“When are we going to get a reality show in Tel Rumeida?”
by Shlomo Bloom
HRWs (the two women in vests) try to escort Palestinian kids (left) through a razor wire fence while settlers (background) and Israeli activists (foreground) look on
20th May 2006: How many people does it require to escort three Palestinian children home while they pass a bunch of angry and violent settlers? Really, it was so many this time that I lost count. This report is the combined testimony of several different Human Rights Workers (HRWs) present in Tel Rumeida, Hebron today.
After last week’s attacks, we decided to have four HRWs present to make sure that three Palestinian children got home safely as they passed the Tel Rumeida settlement. I was going to stay on the roof of our apartment and film where I had a great view of the street and hopefully not get attacked by soldiers and settlers like last time.
A little bit of background on this particular situation: there are three Palestinian children who have to walk along a narrow path directly below the Tel Rumeida settlement in order to go home from school. The settlers consider this a provocation and regularly throw rocks at the children as they walk home. The settlers told soldiers to put razor wire across the beginning of the path and the children have to move it out of the way every day. There is an Israeli supreme court order that allows the children to use this path but soldiers on duty nearby rarely know this and often refuse to help the children get home safely.
Today, Shabbat, is always especially difficult because the settlers are not at work or school and they hang around waiting to cause trouble.
Settler woman (with baby) tries to convince soldiers that Palestinian kids (left) are not allowed to pass
I began filming as I saw one HRW walking with the children up to the entrance to the path and this is what I saw and what the HRW later told me. The HRW walked with the three children up the hill. A member of EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniers for Palestine and Israel) was close behind. The HRW started explaining to the soldier on duty that the children must be allowed access to the path to go home. The kids began trying to climb over the wire when several settlers appeared and a settler woman began yelling at the Palestinian children and at the soldier, telling them they were not allowed to pass and that they had to go around. Immediately on hearing the settler woman, the soldier told the kids that they were not allowed here because this was Israel and that they should go back. The HRW replied that it was an Israeli supreme court order that they should be allowed to pass! No one gave solid reasons whythe children were not allowed. The HRW then asked the soldier to call for backup because the settler woman hit her and was shoving her in an attempt to get at the Palestinian kids. Many settlers were crowding around the HRW and the Palestinian children at this point as they were trying to climb over the razor wire. One of the settler threw a rock that hit the HRW. The HRW begged the soldier to ask his commander about the order and he refused.
Eventually the soldiers ordered the two HRWs and the Palestinian children back down the hill where they would wait for approximately 45 minutes for the right people to show up and allow them home.
Palestinian child waits to go home
At this point there were about fifteen soldiers present and they noticed me filming on the roof. Some soldiers took my picture and I smiled, waved and blew them a kiss.
At this point the HRW on the street with the children called the District Command Office to try and get them to order the soldiers to let the children go home. She also called the police.
Another Jeep full of soldiers arrived. Some soldiers were holding the settlers at the top of the hill at bay but most had positioned themselves in the road so that the children could not pass.
Members of TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) watch soldiers
Now there were four members of TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron), four members of EAPPI, three of us, two Israeli activists, two people wearing UN vests and God knows how many soldiers present all discussing whether or not these poor kids should be allowed home.
The Palestinian children’s uncle (in black jacket) tried to convince the soldiers to allow the children to go home
One of the Israeli activists called the police, explained the situation in Hebrew and requested their presence. They finally showed up.
The three Palestinian kids wait
UN workers talk to Israeli police
Eventually someone figured out what was supposed to happen and one police officer, the two UN workers and three or four soldiers walked the children up the hill and over the razor wire.
The children are finally escorted home by police, soldiers and UN workers
As soon as the police and soldiers were out of view, an adult settler woman threw several rocks at the Palestinian children as they walked along the path to their home.
The children are finally escorted home by police, soldiers and UN workers, settlers are in the background, guarded by soldiers
Kids walk over the razor wire
The children got to their home about an hour after they should have.