AND SOME HARSH WORDS FOR MOTHERS AND SISTERS
Gideon Lichfield reports on his travels among the Palestinians, this time to the village of Bil'in, which was celebrating a court victory obliging Israel to re-route the security barrier and restore access to nearby farmland ...
From our travel blog, FURTHERMORE
By the time we arrived the festivities had ended so the village could gear up for a wedding celebration, and handfuls of foreign sympathisers were loitering around trying to hitch rides back home. We drove out to the site of the protests next to the fence itself, where the ground is littered with the packaging from tear gas grenades.
As we stood taking pictures we heard a gunshot, and a minute later another. A group of boys in the distance had evidently strayed too near to another part of the fence, and the soldiers on the other side were firing warning shots and gunning the engine of their jeep. We decided not to make them any more jumpy by hanging around too close to the fence ourselves, and started driving back.
On the way I stopped the car to take a leak in an olive grove. From there I could hear the boys and the soldiers cursing each other in a fluid mix of Hebrew and Arabic. We walked closer, and it became clear that this was part of an established and mutually enjoyed tradition:
Boy: Fuck your sister!
Soldier: Your sister is a whore!
Boy: Your mother and your sister are whores!
Soldiers: [uproarious laughter]
Boy, mockingly: Where is Sharon? Sharon is dead!!
Soldier: [more laughter] You’re not a man!
That was true. The kids were barely into their teens, but they were hurling stones and insults at the troops with an air of long practice. From time to time a stone would hit the fence with a clang, which only seemed to amuse the soldiers even more. As we got closer the boys welcomed us in Hebrew; then, when we replied in Arabic, began badgering us to take pictures of them and give them money. One of them showed us the scab of what he said was a rubber bullet wound on the back of his head. It could have been, though his claim that it had been inflicted earlier that afternoon was clearly preposterous.
We took the pictures, but held back the money, citing as an excuse our wish to maintain the purity of the muqawame, the resistance. They pressed spent rubber bullets and a live round used for firing them (the cartridge of an ordinary round but without a bullet in the tip) into our hands as souvenirs. As we took our leave they returned to yelling and launching stones from their slingshots, though the army jeep had by now retreated well out of range.