At 11:30 am on Friday, July 28th, 2007, five international human rights workers joined international volunteers and Palestinians in Um Salamona for a protest against the Apartheid wall that has been going on almost every week. It was an important demonstration because two weeks earlier a member of the local popular committee had been arrested in a similar demonstration.
The demonstration itself was quiet, somber. Before we left the shade of the trees and began to march, a Palestinian man spoke about how the day before, the 27th, a young man from Tiqua had been killed. He spoke about Jihad Al Sha’er who had been on his way to Bethlehem University to enroll for the fall semester when he was provoked by a soldier. The soldier saw him walking down the side of the street and asked for his identification. Jihad had only his birth certificate on him, which is enough to satisfy the law, but not the Zionist occupying army. The soldier began to taunt and physically assault Jihad, and as the abuse grew, Jihad did what one does in that situation, he defended himself. These two young men, probably around the same age, began brawling. Four nearby Israeli soldiers saw this, jumped out of their jeep, and began beating Jihad with their batons and the butts of their rifles. He fell to the ground but the beating continued. Many more jeeps came as reinforcement. Jihad’s body was carried into a jeep to an unknown location. Hours later Red Crescent got a call to pick up a body, Jihad had been beaten to death.
It was the Apartheid wall we had come to demonstrate against, but the entire time it was a nineteen year old boy that stuck in our heads. It takes time to beat someone to death. We marched as a group towards the future location of the wall. On a normal day the soldiers would meet us and push us around. On that day they must have felt the shame that normally follows murder. There were no soldiers waiting for us. They did not leave the shade of the trees on the land they stole. They watched as we stood in a circle and kept silent for a moment, just to think about what it is to be nineteen years old, a whole life before you, to think about what you want to do at university, what direction your life could take. Then we thought about being beaten to death by four armed men with batons because you didn’t suffer appropriately.
We left without any confrontation with the soldiers. There were fears that because of this, the military presence could be harsher next week.