It is summer vacation for the children in the West Bank, and the summer camp in Umm al-Kheir has already started.
Nadav and I go there to experience the small pleasures of people and children, our long time friends, who are living in the shadow of the occupation, and under constant threat of demolitions and violence.
With minimal facilities, on a voluntary basis, and not without arguing among themselves on contents (as every living breathing society with problems from within, even without the occupation from without), they manage to hold an exciting summer camp for children. How precious are moments of joy in poverty’s dwellings.
This time no soldier stopped us and said we cannot pass because a certain area was suddenly declared a closed military zone; we didn’t receive notice on a Palestinian girl whose head was injured from a stone shot from a settler’s slingshot; no girls were stopped on their way from school just because of a settler’s false story. Today, such happenings, which occur almost daily in south Mt. Hebron, did not happen.
But something is bound to happen, if not in the Occupied Territories, beyond the Green Line, than within the Green Line, where the people of al-Araqib, Nadav and I all have the same citizenship, so say our blue identity cards. But when Nadav and I reached the road leading to the cemetery of al-Araqib, the current stronghold of the living residents, we were met with a police force, armed for battle, asking us who we were.
“I am Nadav from Kibbutz Urim, and this is Erella from Kibbutz Shoval, and we are neighbors and wish to visit our friends.”
“This is a closed police zone,” answered the policeman. “Power shovels are working here and we are guarding to keep the citizens safe, so they won’t get hurt.” Nadav asks to see a paper testifying this is a closed area.
The policemen start losing their patience, start responding aggressively to a legitimate request of a citizen. Nadav asks the policeman to call his commander. The policeman says he doesn’t have the phone number. Nadav asks for the policeman’s details. The policeman hands Nadav his Police ID. Immediately afterwards they ask us for identifying certificates. It takes time until we get them back. The policemen talk to us all at once and some of them aggressively, in a way not fitting civil servants.
The Bedouin village of Al-Araqib is besieged, and its remaining residents – citizens of the state of Israel – are expelled and discriminated by law and defined as state enemies (http://mondoweiss.net/2014/06/bedouin-demolished-proceedings.html). At the very same time, the implementers of this unlawful law (some of them Bedouins serving in the Police) tell the sweet story of protecting civilians from the blow of the power shovel. And when the citizen doesn’t really buy into this manipulation, then he as well turns into a dangerous enemy.
We drove away. We did not reach the people of Al-Araqib. We did not strengthen their hands. And our hands? They weakened. Our heart, that has room to contain the pain of the other, has been defeated. (Not that we didn’t know this from the start.) The harshness of the heart won yet again. Sad. Painful. Facing human ignorance that we are unable to change, all we can do is lick the burning wounds of helplessness.
Nadav and Erella.