Hebron, Sansana, South Hebron Hills, Tarqumiya, Tue 25.11.08, Morning
6:30: When we arrive five lorries carrying sand wait on the Israeli side and seven on the Palestinian. The workers cross without delay. One bus carrying families to visit the prisons is already waiting to cross and four more are expected today.
A Red Cross representative tells us that due to a fray in the queue early on Sunday morning one worker fell down and was taken by a Palestinian ambulance for treatment in Hebron. The crossing was all right he said and the accident was due to a scuffle between the workers. We cannot be held responsible for everything. The workers need not push and everyone does in fact cross without trouble. An Israeli contractor who arrived then also testifies that this CP works fine. We should also keep in mind that Sansana-Meitar is in fact a proper border-crossing.
All roadblocks are in place, the pillboxes are manned and there is very light traffic and no military vehicles.
Samoa is open as are Durah Al Fawwar and the Sheep Junction.
A military jeep is parked at Shuyuch Hebron. A reserve company is standing guard over vehicles of the Electricity Board that is erecting new power poles.
There are no detainees at the Humanitarian CP and the soldiers are range practicing.
The Olive Crossing is open and a border police car is standing by. The settlers walking from Jerusalem to reinforce the settlers occupying "Beit ha-Shalom" (house of peace), i.e., The Disputed House are awaited at the Adora Settlement.
At Idnah Tarqumiya the pillbox is manned and there is no road block.
Many lorries are passing commodities "back to back". We didn't delay.
Hebron is a bad place. It's where the March of Folly is most physically felt and where you can least escape it. The ghost dwellings stare at you at every corner telling you - you're responsible, you're part of this nation that is perpetrating this evil towards another people. It's where my motto "Palestinians should see another kind of Israeli" assumes a hollow ring. We cannot counter all this human and Jewish evildoing that remains after we go home.We were accompanied by two reporters and knew that as soon as we approach the town's Jewish settlement we would be accosted by the settlers or challenged with a Closed Military Zone Edict.
So we opted to start the tour in Giv'at ha-Harsina. There you can see the roadblocks, the apartheid highway and the Palestinians still hanging on to their homes against all odds. We met a woman complaining that the settlers took land from her. We gave her Yesh Din's contact number. We met youngsters who told of how the soldiers enter their houses late at night. The usual occupation stories - the March of Folly.
Next we walked along the Prayers' Route, from the pillbox at the foot of Kiryat Arbah to the Cave of the Patriarchs, where again you see the desolate neighbourhood. As we walk along, we see two settlers not residents of Hebron walking there too. They are never shown a Closed Military Zone Edict, they blend into the local landscape. The driver A and Na'ama wait for us at the parking lot and when we get there we find a new police vehicle. The constables permit us to go wherever we wish.
There are no detainees at the Cave of the Patriarchs CPs.
The Pharmacy CP is empty when we reach it. Most of the children are already in school.
We proceeded to Avraham Avinu Neighbourhood to show our guests the Sharbati family house and the plaque commemorating Shalhevet Paz. At that point the nature of our shift changes. A soldier, a settler himself, stopped us to check if we are allowed to enter the neighbourhood. He took the opportunity to rally the settlers, with Ofer Ohana at their head, and from that moment on Ohana followed us everywhere with his usual aggressive harangue. It's not easy to talk and explain with him around but he does serves as the ultimate illustration of settlers' violence.
There were no detainees at the Tarpat CP and the shading hides the soldiers from view.
At Tel Rumeida the inspection is random. When we cross Ofer arrives and a police vehicle too. The police watch us to make sure we are not being provocative. Ofer's violence they obviously find justified because they do nothing to stop it. Must be within the bounds of freedom of speech. We stop just below Cordoba School and by the gate to the Qasba to explain IDF policy in the area - how the two communities are segregated with the Palestinians suffering the yoke of occupation and the Jews violating the law time and again. Ofer's horrible diatribe is like a constant echo but this is where he parts ways with us.
By the Disputed House, in Bassam's grocery, we see only the children. A young and pretty Palestinian girl waves to me from a house across the street and gestures at me in an inviting manner. Very concisely she tells me how very terrible life there is. On the slopes of the hill we meet the Palestinian photographers of the international press waiting for the settlers who are walking from Jerusalem to reinforce the settlers in the Disputed House. A table and chair have been placed just outside the house and a settler sits there observing the events below. When we approach he yells at me to stop saying he's a border police officer. As he is not in uniform I ignore this at which he shouts: "you mustn't be here. Show me an ID". In response I demand his officer card or a letter verifying his claim. He then tries to stop me physically but I decide to wave him off like a fly. He is put out but leaves me alone.
By the Disputed House CP there are many border police among them a high ranking officer who tells us that this being an H1 area it is out of bounds for us. We tell him that if that were the case it would be out of bounds for the settlers as well. Settlers crowd the entrance to the house and more stand on the roof by the army cameras. A TIFH vehicle stands by the cemetery. The tombstones have been mutilated with red stars of David and the mosque wall has been washed white by the soldiers to hide the graffiti. In between some Palestinians walk by - three mothers with young children and some old men. Here they are not harassed. Having finished watching and taking photographs we start to leave, followed by the shouts of the would-be border police officer who pulled out a camera saying: "I'll put you on U-tube, make a film of you, traitors, not ashamed to throw people out of their house".
By that time we'd had enough and went on our way leaving Wittek to enjoy his Hebron experience to the full.