It’s a Bedouin Village?
I don’t know when I realized it was a Bedouin Village. Not until long after our first encounter. The penny should have dropped then. The incident we’d heard about from team 77 involved a shepherd, his sheep, and Israeli colonizers. But I get ahead of myself.
Seated in the Headmaster’s office in the Tuqu’ Boy’s School, our team was learning about arrests of students (twenty five in the last two years, the youngest, 13, the most recent, December of ‘19) and threats (Israeli Military demand teachers take responsibility for students who oppose the occupation) when the call came in. A student had been run down by a colonizer in Kisan, a small village 2 or three kilometres away. Making our apologies we left for the village.
As we drove along a narrow two lane road twisting its way up and around steep terrain, I remembered our first visit to Kisan. A village of about 80 homes, it’s main road passing two school rooms cut out of converted sea cans, a new mosque and some other buildings, en route to illegal colonies built on land confiscated from Kisan residents.
School had been out for the midwinter break, but we’d been able to see the Star of David spray painted on one of the Sea Can classrooms. Remnant of an attack by Israeli colonists. The mosque, we were told had also been vandalized. That was before they’d put the dogs on the shepherd and his sheep.
The shepherd was hospitalized for a week, ten of his 50 sheep had been killed. Israeli colonizers also cut down olive trees, destroy grape vines and otherwise harass villagers. A nearby garbage dump pollutes the air, while dust from the crusher supplying rock to layer the garbage floats fine particulate everywhere. A new dump is under construction, also within sight, sound and smell.
Shortly after the dog attack a young man had been run off the road and injured by a colonist. Walking along the narrow roadway home from work in Tuqu’, he’d been left with a broken leg and fourteen thousand shekels in medical bills. We’d met him the week before, convalescing in his father’s house, leg propped up on pillows. Israeli police will not charge the driver. Israeli insurance will not pay his medical bills, nor will it replace the wages he’s lost, earnings the family cannot afford to lose as Israeli colonists actively keep them off the land.
Arriving at the school after passing a cordon of Israeli military facing down a group of angry villagers, we meet the headmaster and benefit from his wealth of information. He’d been at the accident site. The colonist struck the girl, a seventeen year old walking to school in Tuqu’ with two friends, injuring her leg. Calling the police they waited for the arrival of the Israeli ambulance, who assessed the situation as non life threatening and called the Palestinian ambulance. Palestinians are not usually or often treated in Israeli hospitals.
The incident was the 7th or 8th in the past 9 months. Colonists almost routinely run Villagers off the road. While the colonies have regular bus service, Villagers do not. Neither do they have sidewalks or street lamps. Colonists drive at high rates of speed through villages. The headmaster feels they are afraid of villagers who may be upset about land theft, shepherd mauling, sheep killing, tree cutting, vine destruction and so on. He tells us the mosque and the mayor’s house have been targeted for demolition by Israeli authorities because the colonizers fear buildings that are close to the road. Too easily targeted from them, I suppose.
The headmaster hopes the new school – to be built well off the main road on an approved site – will keep the children out of harms way, as well as providing space for a growing student body and rooms for better programing for students. A month later the equipment building the new school is confiscated by the Israeli Military. I think it’s about then I learn that Kisan is a Bedouin community.
Most of its original inhabitants moved here in 1948 after being driven out of the Negev Desert by Israel during the Nakba. They kept a mainly pastoral existence grazing herd animals on sparsely vegetated hill tops supplemented by tree crops and grape vines until the Colonies were built. The village is in the way of the expansion plans of the Gush Etzion complex of Colonies, set to cut Bethlehem off and to extend Israel’s conquest to the Dead Sea.
Residents remember their ancestry and heritage fondly and are not averse to making things difficult for colonizers and their military protectors. They also seem to be more tactically inclined than some folk we’ve met. Living in a high degree of privation and poverty does not seem to have affected their spirit or their determination to defeat the occupation. Perhaps the colonizers are right to fear driving through their territory.
When we ask the headmaster what he thinks will resolve the situation he shrugs. Not a resident of Kisan himself, he thinks in terms of equity and justice. Telling us Israel is enriched by the illegal occupation of Palestinian land he says wealth and rights should be shared equally. Palestinians should be equal citizens in their own country. Palestinians should benefit from the same state supports that illegal colonizers have. Healthcare, education, transportation, well built homes, the right to secure employment, good food, electricity, water, street lights, sidewalks. Israel has proven it can provide all of this for hundreds of thousands of illegal colonies. It should be very easy to do the same for the people from whom the land is stolen and the wealth is taken.
No argument here, I thought, thinking of my own land and its own disparities. No argument here.