Our visit a week ago on Thursday, June 27th in South Mt. Hebron was going to be a particularly happy one. With summer vacation having recently started, our son, who is 15 and half years old, and our daughter, 14 years old, could join us again to visit the area, and so did our friend, Tamar. Indeed, we arrived at Susiya as planned, around 10 o’clock in the morning, but from then on, the visit was entirely different than the one we planned and hoped for…
We were glad to meet Nasser on the path leading to the village, on horseback, and we entered the village together, Nasser’s son on the horse with him and the other kids cheerfully following. After greeting the women of the Nawajah family, which took a few minutes, suddenly entered the village a Civil Administration car and a Border Police jeep. Both stopped by the dwelling of Nasser and Eyam and two Civil Administration officers came out, accompanied by three Border policemen, armed with guns. Family members, adults and children, came out and we all gathered in front of the vehicles, anxiously waiting to see what it was all about. I asked, in Hebrew, one of the two young men who came out of the car and wasn’t in uniform: “What’s going on?” and he blurted: “Nothing.” I tried again: “What is it?” and he played the wise guy: “Why, is it forbidden to come here for a patrol?”
After a few more minutes we all understood what was going on. The two young Civil Administration officers started going around the village, stopping at nearly every tent, goats’ pen or any other construction – briefly filling out a form describing it, posing for a photograph near it, for documentation purposes, nervously clearing away whoever got in the frame, and placing the piece of paper between two big rocks next to each family dwelling. These were “cease-work” orders, which means they are the precursors of demolition orders and their subsequent implementation. I asked Nasser why “cease-work” when most of the tents or constructions are not in building stages but have been used by the villagers for quite some time? Nasser told me I am not wrong, and I realized it’s just the way of the Civil Administration (and one might say, of the occupation authorities in general) to remind the village residents that the Supreme Court proceedings (taking months already) will not interfere with manifesting domination, and also to remind them of the imminent threat of their homes’ demolition, already pending for years (for a summary and an update on the proceedings regarding the village and for a newspaper report on this event, see [http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-orders-west-bank-village-to-tear-down-tents-solar-panel-set-up-by-eu.premium-1.532369]). As is customary, the orders were not given by the Civil Administration officers personally to the owners, although the owners were standing right next to them, but were placed on rocks, as if to say: For us there aren’t any people here, just rocks.
Nasser accompanied the patrol with his video camera, so he was subjected in the beginning to reprimands and threats from the Civil Administration officers: “Don’t disturb us”, to which he answered: “I am not the one disturbing – it’s you who are disturbing us in our home, invading it.” Other residents were very anxious that such an order will reach their homes too, and indeed, when the patrol stopped by the home of Samiha and Jihad, Samiha burst out screaming and cursing, expressing her pain… we tried to calm her down and offer support: “guard your soul; you are making it harder on yourself, not on them.” But it isn’t hard to understand her feelings in those moments … in addition to the feelings of the village’s people, I was wondering what do these young men from the Civil Administration and the Border Police are feeling? Are they only obeying orders? Do they see the injustice and pain their actions are inflicting? Looking at them, it seemed they are completely detached from the events, manifesting nothing but indifference and cynicism towards the villagers – this hurt me no less, and maybe even more, than Samiha’s screams.
During that morning there were many “cease-work” orders delivered in the village: to dwellings, storages, sheep and geese pens, cisterns and the solar panels providing electricity. Finally, an order was delivered to a recently new tent used as a medical clinic near Susiya’s elementary school. The school, which was opened three years ago, had already got a demolition order a while ago. Recently, the walls have been painted, to the delight and pride of the school’s headmaster and teachers.
In each place, the orders’ messengers took photos of themselves with the forms, to document their activity, and at the same time Nasser and Ophir also documented the conduct of the Civil Administration and Border Police officials and the way they treated the locals. Sometimes the children and youngsters joined in the documenting photos, smiling and signaling “V” with their fingers, and, as my son said to me, there was a lot of strength in this gesture, more than in the screams of anger and pain.
We tried to follow the patrol of delivering orders and to visit the families for support. We sat in the home of Azzam and Wadha with Sara, their young daughter who was alone at home on that day. We sat in their pleasant bower together with two other young women – her neighbors-relatives, drinking tea and talking on what’s happened, and on other things too. For a while it seems like this is a normal and pleasant visit, and life goes on …
From afar, Ophir saw the jeep continuing to the next hill and to other dwellings in the village, and we decided we should also go and be there. The small children of Jamal and Youssuf greeted us happily. The patrol has already continued to the home of Haja Sara and a few of the family members went with it. We sat with the elderly parents and listened to their feelings: “This is our land, my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather lived here, I have land registration papers from the time of the Turks, we will never leave, although there are attempts to drive us away from our homes all the time,” so said Haj Isma’il. “We are here to be here and support you,” we said. “And we love you,” said Isma’il. “We love you too,” we replied, “and we will continue to come and be with you.”
Indeed – we will continue to visit our friends in Susiya (almost) every week, as we have been doing for a long time now. We will come when orders are delivered, when the hearing in the Supreme Court will take place, in difficult times and also in happy times…
Limor Mintz-Manor, in the name of the members of the Villages Group