Please, just skip this first paragraph if you get the idea: crossing into Palestine is not easy. Somehow I feel it’s important to share this crossing that so many Palestinians go through unheard of. At the Allenby bridge us and our bags are searched, then our passports are checked & we receive a white card. We get on a bus, and drive about 5 metres to stop at a gate. Someone collects half of our white cards. About 5 min down the road we stop at an Israeli check. A soldier takes the other half of our white cards, and everyone evacuates the bus, carrying not even our purses. A young soldier searches. Again we drive and we’re at the Israeli border. Our bags and our passports are checked a 2nd time. In the next room our passports are checked a 3rd time and stamped. The lady at the counter takes mine and disappears without a word, leaving our lineup waiting. Last time this happened, it took 4 hours. This time I’m luckier. I move on and our passports are checked a 4th time for if they order a search. Then, our passports are checked a 5th time, and we collect our suitcases if they haven’t been seized, and go through another metal detector. I took a bus to Areeha and at arrival had my bags, and my passport checked, but I’ve lost count. From there I took a shared taxi. On the way we waited through a checkpoint, and passed through another. And then, like Mourid Barghouti, I Saw Ramallah…
From the plane I saw Ramallah. The little girl beside me thought it was snow, because all the buildings are built with a beautiful white stone. On the way to Ramallah we passed through a town where they excavate this stone. The white dust was in the air and entered the creak in our windows like the remnants of an explosion – a thick white cloud. Everything, literally everything, in the town was white. The trees even. White as snow.
Today I went to ISM training. We covered how to confront soldiers that won’t let us into orchards because it is a “closed military zone” and how to check the official documents because the soldiers do tend to say so without an actual permit.
We talked about the weapons used against protesters, among them a siren that propells a loud screech in a certain direction (away from the soldiers) and which can cause you to pass out/damage your ears; “skunk water” which smells like a mixture of shit and dead animals and will force you to burn your clothes and shower constantly for 3 days.
Our coordinator tells us of a man in Hebron who was attacked by Israeli settlers who sprayed him with a gas that caused him convulsions, and temporary blindness – a nerve gas perhaps. The Israeli army confiscated it but refused to give the doctors information about the chemical agent used. Read about it here: Israeli Military Conceals Information About Possible Nerve Agent Used by Illegal, Violent Settlers.
At a meeting later, people based in different towns reported on the conditions. We hear similar stories: settlers burning trees, attacking farmers; the Israeli military demolishing houses, uprooting trees. In Nablus 2 university girls were attacked by settlers who broke one of the girls’ leg in two places, her hip, and her arm. In Hebron, a settler attacked a shepherd’s sheep and the shepherd was arrested, detained, and fined. His story & pics here: Extremist Settler Attacks Shepherd and Brutally Abuses Flock.
We are trying to figure out how we can help farmers harvest their olives, avoiding harassment from settlers. Soldiers are supposed to protect civilians from the attacks of radical settlers – but it’s common to find complacent soldiers, and the settlers are rarely charged. The experienced ones tell us we may achieve half of what we plan.
By the way, the articles I’ve linked are written by other ISM volunteers. Be a witness to them!