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Stories from the Second Intifada…

October 28, 2009

Before I start the stories, I want to talk about one thing first.  When I was in the Old City of Jerusalem the other day (see Craziest Day Ever post…hahah) I was in a side street with my roommate and some Palestinian kids when large metal objects, rocks, and glass started falling around us. 

We looked up to the top of the roof and there was a man in a mask and regular clothes, throwing stuff at us.  The little boys we were with started shouting to him “We’re Arabs like you, We’re with you, Stop throwing stuff at us!”  But he kept throwing stuff at us, and I was really confused for a while.

Then some friends back in Ramallah were talking about the Al Aqsa clashes and how there were Israeli soldiers undercover who sneak into the Palestinian group and throw stones at the Israeli soldiers, to heat things up and maybe make the Palestinians throw stones and things when they wouldn’t have otherwise.  Then, as soon as these undercover (mustaghribeen, spelling??) Israeli military guys throw stones at the Israeli soldiers, the soldiers can use any force they want to against the Palestinians.

That’s fucked up.

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Second Intifada:

A colleague from work was telling me a story about what happened to the brother of a friends of hers during the second intifada.

He was a teenager, maybe 16 or 17 at the time, and was throwing stones like most other youths during that violent time.  The Israelis caught him and some other the other boys he was with and arrested all of them.

During the trial, when the judge walked in the entire courtroom stood up, like you would in any courtroom to show respect to the judge.  The only one who didnt stand up was this girls brother.

The Israelis told him to stand up. When he refused, they asked him why.

“Why should I stand up to greet my occupiers?” He replied.

All of the other boys who were arrested along with him were given the normal 3-6 month sentence for throwing stones (ridiculous sentence anyway). 

He, on the other hand, is STILL in prison–over 5 years later.

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Another friend , Tariq, from Ramallah was telling me stories about the second intifada last night.

When the Israelis entered Ramallah for the first time in the 2nd Intifada, he said that no one was ready for it. 

Everyone was terrified and had no idea what to expect when the HUGE merkava tanks started rolling into the city.  People would talk about the two mustaghribeen *undercover Israeli military* that had infiltrated the Ramallah police station, then been discovered to be Israeli special forces, and basically got torn apart by a mob.  This was the event that  basically caused the Israeli invasion of Ramallah…

Everyone knew that the Israelis were going to be pissed and that they were going to fuck up Ramallah.  So people were so worried that they just talked and gossipped and told stories of what they thought the Israelis were going to do to them when they came in, what weapons they were going to use, how many people would they kill, how many buildings they would destroy…..people were talking so much that they were just making the situation worse and more scary…

Tariqs family owns a supermarket in Masyoun district and they live in an appartment in the same building. He said that one morning he looked out his window at the “empty lot” they have next to the building, and it had turned into a merkava tank parking lot over night.  

The Israelis had come in to Ramallah, were using that parking lot for their tanks, and had taken over every other building around but theirs.  There were snipers on the roofs and everything.

They decided to move down to the second house….only a couple blocks away but definately not tank parking lot adjacent.

One day, they were watching the news, as usual, and saw video of merkavas rolling up to the electricity towers in Ramallah.  Then the tank just rolled over the tower, destroying it.  But they knew if that was happening live, that they wouldnt have electricity for long.  All of a sudden, the TV turned off and they lost electricity.  It didnt turn back on for almost a month.

Soon after this, Tariq heard his first missile strike.  He said the sound scared him so much he hid under the table, and the missile strike was on the center of the city, not even near where he was.  But he said it was so deafening and scary when you hadn’t heard it before.

He saw and heard lots of different types of ammunition and missiles being fired after that.  He said that by the end everyone could tell the different between bullet sizes, and by the explosion of a missile they could tell where it was, how much damage it could do, and if they needed to be worried. 

A helicopter was near their house one time, and fired a missile.  Tariq could see it being fired, and the noise was really loud.  But he wasnt worried because he knew by that point if they were firing it from here, it would be landing somewhere in Betunia (20 minutes away by car). 

One time, on the street that goes in front of their house, there was a clash between some Palestinian militia with Ak 47s and a merkavah.  He said the AKs sounded like crackling noises, like “ting ting ting ting” and then the makhavah fired at the Palestinians, a huge missile and it was a huge BOOOOOOOM! that shook the house.  After that he never understood why the Palestinians even bothered shooting.

During the long curfews, that lasted for days and weeks sometimes, they would have to stay inside with no electricity–no tv, no music, no nothing….so one day, Tariqs Dad and Uncle decided to break the curfew and go out in their own front yard. 

 They were just sitting there, with nothing to do, so they were eating some kind of nut thats hard to break open.  They were just sitting there, breaking nuts, when they heard the sound of a tank rolling down the street.  They were too terrified to move and try to get back in the house, so they decided their best bet was just to sit there, and continue doing exactly what they were doing–breaking nuts.

So they did….and the tank rolls by them.  When the merkava was next to them, the exhaust pipe blows this really strong wind that blew dirt and mud and leaves all over them, then the tank stopped right beside them.  They were so afraid they just kept breaking the nuts.

An Israeli soldiers popped his head out of the top of the tank to see what they were doing.  When he realized they were breaking nuts, he looked confused, then jumped back in the tank and continued rolling down the street. 

Another night during the curfew, they were all bored sitting in the house with nothing to do but listen to their battery-powered radio.  All of a sudden, on the radio show, they hear the people who live next door talking.  They’re saying they have been kidnapped by the Israeli military and they put the two families into one tiny room of the house and the soldiers took over the rest of the house.

My friend and his family were like “shhhhhhiiiit”….and the next day they could see snipers on all of the roofs of the buildings around them. 

The next day, they started getting lots of calls from friends and family who knew they were living right in the middle of this whole Israeli mess.  Tariq said old friends and teachers called who he hadnt talked to in years, even his headmaster from school called–and he thought the guy hated him–haha.  And they would have long conversations on the phone all day because there was nothing else to do in the curfews.

Luckily, the soldiers  never came to take over their house.  One morning, his mom went outside onto the back patio and saw a lot of muddy footprints. And she always kept everything really clean, so they realized the soldiers were going through their yard to get to the houses they had taken over.

One time, someone sent out a message on the Palestinian radio station that people could hear on their battery radios, telling everyone to break curfew at a certain time that night, go outside their houses and bang on pans or anything that would make a lot of noise. 

So at that time, everyone went outside and banged on pots and pans. Since so many people were doing it, the noise was deafening, all around Ramallah. And for that night, all of the Israeli soldiers left the city because they couldnt stand the noise!

Another time, his dad and uncle broke the curfew again because they didnt have any food in the house. 

When the Israeli military started the curfew, they didnt give the people any time to go out and buy food.  So they would constantly be running out of food, and have to risk their lives to break curfew and search for anyone that was selling food.

They heard about a bakery in Kadura refugee camp down the road that was still selling bread–and in large quantities.  So they brought a wheelbarrow down there to get as much bread as they could carry back to the house and to the neighbors.  On the way back up the street, they heard the tanks coming.

At that moment, a Red Cross jeep drove past them.  They thought to themselves, ‘thank god’,  waved it down and asked if they could have a ride up the block because the soldiers would take their bread and maybe arrest or kill them for breaking the curfew.  The Red Cross said “NO.” and drove off. 

That pretty much destroyed their trust in “humanitarian agencies” at that point….they were supposed to be the ‘good guys’ and they wouldnt even give them a ride up the block.

Despite all of the violence and craziness, Tariq remembers this time as a ‘nice’ time because he didnt have to go to school or anything.  He stopped being scared after the first couple days, first couple missile strikes, first couple times tanks rolled by their house. 

So he knew what to do to stay safe.  He said his mom didnt force him or his brother and sister to study or do homework, because she didnt have any hope that the situation would end any time soon…

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