Here are a few incidents that happened in Tel Rumeida over the last few weeks. Keep in mind that these anecdotes are only a tiny fraction of the daily insanity happening here.
I don’t even blink…
The other day the soldiers at the IOF post near the Beit Hadassa settlement were detaining every single Palestinian man who walked by for up to 45 minutes for ID checks. Why ? “Security.” This is the generic answer you hear when you inquire about any outrageously unfair practice against Palestinians. Part of our work here is to try and get the men released sooner rather than later because the soldiers usually don’t detain the men for as long when we’re pressuring them. It was out of the ordinary for the soldiers to be detaining everyone who passed so I decided I was going to try to warn people to take a different route around the IOF post so they wouldn’t be detained. From down the street I could see a man I knew pretty well and I motioned for him to come over and talk to me. I told him the soldiers were detaining everyone and that he should go around and tell everyone he knew to avoid that IOF post today. What happened next just totally broke my heart because he replied “no, it’s ok, we’re used to it.” This kind of thing is so normal here that people just accept it as part of their life, but its not normal. It’s racist and unfair and it makes me so crazy to see it happening everyday. Even still, I’m getting resigned to it as well. The first time someone pointed his gun at me and cocked it, I was a little bit freaked out, now it happens so often I don’t even blink. I just laugh.
A baby or a bomb?
There’s a metal detector at the checkpoint going into Tel Rumeida that everyone must pass through. Because pregnant women and teachers don’t pose a security threat, the soldiers have orders to allow them to go through a gate instead of through the metal detector. This is so they don’t get X-rayed everyday which is unhealthy if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. There is often a lot of hassle about this policy because soldiers will say they don’t know about the order, or they will make the women wait around for a long time or they just refuse to let them through the gate all together. When the soldiers refuse to let them through, I have seen women leave the checkpoint in order to take another route into Tel Rumeida so they don’t have to pass through the metal detector. This takes them three kilometers out of their way. Recently I saw an obviously pregnant woman waiting at the gate for the soldier on duty to let her through. The soldier was ignoring her and she motioned for me to come over and help her. I asked the soldier if he was aware of the order to allow pregnant women through the gate. He replied he had heard of no such order and that if she wanted to get into Tel Rumeida, she would have to go through the metal detector. He told me he couldn’t be sure if it was a baby under her dress or a bomb (!) This is the kind of insanity that makes me almost freak out, but freaking out at the soldiers doesn’t usually help so I took a few breaths and called the nice lady at Machsom Watch, an Israeli human rights organization that monitors and intervenes in checkpoint harassment. Usually when I call her, whoever is being detained is let go, and sure enough, a few minutes later the soldier got a call and he let her through.
Call the Moussad, they’ve built a house…
Settlers drive cars in Tel Rumeida. Palestinians are not allowed to drive cars in Tel Rumeida. Why ? “Security.” Roadblocks have been set up on roads going into the Palestinian controlled area of Hebron to prevent Palestinian cars from entering or leaving Tel Rumeida. One of our neighbors recently finished building a beautiful house here. When asked how he and his family brought the building materials in to build the house, he explained that they had to bring everything in by wheelbarrow. It took two years. The house is at the bottom of a steep hill and right now the family is building a concrete wall to protect the house from rocks or debris that may fall from the hill in bad weather. They need a car to transport sand and gravel to build the wall. In order to do this, first they must move the concrete roadblocks at the entrance to Tel Rumeida in the middle of the night and second they must distract the soldiers so they do not hear the car. Last night the young men in the neighborhood had to act really loud an obnoxious in front of the soldiers so that they would not hear the car being driven a block away. The next day, the Moussad (secret police) came to ask questions about how the sand and gravel got there. My fellow Americans, your tax dollars go to pay for special missions such as this.
While venting my exasperation about the situation here to F, he told me that compared to the way things were at the beginning of the intifada in 2002, it’s like paradise now. Back then there was a 24 hour curfew that lasted for 100 days. This meant that no one could leave their house unless the army gave them permission. If they were caught in the streets, they would be arrested. I am totally in awe of the restraint and patience demonstrated by the people of Hebron.