There are people at home in Oakland, Berkley, Texas, New York City, they aren't in the field out here and they want to help and join in this struggle for social change. There are things that are very draining for the organizations here to do, in some cases it's resource development, writing applications. It would be great to have a stronger allied connection with organizations or individuals in the US to help write grant requests, help organize speaking tours so that the work is done from the people in the US. It takes Bustan about three months to organize a speaking tour; it's very time consuming and extremely laborious. We need our resources here in the field and I wish there were ways of also being encouraged more, fed, or nurtured more from our partners, individuals and organizations in the States, who could encourage us more to engage in coalition building. I feel like that's what's missing from the field today.
There are so few organizations left after this tsunami - this intifada has been like a tsunami for the movements for social change here. There are so few organizations that are still plugging away. If I tell you how many problems we have just working together on the smallest little initiatives, you wouldn't believe it. Maybe you would. We need help. This as a cracked-dry desert and if supporters from the US could just bring water, and pour water into this dry, cracked desert then maybe organizations that are working together in the field would be able to see each other and collaborate more easily together. Today it feels as though the exact opposite is happening because we are competing for a tiny sliver of this pie. You're not coming from a place of abundance and there is also no mechanism for us to truly restore ourselves. I learn from people who have gone through burn-out; almost every single person I know involved in this field is burned out.
People who are in California probably have a much stronger sense of what to do with burn-out than people who have been living inside this conflict for so many years and working limitlessly for so many years on end. We lose perspective here. The biggest contribution from outside is to help to feed, not just financially, but spiritually, and socially-- teach us how to work together. I wish and pray for this kind of guidance. There's a program in the US where you have young, very strong activists in the Jewish community guided or taught by the elders of the Jewish community. I also think that this kind of thing needs to happen here, where we learn from the mistakes of the past and from the wisdom that was generated by successful strategy in different movements, in different countries around the world. I just wait for the opportunity to be invited to a forum where this kind of thing would be discussed at a roundtable because we are falling flat on our face. I know how to do some community building organizing, but that doesn't mean that I know how to organize against the expansion of a military base or the creation of a new industrial zone. People in the United States and urban areas throughout the world have successfully fought against incineration. We are dealing with issues that are commonplace, and while we do have some skills here, it doesn't mean we know how to challenge the whole enormous load that has been slammed on this region. People are just trying to find a way to live in a more healthy way here together.
When I started to do this work I found myself surrounded by visionaries, artists, healers, musicians, very talented people that were drawn to the social aspect of reaching out and dialogue with the other, breaking the taboo. The 90's were the golden age of dialogue. We thought that the kind of political discussions that were happening before this period were flat. It was like, if we come in just with will, just with hope, that a little more heart and a little less politics we'll go a long way. The field has changed today so dramatically. It's not enough to come at this work of social change from a place of heart, from wanting to see if we can live differently or affect change. It's not enough. I feel that so many people that come to do this work really want to see this change.
We have to have some kind of assessment or scaling of what's going on, what needs to be replicated and what are some suggestions for strengthening it. We have tried things that have never been tried before here. We built a clinic in an unrecognized village. Our intention was to catalyze discussion of access to health services among Jewish and Arab populations. There is an area of the Negev flanked by the industrial zone Ramat Hovav; about 500 meters from a toxic waste incinerator lives a population of close to 6,000 Bedouin. The incinerator ash affects people living in a 20 kilometer radius, not just those 500 meters away; there are hundreds of those 250,000 people that are impacted from toxic poison that is being spewed from Ramat Hovav. We wanted to do something proactive and go in and work with the villagers, not just a co-existence product - that's a by-product. We wanted to go inside on one issue, which is the allocation of public resources, by building infrastructure together.
We built a clinic using traditional Arab building practices. The Bedouin have been made sedentary so they no longer weave tents with goat hair, they are living in shacks made of zinc, or in cement block houses, and these houses are very hot in the summer because there is no insulation. Because the walls are not insulated, it is unbearably hot in the summers, and extremely cold in the winters. We built using affordable and accessible materials already in the villages: straw bales, mud, and we brought together eco-builders from all over the country. There were architects and a team of really solid engineers and visionaries who have a sense of how to apply perma-culture and how to use renewable resources. We brought them to what's referred to as village number 32 and worked with the villagers to build this clinic and today it is up and running. There's another NGO which Bustan has outsourced the management of the clinic to; there are 22 Jewish and Bedouin doctors running our clinic. I have absolutely no way of measuring whether this project is a success and whether we should be doing this kind of initiative in other villages as well. This is the kind of thing I believe the international community could be really helpful with. Help be our glasses, our lenses are very foggy now and fuzzy. It's difficult to gain insight as to the effectiveness as new approaches like this.
It could be effective to have students assessing the different projects, not only the projects Bustan is involved with, but projects all across the region. Graduate students could use assessment evaluations and apply them to the different projects that have been tested here. If people wanted to come over for two weeks and analyze a program or spend time doing phone calls or interviews, or Skype, instant messaging things like this, it could help trigger more a in depth, strategic analysis of what can be effective and how to make it more effective. There are places where organizations can get strategic counseling and advice, like Shatil, and lots of places to turn but I think that this is definitely something that could be more developed.