This is Samir with my friend Haneen. Samir is 5 years old. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Mariam asked Samir what he dreamed, and he replied “I dream of going to bed on Thursday and waking up on Saturday.”
You see, every Friday the villagers of Nabi Saleh launch a demonstration in protest to Israeli policies, centering around the appropriation of a village spring by settlers at the nearby Halamish settlement, who made the spring “Jewish Only”, depriving Palestinians of an important water source and recreational area. However, the demonstration is also in protest to the actions of Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF), including nighttime raids on the village and random arrests.
To make a long story short, these demonstrations usually go like this: a group of internationals and locals gather in the village, march to the road leading towards the spring, and are turned back by soldiers with tear gas and skunk spray. Then throughout the day the soldiers and village youth exchange tear gas and rubber bullets for stones, and sometimes raid the village proper looking for someone to arrest.
On the first day I went, something phenomenal happened: protestors made it to the spring they had so long been denied access to. This was the first time in two years that a demonstration made it there. They marched down the hill near the village instead of taking the road where the soldiers were waiting and the IOF wasn’t ready, so they let them pass up to the spring. When they first made it there, there were settlers having a picnic and wading in the spring in their underwear, who packed up and left, saying “let’s prepare the space for our guests”, to which a demonstrator replied, “you’re the unwelcome guests in this land.” At the spring everyone relaxed, some kids played with a ball and others waded in the spring chasing fish. Except for the presence of soldiers, it was a normal day.
Eventually either the soldiers asked us to leave (settlers were starting to gather above and around the spring) or we left of our own accord, or a combination of both – I wasn’t sure which. We were walking on the road back to the village, a “settler bypass” road, Israeli only, which the soldiers didn’t want us on. After marching for a ways they used sound bombs and brute strength to push us off, then tear gas and skunk water to chase us up the hill back to the village.
I returned this past week to Nabi Saleh. Unfortunately it wasn’t nearly as joyous as the previous week, when we reached the spring. The demonstrators at first tried to circle around the mountain towards the spring, but IOF was ready for us this time and blocked the way. Then we went back to the main road, where youth skirmished with the soldiers and the internationals mostly backed away from the gas and skunk and watched. My friend Mariam was badly soaked with the skunk spray, along with several other demonstrators.
They continued this routine dance all day. Attrition and stalemate were thick in the air.
This is Janna from Nabi Saleh (the young girl) and my friend Mariam from Ramallah. Janna memorized an English poem that goes like this.
All your armies, all your fighters
All your tanks, and all your soldiers
Against a boy holding a stone
Standing there all alone
In his eyes I see the sun
In his smile I see the moon
And I wonder, I only wonder
Who is weak, and who is strong?
Who is right, and who is wrong?
And I wish, I only wish
That the truth has a tongue
See the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-_A2ReZddc
The children of Nabi Saleh are incredibly inspiring. We can only hope they keep their spirits strong growing up in this struggle. One thing is clear, from their parents to their older siblings to the youngest children – they will not stop resisting this apartheid until there is justice in Palestine.
This week I will be in the Galilee with my parents and the rest of Max and Jane Carter’s group in a village called Ibileen at the Mar Elias educational trust. We will do lots of good touristy things like swim in the Sea of Galilee, go to Nazareth, and float in the Dead Sea. However, I cannot forget the people of Nabi Saleh and what they have to go through every day while I can indulge in these pursuits. I hope you don’t either.