I am sickened by the news that one boy was shot in the stomach today, but reassured that it was not serious. In a normal world and a normal child’s life, any shot in the stomach is serious, but this is not a normal world.
After the demonstration and a tasty feast of chicken, msakhan (flat dough flavored with olive oil, onions, sumac, and pine nuts), a lively group of villagers, children, and internationals gather on Naji and Boshra Tamimi’s patio to talk and share history, personal stories, and songs. We learn that the 500 people of Nabi Saleh have a long and arduous history, united through kinship and the violent experience of occupation. Since 1967 they have watched their lands and their water, their ability to travel, farm, attend university, raise their growing families, not to mention lead a normal predictable life, constricted by continued land grabs, military incursions, home invasions, arrests, and detention.
After Oslo the West Bank was divided into Area A (Palestinian civil and military control, major cities), Area B (joint control), Area C (total Israeli control and the location of the Jewish settlements, involving about 61% of the land). The villagers watched the settlements sweeping across the West Bank, now totaling approximately 253, inhabited by some 500,000 Israeli Jews. At one point the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the nearby settlements to stop, but the decision was reversed by a Likud government.
The town originally responded with armed resistance to this assault. They have mourned and celebrated 19 martyrs, and produced the first female Al Qassam fighter, (who was released from prison in the Shalit exchange.) As the Second Intifada slowed, with the constrictions tightening, they noticed that Israel began to link their armed resistance to terrorism in the world. They began to rethink armed resistance and came to believe that nonviolent popular resistance against the occupation, (defined as any resistance that does not result in killing), is a third alternative that they could embrace.
Naji explains that his house is in area B but his land is in area C so he is not able to farm the land adjacent to his home. He has a nephew whose house is partly in area B and partly in area C. I am trying to figure out why everyone is not psychotic given the insanity all around them. Woman, who traditionally have protected the sanctity of the home, have been very important to the resistance and resilience. Israeli soldiers target them with the same brutality and arrests they reserve for the men and children. The women were unnerved when soldiers grabbed their head scarves, but they returned and are an enormous source of energy and samoud. Not only do they have to deal with the threat of home demolition (which may or may not happen at any time) but every house in the village has had windows broken and damage and fires from tear gas thrown into the home.
The pain of the evening is broken by a sharing of song; after such an emotional day, with great determination we sing from deep inside ourselves, Vincent’s resonant voice inspiring us: “We shall not be moved, just like a tree standing by the water, we shall not be moved….” The Palestinians, mostly the young people, begin a series of rousing melodies, laughing, taking photos, sharing our joyful voices, common humanity and determination.
We gather our things and walk up the sandy road to the expansive home of Bilal and Manal Tamini where we will be sleeping on mattresses on the floor. We watch Bilal’s documentary footage of the Israeli military’s outrageous interactions with the villagers, (a jeep that shoots 64 tear gas canisters in rapid succession, children sobbing from pepper spray, tear gas tossed into a safe house for children, IDF invading a home in the middle of the night and taking photos of and registering all the children, to create a map for future identification and arrests, an army jeep chasing children, and the macabre list goes on). I wonder about the young children sitting attentively in front of the TV until I remember, this is their personal experience, perhaps this even helps manage their fear. A brave six year old girl walks directly up to the soldiers, yelling and scolding them, reads them a poem and then notices they are laughing at her. She never loses her sense of outrage. And then we listen to the diminutive Manal’s arrest and detention experiences. There is no limit to human suffering. On the wall is a poster: “Free Bassem Tamimi!” We discuss the meaning of stone throwing in Palestinian culture; Bassem explains that a stone cannot cause a major injury (particularly when thrown at a tank or totally armed soldier), but the stone also represents the land which is claimed by the stone thrower, it is a symbolic act of defiance that is central to Palestinian resistance. I wonder if the slingshot is also a mark of Palestinian manhood, a reclaiming of dignity in the face of so much humiliation.