Hebron, Sansana, South Hebron Hills, Tue 23.2.10, Morning
Translator: Charles K.
Very tense everywhere.
As we approached Curve 160 we could already hear gunshots. This is the first time we’ve been present at a confrontation between the army and Palestinian citizens.
Two armored jeeps block the entrance to the Jabal Juhar neighborhood. Down the street, soldiers are running and firing crowd control weapons – smoke grenades and rubber bullets; they yell at passersby – mostly children on the way to school and a few women – “Ruh al bayt!”; the soldiers don’t chase us away but ask us to stand on the side of the road because people are throwing stones. We hear the sound of a demonstration near the mosque, mostly voices of young people.
The scene is completely surreal: Hebron residents show no sign of fear, and behave as if they’re used to such events. We see a woman with three small children completely ignoring what the soldiers shout, determinedly crossing the checkpoint on her way to the mosque. On the other hand, a young man carrying a small girl tells us that he has to take her to the clinic, but obeys the soldiers and doesn’t cross the checkpoint. He waits.
After a while we continue to the Pharmacy checkpoint to see what’s happening there.
Between Curve 160 and the Pharmacy checkpoint, which the locals call the “container checkpoint,” the Jabal Juhar and Rajab neighborhoods are laid out in a semicircle. Above them, on the hill, is the Abu Sneina neighborhood. These two areas are the scene of this morning’s events.
There are also armored jeeps at the Pharmacy crossing, and the soldiers are prepared to go in. There, too, children continue to cross on their way to school, as well as ordinary pedestrians, as if nothing was happening… One of them says only, “things aren’t good,” and continues on his way. One of the pretzel sellers says that yesterday things were going on in the old city, and “it was worse.”
We run into a TIPH patrol, who tells us that it’s very tense in anticipation of Thursday’s events in Shehadah Street.
The TIPH people have a different evaluation of the events from what our media report, who attribute the tension only to the government’s decision Sunday changing the status of the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Continuing our usual route in Hebron (oddly enough), everything is quiet.
But on our way back, near Gross Square, a car suddenly shoots out toward the lane we’re traveling in. Barely avoiding an accident, M., our skilled driver, is able to swerve to the right and prevent a collision. And who’s driving the car coming toward us, which almost hit us?! Anat Cohen (local settler), of course!! She’s also a “veteran” of the battlefield… On the Zion route, on the road up to Beit HaMeriva – two military vehicles block the road, but we saw nothing there out of the ordinary. Life continues on the Zion route and at Giv’at HaHarsina as if nothing was happening 500 meters away. It’s incomprehensible.
That’s how Hebron looks this morning, and we leave burdened by what we witnessed.
At the exit from Qiryat Arba: the Nofei Mamreh neighborhood. Construction of a large building continues apace. Arab laborers and a bulldozer are working.
At the entrance to the Sham’a settlement: Large, prominent signs: “Sham’a is home! Private homes for sale,” with names and phone numbers for anyone who’s interested. To whom it may concern…
Dura Alfawwar: A new pillbox stands on the hilltop overlooking the southern approaches to Dura and the GSS installation.
At 06:30 the crossing is filled with seven buses carrying relatives of prisoners on their way to the Ketziot prison. Many elderly parents, mothers and children are among today’s visitors, carrying many belongings. One of the drivers says that about 300 people have arrived today to visit prisoners.
On the Palestinian side the falafel stands and temporary grocery stalls have become more numerous, and we can smell the coffee. The peddlers tell us that tuna is the most popular item, but also yogurt, cake and soft drinks. Here, at least, no one harasses the peddlers and their customers.
10:30 – On our way back from Hebron we stop at the crossing to say goodbye to Shlomi. It’s his last week in charge of the crossing. We feel obliged to thank him for his dedication, his willingness to listen and honest desire to solve problems and make things as easy as he could for the laborers who cross here. We tell him that they’re also sorry on the Palestinian side that he’s leaving: “When Shlomi’s here – there are no problems.” Shlomi is moved, and says it’s hard for him to leave a place which had become such an important part of his life, in which he invested a great deal of effort and good will. He added that “only face-to-face communication, man-to-man, without politics,” was the reason that there were no demonstrations or incidents at this crossing.
Shlomi told us who his replacement is, and we hope that his successor will continue to run the crossing in the same manner.