Hebron, South Hebron Hills, Thu 13.3.08, Morning
Sansana - Meitar CP
It is 6:10 and we have crossed over the Sansana CP without stopping because Tal and Nurit were there and took care of the crowded situation that one could see from the road. As we arrived we meet Shlomi so we saw no reason to stay.
We saw the changes that were made by the tractor work. We suppose that someone in the IDF understood that the rainy season is over and it is time to renew the mounds that impede with the day-to-day life of the Palestinians.
We were “impressed” with the new concrete barriers, and we took pictures (that are included in the report) in order to keep track of the amount of barriers placed there.
Dura - Al Fawar – Open
Sheep Crossing – There have been two changes:
1. The pedestrian path: A tractor was put to work here and changed the path made by the many feet that pass through here. The tractor piled high the boulders, which will make it harder for the pedestrians to cross over. The concrete barrier was broken and moved to the place were the small path was. What is the point in complicating the lives of the pedestrians? They aren’t exactly eating honey here.
2. The detour road (blocked by concrete barriers): On this road that generally has traffic of wagons the concrete barriers have been moved in such a way that only narrow wagons and pedestrians can pass through.
7:40 – The “Pharmacy” Checkpoint and Tarpat CP are empty. Apparently school is out today.
Tel Rumeida - The Nachal soldiers ask us for permits, but two Border Policemen are there, one of them knows us. He explains to the other soldiers that we are allowed to go there. In the “Caged House” we meet a Palestinian boy who is painting the gate in the entrance to the house. The settlers pasted giant posters under the headline of “An Open Statement about the Torah” on two different iron gates. This brave boy is painting over them. He doesn’t speak any Hebrew, but we understand from him that activists from “B’tselem” were there, so we continue on our way.
The Cordova School for Girls – On the way from Isah’s home we meet Andy from ISM. He tells us of damage done by the settlers to a concrete fence that was erected along the path leading to the school. (It was being erected to stop the earth from piling up on the path.) He takes us to the place. Andy tells us that the guard at the school heard some noise the night before (a little after 8:00PM), and went outside. There he caught some settler boys breaking the wooden foundations for the concrete fence. He tried to stop them but a soldier fought with him, and the blow by the soldier split his lip. The boys fled. One of the women settlers stood at the bottom of the road and was their lookout. After awhile the police arrived. We can see where the wooden supports were broken. There is work in progress to complete the concrete fence. The pieces of wood are still on the path leading to the school.
Reem, the brave and opinionated principal of the school, hosts us in her office and tells us a similar story of the past night’s occurrences. She uses the word “fight” to describe the “occurrence” between the soldier and the guard of the school. She adds that some settlers came by a few days before and questioned the guard about permits for the building of the low fence. He told them to go to the police with their questions, and added that he doesn’t deal with them. Together with us in the office are sitting two women from EAPPI: Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. We thank Reem, go down the stairs and ask the soldier on duty about the goings on the night before. He, of course, heard and saw nothing.
Shuheda Street – There is increased soldier presence, with at least 15 soldiers there in two separate foot patrols. In addition there are two jeeps parked near a coffee stop that the settlers have set up for the soldiers. They have added a table and some chairs, so the soldiers meeting point is now there. We join one of the foot patrols and meet the officer who is leading the team. We try to ask him if he heard about the incidence that took place the night before. He is not in a hurry to answer our questions, and he lets us wait awhile, but in the end he decides to grant us a few minutes of his time. He heard about the goings on and he gives it the name “The Settlers Bonfire.” He explains the division of roles that the police and the soldiers have in this area, and goes on to explain that the event that took place is of no concern to the army, and that is why the soldier who saw the activity of the boys at the site did nothing. We counter him by stating that the army’s job is to preserve order and that it has the authority to police the area. That it has the responsibility to protect lives and property of all people there, be it settlers or Palestinians. The officer is pleasant to talk to and lets us speak, but we aren’t sure if he got the message. Further on down the road we meet another patrol. He too doesn’t understand why we contend that the army and the soldier on guard had to stop the boys from damaging the fence. He calls the incident “Last Night’s Bonfire.”
Tomb of the Patriarchs – The soldier there informs us “entrance is allowed to Jews only.” We correct him and say “Israelis only.” He doesn’t really understand the difference. For the few minutes that we are there we see that they have held a young kid who is holding a pruning shear in his hand. Then they let him go. No other incident took place there.
The Disputed House- Three soldiers are on duty, one from the Nachal and two from the Border Police. A young man is standing at the edge of the CP near the fence. He is being held (and we later find out that he’s from the Jabari Family, and is automatically checked). As we move closer to the soldiers, we feel their hostility. One of the Border Policemen is standing between two concrete blockades where pedestrians pass through. Four six-year-old girls dressed in school uniforms with school bags on their backs approach the CP. When the first girl arrives, the soldier assumes a posture such that when the girl will pass through she will have to rub against the rifle that his is holding. The girl is hesitant. We shout at the soldier, and so he takes over the other half-meter of space that is left, and the girl, frightened, runs back. Someone who has been detained tries to reassure the girl from the place that he is held at. After a few minutes, the girl encouraged, passes through. The soldier moves about 10 cm. to allow her to pass, and as she does she breaks into a run. The other girls are nowhere to been seen. Mira congratulates her with applause. From a window from the “Disputed House” we hear someone shout “Applause for the enemy.” The name of the “heroic” Border Policeman is Arik, and we have his tag number. I retrospect the wise thing to have done would have been to call the Border Police Command.
Highway 60 - (on our way back to Be’er Sheva)
On the south side of South Samoa: We arrive after multiple checkpoints that were set up along the road had finished their task. Two army jeeps are parked on the side of the road. A truck that has just passed a checkpoint is detained. We get there in time to see soldiers pushing someone who has been handcuffed into the jeep, and off it drives. Another jeep drives a few hundred meters and stops once again. The truck has been left with a window open and the radio on. We try to reach Limor and Frais (?) from the Human Rights Association, but they are not available. Feeling helpless and fearful for the fate of the truck and its driver, we have no choice but to continue on our way.
The Illegal Outpost “Eshtmo'a” -
Three children about 8 to 10 years old are sitting on the ground huddling together. One of them is crying.
Standing over them are three soldiers (who are also guarding the illegal outpost) and tens of young sons of the settlers. When we approach them and our driver A speaks to them in Arabic, the three break out in tears. They came to the area to pick some herbs. Their fathers sent them. At the same time that we try to calm the children down the settlers curse them non-stop. The soldiers claim that the children are not allowed to be there. We ask them to be fair – after all this is a Palestinian area and at the foot of an illegal outpost! After a few minutes one of the jeeps that we saw at the site that the truck driver was arrested at arrives. An officer with rank of Second Lieutenant gets out. He apologizes to the settlers that he can’t do anything to the children, and praises the soldiers who are guarding the outpost. The settlers look very disappointed and even more agitated than before. He lets the kids go and refuses to talk to us. One of the settler boys writes down A’s license plate. We wonder what would have happened there had we not been around!
1. The Sheep Crossing: What good did destroying the pedestrian path do? On the Yatta side of the road people have to climb high mounds of dirt to cross.
2. Hebron – The Cordova Girls School: Soldiers there have serious eyesight and hearing problems when it comes to legal building by the Palestinians.
3. Hebron – The Disputed House: A Border Policeman purposely frightens six-year-old schoolgirls.
4. Samoa – Soldiers frighten and chase away young children who have come to pick herbs in a Palestinian area, and at the foot of an illegal outpost.
We come home feeling disturbed by what we have seen. Is this the enemy that the IDF feels it has to fight: six-year-old girls?
We feel helpless and ashamed by the behaviour of the soldiers and their inability to use common sense. We are affected by a feeling of pain from experiencing the escalation of hate and racism and witnessing an army at war with children