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The Last Shabbat of Sukkot

by ISM Hebron, 14th October

At about 00:25, international Human Rights Workers (HRWs) based in Tel Rumeida, Hebron heard the sound of a screaming baby on the street outside their flat. On looking outside, they saw a male adult settler carrying a baby down the street from the Tel Rumeida settlement and sit on a ledge outside Palestinian houses with the baby. The settler seemed to be making no effort to calm the child, which carried on screaming very loudly and which was obviously in some distress. After about 10 mins, a HRW, woken by the screams, approached the settler and asked if something was wrong with the baby and if she could help. The settler answered, “There’s nothing you can do here” and just kept repeating this to every question asked him by the HRW. There were two soliders stationed at the nearby guardpost but as far as the HRWs could see, they never approached the settler or asked him why the baby was crying and why he had brought it down to the Palestinian area. It was after midnight on a relatively cold night and the baby was wearing only a pair of thin cotton pyjamas with exposed hands and feet. The settler was pressing the baby, who was hysterical, to his chest to prevent the child from squirming off of his lap and the baby also appeared to be trying to suckle. However, instead of trying to deal with the screaming baby, the settler was reading the Torah. After about 20 minutes of the baby screaming, two female settlers came up the hill towards the male settler and one of them took the baby. As soon as the female took the baby and put it under her shawl, it stopped screaming, and the settlers moved off to the Tel Rumeida settlement. On being asked by the HRWs what he thought of the settler bringing a screaming baby out into the cold night, one of the soldiers on guard refused to answer. He also refused to answer the question as to whether he would have allowed a Palestinian man with a screaming baby to go and sit outside the Tel Rumeida settlement at 00.30. He also would not answer questions as to whether or not this was a form of child abuse.

At about 12 noon a procession of about 30-50 settlers was seen marching toward the Ibrahimi mosque.

A group of 5 settler boys were seen looking over the wall of the Palestinian Qurtuba school but dispersed when they saw that Human Rights Workers (HRWs) were watching.

Israeli soldiers were stationed by Abraham’s Well throughout the morning. They prevented Palestinians from washing in the well but allowed settlers to congregate there.

Religious visitors to the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassah were heard telling an Israeli soldier that his job was to protect ‘only Jewish people’.

At 13.20 a procession of settlers (estimated at between 100 and 150) made its way from the Beit Hadassah settlement up Shuhada Street towards the Israeli army checkpoint. The procession was mostly made up of male settlers, some carrying Torah rolls, and they were singing loudly while walking. Two HRWs on Shuhada Street were approached by two male settlers, one carrying a bottle of vodka. The male HRW was offered vodka, and told that if he refused to accept this offer, the settler would break his video camera. The HRW refused and the settler with the vodka told the HRWs that he knew they were here to “show the Jews are occupying the Arabs”. He also added that Jesus was an “evil Jew” and that his name should not be mentioned. At one point in the conversation, the settler with the vodka picked up a stone from the street and then removed the lens cap from the video camera, presumably in order to try and break it, but was prevented by the HRWs. The second settler also at this point told his companion that he should not break the camera. These two settlers then moved on with the procession.

At 13.45 a young settler boy, aged about 9, spat at the HRWs feet, but was told off by adult settlers with him.

During this time there were many settlers on the street, and the HRWs noticed a Palestinian girl, aged about 12, peeping out of a door on Shuhada Street. Only after twice looking out of the door but both times seeing settlers on the street and withdrawing into her house did the girl dare leave the house and walk the short distance to the checkpoint, accompanied by a HRW. She was clearly scared of the settlers on the street.

At 14.30 during a procession back to the Beit Hadassah settlement, a male Orthodox Jew deliberately stamped on the foot of a female HRW. This same man had stamped on the foot of a male HRW earlier that day, but this had not been perceived at the time as being deliberate as the man appeared to have a disability and walked with a pronounced limp. However, the man came back to the male HRW and attempted to do it again, saying, “Scored the first time” when he missed the HRW’s feet. Other adult settlers however appeared to tell him off for doing this.

At about 14.40, a female HRW on Shuhada Street noticed a male settler child opening the entrance door to several Palestinian houses. She shouted at him and went over to him, only for a male adult settler to come over and also open the door. The HRW also shouted at him to go away, and a further HRW tried to close the door, which led to the settler gripping her wrist tightly in an effort to stop her. One HRW then stood in the doorway to prevent the settler entering, while two HRWs alternatively shouted at and reasoned with the settler to leave. The settler became very abusive towards one of the female HRWs, insulting her personally and calling her an anti-Semite and a Nazi. A jeep with several soldiers arrived, and soldiers from the guard post at Beit Hadassah arrived but most just observed the argument or filmed it on their mobile phones instead of intervening. At one point another male settler came up and punched one of the female HRWs in the face. Finally the settler moved off towards the Beit Hadassah settlement.

At 14.50 a HRW was informed that there was a problem at checkpoint 56 (the main entrance in and out of the Israeli controled H2 part of Hebron) and that there was a queue of Palestinians waiting to be allowed through into Tel Rumeida. On approaching one of the soldiers at the checkpoint, the HRW was told that the checkpoint was closed. When she asked why, the soldier answered, “Because I want it closed”. On further questioning, the soldier said that the commander had ordered the checkpoint closed, but that the commander was in the jeep approaching the checkpoint and the HRW could talk to him directly. When the HRW asked the commander in the jeep about the checkpoint, the commander told her that it was now open again. The two soldiers on duty at the checkpoint however were slow in reopening it, and insisted on calling each Palestinian over to have their bags checked, although the search was clearly cursory and of no real security benefit. Also, despite the queue that had built up during the closure, the soldiers insisted that the Palestinians pass through one-by-one, even sending back two young Palestinian children who had passed through the metal detector together.

At 15.35 one of three teenage settler boys walking together down Shuhada Street spat at a male HRW but missed. The same boy then spat in the face of a female HRW further down the street and all three laughed loudly. One of the same three settlers spat on a further male HRW at 16.40 and also gave him and further HRWs on the street obscene hand gestures.