(more pics here and here, )(video report here)
why should you read about Shuhada Street women action?
Because Issa Amro, Youth Against settlements coordinator was arrested because of it.
Because the man who owns the house we were at was arrested too.
Because an old lovely lady, Yafa 48' Nakba refugee got her house raided as well.
People scarified their own security & safety to do this,
and only if their plight will be heard,
it will make their sacrifice meaningful.
Only if you, whoever/ wherever you are can listen &
learn more about the condition
old-city of Hebron residents are living in,
we can say it was meaningful.
I visited Hebron Al Khalil several times during my youth as a religious Zionist Jew girl.
I heard the horrific stories of 1929 massacres against the Jewish people of Hebron prior to the Nakba.
(The indigenous prior-Nakba Jewish community of Hebron fled the city after the pogrom
& did not return. current Jewish settlers community is not related to them)
( I wasn't told that hundreds of Jews were rescued by their Muslim neighbors
who shielded them with their bodies
and that many of the rioters came from outside the city and were not locals).
I visited Mea'arat Hamachpela/the Patriarch Tomb
not knowing that this place is no less sacred to the Muslim people,
being Abraham our joint mythical Patriarch.
But I only became aware of the complicity of the situation in Hebron as a grown woman,
during Breaking the Silence guided tour to Hebron.
Hebron veterans (former IOF soldiers) shared facts and testimonials with us.
Al Khalil with a population of 180.000 Palestinian residents,
is the second large city in the west bank.
Several hundreds of Jewish settlers live there as well.
This makes Hebron Al Khalil a unique place.
It is a city with a Jewish settlement in it.
During BTS tour,
I have learned that the old city of Hebron is divided to 2 sections-
H1, where most of the Palestinian people live,
& H2,where Jewish settlers inhibit houses that were Jewish domain prior to the Nakba.
This division was made after 1994 massacre in Patriarch Tomb ,
when a physician settler named Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian people
& injured 120 while they were praying.
Another initiated reaction to the massacre,
to evict the Jewish settlers who entered the city illegally was rejected.
In other words,
the Palestinian people of the old city of Hebron were collectively punished
for being victims of a Jewish settler terror attack.
at 1997, during Oslo accords, this division became formal.
The H2 zone ,
fully controlled by the Israeli occupation army,
contained 30,000 Palestinians at that time, and 500 Jewish settlers.
Shuhada street, the main street of the old city of Hebron Al-Halil,
was included within H2 borders.
1.800 Palestinian local businesses were closed by a military's order.
The occupation forces imposed severe moving restrictions on the Palestinians of H2,
some areas were shut down even for movement of pedestrians,
thus regulating an Apartheid policy on the old city of Hebron.
The purpose of this policy was to prevent any friction
between the Jewish settlers of Hebron and the local Palestinians,
after mutual lethal actions of hostility were committed
both by the Jewish colonialists and the local people who opposed the settlement.
Yet only the Palestinian locals paid they price for those actions.
They are still paying for years after the closure of Shuhada street.
They are subjected to the reign of temporary and permanent checkpoints at every corner of the street
that constantly postpone them for hours trying to make it just from one side of the street to the other,
to day and night curfews,
to IOF invasions and
temporarily seizure of houses for IOF needs,
a reign frequent arrests and detentions,
of random shooting of tear gas/ stun grenades/ live ammunition ("Intimidation")
and uncontrolled settlers violence that goes unpunished.
Many Palestinians abandoned H2.
Those who could afford it.
Those who couldn't jump from rooftops and across fences to get to their houses when they need to.
Those who couldn't move out got the front doors of their houses sealed,
partially to protect them from settlers' violence.
The houses now resemble barred cages from the outside.
I remember Shuhada street from the time I saw it as a child,
when it was still alive.
I remember the peddlers' stands, the people shopping,
the chickens running around.
I joined the action calling to restore what was once there.
The Women Action to open Shuhada street was organized by
Youth Against Settlement movement.
I answered their call of action,
believing that there is a better way to secure the life of Hebron people
other than caging H2 civil population.
This has been confirmed by military officials answer to an appeal from rights groups.
Out of belief that the cost of martial control over occupied civil population should be reconsidered.
I joined, mostly, because I was invited, I was asked to,
and I try to go wherever I am wanted and needed.
I was very nervous on my way to the designated meeting location.
I did not know wither or not we will make it there without being postponed for search and questioning.
We reached the meeting place, and met a sweet elderly lady who only spoke Arabic ,
so I understood very little of what she told us.
She said she was originally from Yaffa,
a place she fled from during 1948 Nakba.
She had to leave school after 3 years to "learn in the university of life".
She said she did not want to hate people indifferently because of what happened to her.
As always, her kindness, her hospitality and generosity
seemed contradictory to the brutal, violent sphere
we were in. It amazes me how people stay human in the jungle.
We could hear the soldiers shouting from the cage- barred balcony,
we feared they noticed us
but she calmed us down,
saying that they usually do,
and whoever lives there need to adapt to that.
Not much later, more women showed up,
both international and Israeli activists and photographers too.
We were instructed simply to dress as Palestinian women,
leave through the front door,
try to walk the ghost Shuhada street,
watch out from soldiers and settlers.
No chanting, no carrying sign.
This is why I call this action and not a protest.
Because other than walk and dress we did nothing provoking.
When I was wearing an embroidered black Palestinian dress
and covering my hair with Hijab-Styled Kuffiyeh,
I couldn't help but recall my Hijab experience at Kalandiya checkpoint.
How clothes make the person I am.
How my outsides define my insides
How I need to literally walk in the shoes of
people to get some shred of idea what I go through.
I would not try to claim this "costume" to be my own
had I not been asked to
by the female organizers,
who let me in this traditional dress,
who asked me to do this, and shared that traditional clothing with me.
The "Palestinian costumes" seemed to confuse not only us.
The soldiers who pushed us back to H1, the Palestinian-only zone,
"forgot" it is illegal for Israelis to go there.
Maan news reported that "Palestinian women" were arrested
(non of the women arrested during the action was Palestinian).
When we left the house,
I felt a bit like a lamb to slaughter,
although I knew that there were male activists waiting behind for back up.
Like it or not, that is what our society is like. Men defend their women.
Not just in staged actions, but in real life too.
I am thinking about the Palestinian men who see their wives striped and searched at checkpoints, beaten ,
and what means they can take to defend them without becoming "terrorists".
We did not advance to much in the road before a husky settler with a camera
showed up and frantically shouted through his communication device that he is
"all alone surrounded by anarchists" and cry for backup.
Another bearded settler historically cried at us that we have no Jewish hearts,
although the declared purpose of Shuhada street walk was not to demand
his or others evictions,
but merely reclaim the opening of Shuhada street for the use of its original owners.
A civil white truck packed with settlers blocked the road.
Another settler came from nowhere and kicked me.
The male activists who were at the back noticed our distress and came to attempt "rescuing us".
Sunny, a British guy with Pakistani appearance,
was mistaken as a Palestinian and was treated accordingly,
thrown to the ground and badly beaten.
A female ISM activist who tried to assist him got beaten too.
I was holding hands with Tali, a fellow activist,
and we both went to see if we can intervene somehow
to decrease the crazy violence, but we were dragged back and detained.
Sunny, his friend, a Palestinian journalist,
Tali and myself were taken to an armed military vehicle.
Sunny was now being tortured with tight nylon restraints.
The soldiers threw inside the female ISM activist who tried to assist Sunny.
One of the was forcefully pressing on her heaps.
The Palestinian Journalist was luckily let go ,
but the other 5 people were cuffed while I was not.
The soldiers who watched the scene called us Arab fuckers
and wished they could burn our faces.
.At some point, when were dropped of for search in Gross square,
a transition point,
we were encountered by the IOFs guests,
a group of foreign observers or journalists who asked us why
were we violated the status quo that was agreed upon in Oslo record.
Had it not been for my grave detainee position,
I may have told them that the closure of Shuhada street was not decided in Oslo accords,
it was a collective punishment to the community of Goldstein massacre victims,
that we did this to raise awareness to the cost of martial law imposed on occupied population,
to raise awareness to the fact that there is a better option to secure Hebron other than the street closure,
a resolution approved by army officials in response to human rights groups appeal.
I was let go after three hours, charged only with breaking into closed military zone.
The others spent the night in Jail and were taken to court the other day,
released under restraining conditions and 6 hours long discussion.
Issa Amro is still arrested by the time I am writing this.
The house we went through was raided and the host was arrested too,
and was released a day after that.
I can't help but think of what might have happened if actual Palestinian women were doing this,
without backup, without cameras.
I can't help but remember how alive Shuhada street was when I saw it as a child &
how I wish I could restore it to its past order, to re-open it.
But I can't. Perhaps, with your support and action, it will be reopened.