Hebron, Sansana (Meitar Crossing), South Hebron Hills, Tue 3.1.12, Morning
guests: Shahar and Ellen.
By 7:30am the checkpoint is clear and only a few workers waited for employers on the Israeli side together with one bus for prisoners' families.
Clear and we hardly saw a military vehicle or soldiers.
We stopped at the Tarpat checkpoint where some TIPH internationals were crossing without checking. We asked whether this was the rule and after a lot of mumbling the soldier declared that he only answered what he wanted to. We thanked him for his courtesy and proceeded up the hill to Tel Romeida. Here a large sign welcomes visitors in Hebrew to military position X (I don't recall the no. and didn't get a chance to photograph it). We decided to show our guests the cage house at Jewish Tel Romeida, but were politely accosted by an officer who agreed to let us pass on condition we didn't try to go beyond that eyesore. However, one of our party took it into her head to proceed whereupon an irate settler leapt from his car and decided to throw us out. The officer reappeared and with polite rudeness(!) shuttled us down the hill for all the world like a hen with ducklings. He refused to allow us to speak until he had finished telling us off for provoking - just who or what was not clear. He cautioned us not to even think of enterng the Jewish cemeteries, which we anyway had no intention of doing. The truth though is that we had no need to beard the settlers in their lair 0 enogh having to deal with them in the public arena. As to the officer, either a lieutenant or a captain, he clearly wanted to avoid a scene - his lordly attitude is part of the infinite power that the army wields and which, unfortunately, doesn't end in the occupied territories but carries over when they return to civilian life.
We then proceeded to Khirbet Al Tuwant where, as Lea Shakdiel has reported, an exciting archeological find purports to be a synagogue from the Second Temple Period. We met Suleiman Salem ElOndra (?) also known as Nasser, on whose land the excavation is taking place. His house also serves as a sort of community center with a photographic record of the harrassment suffered in the village by settlers from the nearby outposts and settlements. Thre is also a women's orgamization selling embroidery and crafts. The history of the dig is as follows: the villagers requested the Civil Administration to connect them to the main water system. The CA agreed but declared that the dig must take place first and only when it is complete can the connection to the water pipeline be maid. As Lea points out, when there is a dig at a settlement it is no obstancle to the preparation of infrastructure, but here of course the situation is different. Tuwanis is famous for the fact that the neighbouring village of Tuba sends its children to school there and because of the frequent harrasment and attacks by settlers on the youngsters, they must be accompanied by internationals and/or the army. Not long ago I visited in Soroka Hospital an international volunteer who was beaten and left of dead by settlers.
And to the dig: according to Ellen who is a tour guide who specialises in archeology - there are clear signs of a Byzantine floor and secondary buildings probably from the Muslim period. However, she also pointed out some remains that seemd to her typical of the Second Temple period, possibly steps leading to a ritual bath (mikveh). Nasser also took us to another site in the village where his sister has set up house in a cave to protect her land while the excavation goes on. The dig includes two oil presses and two caves that could indeed be burial chambers from the second temple period. The question is, so what? The sad thing is that if this is indeed an interesting archeologoical site instead of bringing economic benefit to the village in the form of tourism, it will bring them more conflict with settlers and their supporters bent on the judaization of the country, and the dispossession of the Palestinians.
. Hanna Barag and Yesh Din are planning to visit the site with an expert archeologist. To be continued....