“One religion: Humanity”
If I had written this post at 4pm I would have told you what a lovely day we had today, in contrast to our day yesterday, where we visited Hebron, home to the most violent settlers in Palestine.
Today we went to Battir, a beautiful village in the West Bank, known as the ‘Land of Olives and Vines’ which is home to 5,500 people. 71% of the town is Zone C (Palestinian under Isreali authority) and 29% is zone A (Palestinian authority). They are not allowed to build on the land (Palestinians rarely get building permits) so most structures are under threat and could be demolished by the Israelis at any time.
After a peaceful walk, admiring the breath taking scenery, we were taken to a house where we were shown how to make Musakhan, a traditional Palestinian dish. The food was exceptional and we really did have a lovely time.
Once back to our guest house, we were having group discussions when one of our Palestinian friends got a phone call to say that there had been a shooting at a check point in their home town of Ras Bidu and a 17 year old girl had been killed. If an Isreali soldier shoots someone, they wont allow any Palestinians near the body so they cannot be immediately identified. All the locals have to call each other to find out who it could be and eliminate their own loved ones. This results in fear, with prolonged panic about the identity of the victim. The girls found out that the 17 year old victim was in fact, their best friend.
After a shooting by an Isreali, the body is only released subject to negotiations. If anyone within the village speaks out or protests then the family cannot be reunited with the body and therefore unable to have a funeral. The Israelis also take 30,000 shekels from the family as a deposit for the bodies release, and they limit the number of attendees to the funeral to immediate family only.
The shooting of this young girl made the news and we read the article in the ‘Times of Israel’ paper, about how she advanced toward the soldiers with a knife. (http://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-woman-shot-during-stabbing-attempt-police-say/)
We actually know that this girl had just finished her last exam and was going on to university. We had just spent 4 days with the Palestinian girls, who are the friendliest, most caring, sweet girls that I have met and to think of their best friend as a ‘terrorist’ is just completely unbelievable. We knew that this was just another assassination of an innocent Palestinian. There was no knife, there was no terror. This girl had a life in front of her, so why would she act in a way which would effectively result in ‘suicide’?
The constant fear inflicting these people as they travel throughout their country is terribly upsetting to see. Our lovely trip to a beautiful town, suddenly became a very emotional and surreal experience. We said our goodbyes to our new friends, who had to travel back to their hometown, before it went into lock down. We took them back to the nearest checkpoint, where they couldn’t even be greeted and comforted by their father because he did not carry the ‘right’ I.D.
We had a very somber evening, all in reflection of the day’s events and the reality of the situation. I was feeling very unsociable but didn’t want to be on my own so I sat with the girls, whilst looking at pictures of my loved ones, unable to fathom the emotion I would feel if I lost any of them.
We had travelled to our new destination of Abu Dis, and back in my room of our new and unfamiliar surroundings, whilst trying to get to sleep my mind went into overdrive and my ears became very sensitive, expecting to hear gunfire. I became quite scared of the Isrealis, even though I know I am untouchable as a Westerner.
I am not scared by the civilians, who are so welcoming and friendly. I am, in fact, terrified of the government and their military and they are the people who are making me feel unsafe.
……Interestingly, I came across another article demonstrating how most of these shootings are ‘explained’ (warning: graphic content… https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/video-knife-moved-after-israeli-soldier-executes-palestinian)
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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Hello, Your piece brought back vivid memories. I was lucky enough to travel throughout Israel in the late 1970’s – a woman alone. I remember my visit to Hebron vividly. I went by bus and was “picked up” by a young Palestinian man on the bus. He was returning home after working in Jerusalem. He invited me to his home which was almost opposite the mosque. There I met his family – the family that he, as the only adult male, was responsible for – financially and, in every other way, as the male head of the family. His mother, his grandmother and his sisters all lived at home and relied on him completely. They were very welcoming and shared food with me. He was a gentle man – as were his family – who wanted peace but did not know how to counter the aggression of the Israeli military and the discrimination/prejudice of the Israeli government. While I was there I went to the mosque, a place also sacred to Jews, dressed appropriately. Outside the mosque were heavily armed Israeli soldiers who I attempted to photograph: I was told to stop. Inside the mosque, Israeli soldiers paraded, dressed in army-issue hobnailed boots. They showed no consideration whatsoever to the faith of the Palestinians and the sacred historic significance of the place. It was this behaviour and – at that time – the treatment of Palestinians as second class citizens in what was their own land that the Palestinians I met were most upset by. No Palestinian I met wanted violence but none of them could see a positive future given the attitude of the Israeli government. Throughout my day with the family the young man was thoughtful, courteous and sad. I felt for him and the women who depended on him. As a north Londoner whose closest friends were all Jewish, it was a shocking experience to see the Israeli government at work first hand, an experience that has stayed with me for nearly 40 years.
Thank you for sharing your memory with me Candida. It really has been a heart breaking experience. I too have a lot of Jewish and Israeli friends, and I would never judge/blame an individual on what I have seen but I just do not understand why these people have to suffer so much, or why the conflict has gone on for so long. Please keep following me, I am releasing a post each day of my experience. Terribly upsetting.