09:30 We leave from the train station in Rosh Ha'Ayin.
10:15 Tapuah Junction. There are three soldiers. One is checking a Palestinian taxi next to a parking army vehicle, one is at the bus stop and one is in the watch tower.
10:20 Luban-Al-Sharqiya The municipality is closed. At the taxi station we meet a few drivers who have gathered there. Some of them enter a nearby grocery store together with us. The shop owner divides his attention between us and the soccer game he is watching on his TV on the wall in front of him. He describes the latest events. Two months ago, a few days before our last visit in the village, some settlers burst through the school gate. They attacked the children claiming, as usual, that the kids had been throwing stones. Luckily, the principal and the teachers acted fast: they brought the children straight into the center of the village through an internal gate. Since then, ecumenical representatives have been accompanying the children to school to guarantee their safety. However, the settlers keep harassing the school which is situated far from the village center, close to road 60. And as if violence were not enough, now they demand the closing of the school. Nothing less.
Last month, the settlers attacked young villagers working in the garages along the winding road parallel to the village. Some of them were detained and investigated by the army. The settlers destroyed vehicles and threatened the garage owners that they would take revenge if they did not close their garages.
Why do the settlers keep attacking the school and the garages? The reason is obvious: the two neighboring settlements, Eli to the east and Ma'ale Levona to the south. The settlers want to have complete control of road 60, one of the main roads connecting between the central and southern areas on the West Bank. That's why they see it as their goal to "clean" the road and get rid of the school and the garages.
In Luban-Al-Sharqiya, like in other villages we have visited, people have been documenting incidents like these for three years. The shop owner shows us the attacks on the school, the harassment of a pupil on his way home from school and the destruction in the garages on You Tube. The villagers show this evidence to peace movements and civil rights movements coming to the village to give their support.
Most of their land was confiscated a long time ago to the benefit of the settlements. Even the gas station on road 60 is built on the land of the village. The villagers are allowed to work their land near the settlements only two days a year. The same number of days is allotted for olive picking. The settlers go bathing in a little spring on the villagers' land. The owners of the land are not allowed to go there.
Driving on a small road, after leaving road 60, we reach an iron gate which opens into an orchard with ripe fruit and creeping plants covering the well-tended terraces. There is an old stone house with an arched door at the end of the orchard. The sight is surprising: a small paradise in the heart of the occupied West Bank. But sadly, the atmosphere is dispelled when H., the owner of the orchard, appears. He's limping, hardly able to walk. He has a tormented look on his face. Two days ago, 13 settlers arrived at his small plot of land to attack him. "If I wished to vent my feelings I would write a book", he said, in Arabic. Even though he knows to communicate in Hebrew he speaks only Arabic, in defiance of the occupants. And in this language he cries out his indictment: "I've been suffering here for ten years, on my land. My grandfather built this little house. I work the land. I don't hurt anybody, don't throw stones. Why do they attack me??? What does salam (peace) mean? I'm fed up with this word. There is no proof that Jews used to live in this area. The "left" is useless. Why don't they come here? Why don't they demonstrate?" H. makes us listen to his prophecy: "Not only do the Jews destroy our lives, they themselves are being destroyed. Therefore, they won't exist beyond the year 2020…"
He is just as angry with the people of his village as he is with the occupying Jews. The villagers don't fight for their land any more. 350 dunams of his own land have been confiscated, but he won't give up his orchard and his little house. That's why he's left his house in the village and risks his life by living here alone.
H. is suffering pain, injustice and violence under the occupation. Nevertheless, he won't give up his pride or his land. His body is broken but his soul is invincible.
12:00 A-Zawiya A., our friend, receives us at the municipality. This village is also being harassed by the two settlements Eli and Ma'ale Levona. Here, as well, the villagers are allotted 2-3 days to work their land. "But during these days the army protects us from the settlers", he says. And what about the approaching olive picking season? Last year, groups of women from Machsomwatch joined the pickers. Up till now, no permit has been received. Experience has taught us that the minimal number of days the villagers are allowed to pick their olives are far from enough to collect all the yield. Not surprisingly, the settlers will pick the remaining fruit.
12:50 On our way back: At the Tapuah Junctiion, two soldiers are sitting at the bus stop and three more are in the parking lot.
At present no activity is going on – no Palestinian cars are being checked. An army truck with water is parking at the entrance to Kipel Haras.
13:15 Return to Rosh Ha'Ayin.