When your children are too lazy to go to school, tell them about the man in the yellow shirt, and about the man in the purple shirt with the inscription “Regavim Ba’emek,” who is armed with two German shepherd dogs. No, not so your children will be afraid, but so they will know about children from another world, very far away, an hour and 15 minutes from Jerusalem, for whom walking to school and returning home are acts of bravery.
These are the children from Tuba, a village of shepherds and farmers hidden between hills and boulders south of the city of Yatta, in the southern West Bank. The school is located in the larger village of Al Tuwani, a walk of about two kilometers on a road that is partly paved, partly a dirt path.
It could have been a pleasant walk, especially when autumn is whispering between the white clouds. But members of the order of the overlords, in yellow and purple, were waiting in ambush for them there on Sunday morning. Two cars blocked the path. One of them pushed the children to the fence, then an armed man emerged from it, and together with the driver of the second car they chased the children and demanded that they identify themselves.
The 11 children – the youngest 6 years old, the older ones 16 and 17 – overcame their fear and continued to walk ahead. Two female volunteers from the Italian peace and justice organization Operation Dove approached them carrying cameras. The overlords tried to block them too, while they filmed and documented every movement.
Israel’s law enforcement authorities decided long ago not to investigate, find, detain or judge the thugs for whom such harassment against Palestinians, as well as far more violent acts, are a routine. We’re referring here to Israeli Jews who, about 19 years ago, burst forth repeatedly from the area of the illegal and unauthorized outpost of Maon Farm, a descendant of the illegal settlement Maon, and with whirling chains, beatings, threats and dogs prevented the movement of Palestinians between the two villages.
The frightened children chose to walk to school via a long bypass road, slippery in the winter to the point of being dangerous. After about three years the parents rebelled, and brought the issue to the attention of the Knesset Education Committee, which was shocked. That’s how a surprising tradition began about 15 years ago: As compensation for the voluntary helplessness of the authorities vis-à-vis the supreme and violent order, it was decided that an Israel Defense Forces jeep would escort the children. Twice a day. Five days a week. During all the seasons of the year. On the assumption that our beloved goons would not take action against the soldiers.
In the incident described above, this past Sunday, the morning escort failed to materialize as required at 7:30. (The IDF spokesman confirmed that there was a delay in the arrival of the escort.) The Italian volunteers, who escort the children part of the way, contacted the army to ask what happened. “The jeep is on the way,” they were told. The jeep didn’t arrive. At 8:15 the children started walking towards the school, and, as expected they encountered the overlords.
Three weeks have passed since the start of the Palestinian school year, and the military escort has already been late five times – by 15 to 45 minutes – always in the early afternoon, when it’s time to return home. On September 1 the children got tired of waiting for the jeep, and began walking home accompanied by the volunteers.
On the way, two Israeli children came down from the outpost and approached the children in a threatening way, cursing them. An Israeli in a car who passed by also scared the children. The military jeep showed up when the children and their escorts had already walked about two thirds of the way.
There’s no reason to be impressed by the IDF’s generosity. The path is still closed to adults. It’s worth it for the Israeli government to waste resources on an escort instead of punishing violent Jews, because they have a shared objective: to cut off far-flung Palestinian communities from one another and embitter the residents’ lives until they go to live in enclaves in Area A, so that more territory will be vacated for the order of the overlords.
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