Demonstrating to mark ‘Al Nakba’ and setting off as usual with chanting and singing, villagers and internationals made their way to the hillside overlooking al Qus spring.
This spring is owned by Bashir Tamimi but, since 2009, only settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish are allowed use to use it. It is either ‘policed’ by settlers or the army and villagers are physically prevented from going there. Only two days previously Nariman and her husband Bassem had tried to visit the spring with a journalist but were almost immediately confronted by ten armed settlers from Halamish. Bassem said that a verbal confrontation ensued and, although they stayed calm, it escalated into them being pushed around and so they decided to leave before any physical harm was done.
Today, some villagers walked down to the spring already guarded by the Israeli Occupation Forces. I stayed with other internationals on the hilltop and soon the soldiers on the hill started shooting tear gas. The dry grass caught fire (this is when the battery in my camera ran out must remember to charge it before I leave!) and started spreading quite rapidly….
Some villagers attempted to put out the fire whilst the soldiers stood by and shouted ‘May your village burn!’ in Hebrew, which was translated for us by an Israeli activist.
More soldiers appeared and, as we seemed to be surrounded, we walked back to the village. And yes we were ‘captured’. We were videoed throughout the detention by a young woman soldier, but of course we did not film the soldiers or settlers so as to avoid provocation. Quite politely passports were demanded, I did not have mine (!) I did offer a credit card but this was met with a tut. I think they were mainly interested in the Israeli activists who come to Nabi Saleh every Friday. After about 20 minutes of being ‘corralled’ we were asked to leave the village…which is an impossibility anyway as it is under curfew. And so when the coast was clear we made our way back to Naji and Boshra’s
Again the skunk tank entered the village to spray the vile liquid on all houses it can reach.This is a sort of collective punishment as not all of the villagers join the protest. And certainly no questions are asked about whose house is whose. At least the petrol station was spared this week; I think the owner is getting really peed off, on the one hand his ice cream sales go up on Fridays but the stench must have an negative effect on petrol sales from passing trade!
So we sit and chat, kick the football around, analyse the afternoon events and wait for the soldiers to leave for Shabbat.
I can stay at Nabi Saleh but I feel the need to return to the Ramallah bubble to process the afternoon’s experience. I have come more than accustomed to the demonstrations and, apart from not wanting be injured, am not fazed by close contact with the army. But there is a numbing effect, however hard these people struggle nothing changes. I know that they are feeling the same way and reviewing their tactics; but in a month or so I will be gone and they will still be struggling…..
Bilal has a jerkin with the slogan:
“We will not die silence” …..their voices really need to be heard more.