27th August 2014 | International Solidarity Movement, Khalil team | Hebron, Occupied Palestine
It was a warm Saturday night in late August in al-Khalil (Hebron). For the Palestinian children school was starting the next day, and a feeling of anticipation and excitement for a new year of learning floated over the hot Palestinian night. A group of ISM members were invited to a barbecue with a local activist organization, which we happily attended.
After eating, I went with a group of from the organization that invited us, to a nearby kindergarten for Palestinian children from the neighborhood. The kindergarten had been created in an empty house last year so young children would not have to pass through a checkpoint everyday on their way to school. We went to bring some toys, clean up, and prepare for the coming invasion of toddlers. When I, along with the rest of the activists, wanted to leave the kindergarten again, three settlers from one of the illegal Israeli settlements of Hebron appeared and blocked the entrance. They accused us of bringing in building materials to the kindergarten, due to Israeli law, building an extension is forbidden for Palestinians in the H2 area of al-Khalil (H2 is under full Israeli military civil and security). The kindergarten was created in 2013, a bathroom was built, and then demolished by the Israeli army since it was an extension to the house and was therefore ‘illegal’.
As we tried to leave a group of settlers surround us and began to yell and scream in Hebrew. One of the settlers called the Israeli police and about 10 minutes later the army arrived. They escorted the settlers away and made space for the police on the narrow path up leading up to the kindergarten. The police then quickly searched the kindergarten for building materials and left after none were found.
Following this unprovoked confrontation, we drank tea on the fake grass of the outside kindergarten floor, a football was found, and the Palestinian kids enjoyed their newly renovated kindergarten in advance. Unfortunately I fell badly fall on my left side while playing with the children, resulting in a dislocated shoulder. Of course I had to go to the hospital and an ambulance was out of the question since all traffic, other than that of the Israeli settlers and the army, is forbidden in H2 except with explicit permission from the military.
Another ISM member had previously seen how injured Palestinians were carried through the checkpoint on a stretcher after a settler attack. The ambulance did not have the right permit to pass the checkpoint and the injured were forced to be physically rushed through.
I, and three ISM friends, decided to try to walk through the checkpoint and then find a taxi. The checkpoint we needed to cross in order to reach the hospital was Checkpoint 56 on Shuhada Street. During a clash a couple of days ago the checkpoint had been burned on the inside, and it was now closed for everyone except for the army. This is a form of collective punishment as it was still possible to cross if the soldiers decided to allow it. In recent days some people have passed and other have been denied.
The soldiers at the checkpoint could easily see that I was in pain. We asked the soldiers if we could pass, since it was an emergency, and the alternative route around the checkpoint would be extremely long and demanding. The soldiers did not really seem to take much notice of our situation; it even looked like they were having fun at my expense. When we asked a soldier for his name and ID, he gave two different answers the two times we asked him, even though the soldiers are required to provide that information when asked.
The encounter ended with the soldiers telling us, with plastic handcuffs in their hands that we had two minutes to leave the area or we would be arrested – even though it is out of their jurisdiction, and we hadn’t done anything illegal. We decided it was not worth it and started the long walk around the checkpoint to the Government hospital in H1 (under Palestinian Authority civil and security control).
Now I am sitting with my shoulder in a sling; the treatment was quick and very professional. The Palestinians at the hospital were extremely helpful, showing me the different places I needed to go in order to get the right treatment. Now I cannot help thinking of how it must be to live under these circumstances, when the way to the nearest hospital is hampered by several checkpoints, manned by soldiers who do not care about except settlers and their fellow soldiers. I was lucky that my injury was not more serious; in another situation the outcome could have been much worse.