1. before we had even reached the fence people were retreating back down the hill in Bil’in last friday the 30th of Jan. The army on the other side of the apartheid fence had begun firing tear gas early this time; normally allowing demonstrators to stay at the fence for a whole five minutes before using the gas.
After inhaling small amounts of the gas and getting some in my eyes; i realised how normal this all seems for people of the village of Bil’in; i have never experienced/participated in a demonstration where an army of any sort has fired tear gas at the protestors. This happens each week in Bil’in, and also at other places along the apartheid wall/fence in Palestine/the West Bank. The army also uses rubber coated metal bullets and live bullets of the type 0,22.
The demonstration begins after the morning prayer in the village and hundreds of villagers and several outsiders (israelis/internationals/media) march down the road towards the separation fence listening to arabic music, “Waving Palestinian flags, and banners calling for solidarity with the people of Gaza, and called for the prosecution of war criminals and leaders of the Israeli occupation soldiers, as well as slogans calling to national unity. The march drew a crowd of cadres and members and supporters of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, hoisting banners and chanting slogans calling for unity and the removal of settlements and the wall and lifting the siege on Gaza.” (http://www.bilin-village.org/english/articles/testimonies/Dozens-suffered-teargas-inhalation-during-the-Bilin-Weekly-Demonstration)
2. As the fence goes in a kind of U shape around the olive groves, the army were positioned on both sides of the demonstration, making it harder to know which direction the shots were coming from and which way to run.
Palestinian youths using slingshots were throwing stones at the army from the road and within the olive groves, further provoking the army and making it harder to reach the fence. So most of us stayed back behind a small wall, some sort of comfort of saftey?
There were also quite a lot of women at the demonstration, which apparently is unusual as they are not normally allowed to attend.
3. my first real visit into Palestine since I’ve been here and it was a real example of how apartheid effects the everyday lives of people living in the West Bank. Army checkpoints everywhere, not really worrying about israeli’s in yellow number plated cars – apartheid roads that palestinians can’t drive on, soldier prescence everywhere you look. and i don’t know; it’s all so surreal for me, still, everything seems surreal, its a life i cannot imagine. a life i have never had to live; a life i cannot compare to my own in any way.
4. On saturday, returning to Palestine, we visited a palestinian community in the south Hebron Hills called Suseya (not the jewish settlement), where Noam, a guy Danya knows through family friends is working with the village installing wind power and solar energy to power their fridges which keep their dairy products, in order to sustain a living. see: villagesgroup.wordpress.com
Although this community are not Bedouins the style of homes and their village is the same as the bedouins we have been visiting around Be’er Sheva. Tent like structures (with concrete walls inside; because they are not supposed to look like ‘real’ homes from the outside, because they are ‘illegal’), simple layouts with carpets or matresses. sweet sage tea and giggles from the young ones.
5. As I step outside needing to releive my bladder for the umpteenth time due to all of the tea i am consuming, a young woman comes out after me and leads me towards another tent; me assuming she knows i need to pee. Inside the ten are other women who welcome me in and ask me to sit down; i try and explain i need to go to the toilet first and will come back, but they do not understand and i do not have the simple word for toilet; which i learnt later is “ha’mam”. So after much giggling and actions describing what I needed to do, finally i was led to the toilet.
6. Later we visited Yatah, a Palestinian city, with a population of about 80,000 or 90,000 in section A (under full palestinian control, unlike B which is joint palestinian and israeli, and C which is fully israeli). We went there because the group were looking for a local welder who would construct the new wind turbine in Suseya. During their meeting with the welder, danya and i met a woman, Fatma, who does social work with woman against violence in neighbouring communities. She has been through the education system so speaks english well and can tell us a bit about the situation in palestine. Asking us if we saw the real footage from inside gaza; with children being mutilated, limbs removed and destruction in the full bloodied war. I said yes, we saw. but what was done? many israeli’s believe it was justified- many people don’t care; many people are living inside their bubble, attempting not to feel guilty at all costs.
and so, she taught us a few words in arabic: i am very sad: a na a’hazeen jutdan
i understand: a na fhemet
useful things to know how to say.
So we might go back once a week to continue learning arabic from Fatma. a language which I am more and more yearning to learn. I find i am somewhat removed from everything that is happening, because i am not from ‘here’, and i do not speak the ‘laguages’, so – yes languages break barriers and i hope i can learn a little bit.
7. leaving with a overabundance of sugar in my teeth and the need for much sleep we pass through a checkpoint on the way back into israel; they stop us, ask for our id’s and are asked to park, take our bags and step inside the processing room, where they put our bags through a checkpoint, take our details and keep my phone for longer than needed – probably to download all of my names and numbers within there. even though I asked why, the response was “because you’ve come to israel, we need to check” – and this was all. They searched the car and did not find Noam’s hamas Kaffiya given to him as a gift – “not what a normal nice law abiding israeli carries in his car” says noam.
Well; it’s good to experience the brunt of the occupation, says noam. you need to have the full experience. but next time you need to get arrested!
so; i am on another journey now; the one that is going to lead me into more places within Palestine/the west bank – to see if i can meet people and go beyond the politics of the situation, go beneath it somehow – to something more….well i’ll let you know later.