Saturday, April 10, 2010

Where the Sidewalk Ends

They say all roads lead to Rome. They're wrong.

Yes, the roadblocks of the West Bank get a lot of justified bad publicity. However, When thinking of them we envision a long queue of cars in the heat of day, soldiers inspecting documents and giving orders to civilian Palestinians in Arabic words they barely understand. We seldom ever think of a small gravel barrier.

These barriers, the unmanned road blocks or "hasimot" (to be distinguished from "mahsomim") number over 500 in the West Bank. The one seen above was placed in 2002 between the village of Shufa:

And the city of Tull Karem, 6 kilometers to the northwest:

For centuries, Shufa relied on Tull Karem for trade and services. This remained the case after the Israeli occupation of the west bank in 1967. Then, in 1990, a small settlement named Avne Hefez was built right beneath the village, along with a small military base.

Since 2002 the old road leading to the village has been designated for the settlers and the military only.

Two barriers were created. One up the hill, near the village itself, the other - about amile away away, where the road would lead to Tull Karem. This one is a different kind of an unmanned block, made up of concrete slabs.

The villagers can still go to Tull Karem, on foot.

Well, not only on foot.

They can also take the long way around, through the town of Anabta. That road totals 25 kilometers in length and involves going through manned checkpoints. We don't all think that's a good idea. Yesterday, a group of Israelis who never had to go around anything to get home, went to the unmanned block at Shufa to express disdain.

We were joined by about a dozen Palestinians from Tull Karem (who had to be picked up by our bus at the concrete slabs and brought up the hill to the village). Shufa villagers themselves are not allowed to protest. The Army clarified that any political activity on their behalf would cause their village to be disconnected from electricity.

Many of the participants in the event are activists with "Combatants for Peace", an organization made up of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants, who've chosen to replace violence with dialogue. Among the activists was Nur, a Palestinian who had served time in Israeli custidy. He called Shufa a prison and joked that the Ktzio't jail, where he was held, has vaster grounds.

While Nur spoke, we recieved guests.

An Israeli activist explained to them that we came over for a peace-making activity. One soldier said: "Let's hope your efforts bear fruit". They then left.

On a different incident, when acrivists tried to take the Shufa barrier apart, soldiers shot at them.

Combatants for Peace have had their share of tear gas in Shufa before. This time they had no intention of causing havoc. Rather, the activity was infomative. We came to learn of the situation and also to meet the Tel-Aviv-Tull-Karem chapter of the organization.

The chapter's activists have been using drama as means of resolving animosity and bringing up questions for debate. They decided that if all the world's a stage, Shufa's blocked road would make a fine place for a presentation. "We are not a performing group" one Israeli activist clarified. "We think of acting as related to activism. Acting is about not sitting there idely, but stepping in and changing things."

In this case they were changing roles. The "soldier" on the right is Nur the Palestinian.

He played the incompassionate officer with a great deal of talent,

But at the end of the day, even the performance at the very site of the gravel barrier dealt with the conflicts and tragedies of the manned barriers. Some of the things we deal with are simply so dark or so absurd that they are truly difficult to discuss. Shufa's barrier is a place where no one goes and nothing happens. How do you act out a silent mound that's been there for so long it's growing bushes? How do you act on it?

1 comment:

Shy Halatzi said...

Great post, well written!