Occupation magazine - Life under occupation
Welcome to Hebron
By Roni Hammermann [Senior Librarian, Slavic Department, Hebrew
At 14:30 we arrived at the Disputed House in Hebron, which has been taken over by settlers in March 2007 and has not been evacuated since then. Although the settlers are prevented by a court order to renovate the house we could see that nevertheless intensive building activity was under way and that the whole facade has been exchanged with new stones. Obviously, the settlers were preparing for a long and permanent presence 10 meters from the house a checkpoint has been established, so that Palestinian cars should not pass there on the road. 2 Border Police soldiers manned it. While we were present Pedestrians crossed it unchecked. At the entrance to the house about ten - twelve children were gathered, chatting friendly with four border police soldiers, who were guarding the house. We were standing on the road waiting for Issa, the B'Tselem investigator, with whom we had an appointment. The moment the children caught sight of us and of our MachsomWatch tag, they began to curse us: 'hey you, this is the 'house of peace' and not the 'disputed house' as you call it, '....get lost, you idiots, cretins!!' We told the children to shut up. Immediately a grown up man and several women approached us angrily and demanded aggressively that we leave 'their' premises. 'The road belongs to you as well?' 'This is our house and you just came to make provocations.' We did not answer and did not move. A little boy kicked Ilana in her leg. His mother encouraged him: 'It was all right to kick her. She stands on our premises' and to us she said: 'We have only one little problem right now, namely to get rid of you and as fast as possible!' The soldiers did nothing to stop the affronts against us. Out of the blue (from above) eggs were thrown on our car. They broke on the window shield and splashed all over the front. We expected the soldiers to intervene. Instead, one of them argued, 'You cannot know who has thrown the eggs. It could have been one of the people passing by [meaning Arabs](!)' The atmosphere heated up and the children were playing ball around us and hitting us with the ball. In the middle of this tension we received a phone call from Issa, who was waiting for us at the Mosque. We decided to leave and demanded that the soldiers secured our departure so that the settlers won't throw stones at us when we turn around. We intend to file a complaint with the police.
At Abraham's Tomb checkpoint - called Abed checkpoint by the Palestinians, because it is located opposite of Abed's shop - we were stopped by 2 Border Police soldiers and had to leave the car. The soldiers checked very thoroughly our ID cards and the car and decided that our driver, a Palestinian with Jerusalem residency and Issa, a resident of Hebron were not allowed to be at this place. We had to return and on our way back we visited the Pharmacy checkpoint. The Pharmacy checkpoint consists of a caravan, which blocks the road and is equipped with a metal detector. The people wanting to cross over have to climb into the caravan and go through the detector. The houses in the immediate neighborhood look deserted, the shutters closed and many windows broken. The inhabitants have obviously left because it is actually impossible to live on a checkpoint. One young man was detained there. He was asked by his parents to do some shopping at the grocery shop and on his way back home he was detained. Allegedly a routine check. We asked an officer who visited with 2 soldiers the checkpoint to accelerate the checking procedure. Nevertheless it took another 15 minutes before the ID was returned to the young man.
While we were waiting Issa received a phone call. Soldiers have invaded a house in the Kasba, performed searches, rummaged in the wardrobe, broke furniture, and left the house in havoc. Issa was expected there in order to take testimonies and to document what happened. We have asked to accompany him. The steep alleys of the Kasba were almost deserted in the afternoon hours and the shops were closed. There are no buyers, we learned. The few grown-ups we encountered greeted Issa with great respect. He is obviously a well known and highly appreciated personality and the children playing on the streets surrounded him with great joy, jumping, shouting and trying to attract his attention. We arrived at a very narrow alley way where the owner of the invaded house was already waiting for us. The house was one of the very old ones in the Kasba, with steep stairs and small rooms. The 2 rooms of the family were in complete devastation. Cloths, linen, toys, dishes, broken chinaware, photos, pictures were thrown on the floor together with the doors of the wardrobe. The soldiers were looking for signs and symbols of Hamas, such as flags, flyers, propaganda material. Everybody who saw the big portraits of Arafat on the wall could understand that nothing of this kind could be found here. But sometimes, as we learned, the soldiers themselves plant these objects in the rooms and 'find' them afterwards. Issa filmed the chaos, talked with the family and made notes. The young people of the family, who were at home when the soldiers came, were surprisingly composed. 'This kind of intrusions happens rather often and the inhabitants have got used to them' said Issa. We were less composed and decided to call the Brigade Commander of Hebron, Yehuda Fuchs, to tell him how his soldiers behave on their patrols. We could reach only his assistance and described to her what we have seen. She promised (as all the commanders promise and don't do) to 'look into it' and to pass it on to Yehuda Fuchs.
When we left at about 17:00 we realized that we have received a tiny taster of the famous 'Hebron mix' -- life between fanatic, unscrupulous Settlers and bored, power thirsty soldiers.