Friday (or Sunday…) Post:August 2, 2009
On Thursday night, it was a Jewish holiday or maybe just anniversary of when the 2nd (I think…ahhh…) temple was destroyed. So the ultra orthodox settlers decided they were going to invade the Al Aqsa compound because that’s the site of the temples too. Since they have been doing this sporadically over the last 6 months, the Palestinians were sick of it and a sheikh called on all Muslims to gather at the mosque and protect it.
So a lot of Palestinians from the West Bank tried to go to Jerusalem, but the Israeli military closed Qalandia checkpoint (the big one between Ramallah and Jerusalem). Then they started a demonstration at Qalandia, Palestinians and internationals. My roommate was coming back from Bethlehem right in the middle of it. He had no idea what was going on.
The road back from Bethlehem goes right past Qalandia, and its usually really crowded with a lot of traffic, but Thursday the traffic was backed up all the way out of Ramallah. So he walked to find a taxi on the other side of the mess, and ended up walking through the demonstration and started taking pictures.
There were boys and men throwing stones I guess, and the soldiers were shooting teargas and rubber coated steel bullets. My roommate said it was pretty intense.
Anyways, the ultra orthodox ended up getting inside with the help of the Israeli military and police. But it seems like its really starting to piss of the Palestinians and they just keep doing this over and over. I think they are trying to provoke the Palestinians. They obviously know that the second Intifada began after Sharon forced himself into the mosque there…so I don’t know exactly what they’re doing.
My friend from Bilín, went to Jordan for a week…to check to see if the Israelis would let him out without problems. Anyways, on the way out of the West Bank to Jordan (through Allenby/King Husein Bridge, controlled of course by Israel…) he was expecting to have problems but didn’t. The point of the trip was to see if the Israelis had anything on him because he is trying to go study in the US or Europe. So instead of going through all of the months/years of hassle trying to get a visa from Israel to leave, he decided to test out his new passport on Jordan.
On the way back into the West Bank, the soldiers stopped him immediately and held him for 5 hours, interrogating him. Then they gave him a paper that said he had to go to Ofer prison (the one that all the boys arrested in Bilin have been sent to, near Ramallah) and “talk” with the Israeli military about “something”.
On the paper, they wrote his name and beside it wrote Bilín…so I think they are probably going to arrest him or else maybe try to get information from him about the boys who throw stones. But most likely, they are going to arrest him.
He is the most innocent, nice, friendly, helpful, nonviolent person I have ever met. All you would have to do is look at his eyes to see he would never do anything to hurt anyone. But because he is a young male Palestinian who lives in Bilin and sometimes goes to demonstrations –and DOESN’T even throw stones—he might be arrested for 3 or 4 months, maybe more.
And its not just that he might be arrested, its everything that goes along with being in an Israeli prison. Beatings, torture, and general unpleasantness. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do that to my friend, but I know they will. I have heard enough stories about prison from my dozens of Palestinian friends who have gone through that.
Horrible. He is going to “talk” to them on the 5th, and he doesn’t want any of us to come with him. So I guess its up to God to protect him. Hmm…
Anyways, on Friday in Bilín there was a big crowd, over a hundred for sure. Maybe two hundred, Im horrible at measuring the size of a crowd. Anyways, most were internationals, Italians actually. The Jab As-sha’abiyya, the Palestinian communist political party, organized a demonstration combined with a communist group from Italy. So we had a really big demonstration that day.
First, we marched to the wall and the leaders gave speeches and made sure there were no kids throwing stones so they could finish the speech without getting teargassed. By some miracle, the Israelis let them finish their speeches in relative peace.
But afterwards they shot the Darban water at the crowd. It was horrible…like a skunk, sulfur, shit, and rotting animal mixture. This definitely can’t be a legal form of crowd dispersion—but hey, its Israel and when did they ever care about rules and laws. Hmm..
So they shot that, and we lost some of the protestors who went back to the village. Then a little while later they shot the teargas cannon. While the protesters (the Italians had never been the Bilin before, and had no idea about the cannon) were trying to figure out what was going on and where to run, the Israeli soldiers opened the fence and charged at the demonstrators.
I was near the back at this point, thank God, and just noticed that their escape was unusually stampede-like. So I had to run to get out of their way, people were really just blindly running and scared out of their minds.
After the teargas cloud dissipated, the soldiers went back to their side—but I think they arrested at least one person. Maybe they let them go at the end, Im not sure.
After the teargas cannon, they organizers from the village decided to end the protest. A lot of the Italians were really in bad shape after the teargas cannon because they didn’t know how to react and to not breathe. Ha. So we all made the hot, tired walk back to the village (uphill of course, ahaha).