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Bil’in Demonstration: 5-16-09

May 16, 2009

So, as usual, Friday morning my roommate and I headed to Bil’in, a small village outside of Ramallah where they have organized non-violent demonstrations against the wall.  The village has lost over 60% of their land to illegal settlements and the wall.  So, for the last four years, the villagers, internationals, and press walk from the mosque in the center of the village to the wall to protest the theft of their land.

My roommate and I have been going every Friday for the past three months.  Everyone who goes to the demonstrations that often is bound to get injured at some point.  I have been shot in the legs with a teargas canister, no permanent damage, just a limp and some really horrible looking bruises in the shape of teargas grenades.  My roommate was hit this Friday with a teargas canister in the ribs, luckily it didn’t do too much damage.  It knocked the wind out of him for a long time and left a bruise.  He was really lucky.  He is a photographer and has a gasmask so he is always in the front taking pictures, close to the wall and the soldiers. 

Almost a month ago, one of our friends from the village was murdered with a different kind of teargas canister (there are at least three kinds, one shaped like a cylinder, one grenade shaped, and one shaped like a bullet)–the one shaped like a bullet.  He was in the very front of the demonstration, yelling to the soldiers to stop shooting because there were internationals that were getting teargassed really badly because they went through the gate and up to the actual fence–something we used to always do but a couple months ago the soldiers started using a lot of force to keep us out of there– and they shot him from 30 meters away with a high velocity teargas canister, shaped like a bullet.  It hit him directly in the chest and made a big hole.  He died on the way to the hospital in Ramallah.

 Anyways, being at the front of the demonstration is risky, to say the least.  You never know what the soldiers are going to do, and it doesnt (IN ANY WAY) depend on what we, as demonstrators, are doing.  There could be some kids throwing stones, or all of us throwing stones, or no one throwing stones and it doesnt make any difference on what kind of ammunition they use on us.  Its decided before hand, and the soldiers just follow their orders- like good Israeli soldiers do.

This Friday, some Palestinian friends of mine decided to come to the demonstration at Bil’in for the first time.  Although they had never been to a demonstration there before, they lived through the second Intifada and have each been shot multiple times with different kinds of ammunition, and thought they were immune to teargas by this point.

Nope…haha.  Every week at the demonstrations they use a different type of teargas.  You can tell by how it affects you physically and how it looks.  First, some teargas will just make your eyes water and nose run, some affects your throat and lungs so you feel like you cant breathe, and some stings your skin.  Some does all of this, especially when they shoot “Al Thuletheeeeeen!” the thirty (or more) teargas canisters at a time cannon.  But you can see the difference in the colors of teargas as well.  Sometimes its white, sometimes yellowish.  I wouldnt be surpised if they put something extra special in it for us.  Who knows….

Anyways, they suffered from the teargas pretty badly –especially because they didnt bring a scarf to put over their faces.  This time, the soldiers used a LOT of teargas on us.  Right from the beginning of course.  They shot the 30 at a time cannon once, but luckily their aim was a little off and they missed us completely.  But they made up for it later.

They also used sound bombs and rubber bullets.

One new thing about this protest was the presence of the CATHOLICS.  “The Catholic Peace Team” to be exact.  Haha…if you didn’t know the Pope (or Al-Baba as he is now affectionately called in Palestine) came to Israel and the West Bank last week.  He saw the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem- despite the ISraelis threatening him and telling him not to go there.  He saw the wall and the effects of the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.  He called on the Israelis to stop the wall and take it down, and to give the Palestinians their own state.  He basically wants the hatred and mistrust between BELIEVING PEOPLE to stop.  No matter what their religion, we are all believers and we shouldnt be killing each other.  Im now a really big fan of the Pope. 

Anyways…so the first protest at Bil’in since the Pope came out as pro-Palestinian, the Catholics show up to protest!  They were amazing!  Usually, the first time internationals come, they run for the village when the first teargas is shot, but not the Catholics!  They were right at the front, being teargassed and everything. 

Then, when the villagers decided to end the protest and head back, the Catholics broke off across the olive tree fields and started their own protest!  I love them!  They are crazy and so brave….

So after 45 minutes or so and a lot of teargas the second part of the demonstration, the catholic protest ended and we all headed back to the village.  We had amazing food from my friend Jaber’s mom and laid out in the sun to relax after the demonstration.

Then we got some very bad news….which will be in the next post

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