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(en) Israel-Palestine, Bil'in, [MEDIA] article - THE OLD MAN AND THE BLOOD

Date Tue, 13 Jun 2006 16:39:42 +0300

This article is in the context of a Friday Bil'in demonstration - one of around
60 we have had over the past 16 months. One of the many Israeli media reporters
drawn to the Bil'in demos approached me about a month ago and, after sensing
"good" material, asked for an intensive "interview" the following Friday during
the demo if her editor accepted her proposal for an extended report. He did, and
a week later we had a few hours together both before the demonstration itself
and during the demonstration. One of the photographers from the daily joined us
too and the resulting report was published in Israel's second-biggest daily two
weeks later: a large photo from the demonstration on the front page of the
magazine, followed by two pages of text and pictures from the demo.

What follows is an English translation of the text of the front page
of the supplement Matrix of the daily Maariv, and the article itself:

GRANDPA STONE - What causes Ilan Shalif, Doctor of
Psychology, to leave his grandchildren, climb the hills and spend his
Fridays in the endless fight of the anarchists in Bil'in?
Liat Shlezinger (28.5.06)

by Liat Shlezinger

Ilan Shalif is already 70 [really only 69 - I.S.] but it does not prevent
him arriving every Friday at the demonstration against the separation
fence in Bil'in and confronting the soldiers of the Israeli IDF.

"Armed" with only a yellow water bottle and matching yellow pouch,
Ilan Shalif is on his way to another battle against the separation
fence. Every Friday for the last year and a half, like a watch whose
battery never runs out, he travels the road from Tel-Aviv to the
Palestinian village of Bil'in. He has not missed even one
demonstration... Well, he did miss one when he had an open-heart
bypass operation [it was really two demos I missed then, and two
more when I was banned from travelling to Bil'in after being released
from police custody - I.S.]. But, he stresses that a week later he was
back running with the kids [the Israeli Anarchists Against The Wall
- I.S.] and dodging the rubber-coated bullets as they whistled by.

In the village of Bil'in, where the most violent demonstrations of the
left have been taking place recently, people are "crazy" about him.
They call him "grandpa". While others of his age prefer to spend
time with their grandchildren, Shalif at 70 prefers to spend his
Fridays in the company of shock and teargas grenades.

My idea to join him in the demo was regarded at first as an intriguing
experience, but surely not as massive physical effort. However, after
a short march with the demonstrators, at quite a fast tempo, I looked
around me and saw that Shalif was nowhere to be seen. Actually, he
had long ago overtaken me and I just could not match his speed!

Each demonstration in Bil'in begins with a long march accompanied
by the singing of the villagers and the demonstrators, who wave flags
all the way up to the point of confrontation with the soldiers at the
fence separating the village lands and the areas of Modi'in Illit [the
settler town built on the lands of Bil'in and other neighbouring
Palestinian villages - I.S.]. Shalif is marching fast under the hot sun
and his position is at the head of the demonstration. When the
confrontation between the demonstrators and the soldiers starts, he
sits down on one of the big stones and looks around. From time to
time he wipes the drops of sweat from his forehead and cleans his
round glasses.

Right behind Ilan sits his son Gal, 42, guarding his father. He puts a
firm hand on his shouder every time he wants to go nearer and join
the demonstrators [in confronting the soldiers - I.S.]. "Father, sit
down", he says in an authoritative voice. "Father, enough. Not this
time. It's not for you any more. Father, it's not possible this way."
He worries about his father. Every Friday, Gal serves as Ilan's
chauffeur to Bil'in and back to Tel-Aviv. But more importantly, Gal
defines himself as "his personal guard".

"I know my father... If I don't go with him, he will do something
stupid and get injured. He is a person who is getting on in years, but
often he behave like a child," he says, smiling. [The reporter does
not know the details of my medical vulnerability after the heart
bypass operation a few weeks before, as a result of which Gal agreed
to accompany me to the demonstration in return for a say on
cautious behaviour for both of us - I.S.] It is now the end of the
second week of May, and in a few days' time Shalif, a father of two
and Doctor of Psychology (Ph.D.) is due to undergo a complicated
and quite dangerous operation on his abdomen in Germany. [From
which I returned after three weeks and am still recuperating - I.S.]
"Sure he is supposed to be resting now", says Gal in reply to my
amazement, "but he is actually much more relaxed here! If he were
at home, he would be so much more stressed, and anyway, no-one
can tell him what to do".

"I think the soldiers treat me more gently because of my age, maybe
they even pity me. Once, a few months ago, we were sitting on the
road in protest. The soldiers came and carried all of us away, one by
one, except for me. At one point I looked around and saw I was left
alone on the road". [She fails to mention that at first a soldier had
tried to grab me, but a Palestinian comrade held my hand to prevent
my arrest and asked the soldier if he was not ashamed to grab an old
man... Only then they left me alone there - I.S.]

The demonstration is getting more violent, even in comparision to
those of the past few weeks. Three demonstrators are taken to
hospital. Gal seems worried. "Soon they are going to open my father
up for an operation", he says. "I don't intend to let someone open
him up here, with batons".

Despite the difficulty of being a bodyguard to a rebellious
70-year-old, he looks at him with great pride. "I wouldn't be here if I
didn't have to guard him. I don't have the courage to get hit for
things I believe in, but he has. That's why I admire him".


The village of Bil'in is located east of the settlement of Modi'in Illit.
The demonstrations that have been taking place there every Friday
for the last year and a half are part of the struggle of the village's
Palestinian population against the separation fence which threatens
to take about 60% of their agricultural lands. On these lands the
villagers grow olive trees for their livelihood, and theres are exactly
the lands where new residential neighbourhoods of the the settler
town Modi'in Illit are due to be built. Ten days earlier, the citizens of
Bil'in even petitioned the (Israeli) supreme court of justice in a bid to
prevent the confiscation of the lands. The demonstrations at Bil'in
also see the participation of left-wing Israeli activists, many from the
extreme left like the "Anarchists Against The Wall", who arrive with
organized transportation from the centre of Israel and demonstrate
side by side with the Palestinians. In addition, there are also
international activists from organisations like the

The demonstration advances along its route according to a ritual
known in advance to both the demonstrators and the soldiers. First,
the village people march up to the route of the separation fence
where the soldiers and border police are waiting for them, equipped
with the means to disperse demonstrations, such as tear gas, shock
grenades, and live ammunition. On the Palestinian side, several of
the youngsters are arming themselves with stones. More than a few
Israeli demonstrators have been injured here.

"If the left-wing demonstrators were not here, the struggle would be
seen in an entirely different light", say representatives of the village's
popular committee. "Their presence, and that of the press, protect us
from the violence of the soldiers who know that they are being
monitored and therefore cannot do what they want. We will succeed
in the end as we are stubborn, and every Friday, without exception,
we will continue to come here with the Israelis and the international
activists and demonstrate till our lands are returned".

Acram Hatib, a Palestinian activist and member of the village's
popular committee, says that one of the most encouraging things in
his eyes is to see Shalif every Friday. "Closure, curfew or shooting, I
will always see Ilan and his gray hair here", he says while trying to
restrain the stone-throwing kids.

"Wow, respect!", a young woman with short black and red hair
exclaims loudly when she observes the presence of Ilan there. "This
is a very dangerous place, and I hesitate every time I have to come.
And to see him, in spite of his age and everything, I really have great

Roni Barkan from the "Anarchists Against The Wall" movement
sees in Shalif a personal role model. "I nearly never express myself
in similar words, but in my eyes he really deserves admiration. What
is so beautiful about Ilan is that he may be 70, but he has the soul of
a child. He does what he feels is right and lives his life this way,
despite the price he has to pay for it". [He still does not recognize
that others too are motivated like him by the joy of rebeliousness... -

Shalif himself, on the other hand, does not feel any different when
he looks at the young crowd participating in these demonstrations.

L. S.: "You know that there are not many people at your age that
bother to come to Bil'in in order to demonstrate?"

I. S: "Right, there are not many people of 70, but this is what I love
doing and this is what I believe in. I cannot see myself doing
anything else. When I was a child I was very hyperactive and I think
that a little of that remained. I don't feel the need to sit around at
home and rest. I may be a bit older, but inside I know I am still
young. There are people my age who relax from other things and
who busy themselves looking for something different or strange. I
don't think I'm strange or exeptional. In addition, I think that
because of my age the soldiers treat me relatively leniently. Maybe
even pity me. They always hit the youngsters, and time after time I
remain unharmed. [Not really perfect immunity, as the soldiers often
indiscriminantly attack both old and young, Palestinians, Israelis or
foreigners, demonstrators or press workers, males or females... I. S.]
Once, a few months ago, we were sitting on the road in protest. The
soldiers came and carried all of us away, one by one, except for me.
At one

L. S.: "And what does your wife have to say about this?"

I. S: "We do not argue any more about it. She worries about me, but
she knows that in the end I will do what I want. I simply do not
believe that I can just sit at home, having spent my whole life as an
activist. I don't really know what could change to make me want to


As for the identity crises that most of us go through every few
months on average, Shalif's identity was already firmly established in
his childhood. At the age of 9, he already knew he was an anarchist.

"We were in the classroom and all the boys decided to boycott the
girls", he recounts the moment of truth. "I refused. I just did not
agree at all as I was friends with the girls [I used to play with some in
the small neighborhood I grew up in - I.S.] and did not believe in that
stupid boycott. Later, [and more so after the boycott was over - I. S.]
no-one befriended me for a while or invited me to parties. That was
when it started, when I knew that I would always be different".

[Well, it was not my first act of social rebellion. When I was still at
kindergarten, every Friday they used to collect small sums of money
as a contribution to the Jewish Zionist fund for buying land. I still
remember refusing to ask my parents for "pocket money" for that
contribution. I also recollect some bits of memories from an earlier
age, when I was about 2, in which I doubted the wisdom of my
mother when she did or said things I did not regard as correct - I. S.]

Indeed, he was different. While the rest of his friends in Jerusalem
looked forward to their period of military service, he evaded it,
thanks to a broken bone in his hand, something he is proud of to this
day. "I became disillusioned with the Zionism of Ben Gurion
[Israel's first Prime Minister in 1948 - I. S.] faster than expected. It
just wasn't for me", he says. In 1967 [the 6th June war of occupation
- I. S.] he found himself in the extreme left-wing movement
"Matspen", who among other things supported politically-motivated
total conscientious objection. "I moved from place to place [living on
kibbutzim - I.S.], and was even expelled with my wife Aliza from
"Negba" kibbutz where we lived, because of my radical opinions.
[Mostly because of the anti-Zionist political activities I refused to
stop doing. They agreed to let my wife stay on as member with our
two kids only if she divorced me... which she refused to do - I.S.] I
always knew I was extremely radical and at long last I have found
people that I can

Later he moved to Tel-Aviv and completed a Ph.D. in psychology.
During his work he even developed the technique of "sensate
focusing", that promotes the solving of problems using subconscious
processes, mainly and not solely using verbal techniques.

Throughout the years his left-iwing activism has been well known
both by people of other organizations and by the police, who
detained him for interrogation a few times after violent
demonstrations he took part in. He spends his time these days
surfing the internet and translating for an international anarchist
website he jointly manages. [I've been a member of the ainfos.ca
collective and project since 1996 - I.S.] When Shalif speaks, he uses
"you". He does not feel part of us, the Israelis, and he does not even
want to feel as one, "thank you very much". He can't remember
when he last voted in an election [to parliament - I.S.]. "I don't feel
like just another street crazy who shouts about nothing", he says.
"My feelings on Israel are like a time traveller who is stuck here
without being able to carry on with his journey. I believe in a world
that is non-hierarchical, in which there is freedom, equality and
fraternity. A world without exploiters and exploited, where people
make their own decisions. I do n

L. S.: Don't you feel a bit lonely sometimes? All of us search for a
kind of belonging from time to time.

I. S: Certainly not. I do not need the false feeling of intimacy of a
nation. It is all about fictional substitutes that are intended to give us
a good feeling. I have my friends here in Bil'in, I have real friends,
from "Matspen", with whom I meet twice a month. I do not need the
State". In spite of the fact that most young Israelis have a better idea
where Maya Buskila [an Israeli pop star - I.S.] lives than where the
village of Bil'in is, Shalif feels that his struggle over the past decades
has not been in vain. "In 1968 we were 18 lunatics who cried and
cursed [the occupation - I.S.] but now the majority believes that
there is a need to retreat from the occupied territories. Once I wrote a
poem on how each shoulder helps to turn the wheels of history, and
that it will take a very long time to make them turn. It may happen
after many, many years, but at the end the revolution will come, I
am sure of it".
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