23rd November 2012, ‘Remembering the Martyrs’
The weather has changed, winter has finally come to the West Bank, it’s pouring cats and dogs. The protesters gather and the mood is warm and welcoming as usual, but there is a more sombre atmosphere today as the demonstration is commemorating the deaths of Rusdhi Tamimi, shot by an Israeli soldier at last Friday’s demonstration, and from the same family Mustafa Tamimi, killed in Nabi Saleh on December 10 2011 when a tear gas canister was shot at his face.
The Israeli activists have come in force this week, defying the Military Orders recently served at 3am at their homes in Israel, forbidding them to come to ‘closed military zones’ in the West Bank. This is what the village becomes on a Friday…..totally disallowing the villagers their human right to peacefully protest against the Occupation, and the theft of their land and water.
We set off on what is always a very short march, The Palestinian flags wave, pictures of Rushdi and Mustafa carried with front, chanting and singing nationalist songs.
I say short because as usual, it will be stopped with tear gas, skunk water and, later rubber bullets. Of course the live ammunition that killed Rushdi is used as well, but normally only after the shabab have replied to the onslaught of the Israeli Occupation Forces with stones from their slingshots.
And that is exactly what happened today. The terrain is hilly, we march down the Main Street and turn the corner knowing round the next bend, hidden by a hill, the Israeli Occupation Forces are ready with the ‘skunk tank’ and armoured jeeps. There are fewer soldiers today, perhaps they are still hanging out on the Gaza border. They soldiers spray skunk water at the protesters, they fire tear gas, and then most people run back up the hill. All except the shabab, for the Israeli attack is their signal to start using their slingshots.
It is almost ritualistic. Observers have a grandstand view of the shabab running up and down the hills, dodging the plumes of tear gas and occasionally lobbing the odd canister that’s come their way, back towards the IOF. As usual, the soldiers don’t seem to move much, rarely giving chase. But they move their jeeps around, and when they do come forward we move again to minimise the effects of the tear gas. The shabab are always regrouping and coming from different angles. Their sling shot accuracy is very poor and seldom does a stone actually hit anyone!
After about an hour of this cat and mouse game, we return to Nargi and Boshra Tamimi’s house for coffee, soft drinks and solidarity chat. The sling shot shebabs turn up and behave just like teenagers normally do, having jokes and mucking around. The Tamimi youngsters, who always attend the demos, are clearing up the rain sodden patio areas, before finishing their homework ready for school or college on Monday.
The whole scenario is so domestic, the demos being slotted into a normal routine, (or as normal as it can be living under occupation). The highly trained Israeli army have returned for Shabbat, having proved, once again, they are really good at suppressing the village’s non violent demos but not their spirit.
The funeral for Rusdhi Tamimi as held in Ramallah last week.