Golani Brigade in Hebron/al-Khalil. (Photo: Alternative Information Center)
Friday, March 9: first full day on team
On the way to join Friday prayers at a protest tent in Tel Rumeida, three of us stopped to stand with a Palestinian man who was being detained by a soldier on Shuhada Street near Beit Hadassah, an Israeli settlement. The soldier immediately said to us, "Go, you cannot stay here!". We told him it was our job to stay until he released the man. At that, he threatened to arrest us. We said "OK, call the police if you like. We are not leaving." He picked up his phone, then immediately gave the Palestinian his ID back so he could go on his way. We left.
(Note: Soldiers cannot arrest internationals, they have to call the Israeli police to make the arrests).
We learned that one and a half hours after we were on Shuhada Street, two women from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) were assaulted by settler men. One woman was punched in the face, the other was pushed to the ground, and had wine poured over her while soldiers stood by and did not intervene.
The protest tent was set up after a car owned by the Abu Heikal family was set afire by settlers while soldiers watched. The family filed over 200 complaints with the Israeli police, but has received no response to date. A female member of the family fasted for forty days in the protest tent.
On mats scattered on the ground, 50 plus men and youth with hands held toward the sky offered praise to Allah and implored Allah's aid. As we watched from the tent, we were moved by their implicit trust in their God. After prayers, a friend translated the imam's message for us. He thanked the people for their steadfastness, talked about the IDF's escalation of violence—the 16 year old boy who was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier in Yatta village in the south Hebron Hills and the two 11 year olds who were killed by an unexploded ordinance left by IDF soldiers in Sa'ir village near Hebron.
In the afternoon, Hamed Qawasmeh from the UN, invited the Christian Peacemaker Team and ISM for lunch to thank them for the report about the Golani Brigade's abuses of Hebron Palestinians. We have had word from the U.S. Consulate and TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron, an NGO created by the Olso Peace Process) that the Golanis will be leaving in a few dates. They were supposed to be here until the end of May. Il'humdilla (thanks be to God) !!!
Saturday, March 10
Every Saturday there is a "settler tour". 100 plus Israeli settlers and their invited guests come through the Old City where our Palestinian friends live. The Israelis are escorted by a like number of IDF soldiers. I call this a "real estate tour" because they stop and ooh and ahh at the beautiful rehabilitation work that has been done by the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC). There is no doubt they expect to take ALL of Hebron's Old City.
During this "tour", the Palestinian residents are not permitted to walk to or from their homes. We follow the soldiers to observe that Palestinians are not mistreated. At one point, we yelled at a soldier to stop pointing his gun at us, and others who were waiting to pass. A small Palestinian girl walked by me and suddenly became aware of the soldiers—she almost walked right up to a soldier's gun. She looked up at him and wailed, crying for her mama. I took her hand and began to walk with her to look for her mother or someone who might know her. We waited until finally a young girl (maybe her sister) picked her up. Later, I thought about the soldier and wondered if his heart was moved when he saw the beautiful little Palestinian girl terrified of him and his gun.
We hosted two lovely guests for the night. I took them on a tour of the old city and they were amazed at the friendliness and hospitality of our friends in the souq (market).
Around 9:30pm, soldiers knocked down the door of the Palestinian Municipality Inspectors Office, which is across the street from us. They detained two of the men, took them to Beit Hadassah where they beat them badly. After the men were released around midnight, they went to the hospital for treatment of their injuries.