Bil’in is my Palestinian home, and it always will be, but after a few months of living in the village, resisting 24/7, I felt like hitting the road. I wanted a new challenge. But what I had decided would be my last night turned out to be far from uneventful…
I knew the soldiers would invade that night. I just knew. I was on my way towards the Wall when Ibrahim, a friend from the village, told me he was on the move because he’d seen five jeeps patrolling the army-only road which slices through Bil’in’s land. After another deep late-night conversation with Haitham, Bil’in’s resident cameraman, and a couple of hours had passed, we got the familiar call. The army were in the village.
As we got to the main street, we saw several jeeps approaching. They immediately drove up to a house we had just passed, stopped, and scores of soldiers started jumping out, taking strategic positions around the house and aiming their guns towards windows and doors, keen to impose yet another night of terror upon the residents of Bil’in. But I wasn’t going to let such minor details distill my spirit. I only had one thought on my mind… to get to the house they were raiding.
I darted through the army lines, ignoring their shouted demands for me to stop and intimidation tactics of pointing lasers at my body. Really? Are they going to shoot me? I don’t think so!
Once I got to the front door, I could see them entering inside. I shouted for Haitham, who I knew was fearless, to follow. Equipped with my wheelchair, I sat in front of the door, effectively blocking the soldiers’ freedom of movement in and out. What an ironic use of the word “freedom”…
Of course, the soldiers were not too happy about this. Immediately, one came over to drag the wheelchair from where I was stationed. Of course, he was unsuccessfull – that wheelchair is one heavy piece of machinery. He also tried tipping it backwards, but that didn’t work either, only further incensing the Palestinians present who wondered why these animals were manhandling their friend.
In the end, it took three soldiers, severely struggling, to force me away from the door, somewhat of a symbol of the lengths to which the Israeli army will stoop to in order to crush any form of non-violent Palestinian resistance. As they pushed me back, I saw them marching Abed Baset, still groggy from his sleep, out of his house and into a jeep. He is 19 years old, but at that moment, he looked much younger. I tried to open the back door of the jeep they had bundled him into, but it was locked.
As they drove away, we followed the jeeps, only to be pelted with tear gas cannisters. During the day is one thing, but in the dark of the night when you can’t even see where they are landing, the weapon holds an even greater danger.
Nevertheless, we pursued undeterred. We knew the night wasn’t over. Covering my face with a thin layer of keffiyah, I sped through the cloud of white gas. My eyes were stinging, my skin burning, but the cause was more important.
The jeeps stopped near the local community centre, lights beaming towards us. While most of the international volunteers watched from a distance from the top of the hill, I sped down on my wheelchair, furious at yet another invasion, furious that they were here to kidnap more of my friends. I was greeted with more tear gas, one cannister landing literally centimetres from my front wheel.
Once the gas had subsided, and we saw that the jeeps were on the move again, we chased them towards the house of Yaseen Yaseen. Yes, that really is his name. I had been hanging out with Yaseen, or “Socks” as he is known to his friends, that very day. Luckily, he wasn’t at home that night.
As the army tried to make a quick exit, I sat directly in front of the jeep at the front of the convoy. A soldier leaped out of the driver’s seat and waved a sound bomb in the air as he came towards me. With a desire to retain my hearing ability for the time being, I moved towards the side of the road, but not without shouting a few choice Arabic words in his direction. Something along the lines of “F*** your mother!” Just as I launched the insult, I caught his eye, and he threw the sound bomb straight at me. Seems that me and my wheelchair are becoming a favoured target for the Israeli Occupation Forces.
That night convinced me of one thing at least – I had to stay in Bil’in for a while longer. And I’m still here.