Friday, April 11, 2014

Walls, stones and bullets!

We were figuring out our way to lunch. The lunch menu is the Arab speciality Makluth, something similar to the Biryani but much less spicier. However, our group was stopped by a person who said we should take another route avoiding the main road. The Israeli military who entered the Palestinian territory has tear-gassed the street against a bunch of youth who were protesting against the death of a Jordanian on the Allenby bridge the previous day.
A wall that separates Bethlehem from Israeli territories.

Just a few feet away from Jacir Intercontinental Hotel in Bethlehem.

Here on the streets stones are returned by bullets and tear gas
It has become the routine of the day for the Palestinian youth in Bethlehem. They throw stones at the tower built on the walls that separate the Palestinian areas from Israeli areas. The Israelis call it 'security wall' and the Palestinians condemn it as 'separation wall.' You can see them all around. The truth is that only 3% of the border between Israel and the Palestinian areas (designated as area A) have walls. Some areas have barbed wired fences and some are simply open. In spite of the walls still about 10,000 Palestinians still enter Israel illegally.

However, the walls are provocative. There are checkpoints everywhere. Those who enter the Palestinian areas are not checked, but when coming out even tourists are checked. Your passports be handy all the time. Hundreds of Palestinians have to cross the checkpoints every day in the morning and return in the evening if they have to work in Israeli areas. You may be turned down without any reasons. So there is great anxiety, fear and sense of loss of dignity as the young Israeli soldiers check your documents and person for weapons etc.

Youth vent their grudge against the walls by graffiti. On Fridays almost invariably they they throw stones at the towers where the Israeli soldiers are posted. The soldiers retaliate with tear gas and if that doesn't deter the mask wearing youth, fire in the air, rubber bullets or even aim at them.
There is denial! Or it is hope?

Stone throwing youth are rounded up at night. Even children under 14 serve in Israeli jails, thousands of them.
In our last day in Bethlehem we tried to walk back to our hotel. But there was drama on the street. It was Friday evening and the youth had a holiday. So, they decided to spend the evening throwing stones at the Israeli posts on the walls in Bethlehem. The youth were wearing masks to protect themselves from tear gas. The Israeli soldiers opened the gates on the walls and entered the streets and they started firing. We were caught between the two warring groups--stones and bullets. We requested the hotel staff to stop a taxi for us. And as we jumped in to the taxi, the Israeli soldiers were firing into the air and the youth were running away. The taxi driver was cool. The hotel security staff was duty-bound. For them it is a daily scene.
Will this walls come down one day?
Will Abraham's children embrace each other one day?

Back in my hotel room I told my wife. Both these parties lack one thing--a Gandhi! Every stone that is pelted will be returned by a bullet unless one more Gandhi's are born, may be two one on each side of the wall.

Life and Light

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