Feeling frustrated by a lack of activity in East Jerusalem, I decided to pack my bag and hit the road alone. I’d never been into the West Bank before and had no directions or place to stay, but my heart was set.
As my bus crossed the Apartheid Wall which has caused so much frustration and anger in Palestine, the other side was splashed with the colour of cultural resistance. One graffiti actually read “Ctrl+Alt Shift” – I don’t know where that came from!
Through a combination of buses I reached the town of Ni’liin, where I knew a demonstration against the Wall was happening the following day. It was a rural town with bittersweet views – beautiful but full of sorrow – and the silence was music to my ears after the rushing hustle and bustle of Ramallah, the city I had stopped off at on the way to Ni’liin.
I went into a shop to get a drink of water, and ended up staying the night with the family. Their generosity was almost too much to handle, and of course they wouldn’t accept a penny for anything. As we sat outside with the sun setting on the horizon, locals came and left throughout the evening. Every person wanted to know about my trip to Gaza, and what I think of Ismail Haniya. Hamas clearly have a lot of supporters here.
In the morning I walked into the main square of the town, where I’d been told people would gather for the demonstration. I spent about an hour hanging around with some local shabab (meaning youth), including a guy called Hassan who showed me the way to the starting point of the protest. I also had a last minute vision of my bag slowing me down as I try to run from armed soldiers, but Hassan was happy to run back and leave it in his “auntie’s” house.
There were around 100 of us, including Palestinians, Israelis and international activists here to support the resistance. As the locals said their Friday prayers I gave an interview for Press TV, in which the reporter asked me why I had chosen to come to Palestine:
“People around the world have a responsibility to help any oppressed nation, so if you care about Palestine, I urge you to come here yourself!”
From there we marched towards the wall, as the residents do every week, with spirits high and Palestinian flags waving. As we reached a distance of around 50 metres from the wall, the shower of tear gas canisters began. But this was no London demo, this was real guerrilla tactics. The crowd instantly dispersed into the fields and trees, eyes stinging – when I got to one ridge that was too steep for the wheelchair I continued on foot.
If I said I felt like a revolutionary before, I am lost for words now.
The most determined shabab managed to reach the fencing that separates them from their land to pull down some of the barbed wire. However, the demonstration a few hours earlier than usual when it was feared that arrest vehicles were heading into town.
These weekly protests started in May of last year, and this is the first time in a while that no live ammunition has been fired at protestors.
At this same demonstration last week, Yousef Akil Srour, aged 36, was killed by Israeli soldiers.