Posts Tagged ‘jerusalem’


Legalizing the Jerusalem Lie

July 1, 2010

A great article written by a friend of mine who works for Palestine Monitor (

Three months after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “spat in Obama’s eye” by timing high-level diplomatic visits with the announcement of sweeping development plans in East Jerusalem, the city is about to codify into law an even more ambitious master plan for taking over the entire heart of the stateless Palestinian nation. And once again, Bibi is off to Washington.

In symbolic microcosm, construction began this past weekend on the controversial grounds of the Shepherd Hotel. The compound lies in the traditionally Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, on the Palestinian side of the green line in Jerusalem, just north of the old city. The hotel itself was considered property of the Jordanian authority (having passed from the erstwhile ownership of the Grand Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini) until it was purchased in 1985 by Irving Moskowitz, a wealthy American Jew and a major financier of the Israeli settler movement.

In the wake of dramatic 2008-2009 settlement activity in Sheikh Jarrah — recall that several Palestinian families are now living in tents outside their former homes while protected Israeli settlers sleep inside — plans were floated to construct 20 Jewish-only housing units on the large property of the Shepherd Hotel. The plan was met with international condemnation and was silenced more than once, but it never went away. On Sunday, construction work began. The new development will see upwards of one hundred Israelis wedged into the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem.

“You see, they want all Sheikh Jarrah,” says local resident Muhammad Sabagh. Muhammad has problems of his own, because a legal claim against his house is currently grinding through the Israeli courts. He hopes to be luckier than some of his now-homeless neighbors. “We don’t accept settlers in our neighborhood,” he says.

On Tuesday afternoon, there was no activity at the hotel site. A security guard present said that construction work had never begun. The heavy-duty digging activity on the weekend, he explained, was just to test the support strength of the ground.

For decades, East Jerusalem has been the intended capital of a future Palestinian state, but in recent months, Israeli officials have pumped up the volume on their propaganda slogan that all Jerusalem is “open and undivided.” In this view, the east-west distinction is no longer relevant, and Israelis should be able to build and develop on the occupied Palestinian side as freely as they do on the Israeli side.

In a statement issued this week, city officials cleverly obfuscated, “Just like any other municipality in Israel, Jerusalem Municipality hands out building permits in the entire city based on their compliance with professional criteria only, and without checking religion, race, or sex, which is against the law.”

This statement, however, includes a massive lie of omission, because it implies that Palestinians have equal building rights. While the city may not discriminate on “religion, race, or sex, which is against the law,” they in fact discriminate on the basis of citizenship. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem have been deemed “permanent residents” by Israeli authorities but specifically excluded from citizenship. This distinction is crucial because only citizens can legally obtain building rights from the Israeli Land Administration, which has jurisdiction over most of the city’s residential landscape — both East and West Jerusalem.

As a report issued by an Israeli non-profit organization, Ir Amim, concluded: “Of all the land designated for housing development in West Jerusalem and in the Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem [35,000 dunams], at least 79% [27,642 dunams] is ILA land, and therefore theoretically off limits to the city’s Palestinian residents.”

This means that outside of traditional Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, Palestinians have the official legal basis for building or owning in just 20 percent of combined Jerusalem by virtue of their non-citizen status. And within that sliver of the city, along with their own already inhabited neighborhoods, obtaining legal permits is notoriously difficult, both financially and bureaucratically.

As important as these details are, we must be careful not to lose the forest for the leaves. The fact is that Israel holds East Jerusalem by occupation, taken by force in the war of 1967. Like the rest of the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem was never meant to be a part of any Israeli state. Under international law, to which Israel is bound as a signatory, the transfer of civilian population into occupied territory is a war crime. East Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians.

Despite this inconvenient truth, just this week, the city’s right-wing Israeli Jerusalem Municipality approved a provocative and self-styled “Master Plan” for urban development. The new document codifies into law the formerly talking-point view that Jerusalem is “open and undivided,” providing the legal framework for unlimited Israeli expansion in occupied East Jerusalem.

Under the new arrangement, projects like the Shepherd Hotel compound in Sheikh Jarrah would require no special authorization. There would be no difference between East and West Jerusalem.

Further, the plan appears to allow residential development on previously protected land. In the past, Israel has softened the perception of its appropriation of Palestinian territory by declaring certain areas off-limits to housing development of any kind. Now even these so-called “green areas” are fair game, rendering many previous points of contention irrelevant.

For example, according to Israel’s daily newspaper Haaretz, “Despite the National Planning and Building Committee’s decision to designate the City of David – which sits in the heart of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan – as ‘a national park,’ the new master plan allows for the construction of residential units in the area.” So while Israel buttered the Silwan bulldozing announcement with promises that Israeli settlers would not move into the cleared neighborhood, the lie has been revealed.

Under the false banner that Jerusalem is “open and undivided,” the peace-killing initiatives underway in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan will become the new normal and predictably the basis of tomorrow’s bloody conflicts.

There may be a prospect that America will reign in its rogue state, to reign in its rogue municipality, but even with Israel’s premier knocking on Obama’s door, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Michael J Carpenter is a post-graduate student of the University of Victoria in Canada with a special focus on human rights and security issues, currently residing in Ramallah.


Silwan Clashes

June 28, 2010

Palestinian protestors clashed with Israeli Border Police officers near Jewish settlements in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan yesterday.

What began as a confrontation between Palestinian residents and the settlers’ security guards escalated into a face-off between 150 Palestinians and Israeli Border Police officers. At the height of the clashes, the Israeli Border Police used teargas, rubber coated steel bullets, sound bombs, and reportedly even live ammunition against the Palestinian demonstrators and the boys who were throwing stones.

The Israeli Border Police shot teargas into Palestinian homes, breaking windows and injuring dozens of women and children with teargas inhalation, causing several to faint.

20 Palestinians needed medical attention for teargas inhalation, one Palestinian was reportedly injured by live ammunition, and several were hit with teargas canisters—all of whom had to be treated at the scene because the Israeli Border Police would not let the ambulances leave.

Several Border Police were injured by stones.

These clashes were a continuation of the demonstrations that began on Friday in response to the decision by the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, to approve the demolition of 22 Palestinians homes in the Silwan area to make room for a tourist park.

On Friday afternoon, the Sheikh Jarrah protests (another Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem that is facing house demolition orders in order to make room for Jewish settlements) merged with the Silwan protests. Over 500 Palestinians, Internationals, and Israelis demonstrated against the demolition orders.

The neighborhood of Silwan is particularly contentious because it is located on top of the ancient remains of the 3000 year old City of David.  Israeli settlements have been built in the middle of this Palestinian neighborhood in an effort to slowly Judaize the area and Jewish development companies have funded archaeological digging in areas where Palestinian buildings once stood.


Weekly Update:

April 4, 2010

Easter Weekend, Jerusalem:

 I went to Jerusalem on Good Friday, instead of the usual demonstrations in Bil’in or Nabe Saleh­­­. Christians from all over the world came to Jerusalem for Easter weekend. I saw West Africans in bright yellow printed clothes, Ethiopians with the white veils, Russian Orthodox, Catholic priests, and Western Christians from Europe and America. There were almost as many photographers as pilgrims there to catch the processions up the Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross).

 Who wasn’t there?

 Palestinian Christians:

 Out of all the nationalities and cultures of Christians from around the world, one was missing. And they LIVE just minutes away from Jerusalem—the Palestinian Christians. About 7% of Palestinians are Christians, and they are often overlooked because most people assume that Palestinians are all Muslims. But these Palestinians are the descendents of the people who were likely to have known Jesus 2,000 years ago. They could be his descendents. But the Israeli authorities would not allow them to leave the West Bank to celebrate the holiday with the rest of the world’s Christians. Shame on them.

 This year was kind of a perfect storm of religious holidays. Because some religious sects use the lunar calendar instead of the western calendar, the dates of Easter and Passover change by a few days a year. This year, the Orthodox Easter, Catholic Easter, and Passover coincided. When there is a Jewish holiday, the Israeli authorities usually close the West Bank—they do not allow Palestinians, even those with Jerusalem IDs which are supposed to allow them to cross the checkpoints into Israel, to leave the West Bank until their holiday is over. Passover is about a week long—during this time, only emergency situations can allow a Palestinian to leave the West Bank. This doesn’t include partaking in the Easter celebrations in Jerusalem.

 Palm Sunday Detainees:

 On Palm Sunday last week, there was a large nonviolent demonstration against Israel’s policy of not allowing Palestinian Christians to worship in Jerusalem. They demonstrated at the 300 Checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. There were hundreds of protestors, and they succeeded in getting through the gates, but once on the other side they were surrounded by armed Israeli soldiers and many were detained. Abbas Zaki, a senior Fateh official, was one of those detained. He is still being held in an Israeli prison and has not been officially charged with anything yet.

 Old City Madness:

 Since I am an international, I am able to pass through the checkpoints during these lock-downs. I went to Jerusalem on Good Friday to see what would happen—the Old City of Jerusalem was filled with Israeli riot police and soldiers carrying M-16’s to “keep the peace”. Unofficially, the soldiers were there to keep Palestinians away from the area where Christian pilgrims from all over the world would be.

 Walking through the Old City of Jerusalem is like walking through a very complicated maze. I always get lost, but this time I thought it would be easy because getting to the Via Dolorosa from the Damascus Gate (one of the major entrances to the Old City) is one straight road.

 This day, however, the Israeli soldiers had set up blockades to keep the Muslim quarter separated from the area where the Christian celebrations would be. For most of the day, the soldiers wouldn’t let the Palestinians even walk through the Christian area to get to wherever they needed to go. There were almost riots, but because there were hundreds of photographers there to catch the Israelis racist policies, they decided to open a lane to let the Palestinians through the area.

 Via Dolorosa:

 I, however, arrived while the blockades were still there. So my straight, easy road was disrupted and I had to take a detour deep into the Muslim quarter where I always get lost. Luckily, I guessed the right turns and eventually made it to the Austrian Hospice (for pilgrims, and for tourists to use their amazing roof-top view of the Old City for pictures) and tried to find my friends in the crowds and chaos.

 I couldn’t see any of them, so I went to the roof of the hospice to get a little break from the insane crowds. At the top, I noticed one of the processions beginning from the bottom of the Via Dolorosa (all the Christian sects have processions up this street where Jesus is believed to have walked with the cross). The first one I saw was an Eastern Orthodox procession. They actually had a man playing Jesus, covered in blood and cuts (couldn’t tell if they were real or not….but I heard that some of the more intense denominations actually beat themselves or even crucify themselves on Good Friday) and with a crown of thorns on his head. He was carrying a large, heavy looking cross.


 He was flanked by orthodox pilgrims, as many photographers, and proceeded by about a dozen Israeli riot police who had to literally push and shove and beat their way through the crowd so they could make it up to the Church of the Holy Sepulchar. The most disturbing part of this insanity was a recording they were playing with the procession. It was a young girl’s voice saying over and over “Help him! Please! Somebody help him!”

 It was quite strange.

 The other processions were less bloody.

 Finally I went down to the street again and randomly met up with a few friends from Ramallah who were equally happy not to be alone in this crazy crowd of pilgrims and photographers. We watched a few more of the processions then decided to fight (literally!) our way up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchar (the spot where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, his body washed, and buried).

 The alleyways of the Old City are notoriously small anyway, but with the added presence of thousands and thousands of pilgrims, it was almost impossible to move. We all went single file, pushing and being pushed, up the Via Dolorosa.

 Church of the Holy Sepulcher:

 Finally, we made it to the entrance of the church. The Israelis, in some crazy attempt at crowd control, decided to make a blockade outside the church until a certain time, when they would allow the pilgrims inside. So we were near the gates they used to keep the people out, with more and more processions coming up behind us thinking they could go straight into the church. Imagine this crushing wave of pilgrims behind you and Israelis with M-16s in front of you who wouldn’t let you through the gates even if you were being trampled. There was a very real possibility of people being stampeded and crushed to death in this crowd.

 As I began to freak out, the Israelis slowly disappeared one by one and then the crowd pushed through the gates and into the ONE doorway that led to the church yard. This is like trying to fit a camel through the eye of a needle. Insanity.

 We somehow survived this and made it into the churchyard where the Israelis had set up a pretty good system of getting people in one direction and out the other, without too many people being allowed to just stay in one place—which is good when you have thousands of people fanatically trying to reach the church.

 Inside the churchyard, we waited, unsure of whether is was safe to try to go inside with all the people. Then, a fight broke out between a Palestinian Christian procession (Palestinians who live in Jerusalem) and the Israeli riot control police. It was so sad to see fighting on Good Friday inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchar. But it reminded me that this place is crazy and there is never a separation of religion and politics.

 Christians inside the church started singing hymns and playing them over the loudspeaker in an attempt to calm the situation down. It did eventually, but mostly because of the dozens of Israeli riot police that ran into the fight.

 We decided it wasn’t safe inside or outside but we should try and at least see what was happening inside the church, so in we went. Inside, the pilgrims were mostly Eastern Orthodox women and Catholic priests—along with religious tourists and photographers. The craziest spot was the place where Jesus’ body was washed after he was taken off the cross. There is a big stone slab on the ground, with candles hanging above it. Many Christians believe that if you kiss this stone, or put any item on it, they will be blessed.

 So there were dozens of people fighting each other to get close to this stone.

 Upstairs (because the Church of the Holy Sepulchar as it is now was not built all at once. Each denomination added their own areas and chapels. There are many denominations fighting over the rights to different areas of the church. For example, the roof of the church is supposed to be shared by the Ethiopian and Armenian monks. But they have been fighting over the huts on the roof for decades. Last year, my roommate said monks were actually fighting and hitting each other with crosses!) is the spot where Jesus was actually crucified. The stone where his body was washed is straight in front of the entrance, and his tomb is down a hallway to the left.


 We decided we’d had enough of the crowds and needed to get out of the Old City as fast as possible. We walked out through the Christian quarter, pushing and being pushed as we tried to escape the madness. Finally we made it out the Jaffa Gate and went straight to a park we know in West Jerusalem where we would not be surrounded by crowds of fanatical pilgrims.

 We laid down on the grass by a little stream and decompressed for a while, then headed back to Ramallah.

 Miracle of the Holy Fire:

 The next day, Saturday, my roommate went to try to get pictures of the Miracle of the Holy Fire (Considered by some as the longest reoccurring miracle—every year, on Easter Saturday at 2pm, an Orthodox priest enters the church with an unlit candle, and it miraculously lights. Afterwards, this holy fire is mailed all over the world to light candles in churches for Easter). He couldn’t even get near the church however, because people had camped out in and around the church for days in order to see the miracle.


 This week, there was a skirmish near the Gaza-Israeli border. Israeli soldiers fired at a group of Palestinians who were “too close” to the border. When the Palestinians fired back, one of the hand grenades an Israeli soldier had attached to his vest exploded—killing him and one other soldier. 2 Palestinians were also killed in the fire fight.

 Israelis are like Americans in that even one soldier dead is considered a huge tragedy—so we were all worried that they might do their usual revenge of killing 10 (or more…) Palestinians for every soldier dead. However, the next day Passover started so they were unable to make a big operation in Gaza.

 Israeli warplanes have been firing on the territory sporadically since that event, and are expected to attack more violently after Passover is finished this week.


Easter Program: Jerusalem

April 1, 2010

Thursday: Last Supper
Celebrated according to Christian sect:
(ex. eating a cooked meal for the first time on a Friday during Lent, attending church services)

Friday: Good Friday
Celebrated by fasting, praying, meditating, reading of the Passion, morning Jesus’ death

10:00am-3:00pm: Walking the Via Dolorosa (Old City, Jerusalem): Completing the stations of the cross, carrying a cross up to the Church of the Holy Sepulchar–the spot where Jesus was crucified and his body washed.


Saturday: Miracle of the Holy Fire

11:00am -2:00pm– Miracle of the Holy Fire (
Considered by the Orthodox church to be the longest-running miracle in history

Sunday: Celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus


Trouble in the Old City

March 15, 2010

Today, the Israelis re-opened and rededicated the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish quarter of the Old City, Jerusalem amid high tensions. The West Bank closure by the Israeli military has been extended until at least tomorrow (Tues) because they are trying to keep Palestinians out of the Old City and out of Al Aqsa Mosque while these Jewish ceremonies are going on.

Yesterday, after night prayers, Muslims were expelled from Al Aqsa and their ID cards confiscated. They are supposed to go to the Al Qashla investigation center and the Russian compound center to get them back.

Now, Palestinian men under 50 are not allowed into Al Aqsa, and the IDF has set up checkpoints all over the Old City and at the gates denying entry to most Palestinian men under 50. Fateh has called for as many Muslims as possible to go to the mosque to protect it, as there are rumors that the Israelis will try to lay the cornerstone for the New Temple on the Al Aqsa compound.

Many Palestinians are also worried that the consistent tunneling by Israeli “archaelogists” under the mosque may eventually cause it to collapse–both the construction of the New Temple and the collapse of the Al Aqsa mosque would be important signs to people of the Abrahamic faiths about the end of times. So this is causing a lot of controversy and tension.

Thousands of Jewish worshippers were planning to march around the old temple (where Al Aqsa mosque is now…) to celebrate the opening of the Hurva Synagogue but the Israeli police have cancelled it amid fears of riots by the Palestinians.


Weekly Report….

March 1, 2010

This week there was a lot of trouble in Hebron–a city in southern West Bank. Hebron is notorious for having crazy and aggressive Israeli settlers, even the Israeli soldiers hate being there to protect the settlers because they are provoking the Palestinians all the time. I read in an article that a soldier stationed in Hebron said that it was the place they send soldiers to punish them.

The settlers have been becoming more and more of a presence in the old market place in the middle of Hebron because of the Ibrihimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs–to Jews the tombs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob along with their wives are burried there. For Muslims it is a mosque built by Abraham and his and Sarah’s tombs. It is holy for both religions.

The settlers have been slowly taking over the market place because that’s where the Ibrihimi mosque is located. So an area that was almost 100% Palestinian and an important economic center for Hebron has been almost entirely shut down by the settlers. They have taken over the upstairs apartments of the stores in the market, along with whole areas of the center (H2) around the market.

The settlers throw garbage, stones, glass, sewage water and other things on the Palestinian stores, homes, and people below. They have forced many stores to shut down. The Israeli army, who is required to be there to protect the settlers from themselves, has set up checkpoints within the market, so walking from one store to another you have to go through a checkpoint where the soldiers almost always mess with the Palestinians–many times making them wait 30 minutes while they “check” the IDs.

Meanwhile, you walk through alleyways with chainlink fence hung above to protect the shoppers and Palestinian shopowners from getting hit with debris thrown down by the settlers.

Now, they have taken the judaization of the area around the mosque to a new level. The Israeli government has declared that site, along with Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem to be National Israeli Heritage Sites. Both sites are ouside of “Israel”, they are in the West Bank in the middle of Palestinian towns. Israel seems to be claiming the sites. It will probably make it more difficult that ever for Palestinians to gain access to these sites now, which are holy to them too. The Israeli government will say they want to do “renovations” on the sites, then deny access to everyone while they’re repairing things, everyone except the settlers.

And the government’s timing on this was impeccable as usual. It is simultaneously the annviersary of the Intifada, the Prophet’s birthday, and the anniversary of the Goldstein massacre of Palestinians while they were praying in the Ibrihimi mosque. About 50 people were killed and 100 wounded in this joint operation between Israeli settlers and the IDF. In the following days about 20 more Palestinians were killed when clashes erupted around the West Bank.

After the declaration of the mosque as an Israeli Heritage Site, the Israeli government was just waiting for the Palestininas to react. There were some clashes between the Palestinian youth and the Israeli police/settlers. Teargas, soundbombs, rubber bullets…A couple dozen injured.

My roommate Lazar went down there for a couple days to take photos and he told me that the Palestinian Authority was working with the Israeli police/IDF to control the Palestinian youth. The PA and the IDF…working together against Palestinians protesting a new aspect of the occupation. Its completely ridiculous–and its the guys who the US have been helping to train in Jericho and Jordan.

The clashes ended up slowing down despite Haniyeh (Hamas) calling for a new Inifada. I think thats what Israel wanted anyways, a lot of my friends agree with that too. Israel is getting so much pressure from the international community to restart the peace process that they are looking for any excuse to say “We dont have a partner for peace”–even while the PA is working with them to punish their own people.

Luckily, the Palestinians are either too tired from the still fresh memory of the last intifada or just being patient until they can actually stand a chance in an Intifada.

Just another proof that the Israeli government is trying to provoke the Palestinians into reacting in an Intifada, as soon as the Hebron mess calmed down, the Israeli settlers and police in Jerusalem stormed Al Aqsa mosque (the third holiest site in Islam). They clashed with Palestinians inside and more of the youth that came to throw stones after they invaded the mosque.

Anyways, the situation is getting tense because of all the Israeli provocations but so far the Palestinian people seem to be staying as calm as possible. An Intifada would be the worst thing for them right now, and Israel knows that. Soon, hopefully, the world will put enough pressure on Israel to continue negotiations, final status negotiations.

The EU is working on an initiative to support Palestine in declaring statehood. Israel came back at them saying if the Palestinians declare a state then they won’t have to negotiate anymore so that couldn’t work for anyone. But obviously, declaring a state doesn’t make the Israeli soldiers, checkpoints, and settlements disappear. It doesnt bring back the refugees either. So there will have to be negotiations, it will just prevent Israel from occupying more of Palestine as they pretend to negotiate.

Hopefully this initiative will work…

The protests this week were pretty much washed out by the weather, I didn’t go because of the hail and rain. But there were still small groups of demonstrators at Bil’in, Ni’lin, Nabe Saleh, Al Masara, and Sheikh Jarrah.

The protests were focused on the Israeli takeover of the holy sites in Hebron and Bethlehem. The injuries were mostly gas inhalation, except in Nabe Saleh where a boy was hit in the head with a rubber bullet. I dont know exactly what his condition is, but if it was the rubber coated steel bullets–which is what the IDF almost exclusively uses now as “rubber bullets” then he should be in pretty bad shape.

In Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem protestors dressed up in Purim costumes to demonstrate against the house demolitions.

My roommates and friends and I also went out to celebrate Purim. We went to Jerusalem on Saturday night with wigs and checked out a few parties. The weather was pretty bad so there werent hundreds of people out in the street like last year but it was still fun.


Weekly Update:

January 30, 2010


Things here have been pretty low-key this week…

I went to Jerusalem with some of my roommates to check out a mall we heard about called the Malkha Mall. It’s just like the malls in America—I was confused looking around I felt like I was back in the states!

Then we went to the Old City and had an arghile at a friend’s bar and walked around the Old City afterwards.

There wasn’t too much going on around Ramallah this week. On the day we went to Jerusalem we saw a caravan of Israeli jeeps and humvey’s driving through Ramallah in the middle of the day—which is unusual. The next day we saw on the news that they raided Nablus that night and set up a few extra checkpoints around the city. They arrested like 5 or 6 boys…and never said why. “Normal.”

In Bil’in they arrested Muhammed Khatib again, one of the protest organizers, in the middle of the night. They still have most of the leaders, like Adeeb—the guy who was always in the front of the demos and has been shot 5 times or so. They have started releasing the boys gradually but force their families to pay an outrageous bail to get them out—up to 10,000 shekels (around 2,500 dollars).

I didn’t go to Bil’in on Friday—instead I went back to Nabe Saleh, the village I went to last Friday. This week was even crazier, but in a different way. The villagers blocked all the roads into the village with boulders and dumpsters so the Israelis couldn’t drive in and invade the way they did last week. So this time we met them on the road, barely outside of the village. For about 15 minutes there was no rocks or teargas or anything. Then the protestors gradually started moving forward towards the soldiers—to try to reach their stolen land.

As they got closer, the soldiers warned everyone on the loudspeaker that this was an “illegal protest” and we “will get hurt”. So then the soldiers shot teargas at the protestors, lots of it. Then the boys started throwing stones and the soldiers came back with the rubber coated steel bullets, sound bombs, live ammunition, and the darban (the sewage-chemical-cow intestines liquid they spray on the protestors that makes you puke when you smell it and won’t wash off for days…).

I was in a gas station with some other press when the soldiers started shooting too close to the massive containers filled with gasoline, so I decided to move away from there. As I crossed the street that the soldiers started running up towards the protestors and me so we all ran towards the center of the village. I got trapped between soldiers, teargas, and a house.

Luckily, the women in the house saw me and the others with me and told us to get into their house. So we ran in, and realized these were the women that were arrested and beaten the past weeks. They told us what happened last week—that the soldiers shot teargas into their house, breaking a window. When the women came out, the soldiers started hitting them with their rifles in the stomach. When the women fought back, the soldiers arrested 3 of them (all sisters I believe). They were let out on 10,000 shekel bails each. After we talked, I went up to the roof to watch the demonstration from a “safe” spot…then the boys from the village came behind the house and started throwing stones at the soldiers down the road from there.

That means when the soldiers shoot at the boys, they shoot at us too, because we were behind them. A lot of teargas came our way…and then we heard a really loud, sharp bang, and heard a hissing sound to our left. It was a live ammunition round—we were on the top of a 3 story house and the boys were on the ground, so I don’t know how the bullet ended up so high unless they were aiming there….either way it was crazy.

We went back into the house after that, and they told us a window was broken from something—maybe a rubber coated steel bullet. Soon after, a teargas grenade came through another window and started filling the house with gas. There were about 15 children in the adjoining living room watching cartoons (most under 10, smallest were toddlers…) and the grenade was between us and the exit, so we had to gather all the kids and hide in a room away from the gas.

The grenade started a fire on their curtains when it detonated, so the men went in to put out the fire. I went out to make sure there weren’t any more kids in the other room, and went into a different bedroom that had a lot more teargas than the first room. There was a girl, maybe 11 or 12 years old who was choking on the gas. Her mother and grandmother couldn’t calm her down, she was so scared. So she was hyperventilating and inhaling more teargas that way. She was crying a lot and we finally decided to move back to the first room.

When we got back there, the gas was still coming out of the grenade in the living room, and there was no way we could get all the little kids out through it, so we tried to seal the door but the gas was leaking in slowly and it was stinging everyone’s eyes by this point and the kids were starting to get scared. We couldn’t open the window or try to run out through the living room because the main group of soldiers and protestors was outside the house and you can’t just jump out blind into that. Plus, we were on the second story.

Finally, people outside realized that we were trapped inside with teargas and they gathered around, the soldiers retreated, and an ambulance came. They got a ladder and started handing the children out the window. But by this point we were in the teargas for like 20 minutes, and I was trying to stay calm and keep it together for the kids but I was about to crack. The kids were crying and screaming because the teargas was hurting them and they didn’t know what was going on. It was really sad and frustrating…

Finally some guys with gas masks came inside to help us since we were just trying not to breathe or move much. We got all the kids out, and the rest of us ran out through the living room to the exit through there. Outside the kids were laying on the ground with their parents trying to calm them down. A few of them had to go in the ambulance because they were teargassed so badly.

After that, the demonstration pretty much ended, I think the Israeli soldiers realized they messed up again (after last week’s pictures of soldiers beating women…) so they went back down the hill towards the settlement. Some of the boys from the village followed them throwing stones, but nothing major happened there.

After sitting down for a while and breathing some pure oxygen, we waited for a service (minibus) back to Ramallah. Again, the soldiers set up a checkpoint on the main road to catch the demonstrators so we had to take an old road which added half an hour to our trip. Anyways, it was another crazy week at Nabe Saleh.

In addition to the kids injured by the teargas, there was one boy shot in the stomach with a rubber coated steel bullet (imagine a marble sized metal ball covered in the thinnest possible coating of rubber…that’s the Israeli version of rubber bullets). There was a second boy shot in the knee with the same ammunition, and they said his knee might be broken.

Ramallah has been pretty quiet.

The settlers around Hebron have been crazy as usual, trying to take over the central market of the city and destroying Palestinian farmland.

In the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, the settlers have been taking over houses left and right. Yesterday they had a big demonstration there, with residents, internationals, Israeli peace activists and settlers. These demonstrations with the settlers are the craziest. The Israeli police have to protect the settlers, even when the settlers attack the police for not letting them get too close to the other side of the demonstration.

The settlers throw stones, glass, and pee-filled bottles at those demonstrating for the Palestinians, and even at the Israeli police if they get in their way. So that is a really crucial place right now, Sheikh Jarrah, because the settlers are on their way to being able to take over the whole neighborhood—they just go in the night and kick the family out in the street. Then they destroy or throw out everything in the house. And the Israeli police escort them.

Well, just your average week in Palestine…