bringing down an unjust system, replaced by a just and human one.
“Melh Al-Ard” (Salt of the Earth) refers to a phrase from the bible, Matthew 13:5: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
As the communication of the campaign states: “The sons and daughters of Ein Hijleh call upon our people to join the struggle to revive the village and protect our rights, history, culture and land. Daughters and sons of Palestine be the salt of this earth and stay steadfast on it.”
To this invitation, residents of Nabi Saleh responded by leaving their village, still involved in the weekly Friday demonstrations against the Israeli Occupation Forces, to head towards Ein Hijleh. Nabi Saleh is a small village of 500 inhabitants located near Ramallah and belonging to the Tamimi family.
An essential member of the Popular Struggle Committee, it’s one of the most active resistant villages in the West Bank. Positioned in area C, their struggle is against the illegal expansion of the Halamish settlement. In 2008 Ein Al-Qaws was taken over by the settlers, since then Nabi Saleh has been fighting against the Occupation system.
On Friday, Nabi Saleh’s inhabitants challenged the mobile checkpoints that were blocking the main roads to Ein Hijleh. After taking a secondary road and deceiving the Israeli police, they arrived triumphantly singing their way through the palms that surround the ruins of the old Canaanite village.
In the village of Nabi Saleh, the role of women is fundamental to the popular struggle. The commitment of women is recognised and supported because “they are the educators of the new generations. If women aren’t free nor will the new generations be”, Bassem Tamimi, recognised as Human Rights Defender by the EU, said.
Women are the driving force of the nonviolent movement in Nabi Saleh. Every Friday, while chanting slogans and proudly holding Palestinian flags, they daringly lead the march towards the tower at the entrance of the village or towards Ein Al-Qaws.
“Palestinian women are planting the seeds of resistance,” Manal Tamimi says. She explained that the women raise their children in a culture of resistance and they are teaching them not to be victims themselves but to react.
For this reason, despite the uncertainty and danger, the women of Nabi Saleh brought their children to Ein Hijleh. “We want them to learn the spirit of volunteering. It’s important for children to participate to these actions in order to grow aware of their role in the resistance,” Manal said.
Women and children of Nabi Saleh are well aware of how to act in case of raids from the army, they were born and raised under occupation and they’ve had to deal with it daily.
“Let them come. The army comes everyday to my house stepping on my land,” Rouan Tamimi said. Women also join these events to help deter the use of excessive violence towards the activists.
It is pivotal to involve children and women in the construction of the foundations of society in order to assure an inclusive community. The strength of the nonviolent movement is the equality of responsibility, regardless of affiliation, gender or social class. Anyone can give their contribution to the struggle.
The author is a Servizio Civile Internazionale Italia (SCI) volunteer with a Master’s degree in International Cooperation. She is currently living in Nabi Saleh and reporting about the Popular Struggle.