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Dodging Bullets in Nablus

So, before I get started about yesterday, let me say that while Sam was dodging rubber bullets, tear gas and sound bombs at the demonstration today (courtesy, of course, of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF)), I didn’t have one gun pointed at me or any shots fired over my head today. For the first day since I have been here in Nablus.

Ok, yesterday: while Sam, Merna and I were buying bread for families, two Israeli armored personnel carriers (APC’s) pulled up and shut the bread stand down. Then as one APC pulled away, a kid in the alley right next to the APC threw a Molotov cocktail and scored a hit on part of the APC.

So the Israeli soldiers FREAK out and start shooting into the apartment building, in the completely wrong direction. We SCREAMED at him and he stopped, but the other APC heard the fire and came back around the corner for ‘support’. We de-escalated the soldiers and then one said to me, “go and bring me the map.” (y’all will like my Israeli accent).

So I walked down the street looking for a map. Now, meanwhile the people on the street have emptied and they are all hiding in the alleys and coves and such. So I walk down and several are yelling to me, ‘what does he want?’ Of course I don’t understand until someone yells in English, but I had the gist already and was saying, ‘who the hell knows?’

I picked up some paper trash and called back to him, ‘is this it? Is this it?’ — it’s good to play dumb, of course. So, they pulled back and left. Well, I needed a breather after that one, so we left the scene for about five minutes. Moments later we get a call, that now there are tanks, APC’s and some jeeps in the same area, as well as 12 international activists — could we immediately go there?

Due to a horrible lack of communication, no one had any idea what we had just been thru when we arrived. Of course from OUR end we had gotten the word out about what happened. So, long story longer – Palestinians started throwing rocks and since this is about their only form of resistance, we stepped back. This of course let the IOF be able to fire their guns (hard to explain without seeing the street). Two jeeps even pulled up right in front of us and opened fire. Of course we were screaming and then they stopped and took off.

The cool part is being in the streets with the Palestinians and feeling their energy as they clap and chant (they get loud — they chant ‘god is great’) and stand with us, knowing the tanks and such won’t fire at them with us there. There aren’t ANY women of course, and that sucks….

Digressing a bit: three or four nights ago, Sam and I walked down the road into the Balata Refugee Camp and stayed at a martyr’s house. Stressed out family. Since then I have been with a few more martyr’s families and realized that that family was an exception, according to my experience because these families were like all the rest of the families here, kind kind kind. I swear I have never drank so much coffee and tea in my life.

Another woman, Serena, stayed at the stressed out family’s house the next night and told us the following morning that the family actually got into a fist fight (yeah, the wife and daughters too!) with their neighbor.

So today, most people went to a demonstration at the Huwara Checkpoint, an hour walk, but I decided to stay in Nablus. I hung out with four Palestinians relief volunteers and delivered milk to babies. Yeah, parents do not have milk for their babies/young children.

I heard today that Palestine has the largest growing population in the world, over 50% is under the age of sixteen. That was chill enough, but the workers want escorts for ‘security’ and since another volunteer was taken from the center the day before, they were a little more nervous .

Mohammed, the one taken yesterday was wearing a martyr necklace and the IOF ripped it off his neck (the pendent is of a photo of his friend, a martyr). A martyr, for those who do not know, is term used for a suicide bomber AND anyone who has been killed during this intifada. Mohammed was released today, but they beat him up pretty badly, so he is home for a bit. No reason for detaining him at all.

So, after walking around delivering milk several internationals decided that they wanted to check on an apartment building on the hill where the soldiers were staying and occupying. After getting another international, the 6 of us headed up the hill to check on these families. I figured that they occupied that building strategically.

A few of us went in (women) and chatted with the Palestinian families and got their needs noted, foods and medicines. The apartment was 5 floors, 2 apartments on each floor. The soldiers had one complete floor and all them were shirtless, hanging out, playing guitar, like they owned the place, while 3 families were terrified for their lives. The other apartments were empty (it seemed like a brand new building, not fully occupied with residents).

So after that, we split into 3 groups of 2 to get the food and medicine. My partner was Fadi. A pretty resourceful guy, before I knew it he had gotten a ride in a big flatbed truck to Balata, where the UN warehouse is. Remember it is curfew, so NOTHING is allowed on the streets, let alone driving out to the outskirts of town. Curfew here has meant the last 40 days, 24 hours a day with tiny windows of precarious time to fetch food.

We made it and just after pulling in, a tank and a bulldozer showed up to close the road since cars were driving around. The UN warehouse is a joke. FOOD is everywhere, sitting around. The UN is a joke. Thousands of poor people with NO money to buy food in Nablus and WE hitch a ride, pick up food and deliver it ourselves.

On the way back, we saw a tank driving pretty fast on the parallel road but we beat it and got back to Nablus alright. Then we separated the food and got ready to go. Well, Fadi, wanted to get the one and only ambulance from the center to load the food to take up on the hill. But it wasn’t around, so we used his van — sketchy, eh?

Though we made it up there alright, the soldiers had switched out and all bets were off for us going back inside to deliver the food ourselves. After biting my lip and talking to the soldiers, they got one of the Palestinians to come out to bring the food in. The whole situation and bargaining and discussing is crap, although the soldier was talkable, if you know what I mean.

So during all of this, the soldier says, ‘you don’t remember me, do you?’ “oh, from before …..here right?” “No,” he replied and then I knew he was the guy looking for the map yesterday, in the APC.

“Oh yeah, I remember,’ I quipped back. He said, ‘So you didn’t help me yesterday, why should I help you?”( I was trying to get into the house and possibly spend the night there with the families.) I said, ‘What more could I have done, I walked down the street and looked for the map, geez?’

Talking to them is difficult and one must stay calm to help prevent retaliation against the Palestinians, believe me, whether there are soldiers who don’t ‘agree’ with the occupation or ‘hate’ when a Palestinian is killed, they all have a choice to refuse, and therefore, NO SYMPATHY from me.

One last thing. As we were walking back (dusk, I’m no longer too hesitant to walk in the dark, except for snipers) today a woman pulls up in a car and says, ‘aren’t you afraid to be on the street?’ I said, ‘no, not really, they recognize us now, they know who we are and why we are here.’ She said, ‘ take care’ I said to her, ‘aren’t you afraid to drive now?’ (many people sneak around in cars), and she said, ‘no here we have nothing to live for, so we don’t care, but YOU, you have to return to tell the world what is happening here, so YOU take care” and she drove off.

So many times during the day, I just want to release a little and cry but I don’t, and this was one of those times, for sure. I can only kind of get choked up, not cry, probably because I am so angry and not sad.

Jill Dreier is one of two Coloradans in Palestine joining hundreds of internationals with the International Solidarity Movement in nonviolent direct action to end Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestine. More on Jill’s trip at: http://www.ccmep.org/palestine.html

 

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