South Hebron Hills, Simia school
Surprisingly for a Sunday morning the checkpoint was relatively free. There were a large number of people trying to to cross without permits, either turned back by the police or hiding from them. All the checkpoints on Route 60 were open. On the return drive we went into the village of Simia (where the school was demolished two months ago). There was a vehicle of the civil administration with two young men wandering around as if in their own territory. This caused great tension among the residents, especially the teachers. The school is now accommodated in tents which although sturdy cannot be very comfortable in the rain and cold. A very civil conversation took place with the men from the civil administration. They assured us they were not concerned with the school at all but only wanted to ensure that no one was building on the remains of some Byzantine building that abuts one of the houses and to make sure that any antiquities are marked and protected.
All very well until you consider that these archaeologists are invaders in the pay of a foreign power (Israel!) and have no business to be there. the archaeologist, Shmuel H, told us that the area was on a major trade route between Egypt and Syria (where was Palestine?) and that it was heavily populated during Byzantine times, although he was really very polite but it did not occur to him that the descendants of the various conquerors were the current residents of the village, at least theoretically. He also had no idea about the building of route 60 and its effect on the village, dividing it in two and making communication between the two halves difficult, as well as dangerous for those trying to cross the busy road: one of the reasons for opening the second school on the northern slope of the village.
Attached is a letter received from the Ministry of Defence maintaining that there is an option of transportation, paid for by UNRWA for the children wishing to access the main school in the eastern part of the village, or for an application for a building permit to be made to the Civil Administration. Happy is the believer.