The Brave Israeli Soldiers and the Palestinian Pothole Attack

In the West Bank, the Israeli army strategy seems simple: Potholes for Palestinians, asphalt for the Jews.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Illustration: A pothole.
Illustration: A pothole.Credit: © Christian Delbert | - Giant pothole
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The IDF has won again. Last Saturday it prevented a serious attack by volunteers from the Arab-Jewish group Ta’ayush who were fixing up a portion of the road that leads to Palestinian villages in the southern West Bank. The medals go to soldiers from the Keren battalion in the Artillery Corps, to the battalion commander who refused to identify himself, to another commander with two oak leaves named Aviv, to a restless soldier with antennas sticking out of his backpack and a stun grenade poking from his pocket, and to soldier Y.B.

Risking his life, Y.B. stood on the rocky outcrop that Ido was hitting with a pickaxe. Ido stopped. When Y.B. got down from the outcrop and Ido again began to strike the rock, a grain of geology flew off. Y.B. rushed to practice the arrest procedure on the activist.

“Why does it bother you that we are fixing a road full of potholes?” the activists asked. And the soldier, with utter self-confidence, replied: “This is the State of Israel. This route does not need to change, this road needs to remain the way it is. With holes. Because this is the territory of the State of Israel.”

Thirty-one men and women set out last Saturday for regular Ta’ayush activity in the southern Hebron hills. They divided into two groups: The larger group accompanied the Awad family to its land on the Umm al-Ara’is hill. Once couples were married there, giving the hill its name, but who remembers the celebrations. Strangers from the Mitzpe Yair unauthorized outpost invaded the Awad’s land about 15 years ago. The family is fighting a legal battle (with the help of attorney Shlomo Lecker) and a popular battle (along with Ta’ayush) to have the land returned to them. In the meantime, they have been able to return to 70 percent of the land, which has been plowed and planted, if only through cumbersome coordination with the military.

The smaller group made its way to the rocky road leading to the villages of Bir al-’Eid and Jinba. The weapons were kept in Ezra Nawi’s jeep: Black buckets, pickaxes and hoes. The road, full of potholes, leads off a beautifully paved road that leads to the unauthorized outpost of Mitzpe Yair. The ruler is the same ruler, the nature is the same nature. But what the Jews deserve is forbidden to Arabs. Residents of the villages are sentenced to travel on what is not really a road, three kilometers long.

In the early 2000s, ceaseless harassment by Jewish Israelis and the army banished the residents of Bir al-’Eid from their village. In 2009, thanks to the legal battle conducted by attorney Quamar Misharqi Asad of Rabbis for Human Rights, eight families returned to their lands and caves, but they were forbidden to build or connect to utilities. The army does not protect them from the repeated attacks of the invaders – damage to the pipes they run from the water cistern, threats, attacks on shepherds, blocked roads and blocked access to pasture. And now, another victory for the eternity of Israel: In Bir al-’Eid, there is only one family left today.

With painstaking work over several years, the rocky road whose bends lead down to the village of Jinba is being upgraded. Ta’ayush activists join the Palestinian residents, fill the potholes with rocks, spill loose earth on them, break the protruding rocks with their pickaxes. Last Saturday, the activists worked alone on the section near the outpost. For half-an-hour, they managed to fill three potholes, while Y.B. demanded they stop, because “this is the State of Israel and the road needs to remain with holes.”

Y.B. summarized the policy: Potholes for Palestinians, asphalt for the Jews. After all, the soldiers are only repeating what they have learned in the field. The soldier with the antennas daringly and courageously emptied the contents of the buckets (sand.) The battalion commander pulled out a closed military area order, “to prevent friction.” Friction will happen only if the invaders from the unauthorized outpost attack the Israelis with Ta’ayush. The role of the army is not to prevent violence by settlers. So he banished from the area anyone who was not a Jewish trespasser.

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