Celebrating Israeli Independence Day From the Other Side of Apartheid Fence

Hebron, Occupied Palestine (ISM) – Leaving the meeting I was searching for a safe way to go through the old City of Hebron alone, where there was a celebration of ”Israeli Independence day” going on. I wanted to reach my ISM team members who were already patrolling there. I took off my Kufiya, the Palestinian scarf, because I would probably not be safe wearing it amongst crowds of settlers. I went by taxi to the nearest checkpoint; I got out, passed the checkpoint and descended the hill on the palestinian side.

Loud, happy music had been playing for days and at the main square, there was a stage surrounded by Jewish families cheerfully dancing, clapping hands watching the event going on. Reaching the entrance of the event, even soldiers at the checkpoint were dancing happily.
Only one old palestinian man with a cane was observing the scene melancholically. I felt his grief. Once that had been a palestinian place, with Palestinians celebrating on it. But those days were gone.

I found my friends and we started to walk through the old city, to check on the situation. The streets were empty, houses locked up and you could see Palestinian children behind lattice windows, trying to catch up on some of the events going on outside. Their parents had them made stay at home, being scared of clashes and attacks by settler groups, as they had been in past celebrations of independence day.

Palestinian girl out for a walk. Image Source: CPT Palestine, Flickr, Creative Commons

Palestinian girl out for a walk.
Image Source: CPT Palestine, Flickr, Creative Commons

Reaching back to the top of the hill, we met some young Palestinian men, watching the festivities from above. Between them and the square was a checkpoint and soldiers. The boys were making jokes to hide their true feelings. One young man told us, that there had been
times when Israelis and Palestinian had celebrated together on this square. After some time we walked down the hill, again on the Palestinian side of the fence. Palestinian boys and men were standing and watching the joyous triumphal dancing and cheering, through the fence.

Soldiers and jeeps on the other side of the fence protected the square. We stood with Palestinians for quite some time. Young men behind a fence, children and women behind the lattice windows, excluded from happiness in their own country, watching THEM celebrating the day when 68 years ago they violently took over the country.

When the festival ended, settlers flooded the streets so we walked back into the city. Most of them went in cars but walking an empty street we could suddenly hear the triumphal procession coming towards us. Singing, shouting, waving flags the crowd was coming towards us and we sought protection near Israeli soldiers. They would most of the time protect Internationals for not getting media attention for violent behaviour of the settlers. But they would never protect Palestinians from their violence. The next day we heard that the procession had aggressively crossed the Arab quarter.

 

This report prepared by Al Khalil Team for International Solidarity Movement.