I can’t really explain the depth of the different emotions that I have felt today. I woke up angry, then I found myself incredibly scared, before feeling very emotional and heartbroken for the poor people in Palestine.
Our days have been pretty full on. We have been woken up at 7.30am, and not stopped until 11pm. I went to bed last night at 11.30 and I was really annoyed that the noise from girls in the room next door kept me up until 2am.
We started our day by visiting Hebron, West Bank (South Jeruselum) and we were briefed beforehand about the occupation, and how we needed to have our wits about us. As we left our town of Beit Sahour, we drove down the main road which was lined with Isreali sniper towers. I started to question my reason for being on this trip, I felt like I was being completely reckless. Why do I need to put myself in a position where I could potentially get shot? I’m a mother. What about Molly? We drove passed people trying to put out a fire next to a boys school which was caused by tear gas that had been fired at them. We heard that the night before, a bus traveling along the very same road had been shot at. We proceeded to travel along this road, passing multiple crowds of Israeli soldiers who were heavily armed, and I was terrified.
We were told a lot of stories on this short drive, but some of the most poignant were:
- If a Palestinian commits a crime, the police have to go to the Israelis to seek permission for arrest, often denied
- There are often curfews which mean some check points are only open between 8am and 6pm. People have died whilst awaiting medical treatment, or given birth whilst waiting for these check points to open.
- Most Palestinians receive abuse at check points (particularly divorced woman, who suffer from sexual harassment as their marital status is declared on their I.D card) therefore a lot of people fear travel because of problems at these check points.
We drove past a large pump, where the Israelis extract water from Palestinian land.
As we entered the old city, we were told to walk quickly to our destination, as Hebron is home to the most radical and violent settlers in Palestine. The settlers are trying to push the Palestinians out of the city by intimidation and as a result, the markets have to be covered by steel fences because settlers throw things down on them (stones/furniture/waste) but unfortunately this does not stop liquids (including bleach).
We heard stories about water tanks being poisoned, soldiers shooting young women, and how they are being constantly watched and monitored by Isreali soldiers and settlers.
In 1994, soldiers welded the doors closed of all the shops on the Main Street (enclosing families, so now the habitants have to climb out of their windows to enter or exit their houses). As a result, the streets are like ghost towns and the homes even have cages on their windows to protect them from attacks.
There are 18 checkpoints in Hebron alone, and since September 2015 there have been more than 200 deaths by shooting in the West Bank. We also heard some incredibly upsetting stories about attacks on children, as the settlers have found this to be the most ‘effective’ form of attack.
We finished our trip in Hebron with a visit to the Ibrahimi Mosque, one of the oldest holy sites in the world and home to the tomb of the prophet Ibrahim and his wife. In 1994, a radical Zionist open fired in the mosque and killed 29 people, injuring 170 others. After the massacre, the site was divided into two so Muslims and Jews have separate entrances. I was a little bit nervous when I initially entered the mosque, but immediately saddened to see the bullet holes in the walls and the CCTV cameras in operation, monitored by the Israelis. To get to the mosque we went through a check point, and our Palestinian friends had no problems travelling with us (for once) because we were carrying British passports. The sad thing is, most of these women had never been able to visit this sacred place, in their own country, due to the problematic and potentially dangerous journey.
After this desperately moving and eye-opening day, I couldn’t help but feel very guilty for waking up annoyed for my lack of sleep. These women do not have opportunities to live freely, and there I am, being incredibly selfish for wanting sleep, when all these women want (or more accurately, deserve) is freedom. I felt silly for being scared, when I know I will be jumping on a plane back home and leaving these people who live constantly in fear.
I found it really hard to fight back tears today. These wonderful, strong, caring people are prisoners in their own country, and in a modern world that’s just not right.
Please join me over the next two weeks when I shall be documenting life in Palestine, under the Israeli Occupation, with daily blog posts and video diaries on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ptparent/).
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