09:00 Leaving from the Rosh Ha'Ayin train station.
At the bus station along road 5 stand armed soldiers. There is one police vehicle at the entrance to Tapuah intersection and another at the exit.
The phenomenon repeats itself. The settlers don't have to bother: the army devotedly stands in for them. If in the not-so-far past the settlers used to enter the villages during the days and the nights and impose terror, now the picture is different. Actually in the south-east region of the West Bank, where the most violent settlements are, the settlers abstain from entering the villages. (The reason for that may be the fact that the villagers got organized and formed civil-guard militias, succeeding more than once to drive the invading settlers away). Their stand-in, the army, sees to it that there should not be even a moment's peace. The soldiers enter the villages and invade the houses, or alternately lie in ambush for the villagers at the entrance to their villages and abuse them. Thus the settlers are able to continue to establish their hold on lands that do not belong to them, without wasting energies on confronting the locals. The army carries this task our now.
10:00 El M'rayer
Along the dirt road leading to the village, cut-down olive trees begin producing new sprouts. Tires burnt during skirmishes between village boys and the army left dark stains on the road.
Shepherds with their flocks are visible in the fields. The bells on the sheep's necks chime. Almond trees bloom in pink and white. Pastoral scenes…
At a granary a few locals gather and bring us up to date on the events since our last visit: near El M'rayer there was a Bedouin encampment, which the army threatened to destroy. And indeed, the threat was carried out, and 200 persons remained without shelter, until the Red Cross donated to them a number of tents, which still stand there. The shepherd-settler from Adey Ad - who has made a place for himself at the close-by military base, and turned the nearby stream and the pasture into his private estate – had disappeared. The locals believe that the army sent him away is caravan is still inside the army base.
Since its establishment, the illegal settlement Adey Ad has occupies up to 200 dunams of the village's lands. As is customary in the West Bank, the settlers erected a fence around it. A villager who approaches the fence risks his life. But recently the settlers' appetite has grown: in order to enlarge the settlements area, they erected another fence. As a result, the total of the confiscated lands of the Settlement and the nearby army base now reaches 450 dunans. Our interlocutors associate the erection of the second fence with the fact that, contrary to former years, they have not yet received an permit for the seasonal plowing from the Administration. When the locals ask for permits to take care of the olive trees, the cruel answer they receive is: "your trees were cut down, so what works are you talking about?"
Further to the additional confiscation of lands, the army destroyed henhouses, which were put up in C zone.
The entry of the army into the village makes the lives of the locals very difficult. Schoolchildren, who view the presence of the soldiers as a humiliation, come up to the soldiers, throw stones, and set fire to tires. The soldiers react with tear gas. Lately the soldiers have been coming in the evening, taking over houses under construction, turning them into military posts, and staying there until dawn. An agreement that was reached with the DCO, according to which in exchange to maintaining order by the residents, the army wouldn't enter, doesn't hold water. Yesterday evening the soldiers arrived again and used tear gas. Our interlocutor showed us the clouds of gas which he photographed with his cellular phone. Today 35 of the villagers are detained, including 30 youngsters. Most of them were detained at the beginning of the “knife intifada.”
The occupation authority also maintains a money-making operation: when inhabitants leave in their vehicles with no license plates "to have a breath of fresh air," according to them, the police lies in wait for them. The car is towed away and the driver is fined 1000 shekels, and another 500 shekel for the tow truck. One of the village inhabitants has an American citizenship, and owing to that he has obtained an Israeli license plate. When one of his family members was caught driving the car, he was fined 2000 shekel.
At El M'rayer there are 3500 inhabitants. Most of them make a living from agriculture and the rearing of sheep. Others go to Ramallah and the Jordan Valley to work there. Work permits in Israel were given to only ten persons, over 50 years old.
The inhabitants do not have water problems. They get their water from the wells of Eyn Sami, which also supply water to the settlements and the army in the region.
At the council house we meet our acquaintance S. Since our last visit, two months ago, he underwent a traumatic experience: when he went out of the village in his car, soldiers dragged him out of the moving car and threw him on the ground. One of the soldiers trampled him, with his shoe on the neck. The accusation they hurled at him was that he "cursed them". "And if that were true, how were they supposed to hear that, when the windows of the vehicle were closed?" he asks. The marks of the affront and helplessness are still to be discerned on him.
S., an impressive youth, studies now for a master's degree in international relations at Al Najah university and at the same time works at the Allenby bridge on the Palestinian side, and also fulfills secretarial tasks at the council house. He is a son of the Dawabshe family, a cousin of the head of the family who perished in the fire. He would very much like to visit Ahmed, the little boy who has survived, whom he misses very much. But he knows that his requests will be denied. After all he hasn't yet reached the age of fifty years…
Three weeks ago we visited the village of Kussara. A fortnight before our arrival representatives of the Civil Authority, accompanied by the army and stun grenades, came to the village and distributed demolition, work interruption, and confiscation orders. On our visit to Duma today it transpired that the Civil Authority people indeed worked very hard on that day. S. show us a dossier full of decrees written on that day. Like the decrees which were distributed at Kussara, here too the information is in Hebrew only, in handwriting which is very difficult to decipher. In some of the decrees the names of the addressees do not appear at all. In Duma too the right of appeal was limited to three days only.
Since the fire the army does not enter the village, but abuses the villagers from outside. Soldiers wait in the morning for the people leaving for work and detain them for a long time. The scenario repeats itself in the afternoon and evening, when people return from work. Why? Just so, because they can.
13:00 Tapuach intersection
Soldiers stop cars which drive on the way to Yitzhar.
13:30 Back at Rosh Ha-Ayin.