Hebron, South Hebron Hills, Wed 16.2.11, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
Before leaving for my shift today, I picked the paper as usual and the headline in Ha’aretz annoyed me very much: “Minister of Education Gid’on Sa’ar initiates a new program of school tours to the Cave of the Patriarchs.” The photo accompanying the headline shows the head of Anat Cohen, the settlers’ sweetheart, who attacks us verbally and physically. Which is nothing in comparison to what she does to Palestinians… What’s her connection to Israel’s heritage?! What connection is there between the delusional settlers and coexistence, living in peace…are they the representatives of Jewish and Israeli values?
It was only necessary to join my shift today to see just which “Jewish values” we’re instilling in the occupied land – in Palestine.
Everyone is a potential enemy, so people with guns drawn stand everywhere. The architecture of ugliness and evil is expressed in the quantity of concrete that has been poured there and in all the pillboxes and fences. The behavior, on the other hand, tries to be as respectful as possible, and by 6:30, when we go by, all the Palestinian laborers are already on the Israeli side.
When we come back, two buses carrying relatives of prisoners are in the parking lot.
A few of the almond trees are in bloom. Otherwise, children walk to school along the roadside, and there are very many military jeeps on the road and at the junctions – and in some places off-road as well.
A flying checkpoint at Kvasim junction: they’re stopping all cars. About ten cars are on line. The taxi drivers and passengers are happy to see us and ask me “why aren’t you writing this down?” It’s raining, the drivers and passengers have to get out, their IDs are taken, the trunk inspected. When we arrive they suddenly stop halting the taxis. So if they’re not stopping the taxis because of us, there was certainly no reason to have stopped them before we arrive, right?! From a security standpoint, it would be logical that if it’s necessary to guard Route 60, there should be a checkpoint there, not on the road between Yatta and Hebron! Two purely Palestinian towns. So it’s not security logic that’s at work here, just the need to demonstrate who’s in charge, who decides and who’s being ruled.
Another flying checkpoint has been set up at the junction of Route 60 and Route 356 – but there’s no line, because there’s almost no Palestinian traffic there.
After Ohad Hemo’s televised report on the children scavenging garbage in Yatta we decided to go see them. It was shocking!! Very small children digging through the garbage to earn money. It’s Area C, a completely Palestinian area under Israeli control! How are we demonstrating Jewish values and Israel values when little children have to make a living from garbage?! Maybe that’s where we should bring Jewish heritage tours, rather than to the Cave of the Patriarchs, next to the grave of the “righteous” Baruch Goldstein.
Today is a Moslem “exception day” – an “exception day” is a military term referring to prayer arrangements at the Cave of the Patriarchs – every year representatives of the waqf, the civil administration and the military rabbinate meet to decide which days members of the different religions can use the entire large hall in the Cave of the Patriarchs for worship. The days are set according to each religion’s holiday calendar. There are three Moslem exception days this week, because of the celebration of Muhammad’s birthday. The city fills with soldiers, police and Border Police on a Moslem exception day. They’re stationed in pairs, wearing berets and with weapons drawn, about 500 meters apart and on every possible rooftop. As if the army was protecting the worshippers from the settlers. No detainees at the checkpoints – some of the Palestinian men wear red kaffiyahs in honor of their holiday.
The main prayer is at noon, and the streets fill with men on their way to worship.
The army takes advantage of the presence of many soldiers and policeman to conduct an unannounced exercise “in case of Palestinian resistance and an uprising.” Many soldiers run through the streets, some disguised as Palestinians trying to go through the checkpoints – what a show! What’s not part of the show is the fact that no civilian traffic is allowed anywhere in the area of the exercise. Settlers and TIPH personnel pass, but Palestinians can’t. Only after we intervene with the officers are they allowed through. One Palestinian, an amiable older man, says: “We’re like guests in this country, not welcome citizens…” When one of those delayed tries to object and go through a Givati soldier blocks him physical: he raises the butt of his gun and pushes. My shouts bring the officer who calms the soldier and the Palestinian.
When the exercise is over we recognize the commander of the Judea brigade and approach him to say that they wouldn’t dare conduct such an exercise in Beersheba or in Tel Aviv without first informing the residents, and that there was no need to delay them – they should have been let through. “You’re right!” he says, it didn’t occur to us. And he gives us his card.
I wonder whether that brigade commander agrees with the Minister of Education’s delusional program for tours by pupils?! Of course he’ll agree, and also know that every such tour will rob Palestinians of additional human rights. But – you see - they’re transparent, they don’t exist. How did David Grossman put it – present absentees. That’s the face of Israel, 2011: Gid’on Sa’ar and Fa’ina Kirshenboim