Well, the calm has ended and everything is back to “normal” here in Hebron.
This past week has been like a gathering storm which broke yesterday! During the calm there were just three of us (on our team sponsored by Christian Peacemaker Teams), all women, so we were very happy to greet two men who came last week to join the team, not a minute too soon.
Among other things that are happening they have been targeted for harassment so they now go out on duty with one of us women! The EAPPI, members of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine, were on retreat this week so we had to take over their duties at a school which is right in the middle of the Settlement up the street.
To complete the picture we now have a new brigade taking “possession” of the Old City. They are very mean and intent on showing everyone who is in charge. Our new men had a demonstration of that when one of the Souk Shibab (young men) was dragged away because the leader of the patrol did not like the way he looked at them!
It took the rest of the afternoon and a bigger CPT presence, camera and all, to see it end with his release.
We have really been busy with all our patrols so have planned our time and steps carefully, but yesterday ended “‘planned.” When the Bweireh outskirts patrol arrived they found that the outpost was being dismantled and all the settlers were gathered yelling and threatening.
So after we finished the school patrol, the rest of the team went out to Bweireh and I stayed to answer phones, etc. We had planned to visit Atta Jaber and his brother, whose car was burned the other night! It was parked right outside his home but the settlers came at 1 a.m. and set it on fire, leaving the whole inside burned out and the family throwing water from their roof to stop the fire.
Atta’s brother was very upset since he uses the car to take his mother to the doctors and both families are now without transportation in an out-of-the-way area dangerous for Palestinians. The two families have suffered serious losses because of the settlers and the army. Two years ago their irrigation hoses had been confiscated, leaving them a loss of thousands of dollars.
Of course, nothing will be done about the car–impunity is the word when it comes to both settlers and the Israeli Occupation Forces. Getting back to our day, two of the team were able to go out with our neighbor who knows both families. All were assembled, with children brightening up a sad scene. We saw a new addition of the brother’s house and a terrace that the family had built with retaining walls of stone all hewn and fitted by their own work. “I am not going to lose my dream for the future,” which was declared to us and the world, including the settlers who destroyed his crops and car.
I continually think, whatever happened to the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt now covet thy neighbor’s land or goods? After saying goodbye to the families we walked up to Bweireh where we met the rest of our team, frozen from standing on duty in the cold all afternoon.
We left two members, started home past the settlers who were now being escorted out of the area, started out of the valley when our neighbor received a call that a house was being attacked by the army near the Ibrahimi school. So, our plans changed.
By the time we found a driver and got there the soldiers had gone but the distraught father was standing, looking up the street. Members of the Temporary International Presence in Palestine (TIPP) arrived at the same time as we did and the story unfolded. While the father was at the Mosque praying, the patrol came into the house, dragged out their 16-year-old son, beat the mother who tried to stop them and the son with a rifle, as they handcuffed him. The older brother had just returned from work and was taken off along with his brother.
We started phoning: the International Committee of Red Cross and the Office of Civil Administration when the older son returned. He is slightly retarded so was probably released because it would not “look good.” He told us that his brother was taken to the police station and so our neighbor first interviewed the boy on camera. His testimony was that he had to carry a gas container through the checkpoint on his way home. The soldiers there closed the door and so he knocked to pass through.
They taunted him and pushed him to the ground, and when he got up brushed against one of the soldiers who then accused him of attacking them! We then continued our phoning campaign to learn that the younger brother was being accused of his older brother’s crime of attacking a soldier! After calling civic and NGO groups, a lawyer was contacted, the truth was out, so things began to change. The boy was released to his father.
This morning two of the team went out to A Twani where the community is planning an action to remove a roadblock. Two of us will go the Mosque Patrol today as the hundreds gather from all over to pray at the Mosque of Abraham with the Gulani Patrol lurking about. Two of us then will head out to Bweireh to see if quiet has been restored or if chaos and violent reprisals have started. The situation is causing tension everywhere. Another aspect of the return of the Gulani Brigade is a general discouragement, almost like depression: “another year of this!”
Please do a little more than pray–do you know that thousands of U.S. soldiers are arriving this week for exercises with the Isreali Defense Forces and they will be deployed all over? This is a terrible turn of events and needs loud opposition there in good ole’ US of A!
How about a boycott or an information campaign?
Anyway, we are off to whatever the day brings and will get back to you tomorrow.
Thanks for your love and concern and help.
Sister Jean Fallon, MM