Our worse fears are unfolding. As we were returning home this bulldozer lumbered down the road past Susiya and was delivered to the military outpost 2 minutes away!
The EAPPI overnight shift arrived. Nothing to report in the handover. It had been a quiet day. Just as we arrived back in Yatta, a phone call from Nassar, the spokesperson for the village, informed us of the unwelcome but not unexpected arrival of bulldozers.
We race back to Susiya. Another bulldozer, and trailer of heavy equipment and bales of hay??? have been delivered to the military outpost. The moment we have been dreading has come. We expect that the plans to demolish the village will be deployed tomorrow.
Days off and checkpoint duty are abandoned as we plan for the probable demolition in the morning. We are prepared ….everything we might need has been stored emergency trunk,,,,water, dried food, first aid kit, flashlight batteries, everything that could be needed in an emergency. We increase our surveillance – camera’s and phones charged; we are ready for whatever is coming. We meet with Nassar and plan strategy. Sentry duty begins at dawn, the time when the Israeli army usually begins its demolitions. We know that whoever is in the village at this crucial time will be the eyes and ears to the unfolding tragedy. The road will be closed and the area will be declared a closed military zone. No one else will get in!
Now it is ‘hurry up and wait’. We send reports to our National Coordinators. They contact consulates and the media. At least we can ensure that whatever does happen, it will, like Krakatoa, sound an echo throughout the world.
Nothing happens that morning…. nor the next!
On Tuesday morning, Henk, a recently arrived EA, and I go for a walkabout. A walkabout serves a dual purpose. The first is to be seen by the Israeli sentry who is constantly watching the village from his watchtower across the valley. The song,
‘I am looking back to see, if you are looking back to see,
if I am looking back to see, if you are looking back at me.’
The sentry and I have been watching each other over the past few weeks. The other reason for the walk is a reconnaissance to introduce Henk to the area. As we walk past the home of three young women, they invite us to join them. One attends university and will qualify as a teacher next year, one is going to be married in the fall and another is finishing high school and also plans to be a teacher. We have a lot of fun posing for pictures, inviting their mother to take a break from hanging out clothes and join us.
As we continue our walk, the phone rings. Terrible news! The DCO (district coordination office) wing of the Israeli establishment empowered with giving an order for demolitions, has entered the village. Hamdilila, Nena is there. Usually, we travel in pairs but this morning, luckily, we are three.
We race back to the village. The DCO officers, flanked by soldiers, arrogantly strut through the village stopping at various structures to take photographs…usually a preliminary action to sending in the bulldozers. This has happened before. In 1986, the Israeli administration ‘discovered’ an archaeological site on the traditional village of Susyia. The villagers were expelled and moved across the street. These women and children know only too well that the order to demolish is not an idle threat! Nena follows them, takes pictures and attempts to ask questions. They ignore both her and the villagers.
We arrive as the DCO vehicle is pulling away. Our colleagues from Yatta are not far behind. The women and children have been badly frightened.
We, EAPPI, have been sent to provide protective presence to the villagers, to show the Israeli authorities that the wider community is watching and to document events as they unfold for the world to see. Our national coordinators have been informed, they in turn have informed the media, and governmental organizations, who will express their outrage that these violations of UN conventions are taking place.
We represent to them world that cares. This world, through the UN, supported by church communities, Rabbi’s for Human Rights and human rights activists have sent us to insist on the Palestinian’s right to live on their own land, to develop it as they choose, to send their children to school without fear, to be protected by the rule of law, and to live a life without the oppression of an Israeli occupation.
The lives of Palestinian families will not change until we, as a world community, insist on an end to this brutal occupation.