Having an Israeli soldier wave a gun at you is not such a pleasant experience, as I found out in the early hours of this morning.
After days of staying up all night in Bi’lin, keeping a look out for invading forces, the soldiers raided the village once again last night. Their mission is always the same – to “disappear” the young boys who take part in the weekly demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall. There was a sense of inevitability and tension circulating all evening – as early as 11:40pm we went out to investigate sightings of army jeeps and fires on the highway leading up to the town. By 1:30am, Hamde (a friend who lives in Bi’lin) told me he was 80% sure the soldiers were on their way.
At around 4am, me and Ian (an ISM activist from America) were sitting on the main street of Bi’lin near the mosque, when we got a call saying soldiers were raiding a house down the road. We ran there as quickly as possible – I only wish my wheelchair had nitrous oxide injection capabilities. Masked and heavily armed soldiers surrounded the house. Another teenager was arrested and dragged from his home.
When the Palestinian families ask why their son is being taken, they are ignored. When the Palestinian families ask where their son is being taken, they are refused an answer. They won’t see him again for six months.
We followed the soldiers for as long as possible, harassing them for information and documenting their crimes, but eventually they lost us. I turned around to see activists sprinting back towards the village, where another house (near the mosque where we were sitting earlier) was being raided. As I followed, I saw another home across the road already teeming with soldiers, lights flicking on as innocent people are woken from their broken sleep.
“Turn your phone off!” one of the soldiers screamed at me, rushing over to make sure that I had. “What are you doing here?” he demanded, waving an automatic weapon in my direction.
“Well I live here, what are you doing he-“
“What are you doing he-“
“Shut up! You have no reason to be here.”
“Why are you in this house?”
“These are suspects.”
Suspects of what, I wonder. Opposing tanks with stones? Opposing the illegal construction of a Wall that will, if allowed, imprison them forever? Is that why these children are being kidnapped? Is that why they leave it until 4am? Is that why they need 100 soldiers to “arrest” someone? The harrassment continued, and at one point he said that I could leave but a Palestinian guy standing with me, Ashraf, couldn’t, which of course I would never let happen.
A couple of hours later, with the ordeal over (for now at least), we sat on the roof of Iyad’s (head of the Bi’lin Popular Committee) house, with the sun rising, looking at photos of the other arrest I missed. I felt completely heartbroken. Iyad has seen this happen a thousand times, but still I saw tears in his eyes. Two more boys were arrested tonight, bringing the total to seven taken in recent weekd. But two more boys they came to snatch happened to not be at home, so the soldiers left papers warning of their return to finish the job. We will be standing in the doorways of those homes when they arrive.
I hope your souls are with the mothers who lost their boys in Bi’lin.