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the wall

One foot in, one foot out – a tour of a Palestinian village

Today I took a walk through a friend’s village near Bethlehem. The sky was blue and spotted with clouds. It was chilly but the sun peaked through with surprising radiance.

First, he (let’s call him Ahmed) showed me a 4×4 inch cement track that follows one entire length of the village, coming within yards of the school. This tiny bit of cement will, maybe within the year, become part of The Wall built by Israel in this case to separate their settlement from the Palestinian village nearby.

We walked up a dirt road to two demolished houses, the foundation of one home holding the remains of its former walls. The army demolished the houses, saying they posed a security threat. One family lived in a tent for a few months before building a new house.

Standing on top of the rubble, I saw the huge Israeli settlement homes looming above on the highest, closest hill. The houses looked huge and stable, capped with the ubiquitous red roof, a characteristic of Israeli settlement buildings.

We retraced our steps and walked the other way towards the paved settler-road to take pictures of the village from above.

The entire time we walked, the cement track followed us. Ahmed stood with each foot on either side of it, “One day, my left foot won’t be allowed in this spot,” he said.

He hesitated for just a second before we had walked up this hill. He wasn’t supposed to walk on it. He said, “If soldiers come, they all know me by name. We will just run to the Palestinian side.”

Once we reached the top of the hill, Ahmed pointed to three Israeli security cameras. All were pointed at us.

Each time I hear a story like Ahmed’s: homes demolished, livelihood wrecked, school children at risk, land taken, I consider my own family.

If it were my mother’s home being demolished or my brother being harassed daily by soldiers younger than him who haphazardly tote machine guns at their side, I’m not sure how I would react.

Would I try to defend them with violence?

Would I become depressed and feel hopeless?

Would I write about my situation, try to tell the world my story?

I don’t know what I would do, and I believe no one should have to answer this question. But I do know hundreds of Palestinians who have to respond to this question daily.

To read how “Ahmed” and his village have responded, click here.

The walls are closing in

Today I sat in an auditorium full of Nablusi’s and Internationals, all watching the film To Shoot an Elephant, about the Israeli siege on Gaza. To my right, was my friend Ayyash, an activist who lives in Balata Camp. He translated some things for me and, having seen the movie a few times before, predicted some of the most horrific scenes as I shook with tears.

Watching a movie about Gaza while in the West Bank is surreal. The Palestinians sitting next to me cannot go to Gaza, and it would be extraordinarily difficult for me to get in. They are blocked by highways they cannot use, randomly erected checkpoints, machine guns wielded by 18-year-old Israeli’s with dreadlocks, an enormous wall, an identity card that clearly delineates where they are and are not allowed to go.

Today Netanyahu announced that the moratorium on settlement building would not be extended. I heard Palestinians talk about whether this would bring a third intifada. I heard about escalated violence. I felt the walls surrounding the people I love close around us.

Their land has slowly been taken away for years. My country has helped fund this. And now, though America is the top funder of the Israeli occupation, we seem to believe we can lead peace talks between Israel and Palestine.  I wait in anticipation from the West Bank.

I have witnessed the occupation.

Palestinians have a different colored license plate than Israeli’s. The white plates can only drive on designated roads. The yellow plates can go anywhere. This is an occupation.

The other evening my friend pointed out the Mediterranean Sea in the distance. “We cannot go there, of course,” she said. Another friend remembered going there back in 1998. Though it’s about 2 kilometers away, Palestinians do not have access to the coast. This is an occupation.

I went to dinner at a friend’s house and watched olive trees burn. Settlers had set fire to them. The Israeli army drove by and did nothing. This is an occupation.

Since I’ve been here, four residents of Iraq Burin, a village a few minutes from Nablus, have been arbitrarily arrested. Two of them young men, and two of them village council members. The people in this village are farmers. They have lived there for years. Israeli’s have stolen their land, burned their trees, and recently killed two of the young men in the village (16 and 19).  This is an occupation.

One of my 16-year-old students was late for class because a surprise checkpoint was erected on the way from her home to school. This is an occupation.

Yesterday my boyfriend had to run away from soldiers. This is an occupation.

One of my friends was arrested last week for being affiliated with Hamas. He’s in a PA prison in Nablus, but I don’t know when he’ll get out. Maybe, hopefully, in a few days. This is an occupation.