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Claiming three bodies in Sarra

by Gattu Marrudu

The two taxis full of volunteers proceed slow and scared along “the most dangerous road of Nablus,” climbing up the hill in dusty and tight curves. At each curve stays a local “sentry”, who warns any hazardous wanderer of coming tanks. I guess it’s a job too; like the taxi drivers’, not accepting to stay at home during the curfew without doing anything to do. So they risk as much as they can, raising the price for the run. I guess they feel a little bit like Israeli bus drivers. You have to find the ones who agree to take you there, because not everyone dares to.

The volunteers’ job is simple: three people (maybe relatives or friends of activists – who knows?) have been shot in the village of Sarra, 20 km east of Nablus, and the soldiers won’t let the relatives pick up their bodies. It’s not a new thing: sometimes they kill people and then “arrest” them, bringing their bodies to Israel, putting them in refrigerators and then negotiating with their relatives for their “liberation.”

Denying the burial of a body is always been the most brutal sign of despising the enemy. Ancient Greeks used to let enemy bodies be eaten by dogs and crows, so that the soul would wander under torments, and the Romans wouldn’t let the relatives pick up the bodies of crucified people for burial, letting them rot on the cross. But trading on dead bodies is the ultimate offence to human dignity and definitely a violation of human rights. We just don’t understand why IDF are getting deeper and deeper in this suicidal situation.

The twelve volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement also don’t understand why but they go ahead on foot, from where the taxi can’t go anymore. They’re well trained for such situations: they decide who is willing to get arrested and to stay in first line to make pressure on the soldiers. They arrive in the Tel village, welcomed by the mayor and by dozens of children running, shouting and whistling from all the corners.

The Tell people escort the volunteers until the end of the village, and then we’ve got to go alone. We encounter an Israeli police jeep, inside which are three soldiers, all very young. One speaks Arabic, the other Russian and the third won’t even approach us, standing near the jeep wearing dark glasses and looking away with crossed arms and a tough expression.

The soldiers make signs to go back. The volunteers advance, shaking their hands and saying they want to talk. The soldiers appear quite bored, tired and nervous from a bad day, looks like they would just let us in but they have orders. And they try their best to look as rude as possible. There’s a very short moment in which they even appear to want to negotiate, and ask us where we come from. They look almost scared by those twelve people, mostly older than them, claiming for three corpses. In fact, after a few minutes comes another jeep with four soldiers inside, advancing at full gas on first gear and with its headlights on, making a lot of noise. Such Hollywood film scenes don’t impress the volunteers very much, who just draw instinctively to the sides of the street. The soldiers get out of the jeeps, angry and nervous, and begin to push. A soldier loses two chargers from his pocket while he does this. Some volunteers laugh. It’s a ridiculous scene, they just pretend to beat us. After pushing us back for some hundreds of meters they go back to the jeeps. The volunteers sit down on the street, the second jeep leaves. We receive a call from the ambulance in Tel, they say there are still five people wanted in Sarra, the place is going to get hot. It’s pointless to try again, the volunteers withdraw. The soldiers stay there eating their sandwiches, soon they will end their duty. Hope the ghosts of the three bodies won’t give them too many bad dreams tonight.

On the next day they try it again. Soldiers are all around the hills between Nablus and Tel. They say we’d better not go ahead because there’s shooting everywhere. The people they have shot yesterday aren’t the ones who they are looking for. But these soldiers are nicer (or maybe they’re just allowed to be, as we’re still far from the hot zone) and let us pass. One group stays with the ambulance, the others stay there and wait to be picked up on the next journey. We arrive in Tel, welcomed as usual by kids surrounding us. They want to be photographed. They hold a little bird in their hands, passing it to each other, putting it in their pockets and pulling it out again. Mika and Ethan, two of the volunteers, slept in Tel, and made it to Sarra this morning, though they didn’t manage to let the ambulance in and take the bodies. We wait for the other group to come. The kids are playing again with the little bird, this time without its head.

We wait for hours. The ambulance was stopped by the soldiers and can’t pick the other group. It’s getting late, we decide to head back.

On the way back we encounter the other group coming toward us. The soldiers have arrested some farmers in the surroundings and their donkeys were still around, with their heavy load on their back. The volunteers decided to bring them back to Tel. They still couldn’t pick up the three dead people, but saved ten living donkeys. Let’s call it a good day.

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