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(en) A day in the life of an innocent visitor to Tel-Rumeida, Palestine*

Date Mon, 30 May 2005 10:10:28 +0300


It sounded innocent enough; we would pay a solidarity visit to the
Palestinian inhabitants of Tel-Rumeida. In high spirits we set out for
Jerusalem to our usual meeting place in the Bell-park, with our sun-hats,
water bottles and good walking-shoes. There we were, forty well-meaning
citizens, being loaded into four transit vans to get to our destination.
Tel-Rumeida is a suburb of Hebron, the city of the Fathers, located
on a hill overlooking the city. With their inborn zeal to reclaim the
land our indefatigable settlers founded an encampment of caravans
on the top of this hill, in the middle of a purely Arab quarter. The
settlers go around praying and are heavily armed. The streets
surrounding their camp are declared closed to Palestinians. Keep
this important fact handy for future reference, because the results
are catastrophic for their Palestinian neighbors.

As you all may know, these outings by the peace-camp are
advertised freely on the internet. Faithful readers of these
communications are the police and the secret service. It should
therefore not amaze you that even before we left the outskirts of
Jerusalem, we had company of two police jeeps and an unmarked
limousine with four gorillas inside.

It is quite legitimate to have an outing in the surroundings of
Jerusalem with four transit vans, but Hebron is another matter:
that is zone A, under Palestinian administration, and strictly
forbidden territory for Israeli citizens. So the police accompanies us
until it becomes clear that an offence is in the offing, and then
pounces.

Our organizers, who know the ropes, left the main road at Halhul
(on the road to Hebron). There we quickly left our vans, climbed an
earthen wall, and presto, we were in zone A. Clever, not? There we
chartered several Palestinian taxis, and collected some members of
the mediating organization, CPT (Christian Peacemakers Team)
and entered Hebron in a festive mood.

Now you did not honestly think for one moment that Israel’s
secret service is so dumb, I hope. At our arrival in Hebron, a
welcoming committee was ready for us, and 24 demonstrators were
arrested on the spot (transported back to Israel in police vans,
interrogated, fingerprinted, body searched, indicted and held until
nightfall, and after a lot of doings released on their own cognizance
– not without the intervention of a lawyer).

Our taxi – and one other- completely by chance unnoticed by
the military, dropped us off in the middle of the Suk in order to
cover the last 500 meters uphill to Tel-Rumeida on foot. We could
not travel further by taxi, since the roadblock on the road to
Tel-Rumeida is closed on Shabat at the request of the settlers, who
don’t drive cars anyway on that day, and that assures a day of
rest for the Muslim and Christian residents of Tel-Rumeida as well,
because they don’t count anyway.

Now you can imagine that Israelis in the Suk of Hebron stand out
like sore finger, and in no time two members of our group were
arrested by an Israeli military patrol. We understood that it was
time to make ourselves scarce. The remnants of our group ran up
the alleys in the direction of Tel-Rumeida. After a few words of
explanation in Arabic, we were immediately allowed to enter the
courtyards and the houses of the Palestinians, in order to make us
invisible to the patrols.

We had to reassemble our small group with the help of our mobile
phones. That was not so simple since there is no reception in these
areas, except for one mobile phone company. But in the end we
managed to get together and we were led by helpful people through
courtyards, heaps of refuse, walls, by back ways to a ‘safe
house’. This house, which falls just under Israeli jurisdiction,
turned out to belong to a Palestinian physician, who received us
cordially with tea and lemonade, until the coast was deemed clear.
He used this occasion to unburden his heart about the sufferings
heaped upon him and his family. His house is located on the
‘Jewish approach road’ to the enclave of the settlers. That
road is very often declared out of bounds for Palestinians in order
that the settlers can move around safely, with the result that the
inhabitants have frequent house-arrest; the children can’t go to
school, no shopping is possible. His front door has been kicked in,
his windows were broken by stones. He has had several good
beatings or been pelted with stones. Complaints to the police are
left unanswered. The army is completely subservient to the settlers.
If any appliances in his house break down, no serviceman dares to
come and repair them.

After all these cheerful reports, we could continue our journey; in
groups of three we ran across the street which is patrolled
frequently, and again via back alleys, sometimes through houses,
in order to reach our intended Palestinian host in Tel-Rumeida. He
lives exactly opposite the caravan-camp of the settlers. His front
entrance is below street level, and this approach is completely
blocked by garbage from the settlers. If he or his family members
should dare to show themselves on that street, they would be
stoned or shot at, and they are quick learners. The
‘normal’ approach to his home is exactly the route we
followed. The settlers come without any hesitation into his garden
and cut down all his trees. The house of the neighbor has been
destroyed practically, with vandalized windows and bullet holes in
the walls. His life had become so miserable that he left
‘voluntarily’. That is the undisguised intention of the
settlers.

Here again we got a long list of the misdeeds of the settlers, who
are actively assisted by the army. His electricity has been cut
innumerable times, his water tank on the roof is a target for
potshots from above (always bulls-eye). His children are assaulted
on their way to school by children of the settlers, under the
approving eye of their parents and the authorities. The police does
not want to have any doings with these trifles.

When the time came to start the return trip, it so turned out that
two armed settlers were sunning themselves in the garden of the
neighbor. Whether coincidence or in order to keep an eye on the
activities in their back yard was not clear. Our host became very
nervous: “You cannot pass through there”. These
gentlemen may shoot at the slightest provocation, and nobody will
interfere. So we had to take an alternative route, again in small
groups, climbing walls with a ladder, down the slope through back
yards, heaps of refuse, private houses back to the Suk, where a
minibus with darkened windows waited to smuggle us unseen out
of Hebron.

We have seen a state within a state. And this was on a Sabbath,
when the settlers stay mostly home. During the week they circulate
freely and do as they please. Systematic harassment is the name of
the game.

I won’t be visiting Hebron again anytime soon.
---------------------
* An eyewitness` account By: Eldad Kisch
See also:
(en) Palestine-Israel, Hebron, Israeli anarchists
earned an internationalist reputation:
http://www.ainfos.ca/05/may/ainfos00318.html


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