Hebron, Sansana (Meitar Crossing), South Hebron Hills, Tue 20.12.11, Morning
Checkpoint is clear. A long line of trucks waits at the check-out and seems to move quickly.
Lively but there sure are some lousy drivers around here, Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Bani Naim: We came here first: a large village close to Hebron where settlers had defaced a mosque. We found the mosque alright but at first couldn't locate the damage until the Imam appeared (the grapevine really works out there!) and showed us a side wall where the scarlet letters were already obliterated by -- more red paint. (see photos). The imam and his people thought the perpetrators came from Yitzhar but its more likely that this was a local job. It should be said that the Imam and his companions received us most graciously, explalined patiently to the three (!) translators - among whom Netanya shone out with her Arabic - and they even embarassingly thanked us for coming. Netanya expressed our regrets for the vandalism.
Um Farqa is our next stop: a tiny, desolate hamlet between Tuwani and the Maon settlement where the Civil Administration had destroyed the mosque, several residential buildings and a room that had been added on to a cave dwelling, as well as all the electricity poles between the village and Tuwani. Iin the process destroying the peace of this impoverished place. The Sheik kindly gave us a tour of the devastation (see pics of mosque rubble). At one point a figure was seen striding across the hills from Tuwani. The locals froze on the spot and only relaxed when it transpired that this was an "Arab". The fear of the Lords of the Land lies heavy in these parts, and with good reason.
Two girls from the village were arrested during the demolition, however they were released and the trial of the older one, Souan, took place on 19.12.11 - please see Ehud Krinis' report circulated on the reshet.
Next stop on this other planet was Givat HaAntenna - Antenna Hill, another desolate spot not far from Hebron. A smooth road leads up to the hilltop, not paved but clearly rolled out with heavy equipment. This was the site of the murder of two guards (guarding the antenna) and has been turned into a memorial for them. (see photos with their names), The hilltop boasts a (tattered) Israeli flag and a little gazebo which announces itself as a place of prayer. In the middle of the gazebo is something that looks suspiciously like a sacrificial altar, but it may be a bima for a Torah scroll, to be fair. A small plot of ploughed earth lies close by: watch this spot for a new outpost may sprout up here one of these days. This is how these things begin...And judging by the amount of garbage lying around the place is well used.
Finally, for how could we not get our weekly fix of ghtost town, a quick spin around Hebron. Two Border policepeople (a man and a woman) munching snadwiches and drinking coke at the entrance/exit to the Worshippers Alley, On Shuhada street several men in shorts are jogging incongruously, while a platoon (?) of paratroopers patrols the street with drawn weapons, showing the natives who is in charge. At the Cordoba school steps which are now marked as a national monument, a group of elderly Jews is strugglling upwards, some of them give up and come down again while an energetic guide jolly's them on. Clearly, the intention is to drive the Cordoba people out of their minds by making a nature reserve out of their neighbourhood, and no doubt eventually they will give in and go away, or perhaps not. Maybe the steps will prove too much for the elderly tourists and the Ministry of Education will have to make it a compulsory route for School certificate completion.
Netanya and I joined a Shovrim Shtika/Breaking the Silence tour of Hebron (that's reall addiction!) - fascinating since we went in under police protection, were only harassed (by the police) three times for our ID's and once by a paratrooper, who agreed to compromise and see the identification only of the guide. We peeped into the Casbah - desolate and deserted, climbed up to Jewish Tel-Romeida where our 'protectors' abandoned us by the so-called 'Cage House' and we took the roundabout route that Palestinians are forced to use to reach their homes nearby. Very picturesque and rather beautiful with really ancient olive trees but heaven help anyone taken ill, in labour, carrying heavy bags or coming home at night - no vehicle access is possible and the ground is thick with tree roots, stones and the inevitable garbage all waiting to trip you up. It was salutory to be reminded of the historic development of the Jewish settlement in Hebron and hear again the details of government and army policy of closure-checkpoint-curfew that has made the city of Abraham a ghost town. The tour lasted three and a half hours and is highly recommended to anyone interested in knowing the minutae of how the occupation works and of which Hebron is merely the outstanding example. We also met Anat Cohen but she was berating a paratrooper (they seem to be the people on the ground currently) and we were able to evade direct contact.