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Friday Dec 16
We started with a delicious breakfast of Zatar on bread with Laban and tea.
We get into Mohammedís car, which wonít start and needs to be pushed. We are carrying 2X4ís with which to make a ladder to climb to the top of the wall to see where soldiers are and put Palestinian flags on top. We wait in the garden until 11:30, when the Palestinians go to pray near the path to the wall. H & I sit and talk about our plans, once again. H decides to stay back in the compound with the women, who, because they are treated the as brutally as the men by the soldiers, are no longer allowed into the fields during the demos. I decide to go to the demo, but stay at the very back, and decide on an incremental basis, just how close Iíll go. H is very nervous about my safety, as am I, but Iím determined to stand in solidarity with them. There has been absolutely no pressure from anyone to make any particular decision. My mind is racing. Maybe I shouldnít wear a hat so that the Israelis can more easily see Iím an international etc., etc. I know itís just anxiety. Who knows whatís provocative or not. A man had been shot just outside the garden weíre sitting in, just for sitting there.
I go out to where the Palestinians are gathering with 6 Israeli activists that have come from Tel Aviv.† All but one, a woman, has participated before. We wait outside the prayer meeting and talk among ourselves. We share information about our activist work and organizations that we belong to. They are from Anarchists Against The Wall, New Profile, Artists Against The Wall, and JVP (Israeli moved to Arizona). As 75-100 of us walk to the fields, chanting, an ambulance drives in back of us.
The Israeli woman and I stay at the very back. All but a few Palestinians go right to the wall in different places, as do the Israelis.† I see Mohammed climbing the ladder and placing Palestinian flags on top of the wall. A small group sets a tire on fire, and black smoke billows and billows and blackens the wall. Palestinian youth have leather thongs that they use to fling rocks over the wall. We hear live ammunition being shot, but no soldiers are in sight, and one of the organizers comes to tell us that the shots were only fired in the air to frighten people. The Israelis are firing tear gas, and I smell it, but they land far away. I venture closer to the wall, now about 100 yards away and take lots of pictures. Mohammed waves to me and beckons me to join him, as he is still 100 yards from the wall.† As I walk to him I see many, many spent tear gas canisters and rubber projectiles on the ground. I am, at all times, very conscious of where I am and what the best escape route is. The wind has picked up from the west and Mohammed and I walk west so that the tear gas will blow away from us. He points out a sniper in the distance as well as the soldier who shoots the tear gas. He explains that the sniper is only interested in the people near the corner of the wall. I believe him and continue to watch and photograph. I watch as a Palestinian youth stands behind the corner of the wall and flashes his hat to draw the fire of the sniper. The sniper doesnít respond. By this time maybe 50-60 tear gas canisters have been shot over the wall. Everyone is so used to it, that no one is particularly bothered. Mohammed is clearly keeping his eye on me and I express my deep appreciation. ìNo worry, you are welcome.î The soldiers stop fire the tear gas and It becomes quite quiet. Mohammed says that it is a sign of danger and, that, since I am an old man, who cannot run fast through the boulder strewn field, I should head back to the compound. He leads me back to where we entered the fields, and then asks a youth to walk me the rest of the way. He believes that soldiers may come from the east and itíll be hard to escape.
I go back to compound to see H, who has been told Iím okay. I sit down and am spent.† Some tear gas remains in my nose, but no problem. We have tea and bread. While I wasnít aware of feeling afraid in the field, I breathe sighs of relief. Saeed comes to help us figure out how to get to Jerusalem. Itís a Friday, the Sabbath, and most busses arenít supposed to run after 4 pm and itís now almost 2:30. He had tried to arrange a taxi, but the man who had agreed, had his phone turned off and canít be reached. Mohammed figures out a series of different transports that he thinks will work. Of course, we have warm goodbyes and thank yous with everyone. H & I decide to commit to buying another computer for the popular committee. We tell Saeed who is more than appreciative. Just a note to all who read this. Weíll be looking for small donations from many of you.
Mohammed tells us about a museum in Niílin that is about the Holocaust and the history of Niílin and its occupation. The people here clearly make the connection. He says that the Palestinians stand in solidarity with the Jewish people of the Holocaust, but Palestinians shouldnít have to pay for the crimes of the Germans. We are thrilled to hear this. Unfortunately, we donít have time to see it.
We go back to await the service at Mohammedís and pick up our bags. We take the specially called service to Ramallah. An uneventful trip and exhaustion sets in. A very kind man, who we donít know, leads us for ten blocks in Ramallah, and then flags down a bus that is going to Al Quds (Jerusalem). We are alone on the bus until a Palestinian youth, maybe 13, gets on. On leaving Ramallah, the bus is stopped in a long line at a check point.Eventually, itís our turn and the soldiers come on board. They first check the youthís papers. Weíre not sure why, but he is taken off the bus, to we donít know where. Our imaginations run wild. As we were waiting, we concocted a story of where we had been and I change out my memory card for a blank one The soldiers check our passports, cursorily look in our bags, and send the bus on its way. It goes for 5 seconds and turns into a bus transfer station. No one speaks English, but I get lots of head shakes when I say Al Quds. Weíre off again. The bus lets us out only a block from our hotel. We check in, very, very pleased to be here and alone for a change.
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