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  • Mary L. Hanna

“This is Hebron” (Israeli policeman)

Fridays in the very Muslim city of Hebron (or Al Khalil as the locals call it) is the holy day of the week when most businesses are closed. The quiet time and space occasionally provides a venue for boys to vent their frustration at the profound restrictions on their lives. On July 29, we witnessed a 4 hour "clash" on the street we are living on, between heavily armed soldiers using percussion grenades and tear gas, and mostly very thin young men throwing stones. The youngest boys prepared themselves for a time by collecting and breaking rocks into stones, then lobbed a few at a rooftop near a particularly onerous checkpoint. They were immediately met by troops on the roof and soon in the streets where for hours they seem to play "King of the Hill " with each other over the space of a city block, with the soldiers chasing the boys, then retreating, allowing the boys to approach them once again.

The soldiers could have hurt the boys and did not, but could have just as easily stayed out of sight behind their barricades and avoided the whole affair. The US Army veteran with us surmised that they were using the maneuvers for training. It was a near miracle that no one was hurt, since each grenade canister was heavy enough to produce a severe brain injury if it hit a head. They served no purpose we could see other than training for the soldiers, so I could not help thinking here is another waste of my tax dollars (part of that 3.8 billion per year in military aid we give Israel each year). The local population seems divided on whether such stone throwing is good or not. Folks we talked to through our language barrier seemed split - some calling it stupid and unproductive, while others seemed appreciative that someone was standing up to the soldiers whose job it is to make life very uncomfortable on a daily basis by restricting movement and stopping and searching people. (from John.)

The Team got its first eye, nose, and mouth burning experience of tear gas when we misjudged a cloud that we thought would dissipate more quickly. The boys are experts at such judgement and routinely throw the canisters back up the street.

In the evening (walking distance from the ISM house), settlers attending Friday night services at the synagogue pass through Palestinian area, so the army are posted all along the way for the settlers' "protection." We went there to observe the interactions between the Israeli army and settlers and the Palestinians. Again, this is often a time when other organizations have a presence, but we were the only organization present this evening. All was quiet while settlers and Palestinians walked peacefully past each other with Venus and Jupiter emerging in the sky as it turned from the light blue of day to a beautiful a dark deep blue and then the black of night. (from Linda.)

I, Linda, am glad these organizations provide this constant presence at both these weekly events. While I was sitting there observing this evening, I was thinking about how important it is for internationals to continue to provide a presence here and how difficult it is for some to enter the country just for this reason. The Palestinians are resilient people and they are taking a strong stand in the face of the long term and constant oppression with which they have been faced since 1949. They refuse to leave their homeland despite the harassment they get and have gotten for many generations from the Israeli settlers and military. We international activists from the US can provide two means of support: first by standing with the Palestinians providing this protective presence as we are doing now and second, by reporting back and reaching as many US Citizens as possible to try to change hearts and minds to refuse to allow our government to financially support the atrocities committed by Israel with our tax money. Thus, please consider to whom else you might forward some of these messages, or post on Facebook since I am not on Facebook.

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