M. tells us that there is a huge respect in Palestine and other countries for “internationals” like us, who, M. says, leave “the comforts from your homes, your education, your work, your families, to come here and suffer with us”. He also says that he feels a lot of respect for all the martyrs, but that he feels a very special respect for Rachel [Corrie, the girl from the USA that was killed while trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home by Israeli bulldozers] and Tom [Hurndall, the boy from the UK who was killed while he was trying to protect some small Palestinian girls]. M. looks away and I get the impression that he got to know them both.

At mid morning Y. calls us to tell us there is a new martyr today, a man who was killed in the small hours of this morning and had his house destroyed. We gather our cameras to document the result of the destruction and we head to the house where all this happened.

We can still notice the smell of the smoke. There are bullet holes everywhere, a television set broken by a bullet, broken glass everywhere, smashed lamps, windows that are no longer windows but mere holes in the wall… and other holes in internal walls caused by explosions. Y. explains what he knows and then lets the man of the house speak, as he can also speak English. We are informed that the man killed did not actually live in this house, he was just visiting when the army came. So it looks like the army was following him.

Although it looks very much like the army was inside the flats destroying everything, we are told they weren’t: had they been, the telly, for instance, would not just have a bullet hole; it would have been lifted then smashed against the floor. All the destruction seen here is bullet-made.

The man tried to escape from one flat to another trying to avoid the bullets, and finally went into the garden. Once there, he was shot dead and then run over by a bulldozer, which also destroyed a wall in the garden.

The soldiers then ordered all the neighbours to get out of their flats. The neighbours, of course, complied, and, to make sure there was no one remaining in the flats, the soldiers opened fire against the walls and windows. Probably this is when all the destruction happened.

Then they ordered every one to take off their clothes. A neighbour tells us that they were left in the outside, in a cold night, with absolutely no clothes for about four hours. This neighbour complains that this man, of whatever he was guilty, had nothing to do with them, he was visiting another family and they, just for the fact of being neighbours of the visited family, were punished too. He asks us “who are the victims?” in reference to the official Israeli discourse according to which the Jews are the victims of Arab attacks.

When the men finish their explanations, I concentrate in the eyes of the women and the children who have been following us through the house, in silence. Then I wander around the rooms. An elderly woman is sitting on a bed, covering her face with her hands. She is sobbing. I leave her there, alone in her desperation, and I go to meet my colleagues.

We come back to our flat and we eat. As it seems that there are no more families requiring international accompaniment, I consider leaving from here, but I am told it is not advisable at all for a woman to travel on her own.

But these boys do not really care for us at all, and we need to accommodate our plans to theirs. I was told at the beginning of my travellings around here that it is not advisable for a woman to go out alone after dark, and the boys know this and they are also told to offer to walk with us to the internet cafe at the end of the day, without putting us in a position where we have to ask them. Even so, I have always had to ask people to go with me. Even one time, one of the blokes just left to the internet cafe without saying anything to any one and this is what he told me when I asked him to walk me: “I’m coming from there, I’m not going back there again”. Luckily I have since seen that not all international men are so selfish, in fact most of them are lovely.

It is proposed that we go to a small village where internationals have been needed for some time and I volunteer.

I set off to travel with A. and another colleague, since they say it is so dangerous for a woman to travel alone, because they are the only males going somewhere near where I am going. They are going somewhere else themselves . I ask them when they are setting off and they tell me they do not know. At a given moment, they tell me: “We are going now, are you coming or not?”

We get on a bus that we will have to leave at the checkpoint, because people are only allowed to go through the checkpoint on foot and that is why we have to change vehicles. At the end of the checkpoint there are some revolving gates through which it is very difficult to pass certain size of luggage. As we do look quite like foreign tourists, we are not asked any question and we are allowed to pass, while some four hundred have been queuing for hours. At the end of the queue, a soldier opens a Palestinian’s bag and gets everything out of it.

Once on the other side, we take a taxi and we wait for it to get full. We arrive to the city where A. and his friend are going and there I join with other people that are coming to the village I am going to.

I also speak to other women about the subject of having to depend on our “fellow” men colleagues and they tell me that they are also quite fed up of depending on the men. They have reached a point where they have been made to run risks because of them. Now they travel on their own and at least M. is quite happy with the treatment of the Palestinians. She’s not so happy about the treatment of the soldiers but they are so racist, they do not question you as long as you are not too dark. And if you say you are a tourist, then they respect you as if you were a queen.

I try to speak with the colleague that was so nice – not – but the only answer I get is “I see what you are saying. But I like making my own decisions”. The funniest thing is that this bloke has come here with a spirit of solidarity, and blah blah blah.

In normal circumstances I would decide to keep away from people like this bloke, but here, for now, I will have to continue to travel with western inpresentables like this Z. because he has decided to come to the same village as me.

They walk faster than me and I can not keep up. Very rarely they look back without stopping, to check that I still walk about twenty steps behind them. Finally we get on the first vehicle – there will be more – and we get to our first destination. It is a big city and the taxi stops various times, like the taxi that took me from the airport to Jerusalem. In one of them Z. tells me: “We are getting off the next time it stops”. “But we don’t know where it is going to stop”, I answer. He shrugs. I say, “and what about asking the driver to stop where we need?” “Go ahead”, he answers.

I begin to try to speak to the driver and while I do this, he stops. By the time I want to realise, the blokes I am supposed to be travelling with are already out of the taxi. I have two options, either get off quickly and try and continue travelling with them, or remain in the taxi on my own in a city I have never been to. I interrupt the operation of trying to reach our first destination by taxi and I get off with them. What I don’t understand is why this bloke told me to go ahead and speak to the driver if he had no intention of letting me doing it.

I ask him if he knows where we are and he says no, but that it will not be difficult to find the city centre. I tell him that all taxis stop in the city centre. “Ah, I didn’t know” (If you had at least asked.)

The routine of leaving me twenty pace behind is repeated while they ask people for directions. A man who speaks fluent English takes us to the coach station and we get on one – first vehicle change. The next one is done in the next military checkpoint.

Once on the other side, we take a taxi and we wait for it to fill up. Meantime, B. gets of the taxi mumbling something to Z. Z. mumbles something too and the other nods. Half a minute later B. comes back with two bananas and gives Z. one of them. I figure out then that when they were mumbling he was offering Z. to buy a banana for him too. Each banana has cost a shekel, about twenty pence. I tell them I’ll go buy a banana and B. says the taxi is getting full and they are not waiting. I go without a banana while they placidly eat them without offering. It reminds me of the hours I have been without eating and I begin to feel unwell.

In the next city we have half an hour until the coach we need set off. I decide I do not want to be that long with this pair of selfish guys and I venture in the surroundings. In the street there is a market with fruit and vegetables. There is a continuous noisy activity but in a given moment every one looks in the same direction, towards the end of this street, and they point to it and they speak loud. I look in that direction and I see various military men with khaki clothes and of course machine guns, some of them walking quickly. The market goes back to normality when the soldiers can no longer be seen and I concentrate in the bananas and apples I have in front of me. I ask the man who is selling them whether he speaks English and another man responds he does. I ask him for a banana and he understands that I want a kilo. After various unsuccessful attempts, I grab a loose banana and I give it to him. Then I ask for two apples and the same happens. I actually would love to buy him one or two kilos of each, but we are travelling and changing taxis and buses in each checkpoint and in each city, and carrying our luggage on our laps or next to our seats if we are lucky, so I really can not get food even for the whole journey, only the food I am going to eat right now. I ask him how much is all and he shakes his head and a hand: nothing. Excuse me? As if these people could afford go about giving their stock away. I insist and he repeats that I should not pay. I am going to like travelling on my own.

In the next city, J. joins us. He tells us that a couple of nights ago the Israeli army made yet another incursion in the village where I spent my first night with a few others, Bi’Lin, precisely to avoid a bit of what J. is telling us. For them, this time has been simply another raid to make arrests. The aim is to arrest Palestinian children that had taken part in non-violent demonstrations. It is interesting: the wall has been declared illegal by the international community – the same international community that created the Israeli state in the first place. Peaceful demonstrations are held against that wall that has been declared illegal and they are declared illegal by the Israeli state, thus mocking the same international community that created and supports it. As the demonstrations go ahead anyway, the army force or kick open people’s homes doors, with impunity. And now I learn that, to prevent these people from claiming compensations for the damages caused by these incursions, they call them “war actions”.

Says J. that the presence of about twenty activists between Israelis and internationals in the village seems to have made the soldiers think about it twice. However sixteen boys from the village were put in custody of the Israeli authorities. Some Palestinians came out of their houses to resist the detention and the invasion. After an hour of home invasions and arrests, the army left.

J. explains that there is a non-violent continuous campaign, lasting for ten months now, against the “annexation barrier”. Although this “barrier” consists of a fence (I have seen barriers consisting of three fences) of three to six metres high, with barbed wire on the top and razor wire on the ground (barbed wire in a mess). The first fence is usually either electrified or, preferably, electronically provided with sensors that will advise about any contact made with it, or any presence near it, to the control tower. The duty of the control tower when there there is any contact with this fence is to shoot to kill. In theory these barriers or fences have a function of providing the Israeli settlements with security against Palestinian terrorists – let’s remember that for the Israeli authorities all Palestinians are potential terrorists.

In reality I no longer think that the Israeli government even bothers to hide the fact that the settlements have the function of annexing more and more land to Israeli domain.

And the barriers and fences provide the triple functionality of separating the unarmed Palestinian population from the armed and mostly fanatical Israeli settlers, providing the soldiers and settlers with some excuse to shoot to kill, and showing the Palestinians the apartheid they are subjected to, with roads for Palestinians and roads for settlers, and also separating Palestinian villages from the lands they depend on for their survival.

Says J. that the campaign against this barrier in particular has the support of hundreds of Israeli and international activists and has met a fierce violence by the Israeli army. And says Z. that Israel has designed the route of this barrier in order to annex sixty per cent of the cultivated land of this village and expand the local settlement – all Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory have been declared illegal by at least one international institution: Palestine has been declared an occupation by the UN, even an illegal occupation, as apparently there are such things as legal occupations, and the Geneva Convention prohibits the establishment of civil population settlements on occupied territories by the occupying force.