Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Hebron. Rocks of hatred.
By the time I arrived at the barbed wire, blocking the small track to their house, 2 Palestinian children were already being pelted with rocks and stones hurled by the Settler children stood above them.
It was Shabbat. The most dangerous day for the Palestinian children to return home after school. Tel Rumeida is a radical settlement, located in the heart of what was a Palestinian neighbourhood, in Hebron, a city in the southern part of the West Bank.
I wasted precious moments trying to get the Israeli soldier stood passively watching this violence to act. It was clear he did not feel any urgency or responsibility. Another International and I climbed the barbed wire and stood infront of the Palestinian children, trying to prevent them being hurt. The older sister, a girl of about 12, but with a dignity way beyond her years, was already stood infront of her young brother shielding him. His face was crumpled with tears rolling down his cheeks.
We accompanied these children down the narrow, muddy track, climbing over sheets of metal, dodging the stones and rocks still raining down on us. Shielding them, covering their heads, desperate for them not to be hurt. At one point a huge rock missed us by centimeters. The track, the only remaining access to the childrens house, passes directly beneath the houses of the settlers. The settler children, also victims in this crazy violent situation, are in a very strong position to inflict maximum harm and terror, as they hurl their rocks of ignorance, rocks of hatred.
The adult settlers from this ideological, fanatical settlement will actively encourage their children to throw stones or stand by passively whilst it is happening. There are 2 systems of law operating here, civil and military. The settlers are virtually above the Israeli law, and very, very rarely will face any consequences for their acts of violence. The Palestinians are subject to military rule, and the men continuously face detention and arbitrary arrest as they try to go about their daily lives.
Two more images of children from Hebron stick in my mind. Children from opposite ends of the political spectrum, where it seems impossible for their lives to cross other than in hatred and fear. The sound of a young Palestinian child, a downstairs neighbour, screeching in fear, running up the stairs screaming and crying. She had just been threatened by a soldier on the street, telling her not to play outside her house. And the look of hatred, a fixed stare, on the face of a young settler, a girl of about 4 years old. The Settlers feel very angered by the presence of Internationals and I felt so sad for this young girl who is too young to exercise any choice about where she lives, and by the time she is old enough will be completely indoctrinated by the radical beliefs of her parents.
Yesterday I met by chance one of the people who first inspired me to come here. He has not been back here for about 2 years and observed how the Occupation has become much more mechanised. On my way to Hebron I passed through the central checkpoint at Bethlehem, now a big "terminal". Just as well Mary and Joseph didn't have to pass through it otherwise Mary could have joined the long list of women who have given birth at checkpoints. Freedom of movement is hugely restricted here and is yet another form of collective punishment that is operating in the West Bank on a daily basis.