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Does this deserve a “Sh’hechiyanu”?

by Lawrence Zweig

Here is a prayer that traditional Jews say when they do something for the first time in any specific year, and even in their life.

Last Friday I got my first dose of tear-gas and sound-bombs. It was at a demonstration against the occupation, the wall and other inhumanities, in the West Bank Palestinian village of Bil’in which is near the Israeli town of Modi’in, the Israeli colony of Modi’in Ilit and west of Ramallah.

The Bil’in protests in this form have been going on for over 8 months now, every Friday and sometimes during the week. My luck was that the soldiers decided (were ordered) to march into the autonomous Palestinian village before the demonstration could begin.

The demonstrators come from Bil’in, but are backed-up with international activists from the International Solidarity Movemant (ISM), the International Women’s Peace Service (IWPS), Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall, and Women in Black among others.

The provocative actions (occupation, wall, presence in the village) of the soldiers escalated to the point that drew reactions which, as the soldiers know in advance, means defensive actions on the Palestinian side such as stone-throwing (the Israeli system leaves them with almost no other way to defend themselves). The internationals try their best to defuse the situation by confronting the soldiers with demands to leave the village, lower their weapons and end the provocations, but were met with rubber bullets, tear gas, sound bombs, detentions, beatings, and the threat of even more drastic measures.

Once the soldiers introduced the violence, it was difficult to stop. The Israeli protesters often took the front lines shielding the others and confronting the soldiers with chants and yells of “go away”, “go home”, “stop this violence”, etc. in Hebrew and tried to put themselves between the soldiers and the others.

The soldiers, having no legitimate grounds for being there, pulled back. This gave the demonstrators the chance to come together and decide what to do, which led back to the “normal” Friday demonstration. These demos almost always end in violence directed at the villagers from the Israeli military to the protesters and the villagers.

I decided to say the last half of the prayer, leaving the first part that mentions God out.