Sam Bahour, developer

I first heard Sam Bahour on NPR some months before my trip. When a friend of a friend offered to put me in touch with him, I was more than happy to follow through.

Sam is managing a crazy project: Construction of the largest western-style shopping center in the West Bank. The project was started a month or so before the intifada started. It would never be initiated under current conditions. And yet Sam and his associates have persevered, and the center is due to open soon.

It's going to be a beautiful center, and it seems to me it makes an important statement: "This is the normal life we all have a right to expect: working, shopping, eating, playing...taking care of our needs and desires, just as people everywhere do. This is normal. We have a right to expect this. We WILL expect it, no matter how forcefully these expectations are disrupted by an odious occupation."

This is out of order. It will probably be months before I can process the video of our conversation. For now, I wanted to present one of Sam's recent reports and strongly recommend that you join his mailing list (see instructions at the bottom of this page).

Jan 27, 2003

Dear friends,

The Palestine Monitor reports tonight: "The Israelis have now killed 16 Palestinians in the last 48 hours an average of one Palestinian every three hours with no serious objections coming from the international community." These numbers alone do not do justice to the few hundred Palestinians killed over the last few months alone. It is clear the Israeli government (and maybe the Israeli people, but we will need to wait until tomorrow to see) have lost touch with reality.

Yesterday, in light of tomorrow's Israeli elections, the entire West Bank was sealed shut. They call it closure. What does this mean?. It means my secretary who lives in Bir Zeit, a 4 minute drive from Ramallah will miss 3 days of work. My CFO who lives in Jerusalem, the same. It means the rest of the glass curtain wall for my project, which was planned to arrive today, will be delayed now for another 7-14 days. An on, and on, and on...and this is only one 3-day closure out of two years of closures, curfews, occupation, re- occupation, and the like.

Friends, life is becoming unbearable. As we pretend to go through the motions of a normal daily routine, one feels that everyone deep inside, whether they actually speak about it or not, knows that we have reached a point of no easy return. A point in this bitter occupation that almost guarantees several more years, in the best of cases, of bloodshed, humiliation and desperation. Nevertheless, we maintain, we cope, and we work for better days that are seeming further and further away.

Personally, occupation has touched our family's life much closer these last few days. Two nights ago an Israeli army patrol burned several cars in Ramallah, my father's car was one of them (see attached photo). He is currently in the States and his car was parked inside a cousin's driveway, behind a closed gate. At 2am an Israeli patrol stopped, opened the gate, broke the driver side window and set the car ablaze. No questions asked, no reasons given, nothing. During the last 3 nights, there have been 4 cars burned in Ramallah, part of a new occupation strategy to "clean" yellow-plated cars from Palestinian cities. For those of you unaware, yellow-plates are for Israeli registered cars (Palestinians must use green plates, except foreign passport holders like my dad and I) - just another one of those subtle discrimination items. When the Palestinian police were called, we were told that until the Israeli patrols leave town, which would be at dawn, they would not be able to make it to the house. The fire truck took one hour to make it 2.5 miles, fearing the Israeli patrols as well.

One thing is for sure - NOTHING is normal about life under occupation.

I usually always fill my gas tank full when near empty. Now, I stop and think of the likelihood of a curfew happening and, based on that, I only put the bare minimum fuel needed in case my car happens to be the next target for an Israeli soldier. When I park my car for the night, I make sure it is not too close to the house for the same reason. These tiny issues -- in light of the daily killings -- makes for a mind-set that is hard to explain.

As I said, nevertheless, we move forward. My project (Arab Palestinian Shopping Centers) had the electricity connected this week (see press release). This was a major milestone. We refuse to stop building for the future - period.

Under total closure, (not curfew, but closure - i.e. each city/village becomes an open air jail),

Sam

To be added to Sam Bahour's mailing list, send an email with the word 'subscribe' in the subject to sbahour@palnet.com

Read more of Sam's reports at http://www.amin.org/eng/sam_bahour/

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