Two days ago, my wheelchair broke. I couldn’t work out what the problem was, but there was no power. It simply wasn’t moving. Luckily, I have good friends in Bil’in, and Mohammed Khatib, the father of the family I’ve been living with, managed to fix it.
At around 1:30am last night, me and Mohammed were sitting on his roof when we heard whistling coming from the village. Two minutes later, Mohammed received a call – the army were in Abdullah Abu Rahme’s house.
By kidnapping young boys from the village, most of them close friends of mine, dragging them from their beds while they sleep, and then subjecting them to interrogation and intimidation, the Israeli authorities have managed to obtain supposed “confessions”, alleging that members of the Bil’in Popular Committee have been instructing the boys to throw stones at our weekly non-violent demonstrations at the Apartheid Wall, which has stolen 60% of Bil’in’s land. These false confessions are then used as a pretext to arrest members of the Popular Committee in the dark of the night, in a clear attempt to crush the non-violent resistance for which Bil’in has become a symbol. Abdullah Abu Rahme is one of these members of the Committee.
Abandoning my wheelchair for the sake of speed, I jumped in the car with Mohammed and a couple of international volunteers who were with us, and we drove straight to Abdullah’s.
As we arrived, soldiers were entering the house. They had locked the front gate, preventing international volunteers, journalists and neighbours from entering, but I knew that wouldn’t stop Mohammed from protecting his friend’s family – there were children and women inside the house, and someone had to get to them before the army did.
As two international volunteers began climbing over the gate, distracting the soldiers from the front door of the house, Mohammed jumped over another wall and ran through Abdullah’s garden and into the house. Following his lead, and with a leg-up from a friend, I also climbed over the wall, determined to enter the house. But due to my disability I am not such a fast walker, and by the time I got to the front door the soldiers were back in position, blocking my entrance.
As I argued with them in the doorway, I heard screaming from inside the house. There were beating Mohammed… they were hospitalising my adoptive father.
“Let me in!” I demanded, “my father is there!”
The soldier in front of me pushed me to the ground.
“Can’t you see he is disabled!” said a Palestinian friend of mine, who was standing next to me.
“I don’t care…” replied the soldier.
When I finally got into the house, over an hour later, I found Mohammed sprawled on a sofa. He had two black eyes, was holding his abdomen, and moaning in agony.
Just two days earlier, he had been joking about how much I should pay him for fixing my wheelchair. Due to the merciless brutality of the Israeli military, it looked like Mohammed who would be needing to use it.