Hebron, Sansana, South Hebron Hills, Tarqumiya, Tue 5.2.08, Morning
06:30 – 11:00
The morning following the terrorist attack in Dimona – in the news they continuously report that the terrorists came from South Hebron Hills. We worry of what we will see and how again innocent people will suffer from collective punishment and we will return to the question of the egg and the hen – what causes what? Suicidal attacks harm human rights or vice versa?
Many Military Police soldiers are on guard. In 6:30 AM there are no workers passing. Some are waiting on the Israeli side for their employers.
On the way to Hebron there are no military vehicles in the junctions. There's more traffic of Palestinian cars on the road (did they get rid of the Apartheid decision?). All the dirt mounds along the road 60 are kept. All watch tours are manned.
The Disputed House (Bet Hameriva)
A soldier is standing next to the Egged bus stop for Line 161 and watches the settlers' children who are waiting for the bus to take them to school. He doesn't stop or detain anyone. But it is coincidental. Bassam's grocery store is closed.
The way to the Cave of the Patriarchs – next to the concrete blocks soldiers are standing now, in pairs. More soldiers than last week and two weeks ago. The Palestinian kids are on their way to school and they see soldiers and their guns everywhere.
Pharmacy Checkpoint – no picking in the children's back packs. Conclusion: sometime it helps to complain. There are no detainees and the passage is quick.
The Cave of the Patriarchs Checkpoint – Three detainees in the checkpoint near the parking lot. We watch the more than usual warm friendliness between a settler in Hasidic clothes and the policemen. A BP soldier who was formal in his communication with us stops answering our questions after he speaks with the settler. He tells us: "I thought you were on our side – now I know you're the opposite". We assume that if we stay there he will detain Palestinians because of us so we left. Indeed after we leave all Id's are returned. Sometimes one has to know when to leave.
Tel Rumeidah Checkpoint – The soldiers are standing on top and not stopping anyone. We went into the new grocery store, got acquainted with the owners and asked them how they get their merchandise. They answer "by cart and hands". There's snow in all the deserted streets. We ask how they shoveled the snow and the answer was that it took time for the municipality to coordinate with the army but the snow plows arrived and removed the snow under heavy army escort. They also told us that there is currently army search going on the H1 area. We are in the H2 area.
Tarpat Checkpoint – From the car we see a "Shimshon" soldier running with the beret on his head towards a Palestinian woman, dressed traditionally, about 24 years old. The soldier grabs her hand and stops her. We approach them. She doesn’t want to speak with us. A, our driver encourages her. The soldier took her Id for inspection. She is a substitute teacher and is not on the list of teachers who can pass the side entrance. The woman is upset and humiliated – isn’t a gun enough? The soldier touched her body. The soldier yells at me "Maniac" and "don't interrupt my job". Michal stays beside the woman. A settler approaches the soldiers and tells them "don’t pay attention to what they say – didn’t they hear about the suicidal attack yesterday? You are doing a holly work in the checkpoints".
The soldier tells me about a stabbing attempt by a young Palestinian woman in Bethlehem checkpoints. He adds: "why can't she (the Palestinian) greet me with good morning?" The soldiers are not aware of the cultural differences and tell me "we can do whatever we want". We feel that there's nothing to talk about with them – Pent up and not pent up aggression guides them in their actions – these two specific settlers. Young kids who speak Hebrew – they learned it from the soldiers – defend their teacher. And the soldiers: "Why should you care, you'll have time off".
We walk away feeling that maybe here too, because of the settlers words to the soldiers, our presence is not being helpful. We walk to the school Kodova to tell Rim, the school principal to come down and help. Rim, prettier than always with a red coat from Ireland knows already about the detention from the kids and is very happy to see us. We go down the stairs together and see that the teacher has been released. The teacher doesn't want to acknowledge us or make friends with us – she is a religious Muslim and claims that there shouldn't be good relationships between Muslims and Jews, even if they are liberal like us. Rim is a nit apologetic on her behalf. We tell her there's no need to be. We think how human relations can be so complicated in the Middle east and how guns and the people who carry them can destroy the happiness of a young woman, and how willing she is to become a Shahid…. We left with a heavy feeling and also felt lucky we have Rim.
On our way back all soldiers are in place – pairs in every corner and every turn – all the way to Kiryat Arba.
Before I left this morning, around 5:30 AM I get a phone call from a Palestinian who wants to thank me for helping improve the passage in Tarkumia. Miki F. received phone calls through Sunday and Monday about how terrible the situation is there. It was awful – workers waited a lot of time, it was unorganized and 2 workers were injured from crashing each other while sanding in line. One of them broke his hand and the other got dry injuries. Both of them were transferred in an ambulance of the Red Cross that a soldier called for to a hospital in Hebron. Because the checkpoints in Husan and Geva were closed, there are about 4000 workers crossing in Tarkumia every day. They don't know each other and there are fights between villages on who will be the first to arrive. The checkpoint opens at 4AM but there aren't enough soldiers. S' the checkpoint commander called me up on
Monday and asked for my intervention. Today they held a debriefing about what happened there on Sunday and they started to man the checkpoint with 14 soldiers. Lets hope they will continue with this. No one means to be evil – everyone wants to make the passage more efficient and human. It is sometimes hard to anticipate what will happen. We also think that it is best for the Palestinians to understand that it is not good for them to arrive all at once. ..that way they will have to wait less and still get to work at the same time.
The despair is big – and not over – but this is the end of the summary.