Epilogue or worthless rant

hen I came, I did not know too well what I had come here for. But that is not the most important thing. I have been with people who know only too well what they need us for. And they have put us, they have put me, in the places where I was needed, telling me, more or less, on occasions exactly, what needed to be done.

I guess when I came I just came to make myself available. That is what I have done, more or less.

On occasions, it has been difficult, although the most difficult situations may have been the most trivial, or the ones no one would have expected to be difficult.

Misunderstandings with colleagues were difficult. Misunderstandings with soldiers were frustrating. Fighting with the enemy is easy. Fighting with your friends is painful. It is thanks to reconciliations that we gain an intimacy level that is only possible to gain with people you have had a bad time with.

The “official” reason to write this is to denounce the situation in Palestine, and thus try and change it, for the better. A more personal reason is to never forget.

I do not want to forget M., who would not stay still while he explained things to us, he just could not sit down. He seemed to be dancing in front of us while he scribbled on the white board, and never stopping smiling.

I do not want to forget N. and her daughters. And her knowledge. And her support.

I do not want to forget M., who, during a “training”, he made me a sign pointing to a whole in the barrier, and I thought I could trust him, but it was a dirty trick of him in the game, and our team lost because of that and some one sunk their elbow into my back.

I do not want to forget M(2)., who took me on my own, to a shop in his car, contrary to local customary rules, who talked to me in my room while I was there on my own, also against the rules.

I do not want to forget R., who would not stop looking at me while I attended other people’s explanations, and who always said hello to us in Arabic, maybe in the hope that we would learn it.

I don not want to forget H., who told me his story and admitted candidly just how much he misses his youth, who almost was left as invalid when he suffered a stroke and the doctors said he would never walk or move his left arm again, and there he is, limping and using one hand, and assuring me that in two years he will not limp any more, and looking into my eyes while I explain the functioning of the western “democracies” and admitting that he knows about them because he reads, but he sees in my eyes that I speak from what I have seen and have lived.

I do not want to forget A., who was going to marry for love with an English girl the day we arrived, but because of the bureaucracy and the corruption of some Palestinian authorities he could not get marry that day, and he spent all that day with the wedding suit that he had borrowed, even when we found the dead boy and he started to shout “motherfuckers” and took the boy on his shoulders and the boy’s blood dripped all along his wedding suit, all white, but later he cleaned it white and could give it back as white as he had borrowed it. And at dark, still in his suit, instead of talking, he cooked, with the other Palestinians, for all of us foreigners. And then he did such a great coordination work, taking us with those families that needed us most and organising a taxi each morning.

I do not want to forget the boy in the internet cafe that looked at us with semi-open eyes and smiling every time we went there to send out our stories, even when I asked him for weird things like plugs to connect my computer instead of using the computers that were in the cafe, with their keyboards in Arabic, like every one else.

I do not want to forget his father, who worked there some afternoons, and the afternoon he was there and I used the cafe did not want to charge us, and on the next day we saw him again when we went to pick up olives, and he paid us the taxi while he told us to get off because it was going to be faster for us to walk across the fields than to go through the checkpoint.

I do not want to forget the university student who took the day off to help his family pick up olives and to invite us to his house to have some tea that later became tea plus coffee plus sweets plus bread with oil and zahtar and salad and hummus and refreshments.

Of course I do not want to forget the kid who, the day we arrived in the refugee camp where he lived and visited his family just before receiving that call that would eventually take us to a corpse, served us tea like the best of waiters, not allowing any one else to serve us, and later he waited for us every single day at eight in the morning at the door of our flat to tell us “hello, what’s your name, good bye”, and then look at us as we left, and who on our day off joined us while we bought soap and other handicrafts, and told us with signs that he didn’t like school, that what he wanted to do was to be a fighter and die for his people and become a martyr, like the martyrs that fill the pictures in the streets of Balata.

I do not want to forget R., who wrote her name and mine in English and Arabic, who took bread and hummus for her brother and her sister.

I do not want to forget the gentleman who agreed to be interviewed, nor the ladies in the little shop who sold soap made by hand with olive oil, nor the little girl who insisted that I go to school with her, nor her brothers and sisters, with their tanned skin and dark hair, and their blue-green eyes, that they had inherited from their parents, nor the girl who invited us to her home and then we went to bring food to her father, nor A., from the EAPPI, whom I met in one place and then I saw again in various other places, and it gave us the sensation, among so many unknown faces, that we had known each other all our lives.

I do not want to forget the moment when, at the checkpoint, all boys and men were made to get off and open their bags.

I do not want to forget the ill man who was not allowed to pass through the checkpoint in Qalandia, and had to go all the way round in a taxi for two hours like every one else, if he could afford it.

I do not want to forget the boy who did not want the other boys to speak to me because I can not speak Arabic, and who then apologised.

I do not want to forget all the women that have introduced us to their children, and grandchildren, and offered us the little food they had.

Although I never met him, I will not forget R., who was arrested during my travellings in Palestine, who was in prison during my stay in Tel Rumeida, and who was deported after I left Palestine.

And I do not want to forget D., who I met in Balata for the first time and then worked with him in Tel Rumeida, who visited his friend R. while he could, who sent us reports about himself and about his friend Andrew, and who was himself arrested and then deported shortly after his friend.

And so many people I am not including here. To all of you, wherever you are now, thank you.

Kawawis-Jerusalem

I get on the van-taxi for my last trip before leaving. As I look for an empty sit, a familiar voice calls my name. I look at the occupied sits and I spot G., one of the people who stayed with Abu A. after J. and I left Jayyous in M.’s car. I sit down next to him, happy to have some one I know to speak to, and we update each other with our stories.

G. has spent a few months in Jayyous now and for him A. is a friend for life. When J. and I were there, A. had already spent all the money he could get from his wife’s jewels trying to get an injunction to stop the illegal expansion of the already illegal Israeli settlement on his land. The injunction was granted, that we knew. Since then, bulldozers have been on his land, protected by the Israeli army, uprooting his olive trees. Then more bulldozers have been on his land removing soil, preparing the foundations for new buildings. That we knew too.

“He won in court,” G. tells me, “but construction is under way. He could go again to court if he had the money, but it would change nothing.”

I close my eyes, to see more clearly, in my mind, the land I knew in Jayyous, with the olive trees recently uprooted, even with some small olive sprouts coming out of the soil where the trees had stood. And trying to imagine the bulldozers destroying that too. “Facts on the ground, you know”. Yes, I know.

Our conversation flows in other directions, and we exchange our contact details, but my mind is stuck in A.’s land, now lost to an illegal settlement, therefore already part of the Israeli state.

Kawawis

I get up and have breakfast composed of the food I broI get up and have breakfast composed of the food I brought with me. I hear the sound of an engine and go to see what it is. Two men, one on foot and another one on a tractor, are spreading seeds on the fields around the village.

I make a point of keeping an eye on them specially when they work on the land close to the Israeli road I had to cross to come here.

After a few minutes an Israeli military jeep comes down the road and stops. Before any of the occupants can get off the jeep the Palestinian men get away from the road. This year that patch of land will not grow anything.

I go round the village and I get yet another invitation for tea from H. and her parents. Then we go and clean the cave where they keep the sheep in the cold weather. We gather all the sheep manure and H. puts it in bags, then puts it away for storage. Roots come down from the ceiling of the cave, covered with spider nets.

When we finish, I begin to pack my luggage because today should be the last day I am here. We start eating and I receive a call from my replacement. He’s only on his way, so I have time to finish and say my goodbyes before repeating the scene of the taxi leaving one person and taking up another, only this time it is me who leaves.

I am not setting to replace anyone from here. I am going to Jerusalem, ready to get on a plane. Not before going through the checkpoints, of course.

In the taxi that I get in Yatta there are other three passengers but we travel in silence. As we approach a flying checkpoint, however, the passenger sitting next to me looks nervous. “I need to ask you a favour”, he says to me in a low voice. “It is possible that they ask us for identification. I do have identification, but I left it at home. But if I don’t show it to them they will arrest me, take me away. Will you tell them that I am with you?” I say, “Sure. I’ll tell them I have employed you as my guide”.

Luckily when we get to the checkpoint, the soldier in charge does not make us get out of the taxi. He bends to look through the passenger window, sees my western face and says “go” with his hand. They have not checked our passports or identifications. The guy looks relieved.

At the first stop of this taxi, well before Jerusalem, he gets off. I don’t understand the words he speaks with the taxi driver but from the way he looks at me while talking to him, and the quick glance of the driver, I guess he is going to pay for my fare. I begin to protest but the guy leaves quickly. “He has paid for your fare”, says the taxi driver to me. I look at him through the rear window and I see his lips saying, “Thank you”. Right.
ught with me. I hear the sound of an engine and go to see what it is. Two men, one on foot and another one on a tractor, are spreading seeds on the fields around the village.

I make a point of keeping an eye on them specially when they work on the land close to the Israeli road I had to cross to come here.

After a few minutes an Israeli military jeep comes down the road and stops. Before any of the occupants can get off the jeep the Palestinian men get away from the road. This year that patch of land will not grow anything.

I go round the village and I get yet another invitation for tea from H. and her parents. Then we go and clean the cave where they keep the sheep in the cold weather. We gather all the sheep manure and H. puts it in bags, then puts it away for storage. Roots come down from the ceiling of the cave, covered with spider nets.

When we finish, I begin to pack my luggage because today should be the last day I am here. We start eating and I receive a call from my replacement. He’s only on his way, so I have time to finish and say my goodbyes before repeating the scene of the taxi leaving one person and taking up another, only this time it is me who leaves.

I am not setting to replace anyone from here. I am going to Jerusalem, ready to get on a plane. Not before going through the checkpoints, of course.

In the taxi that I get in Yatta there are other three passengers but we travel in silence. As we approach a flying checkpoint, however, the passenger sitting next to me looks nervous. “I need to ask you a favour”, he says to me in a low voice. “It is possible that they ask us for identification. I do have identification, but I left it at home. But if I don’t show it to them they will arrest me, take me away. Will you tell them that I am with you?” I say, “Sure. I’ll tell them I have employed you as my guide”.

Luckily when we get to the checkpoint, the soldier in charge does not make us get out of the taxi. He bends to look through the passenger window, sees my western face and says “go” with his hand. They have not checked our passports or identifications. The guy looks relieved.

At the first stop of this taxi, well before Jerusalem, he gets off. I don’t understand the words he speaks with the taxi driver but from the way he looks at me while talking to him, and the quick glance of the driver, I guess he is going to pay for my fare. I begin to protest but the guy leaves quickly. “He has paid for your fare”, says the taxi driver to me. I look at him through the rear window and I see his lips saying, “Thank you”. Right.

Kawawis

I receive a call saying that E., an Israeli activist who comes here regularly to get information about incidents that need to be reported, will be coming today for a visit. It will be a change I look forward to: I will finally have a conversation in English, after two days of speaking a word at a time and trying to make sense of people’s gestures.

E. comes with a journalist from Ireland that asks me lots of questions while E. talks to the villagers in Arabic. It’s clear that the journalist has no idea what this is about. He even asks me if I am not afraid of being with so many Palestinians on my own. When I overcome the shock his question has left me in and I manage to understand what he is on about I answer: “Look, they venerate us. The only thing that makes me feel unsafe is that outpost there and the settlers that inhabit the three settlements that we can not see”. He doesn’t even know where the settlements are, why they are there or why we are here. But he has not come here to see what these people’s day to day lives are like. He has only come here to take pictures of the proof of the incidents H.’s cousin was talking about before, so he doesn’t even listen to me and he cuts me off to ask what I saw when the settlers burnt the olive trees. I start to tell him that I wasn’t here then, that we can only stay here two or three days at a time but he turns round in the middle of my sentence, already ignoring me.

E. takes his journalist to the field where the Israeli settlers have recently burned all the olive trees that were a good part of the village’s livelihood and that’s the end of this week’s visit.

Kawawis

43

Today is a visit day. A lot of grandchildren of H.’s mother come to see her. They had to come walking down the path that the taxi took me from, crossing the road that functions as a wall.

The bigger boys just say hello and some of them stare at me – I guess I am this exotic woman they need to feel curious about. The smaller children ignore me and kiss their grandmother in veneration.

R kisses her grandmother, first on her cheek, then on her hand, and then she bends her head to put her forehead on that same hand that she has just kissed. Then the grandmother asks her who she is, and she answers, with her name, and the grandmother nods. The ritual is repeated by all her grandchildren that have come to see her.

In the middle of the visit, some grown up men come and stay standing, talking. I look at H. and she tells me they are also cousins of her and grandchildren of his mother. One of them look at me and say, “settlers”. I get up thinking that they are now going to guide me to wherever the local settlers are causing problems. With his basic English, he says, “no, not now, days ago”. I sit back on the floor.

The situation in Kawawis is very similar to that of Yanoun. The settlers harassed this village so badly a few years ago, the villagers just ran away, and only agreed to come back on condition that there would be internationals continuously. However because there is only one well for the whole village, and we can not wash ourselves while we are here, internationals never stay here more than three days in a row. And because no one is paid to be here, not even travelling or food expenses, it it very difficult to provide more than one international at a time.

The older woman goes to the room where we all sleet to pray five times each day. Each time, H. stays with me, and when the mother returns she goes. In such a way that they never leave me alone.

Kawawis

At eight in the morning the sun gets through the glassless windows in full swing into the room, where there are only two people now. The couple seem to have got up already; their mattress is no longer there. Their grandson is gone too. I remember then what I read yesterday in the log book, that they go to walk the sheep at about six in the morning.

H. is saying her prayers standing up, with her eyes closed and swinging her body from time to time.

When H. finishes praying we put all the mattresses and blankets in the corner where it seems they are to be kept and I help her preparing breakfast, which consists of tea made with herbs collected in the area.

Stacked against one of the walls there is a pile of sacks full of what turns out to be flour, with the word USAID written on each of them. When we finish breakfast H. grabs one of them and spills some flour on an old sack opened, on the floor. She then grabs another sack and spills some more flour. This one is darker. She is going to make bread with white and wholemeal flour mixed together.

When she finishes, she puts the bread away and I help her clean the floor where she has been working. We then go to the adjacent room where her parents are. After a bit more chilling out time we share our food and then the father goes away.

The three of us stay, in this house, without electricity or heating. The mother is sewing, the daughter is washing the dishes and I am writing on my diary.

Hebron – Kawawis

Palestine 2.41

Today is my last day here and as a good bye to the house where we stay I do a “tour” around it. It is a neighbours’ building and the most interesting part of it is the flat roof. The drums containing the water that is supplied to all the block neighbours are kept here.

We can see the top of other roofs from here, and some are higher up than this one, all are Palestinian. In one of those higher roofs there is an outpost of the Israeli army, with its sentry box and a kind of curtain that seems like a fishing net, only it is of a military green colour. K. explains the roof is illegally occupied, but with no recognised authority to appeal to, there is absolutely nothing the family that lives there can do to try and stop it.

K. also points to a pair of water drums left there in a corner, on our roof. Both have holes which are obviously caused by bullets.

K. explains that the soldiers (or maybe the settlers, who are also armed) seem to be terribly bored and sometimes they entertain themselves shooting at the drums, leaving them useless. The families living in the houses then loose their water supply for days or weeks, however long it takes them to replace the drums – days, weeks… Fig 34

Looking down on the street, downstairs, we can see, apart from the military checkpoints, which we also see when we are at their level, something we don’t tend to pay much attention to, but which from here is so distinctive: the street raised just next to the entrance of the houses. K. explains that it is just one more of the humiliations. It is done with one of those machines that in a normal country are used when a pipe below the concrete asphalt needs to be repaired. Here the machine arrives, raises the street, repairs nothing and leaves the street raised for good, leaving the inhabitants of that house embittered, having to climb up the debris whenever they need to leave and enter their house. Sometimes the family can afford the luxury of fixing it. Some times, they can’t. Fig 35

We do the morning “round” like every day. I go to the lower street, where I don’t see soldiers, as they are at either end of the street and my “post” is in the middle.

After the morning shifts and breakfast, I go to the lower street on my way to the tomb-with-mirrors-like checkpoint, and towards the live part of the city.

There aren’t usually any more soldiers than necessary, but today we see a military vehicle loaded with soldiers, on the very street where Palestinians are not allowed to circulate other than on bikes or donkeys. The soldiers stare at us from the rear window of the vehicle and smile with sarcasm as they wave us good bye. They do not usually do this but I guess the incident a few days back seemed fun to them and they have recognised me.

From here I am going to Kawawis. D., J., A. and others have already been there. It some times sounds like “kawawis”, other times like “Kaa-o-ees” and others like “kwiz”, depending on who pronounces it. It is too small to start asking for a service right to that town from here; I need to ask for one to Yatta and then change there.

My first “stop” is the centre of Hebron, where I have to find a taxi service to Yatta. Once in the taxi zone, I ask about and a man who speaks English answers with a question: “You are going to Kawawis, aren’t you?” “Yes. How do you know?” “All the foreigners that ask to go to Yatta, are actually going to Kawawis”. Of course. I am not the first one and will not be the last one. He gets me a taxi and I leave.

The journey is incident free, there is not even any checkpoints that make us get off the taxi. Until we approach Yatta. An Israeli settler drives his car like mad, not respecting the Palestinian sign of “stop”, almost killing a bunch of Palestinian school girls and then waving furiously at the Palestinian driver that had actually stopped to avoid an accident.

Once in the main street of Yatta, which is full of Palestinian boys and men, I go from shop to shop buying food, trying to ensure that I am buying enough food for the three days that I am staying there. I have been told that Kawawis is only a handful of houses, with no shops.

A man with a beard approaches me: “To Kawawis? Yes? I take you”. By the time he has finished the sentence a circle of about ten men has formed around us. The guy tells me he’ll take me for twenty five shekels; I was told it would be about five, so I tell him that I’ll think about it, but it’s not like I have lots of options, since it is the only taxi that I can see around here. I buy some more food, which he helps me buy and carry, and we get on his van. It is the first time in Palestine that I get on a taxi on my own.

He takes me through roads full of irregular stone piles and roadblocks, which are basically pairs of stone blocks of about one to two cubic metres, planted in the middle of the roads in order to make motor transport impossible. He can hardly drive the van through them. At one point he shouts above the deafening noise of the engine and the stones under the tyres: “This road – destroyed by Israel!”. Which is a very useful observation because, without this information, it would be easy to simply assume that no road ever existed, nor the intention to build one, and what we are doing is just following the trail of previous drivers, or that some one started to build a road but then half way through these stones fell on it and then could not finish it off…

The road is cut short by a perfectly asphalted road and the van has to stop here. It is like most Israeli roads, blocking Palestinian roads, leaving people isolated. It seems that this one did go all the way to Kawawis before, because a stony trail similar to this one can be seen at the other side of the Israeli road, all the way to a bunch of houses that I imagine is Kawawis. But now Kawawis is totally isolated and it is only possible to get there on foot.

The taxi driver starts to walk with me but when he sees that I am walking straight to the Israeli road he apologises: “Dangerous”, he says. I perfectly understand. He can get nowhere near it. As the potential terrorist that he is, and since Palestinian life is not worth very much here, his mere presence near an Israeli highway would amply justify a shot in his head.

So there I go, with my hair down as “proof” that I am not a Palestinian, therefore not a terrorist, therefore they can not going kill me and easily get away with it.

Once on the verge of the road I should see L., who will get this same taxi to get to Yatta.

Trucks, big coaches, cars, some military vehicles… all travel at high speed on this road that is not cut short by anything or anybody. I imagine their passengers must wonder where the hell I have come out from and where the hell I am going.

L. and I finally see each other in the distant and run to meet. She shows me the house where I will stay and gives me the key. I take her to the taxi and she gets on the taxi with all her stuff. I am left alone in what feels like the middle of nowhere. There is no indication of life apart from the tracks of the taxi on the stony trail, now empty, at the other side of the road, where the taxi left me, and the vehicles that come and go before I can see any passenger inside. At least the sun is still high up, it is not raining and I know where I am going.

I finally cross the road for the last time in a few days, in a moment when no vehicle is coming. At the end of the road, unseen from here, is the illegal Israeli settlement, with its barracks and its death.

L. has told me where the bunch of “houses” where I should go is. Now I have to do a visual and memory exercise because the houses are so similar with the terrain they are almost invisible.

After walking for about ten minutes I arrive near a bunch of buildings not higher than two metres each. The biggest one is dark grey, square; the others are like igloos made of stones. As I go round one of these “igloos” I meet two women, one of them very old and the other one a bit younger, and a man, whose age could be between the ages of the two women. They are sitting on a kind of platform, drinking tea and looking at me.

It feels like they were waiting for me. They welcome me, with the very few words that they can say in English, and they give me the sweetest tea I have ever tasted.

So here I stay, sitting on the floor of this platform, my back pack and my shopping on the ground.

Thanks to their great efforts to speak in English to me, I find out that the oldest woman and the man are a married couple and the youngest woman, H., who appears to be about 50 years old, with some golden teeth and others just missing, is only 30 and is their unmarried daughter.

After two little glasses of tea I point to my things and the key I have been given. They in turn point to the igloo I have just come round from and they stay there, while I get into the “house” for which I’ve given the key. It is made up of stones, one upon another, making up a circular wall, with a canvas covering the only resulting room.

Almost all the “houses” are like this one, or so they seem from outside. This one has several mats and blankets, just enough to sleep here. L. has left some bread and biscuits. Next to the food there is a notebook where people who have been here before me have been writing down “incidents”. They are all about settlers abusing the Palestinians and soldiers not doing anything about it; one that stands out involves settlers burning a whole field of olive trees.

People have signed what they have written and I recognise some of the names. They are people I have been with, in other places in Palestine, and I can imagine them here, in this very house, or on the platform having tea, or getting up at 6 in the morning, like they write, in order to accompany the older man with the sheep flock. It almost feels like I am here with them all.

I finish reading the note book and as I get to the door to get out I notice the poster on it, hand made, which is a map explaining the area. Fig 36 mapa de kawawis

There are three settlements. Facing the valley, with your back to the road for Israeli settlers. One is on the right, another on the left, both on mountain tops, and another one also towards the right but behind, at the other side of the road, and this one can not be seen.

The scrawls between the two settlements and Kawawis on the hand-made map indicate an olive trees field and a family’s house, there alone, facing both settlements. If I had come with some one else, one of us would have gone to visit that family so that they don’t feel so alone in the face of danger. But as I have come on my own, instructions are to stay near the bigger group of houses. I can’t go out on visits outside the central group of houses and I can’t go to the fields with the flocks in the morning, as other internationals have done before me. I must stay here to be found easily. In any case, those outings would have been made by a male, not a female volunteer, but that is another story.

As I get out of the “house” I find H. and a young girl sitting on its doorstep, outside. The girl can speak English a bit better than H., and says she is her niece. I invite them to eat with me but they do not understand. H. goes away and her niece stays, and I invite her to come in by signs. I begin to eat and I give her some food, and we eat something together. She asks me for some bread to take to her brother, I give her some, and she asks for some more, now for her sister. I also offer her hummus and she asks me for some biscuits. After a little while she puts a few biscuits in her pockets and she leaves, with the hummus sandwich in one hand and bread alone in the other, and I stay with the certainty that these people are starving.

Because of the scarcity of food here we are told that we should eat on our own instead of eating their food with them, so I continue eating on my own. Shortly afterwards H. comes, telling me, with signs, to go to her house with her. I point at my food and she helps me gather it. It is normally not appropriate to bring food to a house where you are invited. It is considered an offence. It would be like saying to them that they are not worth enough to feed you. But this family receives it with a smile and we all eat their food and mine.

When we finish eating, and after tea, H. does the washing up with a remarkably little amount of water, a strange scourer and a bar of olive oil soap.

I get up in order to go to my cave to sleep but they are not going to allow me: “two, good, one, not good”, which means, I guess: two [can sleep] well [in the little house, but] one [is] no good, [it is too dangerous]. And, although I feel quite uncomfortable with the offer, I don’t feel at all like staying on my own in that cave knowing that the soldiers in the sentry on the top of the hill know that I am the only foreigner here.

So we go to the small house-cave where I am supposed to be staying and we bring the mattresses and blankets that I will be using in their house.

The room where we are going to sleep looks a bit like a multi-purpose room. There is a pile of mattresses in a corner and they take them, one by one, distributing them around the room, against the walls. A boy who looks about twenty has turned up, although, knowing how people grow older here, he might as well be fifteen. He is also a nephew of H. She is always smiling at me, always trying to make as much conversation as we can with our more than limited language skills. She has now started to say that I am her “sister”. Whatever.

H. says her prayers and, again smiling, lies down to sleep on a mattress next to me, with her headscarf on. I look at her expecting to see her hair but no, she doesn’t take her headscarf off. She goes to sleep with exactly the same clothes she walks around in the house and surroundings. Thinking of it, I have not seen a single piece of furniture in this house, so chances are none of them have any other clothes than the ones they have on.

Hebron

Today is Saturday and, there is a “visit” from the “women in green” (WIG) scheduled for today. It doesn’t’ happen every Saturday, but they do come rather regularly, and people who have been in Tel Rumeida for months are familiar with their doings.

K. and D. explain what the WIG usually do and what other human rights observers, people like us, have done in response in the past. The WIG usually go in a procession from Tel Rumedia, the settlement up the hill, to the other settlement below, the one just below the school where we watch that the settler kids don’t throw (too many) stones at the Palestinian children and mothers every day. They try to schedule this “march” so that they arrive at the bottom of the stairs at the same time as the children come out of school, and simply yell abuse at them.

In previous occasions, the internationals have usually tried to accompany them in this march without provoking them, which is quite difficult because our mere presence is a provocation, apparently, and we should expect abuse too.

Once they arrive at the bottom of the stairs facing the coming kids, we need to place our bodies between the Women in Green and the kids. It is important that we do not face the children, but the women. This is to avoid intimidating the children even more. We need to face the women; they are the cause of the violent situation and it is them we should focus on, not on the children – it is not their fault.

With these instructions we go out to the street prepared for the unpleasant, at least.

We meet the WIG next to the checkpoint, where one can go towards the lower settlement (or to my “watch point”, in my case) or up the hill to the other settlement.

There is a boy being retained at the checkpoint and one of the internationals enquiries why. As usual, there is no answer from the soldier. But there is another soldier who looks like he is of some higher rank than the soldier who is retaining the boy and he asks the international, a French woman, what her problem is. She starts, “this soldier is retaining this boy”. At that point one of the women in green bursts out laughing: “She’s telling him the soldier is retaining ‘that’! As if he cared!”

I start walking with the women in green (WIG) up the hill and we’re joined by the first girls coming out from school. All the WIG take pictures of us, some with mobile phones. There are also two men with them; they do not have cameras so they just walk and look at us in disgust. Most of those with cameras have already taken a picture of me by the time we reach half the hill. I take the picture of one of them, and one of the men says to me, “don’t you have anything better to do, you scummy piece of shit?”. I look at him and see a pistol on his belt. I take pictures of his belt with the pistol while we go up, also placing myself between this group and the children going up the hill too, in case they start to scream abuse at them, and trying not to think what they would do if we were not here.

They continue to walk to the settlement up the hill and, as they enter it, we leave them. Not our business any more. Most of the school girls are now “safe” in inhabited Palestinian streets.

But right on my left there is the path through which Palestinian people are not allowed to pass to go to their homes, even though there is a court ruling that says they are. A soldier is standing there refusing to open a bit of the razor wire that blocks the path to go to a few Palestinian homes. Two internationals are trying to reason with the soldier, which is usually useless, but today it seems specially frustrating. The girl gives up and walks down the hill, prepared to go all the way round hills and paths taking a good twenty minutes maybe, to go to a house that I can see from here.

I start taking pictures of the path and the razor wire. I finish and we all walk down the hill but a soldier starts pushing M. down the hill, saying that we have to go. M. falls on me and I am pushed down by the impulse too. I shout out and ask why. The soldier just says, “you have to go”. I repeat, “why”. N. also asks why but we get no answer, we are just pushed violently down the hill.

I then use my mobile to call D. to tell him about the situation. He asks whether the girl is being allowed through the path and I tell him that she gave up, so he tells me that we should walk down. We walk down but the soldiers still push us down violently.

I try to film them as they push us and, in one given moment, a soldier grabs my camera and pulls, to steal it from me. I have the strip of my camera tied to my wrist so my camera doesn’t go. He doesn’t let go, either, and he continues to pull and I scream, and scream, while I bend down to the ground, hoping that this will prevent him from taking my camera and arrest me. We struggle for a few seconds and he bends my glasses with his body, then my glasses fly and I stop seeing them. He lets go of the camera but I and continue screaming, asking for my glasses, panicking that I will not find them. Suddenly I see them under my foot – they are completely unusable now.

One of the women in green comes forward to me and, laughing, she screams, “that was a very nice show, you are good for theatre”, and other “funny” phrases, maybe even abuse, but she is the least thing that worries me right now, and, besides, I can not see her without my glasses, I can only see her shape.

Looking at my glasses, trying to figure out if they are fixable, we walk down the hill, towards our apartment, being pushed again by the soldiers. Far away, N. has filmed the whole scene. As we walk, another soldier quickly takes his hand to my camera but I am faster and he can’t even touch it. I then see N. being pushed around: some soldiers are also trying to get his camera. I start filming again. A soldier gets right in front of me and for a few seconds there is a cat and mouse play between the two of us, me trying to film the soldiers pushing N. around, and this soldier trying to block my vision. Looking at N. and this soldier in turns, I can not even see what I am recording. The soldiers have thrown N. to the ground and there he is, under a swarm of soldiers, lying on the ground, his belly down, his face up trying to look at me. It looks to me like they are arresting him. Between not seeing well without my glasses and the soldier playing games in front of me, I can only catch – badly – the moment when he stands up and is carried away – or so I think.

Usually it is N. or D. who call IDF (Israeli Defence Forces), and the rest of us just let them take care of the situation. But now N. is being arrested and D. is not here (where is he?). I call D. to tell him that N. has been arrested and at that very moment, N. appears round the corner, so I hung up. So, N. has not been arrested, but he does not have his camera with him any more – the soldiers have stolen it. I am still shaking from the confrontation, and still looking at my glasses in despair. Some Palestinians have come out of their houses, probably alerted by my screaming.

We try to regroup but in the meantime the soldiers have come on a formation in front of us and they are already surrounding us. Suddenly eight or nine soldiers approach me and surround me. Suddenly I do not see my friends any more. All I see is green military uniforms worn by big men with unfriendly faces all around me. One says, “give my the camera”, I say, “no”, he says, “you don’t want to give me your camera?” I ask, “why do I have to”. At this point both my hands are grabbed and my arms spread wide by lots of hands. Grabbing my left hand there are two soldiers. I only have my broken glasses in my left hand. The rest of the soldiers concentrate on my right hand, where my camera is.

I start screaming again – and my thoughts go, “this is it, I am getting arrested, then deported, and then never again allowed back in Palestine, I got this far, this is the end”.

I go on screaming and still have my camera wrapped around my wrist so it won’t go. The soldiers just twist my hand and my fingers, as much as they can, and just pull the camera to make the strip break, but the only thing that breaks is my skin. I scream and scream fearing that they will break some part of my body or that they will arrest me, which will mean the end of Palestine for me – for life. As I scream with my mouth open, I notice one of their arms firmly pressed against my mouth – how easy to simply bite this arm. But I understand that this is a provocation, because if I bite a soldier then they would have a reason to arrest me, “assault to a soldier”, and they don’t seem to be arresting me, otherwise they would be dragging me to their vehicle by now, and they are not doing that, they are only struggling to get my camera. So, I just go on screaming, it’s the only thing I can do given the circumstances.

Finally my thoughts go on to realise that I am only one and can’t win against eight or nine soldiers, so I have to let the camera go, and at least stop them tearing all the skin off my hand. What is clear is that I will not prevent the theft of my camera, that’s for sure.

When the soldiers finally get my camera they leave me there, violently shaking. A Palestinian woman then touches my shoulder and shows me a glass of water that she has in her hand. She then literally pours it inside my mouth – so much for lack of communication. I drink a bit and say “shukran” but she insists that I drink more, and I do so. After drinking this water I am still shaking, although not so violently. Then I look around me and see that the street is full of people looking towards the group where I stand, which is pretty big now. Around us, close to us, there are people with badges showing their names, others with EAPPI waistcoats. They are Israelis and internationals from different human rights organisations that have come out alerted by my screams.

I then see D. and it turns out they have stolen his camera too. We go up to the flat and recap. Three cameras stolen. My screams have alerted the whole neighbourhood and every one, including Palestinians, internationals from other groups and Israeli activists have come out to the street. A. and D. think that it was a good thing that I just screamed and screamed. A few Israelis were actually detained by the soldiers and someone called the police. The police is downstairs now and the police officers are very pissed off with the soldiers detaining Israelis. Some of the other activists think that we should report the thefts to the police but N. and D. say that they know, from experience, that if we speak to the police, we will be arrested: “It always happens when they [the Israeli police] intervene in conflicts between the soldiers and us. If we go to the police station to report this or to ask for our cameras back, they will arrest us.” Even then, some consider the possibility of speaking to them and reporting the theft of our cameras, since it is an illegal act – the soldiers can detain us, facilitate our arrest by the police, but never take our property. In theory they should be “done” for this. But people who have been here longer than me know from experience that, once we attempt to talk to the police, we will be arrested and probably deported. And we know that any one who has been arrested or deported will never be allowed entry in Israel again, and by extension (by virtue of their illegal occupation of Palestine), in Palestine.

Those who are planning to stay in Palestine for a few more months think that, if some one of us is to go to the police station, it should be some one who is planning to leave for home in a few days, or weeks, and not them. The logic is that, if they are deported now, they loose the months they had available, to spend them either in jail waiting for the deportation or at home once deported, but if we are planning to go home soon anyway, then we are not losing that much. Then some of the “short-timers” think that it should be some one who has already been arrested who should go, since they are not going to be allowed back in the country anyway, because they have already been arrested once. The criterion for this is not the few more months that some one is planning to stay, but the few more times that some people are planning to come back.

In the end no one goes. We all want to stay here for as long as we can and we all want to come back, or at least if we decide not to come back to Palestine, we want the decision to be ours, and not these soldiers’, or whatever Israeli authorities’.

N. calls IDF various times and finally the woman on the phone says that they will give the cameras back to us in a few minutes. An hour passes and the cameras are still stolen. More calls ensue.

Still trembling and trying to fix my glasses, I ask M. and C. where they were while I was fighting with the soldiers. C. answers: “We were just next to you, but just before the soldiers grabbed you all at once, another one has come, a lot bigger than the rest, and he grabbed us both at once,with our clothes, like this [and he raises both his fists, spreading his arms] one with each of his hands, and rose us from the ground, and he kept us like that until they got your camera”. M. says he also had to fight with a soldier that wanted to steal his camera. However after just the first attempt he realised that he would try again so he changed the tape.

An hour later, I am still trembling. I can’t help but feeling guilty and utter useless and dumb: “how could I be so stupid? Did I not see that they would not stop until they got my camera? Why did it not occur to me to run to the flat as quick as I could and hide the tape, the camera?” [second thoughts: “Well, maybe that would have been worse, maybe then the soldiers would have raided the flat looking for it …”] “No, that is unlikely”. I hide my face in my hands. “Don’t torment yourself. Try to relax”, I’m told.

Two hours after we had one photo camera and two video cameras stolen we receive a call to tell us that they are “available”. If we want them, we have to go to the checkpoint to get them, from the hands of the same soldiers that have stolen them from us. It will be some time before I gather the stomach to approach a soldier, so I ask that some one else goes.

A. offers. From one of our windows we see him go up to the kind of tent the soldiers are in. He stands there for a few seconds, maybe talking to the soldier inside. Then we see a camera coming out from the tent, and the hand holding it. A. grabs it. Then another camera. Then another one. Then he walks back to the flat where we are.

As we had guessed, all tapes have been erased. Instead of a few bad shots, there are wonderful views of green military trousers, black boots and an engine – a green one.

They have also emptied the batteries completely, so our cameras need to stay at home being charged for the rest of the day. In any case I don’t feel like going out and even less with the camera. My legs are still trembling against my will and my whole body is aching. D. for his part entertains himself recording everything he can from the window in his room.

After an hour or so, he tells me: “Could you go downstairs and tell A. to go up to the soldier? A bunch of settler kids are throwing stones at a Palestinian house”.

While he says this I get to his window. Indeed, a bunch of kids from about five to ten years old are grabbing some stones bigger than their heads and throwing them against a Palestinian house right below the garden where they are.

I run down the stairs, arrive where A. and V. are, I show them the kids and we all go to speak to the nearest soldier. By the time we reach them, the kids have stopped their passtime. But as we arrive again next to the path with the razor wire we see two little girls waiting for some one to open a gap so that they can get to their house.

The soldier is right beside the girls, and they look like they do hope to get to their home the short way instead of walking for twenty minutes.

“Why can’t she get through?”

“She has no identification, so I can not check that she lives there.”

“I know her and I know that she lives in that house you can see there.”

“No one can pass.”

“Yes they can, there is a court order (from the authorities of your country, Israeli) that says that this path must be open.

“Eh?”

We explain in simple English: “An Israeli judge, from the Hight Court, has ordered: this path must be open.”

“I don’t know anything about that, my orders are ‘no one passes’, I don’t know what you’re saying.”

The soldier’s face looks more and more stupid by the second. A. says to him: “she is not old enough to have ID, and this should not be closed anyway”.

“My orders are not to open, if I can’t check that she lives there.”

“I know her and she lives there.”

“Ok, if you say she is too young to have ID, I believe you, she can go.”

And he goes and opens the razor wire, disobeying the orders he says he has.

At dark, when we have “officially” finished “work”, we start cooking and we realise that we need some more pasta. I go to the only shop in the neighbourhood that remains open. It only has sweets, bread, pasta packets and little more, but at least it is a shop where kids can socialise when, for instance, the soldier of the day feels like stealing their ball.

The shop is full of kids now. As I enter, they all look at me and laugh, some scream with their arms stretched out, imitating my screams and my posture when the soldiers took my camera.

I smile and think: “kids”. After the jokes, some of them shake my hand, others simply lower their heads as if showing some respect. It looks like I am the neighbourhood’s hero now.

I buy the pasta and the bigger boy, the one who didn’t want the others to speak to me the other day, approaches me and says, in English: “I’m sorry”. I say everything is ok and I leave, while the screams and the laughs continue behind me again. My body is not aching any more.

Palestine 2.38

D. is leaving for a few days. He is going to see R., to the jail that Israel has next to the border with Egypt, in the most southern point of the country, on the other side of the dessert. R. is going to be deported for staying in the country while he was waiting for his appointment to renew his visa. While he was waiting for his appointment, he was helping out the girls in this neighbourhood, like we do now, and one day, he was arrested. I will leave before D. returns from visiting R. so we exchange addresses and say our good byes.

I take a few hours off and I dedicate myself to do some tourism, like I did in Jerusalem.

I again get through the same checkpoint I used when I first came here, only in the other direction. The soldier outside, before entering the checkpoint, asks me, “why are you here?” I remain without answering for a few seconds, trying to figure out whether he actually means to ask this question or he’s trying to be funny, and to give myself a bit of time, I answer: “because I want to get to the other side”. He insists, with his quite basic English, “No, why you are here, in Palestine, in Hebron”. Still not knowing what he really is after, I answer: “because I defend life”. “Really”, he asks, sounding completely uninterested. He looks at me and I answer: “Look that way (I indicate to the Israeli settlement), everything is death, silence. Then listen to that other side (where there are no Israeli soldiers or settlers, at least not for now), and you can hear life. You bring death to Palestine, where there are no settlers nor soldiers nor Israelis, there is life and joy, where there are Israelis, there is only silence and death.” “I agree”, he says. So I really do not know what this guy is about. I leave him there with his machine gun, in a neighbourhood full of armed Israeli settlers and unarmed Palestinians, and I go off.

I get through the checkpoint that rather feels like a coffin with mirrors and as soon as I get to the end of the empty street I truly feel like I have just got out of a tomb where I was buried alive, back to the noisy, blinding and colourful world of the living.

It is actually strange to get out to the rest of Hebron and see that there is normal life there, that constant humiliations and hatred do not need to be the normal way of life.

As I get out of the sepulchral street, then, I feel that this could be one more corner of the Old City of Ramallah, say, or even Jerusalem, although, maybe, again because of the contrast, it seems to me that this has a lot more contrasts and colours – and noise. Above all, the noise.

It is as if the city that is still allowed to have some life in it wanted to remind the city that is strangled to death that there is still life on this side, that there is hope, that the dying city is not alone nor forgotten. And the noise is the only means of communication it can use.

I turn right towards the mosque, and again I see, on my right, a high, boring, daunting wall (“the” wall) and a few watch towers with soldiers inside.

I remember that behind this wall and towers is the illegal Israeli settlement whose inhabitants so terrorise our neighbours.

The Palestinians I see on my way seem to ignore this wall It looks like they are used to it, maybe resigned to it. What can not be ignored is that, as one approaches the old city, even on this “side” where the Palestinian authority is supposed to be in charge, the streets become more and more silent and sepulchral, even though there are no checkpoints or soldiers in the streets, until a point when it actually “is” like on the other side of the wall, with all the shops closed, the doors painted in green, and with “David’s stars” painted on them. I am approaching Ibrahim’s mosque and Abraham’s sinagogue.

At the end of the street there is a kind of grille exactly like the one in Qalandia and other checkpoints. There are soldiers guarding it, on this side and the other. Some are inside some cabins from which they activate the revolving gate made of railings. Just looking at it from the outside, one could guess that it must be really claustrophobic when passing that revolving gate.

The gate has three “wings” that leave between them just enough space for one not-too-fat person – not even for one person plus some bulky baggage. Exactly like in Qalandia, only this is in the middle of the city. On each side there are like round walls of iron, so that the “wings” of the gate get between those irons. If the gate gets blocked, there is really no gap through which to get out, because you get trapped in a cubicle without any possibility to get out either through the sides or over the top. Fig 32

I get into the gate and indeed, there is only enough space for my body. I can not stretch my arms, or even put my hands on my hips. My body as I stand, with my arms down and no bags, occupies all the available space. I have railings all around my body except under my feet. There are railings even over my head. During the long seconds that the gate takes to go round and let me free from this cubicle, I get through a tiny space making very short steps, around three inches each, to avoid the iron bars scratching my ankles.

Behind me there are about twenty little girls in school uniforms accompanied by some teachers. Once at the other side, I stay discreetly a few metres away from the gate to see if they will make the little girls go through the same process. They do.

I stay where I am for a few more minutes and I see what I was secretly fearing but wished it weren’t true. After the little girls go, a man comes. When he is in the claustrophobic cubicle, suddenly the gate gets blocked and the man stays trapped there for a few seconds. The man looks stunned. He stares at the iron bars around him, so close to his body, and tries to make the gate revolve again. In the end the gate gives in and the man can get out. I stay a bit more until various men get in and I observe that the same thing is done to various other men, at random.

No one says a thing, all this happens in silence, but it is obvious that the blocking of the gate is not coincidence and that it is controlled by some soldier in some sentry box. Thinking of the whole exercise, it seems to be useless if it is “used” to spot potential terrorists, but very effective if the objective is one more humiliation.

I take some pictures and go on walking towards the temple of various faiths. I find a queue where Palestinian people are waiting to enter the mosque. I join the queue but the soldiers “in charge” tell me with signs that I can jump the queue. I guess they have spotted that I am a tourist and do not want me to take a bad image of them back to my country.

I enter a small room where there are again various soldiers with their huge machine guns on their chests and they ask me whether I am a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim. They also ask lots of other questions and I ask, “why are you asking me so many questions?” because this is the first time I am asked so many questions at once. The second the soldier hears my question, he gets cocky and snaps: “Right. Passport.” with a commanding gesture of his hand.

I try to disengage myself from a confrontation that would be all too familiar and remind myself that I am a foreign tourist visiting the fourth most important holy site for the Islamic religion and the second one for the Jewish. So although I am naturally surprised at the intense questioning, I am also naturally used to being asked for my passport. I hand it to the soldier, he looks at it, he hands it back without a word and I mumble “What now?”, expecting an answer like “You are detained”, or “arrested”, or something of the like. Instead, he says: “You have to wait”. He looks at another soldier in a small office separated from us by some glass doors. That soldier is on the phone. I look away, at the different walls, as if already enjoying the building I came here to visit, and at some point the first soldiers says: “you can pass”.

He points to a door and I go through it. I am then in a narrow and claustrophobic corridor. At the beginning of this corridor there is a door on one side, with Hebrew characters painted on it, and a small window that lets you see a bit of what’s at the other side of it. I see a man in a black hat, glasses and ringlets on both sides of his face. He looks at me in a not-too-friendly way. I continue walking down the corridor and I realise that I am not going to be allowed to visit the Jewish part of the building.

The corridor ends at an enormous room where there are two Palestinians looking and smiling at me. A third one, also smiling, approaches me, telling me with gestures to come in. However he is not pointing at the next door as I would have expected, but at a closet next to that door. He opens the door of the closet and I see a lot of capes hung from hooks, all with a hood, of very similar sizes, and all are of the very same very dark brown colour.

He grabs one of the capes and helps me to put it on. It feels as if I were suddenly in a cave, only really small, with the walls of the cave made of smooth material and sticking to my body, but a cave in the end. Also, the novelty of it makes me aware of the fact that this is not an ordinary place. Then the hood itself makes me feel, if not isolated from the world outside me, certainly more aware of my inner self.

I am also invited to leave my shoes in a corner set for it. Barefoot, I enter through the door that the seated men indicate to me.

The room in which I enter is a room dedicated to prayers. It is divided into two kinds of “sections”. One looks like a wide corridor that goes from the door I’ve used to get in here right to another door at the other side of the room, in front of me. This section is like a corridor of about five meters wide. To the right of the corridor is the wall, and on the left there is a much wider section and is covered with what looks like a thick carpet, or maybe various layers of carpets. The carpeted floor is about five centimetres higher than the floor of the corridor, which has no carpet. The carpeted part is the main part of the room and has many columns; the not carpeted part is rather just a corridor between both doors, and it doesn’t have a single column. There is no furniture, neither benches nor chairs to seat on.

I can only see men in attitude of meditation, knelt or seated on the floor, although they are all wearing street clothes. There is an acute atmosphere of meditation, and having my head covered with this brown hood, seeing everything through the opening that the hood allows, therefore having a quite more closed rank of vision than with my head uncovered, contributes to this feeling of meditation and smallness.

A question crosses my mind: why would it be unsuitable to help the men have this feeling too, with a cape and a hood?

The truth is I do not feel uncomfortable with it. In fact it makes me wonder why we don’t have this custom in other religions too, to put something special on at the door to become fully conscious of just how special the site you are going to enter is.

I feel privileged being able to visit a temple dedicated to a faith I do not belong to, in principle.

Next to the door at the end of the room there is another man who looks at me and smiles. I show him my camera while I raise my eyebrows, and he nods. In the western body language I have asked him for permission to take pictures and he has given it, and I hope this is what he understands too.

I kneel on the stair that is formed by the height difference between the two sections and all that has happened in the past weeks, mainly the last one, comes right to my head at once. I end up recalling that throughout History, how many of the greatest crimes of Humanity, continue to be committed “in the Name of God”.

My hood insists on falling off my head and I end up not caring. It falls on my back again but this time I don’t put it back on. No one seems to notice; nobody says anything.

Finally I leave the carpeted zone, I give back the cape, I put my shoes back on and go out back to the street.

Once outside, the waiting queue that I have seen before is now shorter, but a few boys are still here, waiting, since I jumped the queue. I ask them if they are detained and one says no, but adds that they have been trying to enter the mosque for two hours now and they are not allowed in. I ask the Israeli soldier and he answers without wanting to answer that he is waiting for some type of confirmation from somewhere. I wish them luck and I continue towards the street, but it seems that they have given up and they come with me. I realise they communicate by signs. The one that speaks to me say they are deaf-mute and he is the activities supervisor. Today they had wanted to go to the mosque together but they have not been allowed in. Another humiliation.

K. phones me to ask me to come home as soon as I can because a “mini kristaal natch” has happened. When I arrive home I find that we have to go to the house of a neighbour to take pictures of the damages some settlers have done to it during my absence. Basically after hearing some noise of broken glasses, they just found all the glasses of the living room window broken and glass pieces all over the floor. The vandals left the iron bar they have broken all the house windows with. Fig 33

Hebron

Saturday, 8 July 2006 2.37

Today D. and I patrol the lower street together, between the stairs and the checkpoint every one have to use to go from this neighbourhood to the rest of Hebron and vice versa.

At mid afternoon J. emerges from the checkpoint. I had not seen him since the demonstration in Bi’Lin. He had been here before, and he was one person that strongly encouraged me to come here.

After updating each other with our “adventures”, J. tells us about his doubts about what to do. His idea for this trip was to go to Egypt before going back to his country, because ever since his childhood, he has always wanted to see the pyramids. But now that he’s here, and even knowing that most probably he will never again have this opportunity, he is thinking of not going, and stay in Jerusalem instead. He wants to spend what he calls “quality time” with friends, and not go travelling through “normal” Israeli territory and walk the Egyptian desert on his own after this almost traumatic experience in Palestine, as if it had never happened, as if he could just walk around like a normal tourist.

Yet, he is worried that once at home, he will regret having missed his only opportunity to visit the pyramids that he has so much wanted to visit all his life.

We more or less agree that the ideal thing to do is usually to pay attention to one’s feelings and do whatever one feels like in as much as it is possible, and that it would probably not make much sense to travel to Egypt and risk being bitter, thinking how comfortable he would be in Jerusalem with his people.

For now J. is only passing on his way to Kawawis, which they say is not far away. He will stay there for just two or three days because there are no washing facilities there at all and then will go back to Jerusalem. He recommends me to go to Kawawis too.

Hebron

Palestine 2.36

Today I’m in the upper part of the neighbourhood. An old woman from one of the illegal settlements comes up walking shouting at every one she finds on her way.

I’m told to be careful with her, although she is not usually violent physically. It seems she is one of those who can’t understand that non-Jews are allowed to live on this land, and therefore it is necessary to make them disappear, and they feel frustrated as they can’t just do it like the Nazis did with them.

Indeed, the woman shouts at every person that crosses her path, both Palestinians and foreigners. No wonder the Palestinians fear her. It is by no means pleasant to leave home and meet some one you know is going to shout at you the minute she sees you.

One of us, C., is walking down the hill when the woman stops to talk at her. After a few minutes of listening, C. continues to walk down the hill to the street below.

Without stopping shouting, the old woman turns to us as she comes up the hill, then she sees me and starts her long list of reproaches again.

After a few steps, she’s finally close enough for me to distinguish what she’s saying: “you – are helping the people, who are destroying your civilisation! First they destroy Iran, then America – now! – Your turn!”

One of the other internationals tells me that this woman called him “German” once, with an insulting tone. “She probably meant to say ‘Nazi'”, he explains, “because for many Jews, it’s the same. I didn’t think at the time, so I only said, ‘no ma’am, I’m not German, I’m Swedish’, and she replied: ‘I’m sure you are related in some way with the Germans'”.