Amira Hass Beit El settlers’ sign on Ramallah bypass road: “We came home.”
Beit El settlers’ sign on Ramallah bypass road: 'We came home.' Photo by Amira Hass
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When police of the African National Congress are slaughtering platinum miners who demand that the mine owner (a private transnational company registered in London! ) pay them a wage that begins to befit the hardships of the job and value of the metal in operating rooms and on the fingers of plutocrats, there is no chance that one Palestinian tractor impounded by Israeli soldiers will attract the attention of a single foreign news editor anywhere on earth. In the international competition over suffering, Syrian blood and agonies win out over the south Hebron Hills in the West Bank, where the Israeli army and Civil Administration have begun acting enthusiastically and harshly to impose their authority as the supreme sovereign, confiscating last week vehicles that violate the closed-military-zone orders.

In the battle royal over what is the most creative struggle against oppressive authorities, it is no wonder the media prefers Pussy Riot in Putin's Russia over 1,800 shepherds and farmers who insist on living and cultivating their land and raising their naturally-growing families (heaven forbid ) in the place where their ancestors were born long before Herzl envisioned the Jewish state. And even longer before the army of that state decided that their lands, precisely this land, was suitable for its exercises, and that these exercises displace the rights of the indigenous inhabitants to dignity and security.

It is not for us to be burdened by the considerations of foreign news editors, and so for the second week in a row, we return to Live Fire Zone 918, this time to tell the story of Mahmoud Jabarin's tractor, expropriated by the soldiers. And of the law-breaking driver detained by the soldiers, Hamza Jabarin. And of the distress that pervaded the village of Jinba on the night between Wednesday and Thursday when first a flock of goats disappeared (they were found at dawn alive and well ), and afterward of the tractor driver who set out to look for them did not return.

At the beginning of last week, Civil Adinistration employees impounded two vehicles traveling near the village of Mufaqara with the same claim - that they violated orders concerning live fire zones. In May there were several other confiscations, including a vehicle carrying teachers to the school in Jinba. All signs point to this happening again and again from now on. It is no longer a war to keep our Indians on their land via demolition orders for water cisterns and tents, but also the confiscation of vehicles. This move is especially effective when the vehicles are transporting water, because as is well known, Israel has meticulously refused to allow pipes carrying water to its newest settlements to be extended to nearby, generations-old Palestinian villages. This is what we may define as long-term planning.

Three weeks ago soldiers were busy registering the names of the names of people who were found in the villages of Mufaqara, Tuba and Jinba. The registration and the cars' confiscation reiterate the state's announcement to the High Court of Justice whereby Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the evacuation of eight villages in the sacred name of Live Fire Zone No. 918.

The impoundment of the tractor, the arrest of the driver and the declaration of villages as live fire zones, marginal as they may seem, are links in a continuum of space and time. This continuum must interest us, more than any stories about particular individuals. After all, in the south Hebron Hills, as in the Jordan Valley, the Negev and the Galilee, laws are legislated, military orders are issued and master plans for Jews are drawn up to cleanse as many Palestinians as possible from these areas. The continuum of time is also erasing the pre-1967 border: What was once carried out in the Galilee (Live Fire Zone 9 included the lands of Palestinian citizens of Israel that later became the Jewish city of Carmiel ) is being planned today for the entrance to Arad (seven new communities for Jews in an area where the state refuses to recognize Bedouin communities ), and regularly applied since 1967 in the West Bank. Let's not be surprised if in five years, Live Fire Zone 918 turns into a thriving Jewish town.

Are you sick and tired of reading about this again and again? Believe me, I am sick and tired of writing about it again and again. But the most tiring thing is to have to experience it year after year, continuously since 1948. Only the new soldiers obeying orders are apparently not sick and tired. After all, someone will tell them it's all for the sake of security and the homeland and they are heroes.

God in the supermarket

When there is no firing zone to use as an excuse, it is always possible to get help from God, as can be learned from the sign placed on the Ramallah bypass road (Route 60 ) at the junction of the Palestinian villages Dir Dibwan, Burqa and Beitin. The unauthorized and illegal outpost of Givat Asaf overlooks the junction. The original narrow, pitted road that connected Burqa and Beitin to the Ramallah junction has been closed to Palestinian traffic for 12 years with a barrier of cement blocks. The natural and traditional route to Ramallah is also blocked with an iron gate on the west side of the village, for the comfort of travelers to the Beit El illegal settlement and army base.

"We're home," says the sign in large letters. "Here in Beit El 3,800 years ago, the Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people by the Creator of the Universe. By force of this promise we sit today in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Shiloh and Hebron." But it seems that God also is in need of sponsors: the grocery store in Beit El's neighborhood A and the minimarket in neighborhood B - as indicated at the bottom of the holy road sign.

All that is left is to ponder: The sign was erected at least five years ago, so wouldn't it have been proper to update the date and print that 3,805 years ago, the Creator of the Universe ordered us to prevent the residents of Burqa and Beitin from sowing their wheat and tending to their olive trees?