Since 2001 we have observed dozens of army checkpoints on paved and unpaved roads in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley and along the Separation Fence; Civil Administration offices which grant permits to Palestinians; and military courts trying Palestinian prisoners. We stand at the checkpoints observing the behavior of soldiers and Palestinians without interfering, intervening only when soldiers behave offensively to Palestinians. Then we try to speak to the soldiers themselves or telephone...
Hebron, South Hebron Hills, Susiya, Tue 24.4.12, Morning
The Netanya/Yehudit Shift comes respectively from Jerusalem and Beersheva and meets at K. Arba.
This week we decided to start later in order to see Hebron at a later time. We also wanted to coordinate our visit to the Metsudat Yehuda checkpoint with the arrival of the children of the Abu Qbeita families who are trapped inside an enclave caused by the Separation Wall. We have visited them before on account of the rigid searches the children undergo at the checkpoint, both coming and going to their school which is outside the fence. Frequently there are long delays in their return home, both stressful for them and also for the families who rely on their help with the flocks. Our contact is Mahmoud Abu Obeita and Netanya has written a vivid account of our visit as well of an incident with settler violence we witnessed on our way. Dahlia's photos will follow.
We began our shift with a tour of hebron, deserted as ever but with a few shops open we had not seeמ before, in Netanya's words:
. ...A short tour of Hebron and the Jewish settlements in the car: On the road, suddenly a white car stopped in front of us so completely blocking our way and four settler women got out. I thought that they were going to come and attack us but instead they stood in front of a Palestinian home where the front door was open and started dancing, clapping their hands and jeering at the inhabitants who very sensibly did not come out. I don’t know if it was to frighten the Palestinians or to show us what they were capable of. But to me they were the very epitome of unthinking, mindless hatred and people whose power is so limitless that they have no borders. Had they gone into the house and actually attacked the inhabitants I would not have been surprised. So we are called the provocateurs……I only wish we could have had a video of it. Four women who look so normal and yet whose actions are those of maniacs …. Why do all these missions who come to Israel not show people that side of what is going on. At the moment there is a mission of 700 people from the US. What are they being shown? Why do none of them think that there is maybe a side of all this they do not know. Like the people in SA who were only shown the good side of Soweto.
Good to leave such a place for the beautiful view of the hills.
But then we saw a field of wheat with about 20 little boys with their kippot bouncing running around and some settler men guarding them with their rifles…….they were tearing up the crops of the Palestinians. When they saw our car stopping and especially when they thought they saw cameras they all ran away back to their settlement of Susiya. They ran back carrying sheaves of wheat. The laurels of the victors. After all why not. They are the master race and this is the counting of the Omer How wonderful to fulfill the requirements of the Torah with the destruction of the enemy’ s crops. How Old Testament are your descendants, oh Israel. Jewish Susiya (as opposed to Palestinian Susiya close by) is one of the settlements to which all supporters of the right are taken and I am sure many of the different missions which are brought here to give them a feeling of pride. But would this scene have given them that feeling? I can only hope not. But here the cameras and videos were missing and so the Jews in the Diaspora and the Israelis who in any case do not want to know can live in blissful ignorance. This evening, the evening of remembrance for the soldiers, we are told that we are one people but THESE ARE NOT MY PEOPLE! They belong in a different era and a different country
Later that day when we came back we saw police, soldiers and Palestinians in the same fields and we stopped to give evidence [about what we had seen earlier]. We were shown the damage the children had done, the wheat which had been torn up or trampled. We took photos and the police asked to receive them but we know that nothing will be done. The police asked why we had not reported it when we saw it and the truth is that none of us thought of it. Very stupid of course but somehow when you are in the middle of the situation you do not think fast enough. In any case I would not have had much faith in that being of any help. The Palestinians,from Susiya, asked us to come into the fields to photograph the damage though it is hard to do so so that people will actually see the torn up sheaves of wheat .
The only good part of that was that the police were really pleasant and took our evidence with no nasty remarks and even joked with us. When Dalia said that I had also seen what happened he said, “Parah Parah; (Cow , cow ) which means one thing after another and I said to him, “Listen if you are going to call me a cow then I would call you something much worse but you would arrest me” and he and the two women soldiers with him started laughing and so did we. And it is not a case of ass licking but just for once feeling that you are not always the pariah. Anyhow Dalia will send her photos in, not that anything will be done against the settlers. But we can at least report it .
We also visited a “village” or rather an enclave of three families. They are next to the settlement of Yatir and are completely enclosed. They are even limited in the food the water and the gas that they are allowed to bring in, . For example only one chicken for the whole family. Small tins of food. The 18 children have to go through a checkpoint to school and back. We decided to visit the family. Machmud says that when people like us come to see what is happening at the checkpoint or other visitors the children go through with no problem but other days when there is no one around then it can take up to an hour or more. The ages range from 6 to about 14 I think he said.
His story is fascinating. His father married the first lady who today is 102 and she had no children. Then he married another one and she had no children. For 18 years no children. Then he went to a doctor in Kiryat Gat who told him that the fault did not lie with him. So he took another wife…….When we came in the first two wives were sitting in their home on beds and also his own wife who then went off to make tea,. He said that when his father had decided to marry for the third time the second wife had gone home to her family where she died but the first wife had stayed. Then his father had 3 children and 3 female children by the third wife who is his mother. When you ask a Palestinian how many children he has he wlll say three children meaning boys and then 3 girls.
They live in a hovel which is as clean as they can make it with very basic furniture I only realise now that I forgot to ask if that is where they all live and sleep or if there is another room but it did not look like it. Even though it is their own land and they have lived there for generations they are allowed to make no renovation to the house , not even to the roof and only allowed to introduce very little electricity and water which has to be brought from outside and which is very expensive. . He says that they are often “visited” by soldiers and police who search the house. To be fair I must say that I have heard that they are a rather problematic family. But even such a family should be allowed to bring in what food they need, to get water and electricity especially with the settlement so green near them. They have been offered compensation to leave….he says it is his land and that of his father and his father before him and he knows that the intention is to make things so hard that they will leave but he will not do so.