Impressions Upon Arrival in Hebron After 1 Year

Tom Malthaner

September 22, 1997

I spent two months with the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Hebron, West Bank last year in 1996 and now after nearly one year have just returned to Hebron arriving on September 12 and planning on spending another 30 days. The big question on my mind was what changes have occurred in the West Bank and what were the feelings of the Palestinians since my last trip.

I first picked up the taxi at the Damascus Gate to go to Hebron. The trip cost 3 shekels more and took longer. The driver said due to the closure he had to drive on village dirt roads to get around the check points. On the taxi I met a Palestinian by the name of Amad. Amad is 27 years old, is married and has three young children, 2 boys Ahman 5 and Alla 2 and a girl Ashwak 3 1/2. He works as a shoemaker 5 days a week in Tel Eviv and was now returning home to see his family. Amad said the situation in Hebron is "very bad, the suppression, land confiscations and border closures. I cannot make a living here and I am trying to leave Hebron and go to US or England. There is no future here for me and my family". He attended Hebron University for 1/2 year but could not afford to continue. "I am so angry at Israel and the PA for what is happening". I asked him if he would fight the Israelis and he said he might. When we arrived in Hebron Amad invited me to his house where I met his three beautiful children and was offered tea. His hospitality and friendship was a warm welcoming back to Hebron.

After arriving in Hebron I visited the Pottery Factory where I had close friends and purchased most of my souveners. The Factory owner, Nadar and my friend Radi gave me a warm welcome with an embrace. We quickly shared with each other events that happened over the year and then Radi talked to me in private. He told me one night, back in March he was taken by the Israeli soldiers. He was put in solitary confinement, a cell 3 ft by 6 ft, for 20 consecutive days, interrogated and beaten. He was in prison for a total of 3 months under administrative detention, no charges and no trial (under Israeli law a Palestinian can be held under administrative detention up to one year without charges made or a trial). The reason he was given for imprisonment was that he threw stones 7 years ago during the intifada. I couldn't believe my ears Radi, my friend, gentle and kind, put in prison, beaten, how could that happen? I couldn't hold back my emotions, anger riveted through my body and then a deep sadness for Radi as I looked into his gentle eyes. I asked him if he was angry at the soldiers. He said "of course what can I do. I think the Israelis try to hurt each one of us Palestinians". What ran through my mind is Radi going to be permanently hurt psychologically from the trauma of the beatings and the solitary confinement? Tears again came to my eyes.

As I'm writing this I just heard a gun shot in the background. Shots from Israeli soldiers have been heard intermittently throughout the day in response to Palestinian youth throwing stones. The situation seems more hopeless today than last year. The evils of the occupation are growing like a cancer; the suppression and humiliation especially of the youth, the increasing demolition of Palestinian homes and confiscation of lands and the depression of the economy due to border closures. The Palestinian people have nowhere to turn; their own Palestinian Authority, PA have a record of human right abuses and corruption, the other Arab countries do not really stand up for them and the US has shown more and more that it sides with Israel. I talked to an American today who was the project manager from USAID in charge of building a road in front of the Jewish settlement, Beit Hadassah. He told me the only answer is that the US bring all the congressmen to Hebron and let them see with their own eyes what is happening.

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