'Awarta, Burin (Yitzhar), Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Thu 21.1.10, Afternoon
Translation: Tal H.
Za'tara Checkpoint – No waiting lines.
Huwwara Checkpoint – No waiting lines. Random checking.
Awarta Checkpoint – No vehicles waiting. We choose to visit the village following the recent news about the desecration of Muslim tombstones at the village cemetery. The Binyamin regional brigade commander has announced he will arrive to investigate today whether or not army personnel were involved in the act.
A Haredi (ultra-orthodox) Jewish festivity under army escort perpetrated acts of violence against Awarta residents and left local graves desecrated Following, account of the events that took place at the Shurab family home in Awarta village (near Nablus) on January 19th 2010, as told to us by Mu’ayed Shurab and his father Jamil (I have his phone number) from 3:30 p.m. until late nighttime:
The family home is situated above the village cemetery, where two ancient Jewish graves are located (?). Religious Jews from Bnei Brak come there to pray over the ancient graves every year at this time. The army escorts them to their ceremony. Throughout the year individuals arrive to pray unescorted by the army.
On Tuesday night, at 10:30 PM, the army came to their home. Knocked on the door. When the family did not hurry to open, soldiers hurled a stun grenade into the house, entered with an officer and ordered the family to gather in a single room and hand over their cell phones. Father Jamil said there are additional cell phones in a certain drawer in the closet. The soldiers said they intended to climb up to the roof and observe the festivity from there.
One soldier stood guard over then in the crowded room while the others conducted a search through the house. It was cold. The soldiers muddied up the place. The officer asked an Arabic-speaking soldier to report to him what the family members were saying to each other. One of the soldiers said: “Maybe they’ll sell their house”… A soldier wanted to body-search Jamil’s daughter-in-law, but Jamil yelled at him not to dare touch her. They were prevented from going to the bathroom when they needed to, and were kept this way until 4:30 in the morning, when the festivity was over.
As the mission was concluded and the soldiers meant to leave, they returned the personal cell phones to the family held in the room. Jamil called out to them: What about the cell phones you took from the closet?
When the soldiers left the house, the family members began to clean up the mud and filth and two hours later, under a stair, they found the cell phones and … 21,000 NIS (shekel) that had been hidden in the same drawer as the cell phones.
Namely – the soldiers realized that Jamil was on to their removing the cell phones from the drawer, so he must have also guessed that the money was stolen, and that is why the treasure was left under the stair at the last minute.
The next day the family members went to lodge a complaint at the DCO, and officer Kamil said he couldn’t handle a complaint against the army, it’s not his job, they should turn to the civilian police.
As for what happened in the cemetery, adjacent to the house:
This year fifteen bus loads of Haredi Jews and thirty army vehicles arrived at the site. The celebrants held a picnic in the Muslim graveyard, lit a campfire, broke tombstones, left food on tombstones, plastic eating utensils – plates, cups, beer cans.
In 1975 two graves in the cemetery were declared a Jewish holy site, a plaque was placed with this inscription, and Haredi Jews began to conduct pilgrimages there. According to the family, the two graves had previously been known to be Muslim. Jamil’s father had told about this. Jamil is sixty-years old.
In the village there are two more sites sacred to Jews and that night slur inscriptions were left on tombstones there.
The cemetery is filthy with food remains, trampled, there is campfire ash between the graves, food thrown over tombstones, more and more youngsters and children approach us, offer us sage tea, photograph us and promise to send me the photos on email. (Hell, I forgot my camera at home again…) Meki connects Jamil with Azmi of ‘Yesh Din’ who promises to come, take testimony and file charges against the army.
On our way back we are approached by a young man who introduces himself as Kais Awad, head of the local council. He wants to show us the two more sites that were desecrated. Boys take us to the center of the village to see two desecrated tombstones, that were photographed and publicized on internet news yesterday (that was the reason we decided to visit the village and see for ourselves).
Needless to say, not a single representative of the army has been at the village to investigate since the event. We were the ones to express our deep revulsion.
We traveled back in the dark.
Army jeeps are stationed as flying checkpoints on the road bound for Burin/Yitzhar, opposite Beita, and opposite Marda.