Last night in Bil’in (West Bank)

It was nearly 8 p.m. and the moon shone in the sky of Palestine, while behind the mountains the sun still letting see the blue above our heads and a mixture of colours on the horizon: red, violet, yellow, indigo… The fresh atmosphere calling for a ride, and I went out to start dating that night. In the first corner I found Haitham al Khatib, a cameraman of Bil’in, responsible for recording everything that happens in the village. He, kind as every Palestinian, protective as every Muslim, decided to accompany me. We went away, talking by the road that leads to the wall, and stopped at the home of another friend, Abu Rane, for a delicious chat with tea. Rane’s son in law was already in the room, the sons were coming home from work, and the darkness fell down at the large front patio.

Then Haitham’s mobile rang. A neighbour warned that Israeli soldiers had entered the village. Haitham called home, asking for someone bring his camera, and we both went to the driveway, wait for it. Not long before we heard the engine noise of the Israeli army jeeps. We move away from them to pass through, and, surprised, we saw that they entered the courtyard of the house of Abu Rane. We headed there immediately.

The jeep stopped at the dirt road that leads to the patio and about ten soldiers, armed with machine guns, descended. Most went to the home of our friend and her daughter, who lives next door. We hastened the pace but were barred by a young soldier who, machine gun pointed at us, shouted, in Hebrew, that we could not advance. We stopped. I went to the edge of the trail in order to have better vision that they did at home.The soldier followed me, fiddling with the gun, as if that could scare me. No. Anyone who experienced the brutality of Brazil’s military dictatorship was immunized against armies in general. It was a vaccine against fear.

So I kept walking until I see those women, babies in her lap, facing the soldiers, preventing them entry into their homes. Seven men, guns in hand, failed to overcome the barrier formed by three young Muslim women. Fifteen minutes later they withdrew back to the jeeps. At that moment Haitham and I solemnly ignored the soldier who stopped us. I ran behind the jeep, to see if they were taking some friend, while Haitham went to the balcony where the women and Abu Rane were.

No, nobody had been arrested … yet. The neighborhood was coming, taking pictures (in Israeli courts, judges asking evidence such as photographs and films), and the camera Haitham finally arrived, brought by a friend. Abu Rane entered in his old white van, followed by his son in law, two sons and a grandson, a boy about 11 years old. Haitham and I jumped into the car. He was filming the road and jeeps, below. I understood that men from Burnat family had been summoned to appear
somewhere, to where the Israelis drove the vehicles.

The van stopped beside the large gate painted yellow, which leads to the other side of the fence. Everyone got off and we went there, but only Abu Rane, his sons Mohamad and Ahmad Burnat, and his son in law Ahmad Mansoor Baitello could pass. Soldiers barred Haitham, yelling at him because he was filming everything, and also barred me and the boy, who by this time I already embrace, trying to give him calm and security. We are prohibited from going forward. But as soon as the soldiers moved away, taking our friends, we went, with the camera recording everything. When they are gone from our sight, turning right, we came back, followed by the intense light coming from the tower, where a long-range camera was registering our lead. We do not resist: waved to her.

Haitham explained what happened (he had talked with the soldiers in Hebrew, and I still do not understand the language). The soldiers said that someone had crossed the fence, but the camera in the tower had only managed to photograph the shadow of the feet of that someone. So they wanted to see if the feet of detainees could fit in that shadow. A Cinderella in reverse.
I looked for the high and electrified fence and asked how a person could “cross over” it without using the machine teleportation of Star Trek. I also asked how a high definition camera managed to shoot only the shadow of the feet of someone. It was a ghost? No. Ghosts cross fences, electrified or not, but leave no traces or shadows. In it they are equal to the vampires.

– It’s a lie – Haitham said. – They do it to scare the village, threatening people, spread fear.
Scary? Threat? Fear? Poor soldiers… They do not know the moral force of the Palestinians.
While more army men thronged at the other side of the fence, I went up to it, pretending that Haitham just shoot me, but he also recorded the presence of the soldiers. I began to recount what has happened, what my eyes had seen and my ears heard. We left when the soldiers launched rockets at the bottom of the hill and set fire to Palestinian plantations. We found that there were two types of rockets: ones that fell and caused the fire and others who remained on top, illuminating the mountains almost as if it was daylight. Weapons of war, comrades. With a horrible smell. My throat is still dry, several hours later. The wind carried the smell to the village. I closed the windows and even then the gas molecules come into my house.

Abu Rane returned, but not other men. I went to the fence and wondered what has happened to them. Just got an answer after a long wait. And the answer was that I should leave, because that was a military area in Israel territory. I held my laughter. Israeli territory, Palestine? I made a point of saying the right words: territory occupied by Israel illegally, according toi nternational law. Zionist myth crashing down on me? Just me, who have been studied Zionism for years? I was threatened, but if the intention was to frighten me, they failed. I have not altered my voice, I wasted no education or respect. I said what I thought I should say. The video recorded everything.

When I made my way home – always escorted by Haitham – 10 at night, Mohammed and the two Ahmads were still detained. Tomorrow I will have more information and I’ll post it, with the links of photos and video that Haitham is still editing.

I’d say my first experience with the Israeli night raid was far from a baptism of fire. I was not afraid, not even trembled with indignation. I felt sorry for those guys, a lot of teenagers, some with bones in their face, and already learners of Zionists’ cruelty and brutality. Some of them escape when they understand how much had been manipulated. Much escape by suicide: the Israeli army has the highest rate of suicide in the world. They could be out socializing with friends. But are engaged until the last strand of hair in the dangerous war game. A war that is theirs alone, against themselves.They are their own enemies. A good tip to understand my point is reading “The judge and his executioner,” by Dürrenmatt….

Wassyla Heyett
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