This is the full transcript of Battir part 2
Hassan: [00:00:00] These were the first two classrooms created in 1886 before all this construction of the wall. There was a path that goes here. And on the other side where we had the railway station building over here. I have lots of good memories here. This is one of my classrooms during my third and fourth grade of the school.
[00:00:22] And I have lots of memories where the pine trees over here, and we have two big, huge Kenia trees next to here, when once we found a beehive, just building its own cell inside the leaves, and one day the branch fell and we went there as kids to start grabbing honey and the bees flying all over us and so on.
[00:00:42] So for me to have lots of memories, but also for me, the school is very important location of the village. As it’s our route in Jerusalem direction. So this used to be the old route of Battir to go to Jerusalem. After 48, this road has been disconnected totally and we had no access to Jerusalem anymore.
[00:01:04] So we used to go from here Al Walaja, where is Ain el Haniya, then beginning of Malha, Beit Safafa, then go to Bab el Amud. This was the route that my grandmother used to carry the basket of vegetables and go all the way to Jerusalem. It’s 12.7 kilometers from here to the first station in the Talbiye area, Talpyot area. So I walked it several times just to have the feeling of that connection that we lost, unfortunately for nowadays.
[00:01:38] Kristel: Actually, I was thinking this morning, coming here from Beit Safafa to you and I had to drive over the bypass road and do a whole detour that if there was still that old connection that you’re talking about now, it would have taken me 10 minutes to reach from Beit Safafa to here by car.
[00:01:55] But I had to go all the way around and I spent almost 40 minutes coming here with the traffic.
[00:02:00]Hassan: This building. It was one of the elements that not much people know or talk about it in Battir. This was one of the old water tanks implemented during the British mandate. It was a water supply for the railway.
[00:02:13] And you see this hanged pipes over here, there where’s the connection to bring the water from the aqueduct to here to fill it because that time there was no diesel trains yet. So it was more the steam engines where they needed water. So the design of the station during the Ottoman period based on that.
[00:02:31] So they defined the distance between Jaffa and Jerusalem and they picked the places where they have resources. So the distance between each station is about 10 to 20 kilometers. Depends on the water resources. So if you count from Battir, which I told you, 12.7 kilometers to reach the first station .
[00:02:50] And if you count from Battir to Deir es Sheikh the second coming station, the old station the one used to be in the past is about 17 kilometers. So that explains how they designed the whole route based on a historical route, flat area, water resources and so on. The British, they used the same technique, adding more structures like this one and the one that I’m going to show you right now.
[00:03:15] Kristel: So basically on every stop they had to refill water.
[00:03:23]Hassan: This is one of the bridges that were constructed during the Ottoman period. Then it was re maintained and redesigned during the British period.
[00:03:32] And then recently in 2003 by Israeli Railway company. But why I brought you here, because this bridge is named after my family. So it’s known as ‘Jisser Mu’amar’. So everywhere you go in Battir and you want to reach this area of the agricultural land. Where are you going to Jisser Muamer, to Muamer bridge. So it’s named after my family and I just came here often.
[00:03:52]Kristel: Why is it named after your family?
Hassan: Because the land here owned by my family and they got a permission at that time to build the bridge. So as appreciation for giving them the land at that time they named the bridge for the family.
[00:04:05] And I will show you the other side also, but actually I want to show you one of the hidden remains of the old bridge that one day, I wish I can come pick and take it and put it in an open space of the village.
[00:04:18]You can see, this steel structure element. This used to be part of the old, old bridge since they installed it. It used to be wood and steel structures. Then it was replaced after a while, so the old part is just dumped here and one of my dreams is to get it out from here and to just exhibit it as part of the ruins that it explains the story that this train is ours, actually.
[00:04:45] Yeah, I wish one day I can just take it away from here and exhibit it more visible. So we are just standing also next to the bridge. You can see the water stream that collects the water from Beit Safafa all the area West of Jerusalem. All above the mountains to Al Jorah, Malha and comes all the way to the stream where in each distance they give it a specific name.
[00:05:11] So in Battir we call it Wadi Battir. In there Wadi al Walaja or Wadi al Haniya and then it becomes Wadi Ahmad next to Malha. But the Hebrew name that they chosen for now to change the facts on the ground to change the names they called it Nahal Rafaim. And it’s one of the main streams to connect to the Mediterranean with Wadi Sarrar, which they call it Nahal Sorek. So this is like a very historical known valley that has been used as part of the caravan routes and the pilgrim routes roads and the shepherds routes and the trade routes for the people to go to Jerusalem, to come all the way to the coastal area. So when I just come and walk these valleys and all these elements shows up and keep me thinking of what was the quality of life of the people how it was the freedom of movement for people, enjoying the place. Maybe some people, they would say it was difficult days because there was no technology but there was a satisfaction in terms of quality of life, people, they were happy, they were farming.
[00:06:08] They were able to go to Jerusalem and they were able to go to Jaffa. That’s a very important aspect that we lack nowadays, we lack that freedom. And for me, when I come and I remember all these stories and just walk in the nature, it brings some pain, yes. But also it brings a hope that hopefully one day it will come back as it used to be.
[00:06:28] Kristel: Maybe this is also the right point to explain a little bit more about the fact that we are here on the border, right? We are here on the green line. We are on the Westbank side of that. And just on the other side of the railway, you’d be in technically in the state of Israel.
[00:06:43]Hassan: Well you are already technically in the side of Israel right now because after 67, they start considering this place as part of their territory.
[00:06:53] But the classification of the armistice line or the ceasefire line, which started between the two governments that time, the Jordan and the Israelis, according to Rhodes agreement, it was classifying this area as a buffer zone of 200 yards on the two sides of the railway track. So the center line of the border is the railway track.
[00:07:15]100 yard after the edge it become Israeli controlling area and 100 yard on the right side it becomes the Jordanian territory. The area in between the 200 yards, which is the most important one. It was officially agreed that it will remain an ownership of the inhabitants of Battir and they are the only one are allowed to keep ownership and keep having the access to this land. Both armies or both governments, no, just away on the edges in one condition: if they keep the train passing in safe through this area. So when you hear nowadays, about the security issue that Israel keep complaining about the security of the state of Israel is always a red line. It was that methodology they implemented, since that time, always the security issue, even if there is no one threatening their security, they will keep it an excuse in front of the world to keep that Palestinians taking their security and they have to do all this bullshit that they are doing everywhere, just for their own security. But here to have a train passing and you occupied the land, you occupy this and then you keep a condition, if the train will be threatened, the people will be kicked out of their land. The people of, Battir they were smart at that time. And they understood very well. We lost the train. We lost access to Jerusalem and Jaffa, but we will not lose the land. So they fully understood and accepted the condition of the agreement.
[00:08:37] And that’s why Battir is one of the very few cases nowadays in Westbank that we still have access to an ownership, to our land occupied in 1948, which is officially, we are Palestinians still own our lands in Israel. So we don’t call it Israel. It’s Battir lands that we kept before and after 48.
[00:08:57]Kristel: So if you and I were going to go under this tunnel under the train track you’d not be illegal there, but there will be a point at some point further ahead of us that if you would cross it, you’d be technically illegal.
[00:09:11] And is there any kind of borderline any kind of checkpoint, any kind of sign that will tell you from here the people from Battir cannot continue?
[00:09:21]Hassan: Well, that’s one of the things that we’ve been fighting for for the past 10 years, that the Israeli, military forces has always tried to create this kind of fences and signs and to create what’s known as agricultural gates.
[00:09:34] We know these agricultural gates will convert to checkpoints and we refused anything of that. And that’s where we’ve been in Supreme court in Israel since 2005. And we won the case in 2015, January 2015 against building a wall or a fence or whatever here. And that was a very hard process that the community went through for more than 10 years to prevent all that.
[00:09:57] Because, as you know, we have a transformation of geopolitical situation in this country. Based on the circumstances surrounding us. So I don’t know how we started with 48, 67, First Intifada, Oslo, Second Intifada, the construction of the world, then you always have a shifting of the borders and minimizing the spaces of Palestinians.
[00:10:19] And we were part of this process, but we were always sticking to the first agreement that was signed in 48. And we are not breaking any of these rules, so it’s not your right to come. And therefore we fought so hard to prevent any of that happening in Battir. And fortunately we won and that was with the big winning we gained of the inscription of the site as a world heritage site.
[00:10:45] We try to bring more international players and power to the site, how to preserve all this avoiding the geopolitical situation, avoiding what Israel is trying to give as an image of the situation, always to the Western media, to the Western world. And we meant to highlight the value of the site before talking about politics. That was one of our main goals in the beginning.
[00:11:08] So what we will do now, me and you. We’ll go underneath. We will walk the bridge to the other side and I will show you how we will get back to the village through a very nice route.
[00:11:19] Kristel: Yalla, let’s go.
[00:11:22] Hassan: So this is the alternative water stream that’s merging with the main one that goes to Nahal Sorek, what we call Wadi Battir. This is the one coming from the Eastern side where it’s actually getting all the water from Wadi el Makhrour and it goes all the way all along wadi al Makrhour until it reaches this point. And then it merges with the main one to continue to Nahal Sorek or to Wadi es Sarar. From here you see this little tunnel, a water stream structure. That used to be a tunnel, like the one we’ve been there and it used to be like an access for the farmers, with their limitation plan of what Israel called development. They minimize the size of the tenant, so to prevent people access to the area.
[00:12:10] So that’s why Jisser Muamer remained the access where people got up here. Because when you need to go from here, you need to go down and you cannot go walking through it. The second thing you will see is the way marking with the blue and white marking. This is part of the nature and park authority plan on the Israeli side and how to link the trails from all over this area West of Jerusalem, or Yad Kennedy national park all the way to wadi el Makhrour then it would continue upper way to reach the entrance of Efrata settlement, where we have Wadi el Biyar. And this is how they make a connection of all the natural areas around the illegal settlements in Westbank. And then it will be considered as part of their authority, as nature and park authority and then they will take all over the area. So this is like the long term version how they plan for a continuous colonization plan using nature, using trails, using water streams, using settlements, everything with the strategy. Same, you will find with another hiking trail that goes, Wadi Jami’a which is the secondary valley of Battir that links with Ain el Hawia to Husan, that goes to Beitar Illit settlement as well.
[00:13:24] Also it’s way marked with their signage or with their way marking all along the way. And that’s part of the things that it’s not clear for the people, how much impact it will bring on the ground.
[00:13:35] We witnessed few Israeli individuals working and following this. In the past we witnessed big groups of settlers, they would go all along Valley. For something called a day to Jerusalem or something where they are holding flags and they are protected by army , but they stopped actually, when we start having more movement on the Wadi el Makhrour trails. And now I just witness few individuals, like from time to time, two to three people that are coming to walking, and sometimes they don’t know exactly the background of the place and that’s also part of the strategy.
[00:14:07] So people would just go follow the way marking and don’t know if it’s Israel and Westbank. So it’s part of the strategy, but for the people who come in the area, they just come and stop by that edge and go back to Yad Kennedy or something. But the way marking itself, it’s a sign for a long term strategy.
[00:14:24] We will go down and we’ll walk this tunnel .
[00:14:26] Kristel: I have to bend down because I think it’s not more than probably a meter, a meter and 20 centimeters. And it’s about, I dunno, 10 meters in length. Yeah. Now I can get back up again. Oh yeah. And then here, it continues into these two other tubes.
[00:14:59]Hassan: After crossing the other side, we can see the continuity of Wadi el Makhrour, where here in Battir we call it Wadi abu Na’ema. Again the valleys they were named in sections based on its location. It was in a way where the farmers, they can reach which part of the Valley. So it’s the same valley from the Makhrour to here, but for each section was named after a family or a location or a landmark.
[00:15:30] So this section in Battir is called Wadi Abu Na’ema, named of the family has its olive groves nearby. And from here, you can see that structure over there, the old structure, which is the first lime kiln in Battir, which was the lime factory where the people use the old technique of creating or producing the lime powder to use it for the old structure.
[00:15:56] There were no cement at that time and they were burning the limestone to get the lime powder of it, to use it for structure and actually this material, as it’s mainly a natural material, it’s a very efficient for old structures. That is why when you go see the old structures, you will find it sustaining for a long time, comparing with the concrete.
[00:16:20] It has a lifetime between 60 to a hundred years old, then it will collapse and the crack and the contrary, the limestone or the lime powder every time it goes longer with heat and pressure it goes back to its origin as a stone. So this is why the old structures, they could remain thousands of years and you will find them. And that’s the secret of using the natural materials.
[00:16:42]Kristel: So when I see the houses here and they have all these blocks of white limestone, stuck together with this mortar that is made of limestone that is burned and then powdered and then with water mixed. And that is what keeps the stones together. That’s from this kiln!
[00:16:58] Hassan: The new technique with the new blocks of the limestone, no, because they use cement in the back so that they refill it with cement, but those structures, you will find two sides of the limestone and the filling inside with lime powder. And that’s where it gets its strength and it’s long structure.
[00:17:15] So on our left here, we can see one of the main landmarks of Battir, which is the secondary boys school, which is the first school, which was constructed in 1886 in the village. It was one of the first schools in the region for the all the neighbor villages. And it was linked to the railway station, Battir railway station, which used to be on the opposite side of the school.
[00:17:40] So the building of the school, the station, and also an old cafe used to be here was like a cultural hub for the people. They would come take the train to go to Jerusalem, bring the kids to the school. So it’s a very rich area for us. And it’s still, it’s the school that we all agree about. If there is a case we want to talk about in Battir and we want everybody to agree about is that school because it’s the only school in Westbank that’s holding the Palestinian flag. It’s within the armistice line boundary. It’s the only school all over Westbank that it’s only three meters away from an Israeli railway. It’s the only school that it’s a students are Palestinian but it’s located in Jerusalem municipality boundaries.
[00:18:26] So it’s the most complicated story in the region. But the community had decided and dedicated a lot of efforts to keep the school forever. We got 12 demolishing order for the school from the Israeli forces. Every year we make some collective money to add more classrooms .
[00:18:43] They never give permissions. So we do it in our own. Then we get demolition orders. But I have a dream of one day if I’ll have kids, they have to study here. And if I have a dream one day also, this school must be like the main school for all the surrounding villages back as it used to be.
[00:18:59] So if you want to open any subject in the village first open the school one, and then the rest will come and you will get the people agreement on it.
[00:19:12]So Hassan, we came back to Battir up in the village and we just did a short stop in a shop, it had a lot of different handmade artisan products. Can you tell me more about that?
[00:19:22] Well this is not a shop like you expect. This is what we call, Battir families museum. It’s the idea we got few years ago in how together all the skills and the handcraft talents in the village in one place where all the people of Battir can have a place where they can exhibit their products, show their artwork, and also be a place for them to get some income also for their products and they could sell it. So the place itself, it was owned by an artist called Sultan es Shamy, and it was his own exhibition. And when we were developing the new ideas and projects in Battir and how to create more facilities for tourism, he decided to dedicate this shop to be not only his exhibition, but it could be an exhibition for anyone who wants, in Battir, and they could come take a corner of the shop design it and exhibit their products. And if he makes any sales of this product, it’s going to a box where they come once a week, open it, they take their profit and they just go. So it’s not commercial or with a commissioning process. Walking from the family museum, we will continue to walk toward Dar Abu Hassan house and we will go to the seven widows quarter.
[00:20:41]Kristel: Here we are are at Dar Abu Hassan guest house. It is very beautiful. It is renovated, old stones. Very cute. Lots of nice plants tables. I’ll post some pictures. What is this place?
[00:21:05]Hassan: Again, this is another facility we decided to create in the village in how to offer people a full experience of exploring Battir. It should include food, art, and also places where people can find a place overnight. To stay interact with the community and experience the daily life of the people. So this is where Dar Abu Hassan idea came from. It’s an old Palestinian Battiri house has been built in 1850. We got the project to renovate the whole place from the owner’s family through a special agreement with the municipality of Battir.
[00:21:43] So then the place will be functioning as a facility for common use. Recently in the last three years, I had an agreement with the Municipality to manage this place myself with a group of women in the village, who are the housekeepers, who are the chefs, who are the girls who take tours around the village, explain about the cultural heritage.
[00:22:05]The place itself contains three big rooms, what we call ‘awqaad’ is like the dome rooftops, the old Palestinian architectural style. Each room has its own toilet facility, internet heating system and so on. And it could be for individuals for families too. We have 10 beds in the three rooms.
[00:22:25] We have a dining area with a kitchen. We have a terrace for events and for celebrations or parties, people come to celebrate. And recently we had a joint Project with the Palestinian Heirloom seed library with our colleague Vivien Sansour where she joined also Hassan guesthouse to have a base of the Palestinian Heirloom Seed library here where we can merge efforts with the original seeds that she’s working on the farming activities in Battir and how it could be part of the guest house to enrich the experience of the visitor. So it’s a win-win situation for everyone working in here. So when you come to Dar Abu Hassan guest house, you will find lots of things to do.
[00:23:04] Cooking classes, learn about the seeds, have a comfortable bed to stay, tasty food. We have a small nursery for plants. We have a little garden where we do grow our vegetables. Then we will organize for you also a tour in the village to introduce you more about Battir.
[00:23:21] Kristel: So if anybody wants to come to Battir, they can find Dar Abu Hassan guesthouse on the internet.
[00:23:27] And book with you and then they can visit also the heirloom seed library of Vivien Sansour. And if you want to know more about that, you can listen to podcast episode one of season one.
[00:23:39] Hassan: So here we are reaching the seven widows quarter, which is one of the old neighborhoods, the oldest and the most ancient one. Where the people of Battir inhabited for thousands of years. And we have a saying in Battir, we say at least each Battiri has a stone here in this neighborhood.
[00:24:00] Recently since the past 10 years, we started a project on how to renovate and preserve this area to do full project of maintenance and rehabilitation for all the abandoned houses, with the special agreements with the owners, same like Dar Abu Hassan. It’s in a way, how to preserve this heritage for much more time and how to make it more function like in the old days to be used for new facilities in the village that people visitors, the local community can benefit out of it.
[00:24:30]The name of the neighborhood came in the fifties by a joke Hassan Mustafa made at that time and Hassan Mustafa we’ll talk about him after this. He used to live in this neighborhood. And by chance, there was six widows living surrounding his place and he just thought about it and he said, you know, I just recognize that you are six widows living around me. But I would like to make you seven widows as number seven is a number that we appreciate in the village because we have seven water Springs. So why don’t call this area the seven widows quarter? And he was laughing and he said to make the seventh widow, I will give you my wife.
[00:25:11] This is how it will be the seventh widow. Actually, he died quite young in 1961, few years after the story. So it became a fact that it’s the seven winters quarter or neighborhood. We, during the 2008, 2009, when we started the landscape conservation and management plan project, we learned about the story from the oral history that we were going and collecting from the community.
[00:25:39] And we loved the idea and we wanted to bring that name back to the village . So we decided as a community of Battir to recall this place again, the seven widows quarter as an appreciation from us of the community for these widows, these ladies who remained living in this neighborhood until nowadays.
[00:26:02] Unfortunately we lost four of them. There’s only three now living here, but the name’s still holding the seven of them until nowadays. And our idea with all the development project is to keep the name and to name all the development that’s going to happen after the efforts for the ladies who survived and kept this place.
[00:26:23]Kristel: So I’ve heard you mentioning Hassan Mustafa twice during this podcast episode. So he must’ve been an important person in the village.
[00:26:31]Hassan: True. Hassan Mustafa is one of the pioneers in Battir. His name you’re going to see it appearing everywhere you walk in Battir. The school is named after him, the spring is named after him. He had influenced a lot of positive energy and development in the village during the thirties and forties and fifties, which was the hard time after the Nakba.
[00:26:56] So that’s why his name is like a flag or a star that appears every time you talk about Battir you cannot skip talking about Hassan Mustafa. For me personally, he is also an inspiration. This guy was young doing all the job he did at that time. He was passing through a very hard time, also with all the circumstances surrounding him.
[00:27:17] And he succeeded doing a lot of excellent projects in the village. So to talk about him personally, he’s one of the few graduated students of Battir from the American university of Cairo. In the thirties. He came back to the village as a teacher, but he was talented with writing. He was also representative of several newspapers and magazines, writing articles for them. And he started several initiatives in the village. For example, the stories I gathered from the people in the forties before the Nakba, when we had a peaceful life, somehow, Hassan Mustafa brought the first music system to the village where he used to put loud speakers and ask people to come to listen to his music.
[00:28:02] He brought also a projector to the village where he was screening some movies in public spaces where people would gather and watch the movies with him. So this is the mentality we are talking about. His name appears a lot in the forties for several things he did. But then immediately we had the Nakba in 1948 where it was his responsibility, most of the time and how to think and how to find ways to support the community.
[00:28:30] And that’s where his name appears again, like a star doing a lot of magnificent things. One of the magnificent stories I like to mention a lot that during the Nakba most of the Palestinian surrounding villages of Battir they got attacks from the Zionist groups, they were killing families, destroying houses.
[00:28:51] And we have a lot of evidence like Deir Yassin, like Al Qabu like Al Walaja. And it was meant to create fear and to create terrible situation for people so people would leave their houses and leave their villages and to go far away where this Zionist militias will take over these places. And this created like a terrified situation all over the country.
[00:29:16] We were part of the same process where the people of Battir after what happened in Deir Yassin decided to find a safe place. I hate to say people run away, but people were naturally trying to survive to save their families, to save their kids. So they would find a safe place where they can put their family and just then resist for their living. But a group of people decided not to leave the village. One of them was Hassan Mustafa and he was leading this group in how to show and to make the militias from watching from the other side, that the village is still inhabited full of people full of life.
[00:30:00] So he started using a very smart technique and put the lights and the candles on the windows of the houses all during the night. So it shows that the village is lighted and there is people. Early morning before sun rises they go, and the group that was joining him they were between 12 to 14 person hanging clothes and whatever they found in the houses like laundry activity. They go to the pool where we started this morning. To open the water channel system and let the water flood in the field, like there is farming activities and they start shouting and screaming on each other. Like they are farming and collecting. And the most clever thing they did, they chose 10 locations all along the old village.
[00:30:42] Since where we started this morning, next to the spring, all the way to the family’s museum. These houses in a visible location for the other sites. And they decided to create like a fire spot in these locations. Around each fire, they would put like bunches of stones, thick leaves, whatever, in circular shapes, so when you light the fire, it will show the shade of these things around it. Like people sitting around the fire. And the rest of the group will hang thick leaves, two to three inches on their backs, like it’s a weapon and they keep walking back and forward between the fire locations.
[00:31:23] Like they are weaponed guard, protecting the people sitting around the fire. This has prevented the militias and the Zionist groups from entering Battir. At that time, I’m talking about the end of 1948, beginning of 1949, when the first negotiation started between the Jordanian and the Israeli government, Hassan Mustafa learned about that.
[00:31:45] And then he started going to what start being called the refugee camps like Deheishe and some people reached Shuna in the Jordan Valley river and calling therefore any people or any person from Battir that you should come back with me, the village is safe. So he managed to bring the people back immediately in 1949 in January and February 49.
[00:32:08] And that was first right of return, if we would call it for the people to come here. And this guy took a lot of responsibility on himself and how to make this people survive afterwards. So let’s simplify it. If somebody is getting out of a war zone, going as a refugee for a year or so, away. If he had savings, if he had money, it’s all over, he had nothing and they were always farmers.
[00:32:33] So they depend in seasonal produce where they lost almost two seasons, that they cannot get the produce. You are bringing these people back to the village, without money, without fund, without any produce, how you would take responsibility. This is like huge responsibility to take. And this people will be responsible out of you! But this guy was really smart.
[00:32:55]So he gathered the names of the people who were registered as refugees in the refugee camps brought them here, but he kept these lists of names with him. So who would go to the refugee camp? You know, UNRWA was distributing packages for supporting the Palestinian refugees. He would collect it from there and bring it to the people in Battir and distribute it in the village.
[00:33:15] But here he was also smart. These packages is named after few people who managed to register , but not everyone has registered. So let’s say the population of Battir in 1948 was 1,023 persons. Let’s say 500 of them has registered as refugees. What about the other 523? That where Hassan Mustafa played an important role, in how to create a joined soul, between the community. So he would use their 500 names first to get the packages, bring it to a secret place in the village, open these packages distribute it for a thousand. So you would never know who’s knocking your door. You will find somebody’s knocking at your door, leaving that package behind and runaway.
[00:33:56] So you don’t know where it came from. Then he asked each family from the village to donate five young, strong men. That they will be responsible for public services and projects in the village. So five men multiplied by eight from the eight families. This is a 40 man. Their job is to renovate the spring, to build the mosque, to renovate the school, to renovate the public road, to help a poor person to cultivate his land, to maintain a house for somebody that he cannot.
[00:34:27] So it’s like a building unit within the community and each family is responsible for each five men to support them too. He created the ‘Ona’ system, “al ‘ona”, which is the volunteering , but also it’s the joint venture activity that we do it all as one. This concept Hassan Mustafa involved a lot in the village.
[00:34:49] He used his education, his smartness and his connections within the village and outside to build all that together. He managed to create the first school for girls in 1950. And that’s a very interesting story. I also like to mention. When he decided to make a school for girls, you know, in a small village, a rural area, and there was no schools for girls, there was no schools for ladies.
[00:35:14] So men used to go to the school. Boys they used to go to the school next to the railway, or they can go continue their education in Jerusalem or in Jaffa. But girls, they hadn’t a chance to study. Hassan Mustafa thought about that immediately after Nakba. Imagine that how he’s linking education directly to the suffering period. And this is an example, if we look around the world and we learn from Hiroshima Nagasaki, if we look in Singapore, if we look in many countries, it’s the same system, actually. How they link the education with building. So he came to the village and he just mentioned that I want to create a new school in one evening that there was a gathering with the representatives of the families and so on.
[00:35:54] And everyone like was, what are you talking about? This is not possible. Our honor, our respect, our daughters can not go away. And he said, relax. Let’s say, simplify it, I want just to teach them some basics of reading and writing. So when they hold the Holy book, they can read it. Yeah. Okay. But they still were like how we can do that.
[00:36:16]He said. Let me think about it and I will come up with a solution. A few hours after the same meeting in the same night, he asked the people random question. Are you guys allowed to pray next to the railroad track down there? They said yes. If the place is clean, why not? Are you guys allowed to pray next to the water spring over there?
[00:36:35] If it’s clean. Why not? Are you guys allowed to pray under the Walnut tree over there? Yes. Then he said, okay, you solved it. They looked at him and said, what do you mean? We solved it? He said, okay, I will take the mosque and create it as a room for the school girls. And you guys, you find yourself another place to pray.
[00:36:53] And that’s what he did. He converted the first mosque in Battir to a school for girls in Battir. And this school is just next to us right here. I’ll show you when you’re leaving and I will show you the room, the first room he created to be the school for girls. Then he went to UNRWA and he said, I have this number of refugees who their daughters need an educational system.
[00:37:14] You need to give me support. So he brought all the benches, the chairs and so on, as a support from UNRWA as a responsibility for the refugees. Then he brought teachers from Ramallah. One of them is Miss Samira Karram, we have a banner by her name. She’s one of the first teachers. She came here and many others, I don’t remember their names here. They were the first teachers who used to come walking from Ramallah to teach in Battir, and created this school in 1950. It was the first school in the region for girls. Then he created the health clinic. Then he created the post office. Then he created the main road to link with Bethlehem.
[00:37:46] Then he created a project to renovate the spring within the community ” ‘Ona ” project. Then he created the seven windows name. He was young. He was in his thirties and forties of his life during all that. And he did all that. Under very hard and difficult circumstances.
[00:38:03] Unfortunately, we lost him quite young. He was only 46 years old when he died in 1961. So I always think what if this guy survived another 10 or 15 or 20 years, what he could done to Battir. So that’s why we always mention Hassan Mustafa, in Battir.
[00:38:23] Kristel: Sounds like a great inspiration and somebody who is motivating you to continue his work in making, Battir a better place.
Hassan we are back at your cafe. I want to thank you so much for taking all this time to walk with me around this beautiful village. I know there is much more to tell. I know that if we kept going, you’ll always have new stories, but if people want to know more about Battir, where would you point them towards where can they read or listen to more.
[00:38:53] Hassan: Well, it was my pleasure to join you for this tour. And as I told you in the beginning, everywhere, every stone you go in Battir you will find a story. And that’s where we need 10, 20 episodes to tell the whole story. And if you want to read more about Battir and to get more knowledge about, Battir I recommend the UNESCO website for the Southern terraces of Jerusalem, the land of olive and vines, with the descriptions and maps and pictures that it will be the best resource.