Jordan Valley: Soldiers, look them in the eye
Old Maryam sits at the entrance to the tent provided her by the International Red Cross, after the Israeli army demolished her regular tent home on Wednesday, August 26. Maryam suffers from a serious case of diabetes, is blind, and is about to lose her leg to amputation. She, her son and daughter-in-law and two adolescent sons were living in two tents, one of which – including kitchen and sheep pen – was demolished by the Israeli army at 4 a.m.
Every time I face these miserable families, left under the sun with temperatures climbing to 40 degrees centigrade, I am stunned by the level of cruelty to which my own country has descended during the long years of occupation. The callousness facing an unbearable human situation, and the return to everyday routine after you have deprived people of their most previous belonging – their private, personal space – that shelters them in a cruel world, among natural and human hardships. What do the adorable sons and daughters of my own neighbors feel, who with callous feet destroy the world of elderly Palestinians, ill patients, children – whose sold sin is to have been born on the other side of nationality? I think they feel nothing!
Just as no one gives a good goddamn about the suffering of millions caged in Gaza for nearly twenty years, these youngsters couldn’t care less about these people. And still I wonder: they look straight in the eyes of those simple, poor people, who even in the maddest Israeli army imagination could not be suspect of terrorism. These people look so deeply desperate, begging for mercy. Soldiers, look!!! These are human beings, goddammit! How is it that not even a single person among these soldiers would rise and cry out – enough, I can no longer do this, this is not what my parents raised me to be!!
And the worst of it was that after completing their brave mission, these soldiers crossed the road and paid a visit to the neighbor, also a sick woman with seven small children and a tumor in the head, and notified her in jolly spirit that “next week we come to you”. And laughed. For there is nothing more intoxicating than stark power.
We visited Tahrir, whose home was demolished two years ago, and for the past two years has been suffering from a brain tumor. She has undergone two surgeries already, and is now facing the third. It was difficult. Difficult to witness the human suffering of this woman and her children, the woman who called us to ask for shoes for the children so they could go to school. Now she is sleepless for fear that in a week’s time her home will be demolished by the soldiers. Incidentally, we have heard such threats in the past, and they don’t necessarily materialize. Sometimes after such threats years go by until something really happens, if at all. The army never notifies people ahead of time of its intention to demolish, for it is best to keep the Palestinians in constant anxiety. How her face lit up when the children tried the shoes on (some were even new from the box…), and could even choose the pair that most appealed to them. We brought food too, clothes and some money.
We then proceeded to Ras Al Ahmar, to visit the family whose home was demolished a year ago. The two daughters had then wanted to go to university. We raised money for their tuition and even got a laptop for one of the girls, but she was asked for in marriage and decided to give up studying. Her parents returned the money and the laptop and now we went to find out whether her sister wishes to pursue her studies. Apparently not. They seem to have encouraged each other to go to college, but now that the sister was left on her own, she gave up the dream.
A short visit in Makhoul, to Najia. The children chase the car, asking excitedly, “When are we going to the spring?” They wait for it so much!!
Finally, we drove to Hamra, to see how the Palestinians’ grazing ground may be reached, where a new settler-colonist has been dispossessing them forcefully and violently. Our friends from “Accompanying the Shepherds” have begun to accompany the Palestinian shepherds and, so far, have been able to protect them. Driving through this uninhabited area, we unintentionally chased a group of gazelles, several dozen. What a lovely sight!