The weather changes quickly in Palestine. On Wednesday, I was still enjoying the blazing sunshine that has graced every morning since I arrived, so imagine my surprise to wake up the next day to see pouring rain outside the window. I was staying with my friend Ahmed, the same boy who was walking his goats earlier in the week when he was arrested by Israeli soldiers and held for four hours for “throwing stones”, Israeli Occupation Forces “Newspeak” for attending the weekly demonstrations here. I spent the whole day in bed, feeling unwell. Maybe it was this sudden change in the weather that did it… with my past year consisting of South America, Gaza, Strasbourg and here, I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen rain.
All in all, it wasn’t providing the best context for the demonstration the next day. And sure enough, around an hour before we prepared to gather in the centre of the village, the rain started lashing down again. I had never seen Bil’in in such circumstances – dirt paths turned to slush, and the centre was crowded with cars as people opted-out of walking it to the mosque for Friday prayers.
Nevertheless, we were marching in our hundreds for the cause. This week, we held posters in the air demanding the release of Adeeb Abu Rahme, a leader of the non-violent resistance, who has been stuck in an Israeli jail for the last four months. His wife and his ten children, one of whom is waiting to get married, have no idea when their father will be released.
The rain made a beautiful and dramatic backdrop for the protest. Our spirits were far from dampened. People were dressed up warmer than usual – even the young boys were wearing jumpers with hoods rather than the usual bare chests and keffiyahs. As we got to the Wall, I felt even more inspired, even more fearless than usual.
I stood up on top of the gate that “protects” the Wall, and others busied themselves with trying to break the lock open. The rain was pouring down…
Someone had told me that the tear-gas would be ineffective in this weather, although I still felt the occasional stinging in my eyes. Little was I to know, the tear-gas would be the least of my worries.
As the demonstration was drawing to a close, I was sitting at the edge of the road that leads up to where the protest could take place. I tried to turn as the standard parting gift of tear-gas rounds fell, but I couldn’t… my wheelchair wouldn’t move. It was broken again.
Luckily, a Palestinian friend pushed me back to a friend’s house. Rani also uses an electric wheelchair, since an Israeli bullet to the spine during the first intifada left him paralysed, so I asked if I could borrow his old one. Unfortunately, it also wasn’t working.
Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling great. Not only was I sick, and cold, but now I couldn’t go anywhere. Mohammed contacted Shai, an Israeli friend and long-time supporter of Bil’in.
As I was writing this blog, Shai phoned me. Just two hours before, he had driven to Bil’in to take pick up my wheelchair and take it to Tel Aviv. Now, it’s fixed. That’s how we make peace in the Middle East.
Israeli leaders could learn a lot from Shai.