How life really looks behind the words “the occupation routine”
We began today at Tarqumiyya because we picked up the photographer at the Kiryat Gat train station. It’s quiet at Tarqumiyya at this hour; nothing special going on.
Cave of the Patriarchs
‘Abed, from the souvenir shop, says that during the past week they suddenly began arresting young women without using female soldiers to do so. That’s new and worrying, particularly because of the feelings about women.
Tourists from Indonesia enter on the Palestinian side. A group of youths from the ecological high school in Sde Boker are on a comprehensive tour, meeting with a variety of representatives and hearing a range of views. We ran into Avner from Breaking the Silence, who had also been invited to speak to them. We exchange information.
We telephone M., from B’Tselem. She’s busy taking testimony from the owner of a grocery opposite the al-Ibrahamiyya school. It turns out that last Thursday, as usual, he wanted to bring cartons of ice cream bars from the factory in Area H1 to his shop via the Pharmacy checkpoint. The soldiers, very motivated to keep maintain Israel’s security, detained him and inspected each bar. They also opened the wrappers. After two hours he was allowed to proceed to his shop with hundreds of half-unwrapped, melting ice cream bars. A question: Why are ice cream bars in a shop next to a school considered a security risk?
Another question: Who’ll buy an ice cream bar that had melted and been refrozen and whose wrapper has been opened?
And so his merchandise was ruined and his income reduced.
It’s interesting that the bags of dry snacks and potato chips, which aren’t affected by an hour in the sun, weren’t inspected. He shows us photos of the entire incident. He says it happens more than once.
We went to the al-Ibrahamiyya school. There’s a new principal who looks stern. He asked us to get authorization in the future from the Hebron education department before we arrive.
We walked on, and at the beginning of Shuhadeh Street, very near the Moslem entrance, we suddenly noticed an IDF notice on a wall and a doorway: “Inspection upon exit.”
The woman whose house it is stands watching us. We asked her what the notice means. She tells us about the procedure in place on “Jewish exception” days, when they block the usual road to the city which is adjacent to the entrance to the Cave of the Patriarchs, and people must take a long detour. Instead they walk along a corridor adjoining her home and the army conducts inspections there. It’s been that way since the massacre carried out by Baruch Goldstein in 1994.
For the first 15 years all the doors facing the street and the Cave of the Patriarchs were walled up and people had to make a huge detour to get from one side to the other. She also says they felt suffocated. She says one day she got fed up and simply broke open the blocked entrance. The army didn’t react. And since then she has a door onto Shuhadeh Street. But because it’s a long way from this door past the casbah, even though it’s right next to her home, she opens it for everyone who has to get there on days the army blocks the area during Jewish holidays. She says there were days everything was blocked and people brought ladders and jumped over the walls to get to work, to school and wherever they had to go. Now they simply ring the bell and she opens the door. “Also at night,” she says, “and when I’m kneading bread or anything else I’m doing, I feel obligated to help people who, on your holidays, can’t take the shortest route.” “Can we come in and look?” we ask. No, she says to Muhammad, I don’t want Jews and Israelis in my home.
Eventually she relents: “It’s the first time I agree.” And she takes us to the hall traversing the rooms of her home and then through inner courtyards and lanes until you reach the mosque and from there get to the casbah. Later, inside, over a cup of tea, she recounts years of suffering and hardship in getting to work and school and everywhere else a person reach. A hard, stressful routine.
And that explains the notice the army posted to itself with the words “Inspection upon exit,” for their patrols through the hallway and the alleys. She tells us of the efforts she made until the soldiers agreed she’d be responsible that no one dangerous uses the route.
One day, three years ago, when her son was 12, he and his class were there when the area was declared a closed military location. The soldiers attacked the children, arrested them and when his son was returned home his face was swollen and bloody. After a few more such incidents she one day told the soldier: The next time you hit my son I’ll beat you…
The boy required lengthy psychological treatment to return to normal.
She has also four married daughters living in Hebron who were also subjected to delays and harassment, something they see as particularly serious. “That’s what our lives are like, though now it’s relatively calmer,” she says. “But come during Passover and see for yourselves what they do to us.”
We promised to come, and we will. Compared with our initial meeting, our parting was warm and accompanied by hugs. We left a contact number in case she’ll need it.
Shuhada Street was quiet.
On the stairs up to the Cordova school opposite Beit Hadassah, as part of efforts to Judaize the area, the settlers erected a sign: Hatiqva Stairs…
And as “dessert” at the end of all these goodies, when we left to return home, at the entrance to the military base next to Kiryat Arba, where Golani soldiers are now serving, we saw something we’d never seen before: a soldier leading a handcuffed and blindfolded man to the base.