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Last Tuesday, 4th of November, I was taking a short nap around 2pm back at our EA house in Jayyus. As usual, we had a very early start that day, getting up at around 5:00am to travel to an agricultural gate in the north-eastern part of the West Bank near the village of Qaffin. We had been hard at it until we got back at about 1:00pm due to some very annoying problems that arose at this gate. More on this in a later post.
So at about 2:00pm I was woken from my slumber by a phone call from one of my team mates, Zoe, from Canada. I answered the phone, still half asleep, and to the best of my ability all I heard was that the rest of the team were outside the house on the street having cake! That sounded pretty good so I staggered out of the large iron gate at the front of our house only to discover a complete lack of anything remotely like cake. Some of the young boys in the village were yelling excitedly and after a minute or so I realized that what was getting them excited was the fact that five armoured vehicles, full of Israeli soldiers in full battle dress, all carrying automatic weapons, had entered the main street of Jayyus and were going up and down the street questioning people and asking for their ID’s.
This had not happened in the village for at least a month, and as I looked down the main street I could see a number of my team mates talking to Israeli soldiers. The Israelis told my team mates to get off the street and just as they started to do this, some of the young kids in the village began throwing stones at the soldiers. The soldiers immediately responded with tear gas and sound bombs and the whole cat and mouse game between the young boys in the village and the soldiers began. My team mates and I ducked into one of the nearby shops in the main street and watched from a distance. After about 15 minutes of this “game”, the Israelis got in their vehicles and as they drove passed us, one of the soldiers sitting in the front of the armoured car politely waved to me as he went by. I thought that this gesture was somewhat incongruous with the mood of the afternoon, but about 10 seconds later I realized that this gesture was one more of ridicule, rather than hospitality. The reason being that at that very moment, the tear gas came onto us and its effects were immediate and extremely painful. In what was literally a moment of blind haste, we ran to our house in a mad rush to get some onions to cut up and breathe in, to stop the effects of the tear gas. After a few minutes, we felt better and were able to gather ourselves and return to the house, but with no cake!
The point of this ridiculous exercise was lost on me until I consulted some of the older members of the village. According to the older and wiser citizens of Jayyus, this action by the Israelis was deliberately done to provoke a stone throwing incident. There is no other explanation. The soldiers know that this is the response that they always get when entering a village like this. It has been going on for decades. The soldiers made no arrests before or after the stones had been thrown. So why would they provoke such an incident? The best answer that the people of Jayyus have is that the Israeli military do this in order to gain intelligence about which persons in the village are the most likely to be engaged in demonstrations or other acts of resistance against the occupation. With this information they can make arrests in the future and target individuals who the Israelis think they may have a chance to turn into a “collaborator.”
Our driver, Abed, informed us that this incursion was child’s play when compared to what used to happen in the years during the second intifada. He said that in those years the Israelis would come into the village and put tear gas directly into people’s homes, cars and even the Mosque. Having got just a relatively small dose of this gas, I can hardly imagine the effect on the young and the elderly, who cannot move as quickly as others can, when being caught in an enclosed space with a cloud of gas. Abed said that after once having tear gas thrown directly into his car, he could not use it for two days, even after washing it several times.
Another tactic that Abed related was how the soldiers opened fire on the black water tanks that are so conspicuous on the tops of Palestinian homes. If the tank was hit near the bottom, then the tank would be rendered useless. In one incursion the Israeli military destroyed 100 water tanks. Abed said that he has been gassed so many times in his home village of Jayyus that he has permanent breathing problems.
All these events are just one more part of the huge picture of negative effects of the occupation that are just part of daily life in the West Bank and Gaza. This is a world that still seems unbelievable to me even as I am here, embedded in the occupation myself. I’m just grateful that I don’t have to live in it permanently. I wish no one did.
I am participating in a program as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving in the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained here are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Churches Australia or the World Council of Churches. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer (email@example.com) for permission. Thank you.