At the bottom of the well

.They say that if you sit still at the bottom of the well, you can hear the people who are shouting for help beneath you  From where I was yesterday, I couldn't hear people screaming for help. I heard people demanding their rights, demanding what is theirs to have, not asking for favors or charity, not relying on supernatural saviors. Yet I couldn't help but feel that where I was yesterday was very near the bottom,witnessing one of many all-time-lows of humanity. Not just  because of the location (on the way to the dead sea, the lowest spot on earth), or the material settings I was surrounded by, but also because of the testimonials I heard, tales of despicable  criminal behavior . Although as an activist I often feel fed up, numb from atrocities,   –  desentized, the daily living of Israel always proves me wrong and does never fail shocking me as it did yesterday in the desert frontiers of Mishor Adumim, settlers' industrial complex . I  met Sali'it quarry workers who went on strike two years ago  in demand of fair employment. As far as I understood, sali't quarry went bankrupt, and the workers , after a long legal struggle, received compensation from the companies' appointed board of trustees. They got nothing as a reward for their  hard work, loyalty or as a token of gratitude for their efforts. The only reason the company was willing to give them a damn dime was because the workers became members of Ma'an workers union and took the plight to court, that couldn't allow  such blatant discrimination to happen without dropping one  of the last  fig leaves that hide the naked apartheid regime of Israel from the world. Some might say we are better off without any facade of co-existence and democracy.  They say it all must burn.Those who say so should come and visit Sali'it quarry former employees and hear what they have to say. They should hear the people who live in the very bottom of the Israeli occupation before they make up their mind. Sali'it quarry was erected on stolen Palestinian lands  in the south of Jerusalem, at the desert frontiers, on dry, scorching lands that may have possessed some wilderness' beauty had they not been used as a wasteland of factories and industrial complexes. I  always loved hiking in the desert and thought living a vagabond life was something romantic. There was  nothing romantic in what I've seen yesterday, nothing romantic  in life without basic infrastructure- denied of the residents by occupation laws,by denial of permits. Nothing romantic in the air that filled  my lungs with liquid fire, nothing romantic in heat that resembles a post- nuclear war environment.Nothing romantic about those ugly industrial buildings built on stolen, bare land. We took off the road to an unpaved bumpy way and arrived the  compound where Sali'it former workers were gathered. I was wearing my western eyes, my inevitably orientalistik views, my white-coloniser  guilty glasses, my foreigner look. We have reached a bedouin compound. The compound consisted of a few tin shacks that resembled a puebla,  a few fenced off goats, and a large tent divided by two- part for men and a part for women. We gathered in the tent. Assaf, a formidable elderly men began to lecture in arabic while his partner, Hadas was translating for us. After years of struggle, the workers of Sali'it finally received their compensation. In short words, they briefed us about what they've been through: no pension, no breaks, no days off, no medical leave, no bonus for extra hours,  no compensation for the injuries they sustained  as part of their work. Those are conditions unlikely to exist within the Israeli employment market. Not only Sali'it quarries built their factories on stolen Palestinian lands, they also exploited a captive labour force under horrendous  conditions.  I was infuriated. "Why couldn't the settlers just drink their workers blood and get it over with" I muttered. What other name but Apartheid  would you call a country where two systems of employment  for the colonisers and the colonised exist, where such discrimination twists the human nature into life of fear and humiliation, fear and hatred, fear and exploitation?

Note/ disclaimer: The struggle of Sali'it workers was accompanied by the legal assistance of  Ma'an (WAC) workers union of Da'am workers party, a parliamentary party I currently consider myself a member of. This entry was written with much gratitude to the people of   (WAC) Ma'an whose attention for technical boring details is astonishing. I accompanied Ma'an workers to visit Sali'it quarrymen. תמונה

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