There was a military incursion into my little village of Jayyous. We had been trained for just this sort of event and so when we got the call, ‘The soldiers are in the village, we need you to come,’ we knew what to do. Gathering our passports, cameras, telephones, (one for the Israeli service and one for the Palestinian, they aren’t always workable in the other’s territory), keys, notepad and pencil and, last but not least, an onion.(for the tear gas). When a tear gas canister is thrown, you are supposed to stomp on the onion and then breathe it in so that tears will flow, thus minimizing damage to the eyes and respiratory system. We started out, excited and nervous, ready to face the fully armed soldiers. We walked four abreast down the main street, arms wide, palms facing, proving we had no weapons and were utterly defenceless.
There were three military vehicles. Since each vehicle holds at least four, we estimated that there were 12 soldiers. Villagers warned us to watch out for the rocks. So as we approached, we warned, ‘Don’t throw rocks!’ to the phantoms on rooftops.’ The soldiers, mostly between the ages of 18 – 21 doing their compulsory military service, ordered us to stay away, but we continued our slow measured pace toward them. At one point, as we neared them, rocks were thrown. I ducked behind a tree, while the others found cover where they could, Soldiers crouched at the corner of a building, then at some invisible signal, ran forward at top speed to the other corner, rifles ready. They came to a full stop, looked around and then looked at each other, grinned and ran across the street to another corner. This continued for about half an hour.
I felt like an extra in another movie. As I sheltered…. as the soldiers with their rifles performed their manoeuvres…. as the phantom rock throwers threw rocks…., the villagers continued about their business. Cars drove by, mothers with babies in strollers watched for their chance and darted toward their destination, men on their way home after a days work, noticed but didn’t pay much attention to the dangerous play going on about them.
When it seemed safe, we continued to approach the soldiers. Ironically, we came together at the entrance to the Mosque, where we were able to converse. One heavily armed soldier blurted, ‘Look, take pictures of this! Show this to the World. They are throwing stones at us.’ Affirming that we didn’t condone any form of violence, our comment on the imbalance in the power play of this situation, resulted in an abrupt end to our conversation. As we stood there, several men were brought to one of the heavily fortified jeeps and questioned. No one was arrested. We don’t know why…perhaps because there were no orders for arrest, or perhaps… because someone was watching.