The Israeli army destroys and harasses – the local population is helpless
Another chapter in the saga of Israeli soldiers harassing the Palestinians of the Jordan Valley: threatening, demolishing, damaging expensive property, and even stealing a phne from a young boy; First they deny what they do, finally they return it – only after we intervene; No shame.
At 8 a.m. we were informed by phone that the Al Hama villagers had the honor of a visit by the Israeli army – who ordered them to destroy within two hours the only tent that had remained standing (“the women’s tent”) and the white shade that was put up from the remains of the tent donated by the Red Cross. If they wouldn’t destroy this themselves – the army would come along and do the job.
We got hold of two Taayush activists and proceeded immediately to the Palestinian Jordan Valley. On the way we were further informed: Between the settlements of Gitit and Mechora military maneuvers were taking place, at the same place where the soldiers had trained about 10 days ago and fired at a family encampment, the shots tearing the tent, perforating mattresses, and worst of all – perforating their water tanker. We went to them first.
In the shade of a tree at the side of a dirt track, about 30 meters from the Allon Road sat the family: two men and a 12-year old boy. In the shade of another tree, a flock of sheep crowded. A heart-rending sight. On the tree’s branches hung plastic bags containing some products (bread, vegetables). We were told that the soldiers came at 5 a.m., scared the child, and instructed them to vacate the site. Why? Military maneuvers. They did not get a warning order. Just so. No warning. At dawn. The boy tried to photograph them with his cell phone and the soldiers confiscated it. “Maybe you can help us get it back?”
Further down the track we found a group of soldiers (about 30 of them) getting ready to spend at least one night out there. Lots of sleeping bags and gear. We approached the fellow who said he was the commander, a blond-haired officer, and he said they were having a two-day maneuver, the Palestinians were evacuated from their tent for “their own safety”. He knew of no phone that had been taken, and anyway he just got here and knows nothing. As we were speaking a bus arrived and another 30-40 soldiers disembarked. The officer said he’d look into this. Another officer decided he was not allowed to speak to us and was very hostile. We went back to the family and told them to be prepared for they would not be allowed back to their encampment for the next two days. The boy described the person who took his phone: “He has yellow hair!” Well, that is that same officer who told us he had just now arrived and knows nothing. The boy also recognized the officer in the photo we took of him. How the culture of deception has become habit with the soldiers!
We called the DCO. We told officer Dolev what was happening on the ground and complained about the stolen phone. The officer said he would look into it, but that there was no maneuvers, no soldiers in the area, and no phone was taken. It’s all a figment of our imagination. Since we had pictures, he asked us not to publish them. I said that if the child’s phone is returned to him within the hour, we will consider not publishing anything. The barter was on.
We proceeded to Al Hama, and on our way back from there we reached the first family again. THey were no longer under the tree. The army was gone. We found the family in their encampment with their sheep. According to them, at 2 p.m. the soldiers left. The officer drove by in his car and threw the phone at them while driving. Apparently the soldiers had erased the SIM card. We were glad to see the people back in their “home” and the main thing – the phone was returned to its owner.
It started raining, and around us – no tent nor shelter, neither for humans nor for the sheep. Everything was torn and destroyed in the previous maneuver and the people have not yet had a change to get organized. Two adults and a child remained without shelter.
Expelled from their home, finding some shelter under a tree – photo by Nurit Popper
How will they bring water now? The shepherds’ water tanker is riddled with holds from army fire – photo: Guy Hirschfeld, Taayush
Million stars hotel – without any shelter, sleeping out in the open – photo: Guy Hirschfeld , Taayush
What remains from the family tent – photo: Guy Hirschfeld, Taayush
The soldiers get organized with their gear for staying in the field – photo: Nurit Popper
So we arrived at Al Hama around noontime and remained there until 6 p.m. The army did not come. We visited the inner encampment, of Abu Hani, which the army did not demolish. We spoke with the women. On top of a hill, about 30 meters over their heads, settlers have erected a pirate outpost. The villagers are petrified of their new neighbors who keep driving through them all the time. They have no grazing ground left. To the north – a firing zone, to the south – the settlers. For now, their livestock lives on hay which they buy at a steep price (1000 NIS per day for feed).
We met a woman and her 12-year old daughter, who do reside in nearby En Al Beda, but their small flock of cattle is here in a pen, since the crowding in En Al Beda does not enable them to hold their livestock there. They would like to put up a tent here for themselves and the woman’s husband, but they do not, for fear of demolition.
Later on we shared a vegetarian meal with Abu Rasma, and he told us that prior to 1967 there were stone buildings closer to the road. In 1967 or 68 the army came and demolished them. Why? He doesn’t know. They were not shown any written decree. They were so scared that everyone dug deeper into the ground until the storm passes. These were his words. Guy inquired with the organization “Bimkom” and discovered that there are aerial photos of the site from that time, and indeed stone structures are seen close to the road. Abu Rasma said that in Makhoul, as well, stone houses existed. East of the present-day village. After stone houses are demolished, inhabitants are afraid to build new ones and then the occupiers call them “nomads”.
The setters’ outpost is growing. We saw it from afar, did not go there. It began to rain and we helped Abu Rasma’s sons to cover the lambs’ pen with some tarpaulin. The shelter is only for the lambs, they did not dare cover the rest for fear that this would bring back the army.