Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happiness Only Lasts for a Moment
By Frank Romero

Frank's a friend of mine who also lives in Beit Sahour. While I was asleep, he watched while one of our neighbors was arrested. Here's his account. Check out his website for many other stories and wonderful pictures and video. The Global Roots

Italy defeated Germany 2-0 in the World Cup semifinals tonight. I watched the match in a restaurant packed with families, old Palestinian men, internationals and grumpy young children ready for bed, as we cheered and celebrated the incredible last 2 minutes of regulation. The restaurant went into a frenzy when Italy scored its second goal in only 3 minutes of play. German fans cried. Italians went crazy. And Palestinians walked away in victory.

For Palestinians, games like this mean everything. For a short moment they remove themselves from reality, place themselves far away from occupation and live out their joy wherever they can find it.

On my way home from the restaurant, I received word from the taxi driver, who seems to know everything that goes down in Bethlehem, that Israeli jeeps were spotted patrolling the Beit Sahour area where I live. Shocked to even think that the Israeli military would have any business in this quiet neighborhood of Beit Sahour, I continued to walk the long way home with my roommate from Norway.

It was 1:14am. Ahead of us, bright lights and military jeeps stopped us from returning home. Determined to sleep in my bed regardless of what stood in our way (and a bit of stubbornness on my part), my roommate and I walked as close as we could before receiving orders from Israeli soldiers to stop. I blocked the bright lights with my right hand (and kept my left hand up in plain view for the soldiers to see that I was unarmed) in order to count the number of soldiers in the street.

I counted four Israeli military jeeps, one humvee and over 12 soldiers in full military gear. What I didn’t notice until I got within 300 meters of the vehicles were the soldiers in position from the balcony of a Palestinian family’s house.

An incursion was taking place before me. Someone was being arrested, I thought.

Other internationals from my town were in the streets taking digital photos and shooting video. Palestinian men sat paralyzed in their parked cars as they waited for the incursion to end.

So much for the celebration.

A few of us tried talking to the soldiers asking what was going on, who was being arrested and so forth. They told us to go home, to go away. I sarcastically yelled back, “I want to go home! You’re in my way. This is where I live. How ‘bout you go home!” My arms were still raised above my head.

After 30 minutes of waiting in the middle of the road, they left in formation, a very elaborate military procedure. The soldiers on the balcony moved first, and then the ones in firing position up the small hill. Two military jeeps drove off; the others stayed behind and waited for soldiers to board the back of the jeep. They drove off in procession.

Sahouris stood inside their homes in fear. They don’t want to risk looking outside their window or opening their door to see what was going on.

Once the Israeli vehicles left, swarms of people gathered in the streets looking for more information about the arrest. My Palestinian friend, who is a journalist, and I were one of the first to approach a man who stood blindfolded and handcuffed up the hill. He was not arrested. Witnesses say the man was publicly humiliated in order to divert attention from the arrest. The man was talking on his cell phone to warn others of the incursion.

We removed his blindfold and cut the zip tie behind his back. The man immediately reached in his pocket for a cigarette and sat on the hood of his taxi.

What happened? Who did the Israelis arrest this time?

It was a 22-year old, Niveen Douka, a young woman from the Abu Sa’ada neighborhood. She studies at Bethlehem University. Israeli soldiers took her to an unknown location.

We walked to where she was taken. Her family did not allow anyone inside their house. It seems they were still terrified by the incident. I looked over the shoulders of a growing number of men standing outside their door asking the family members questions in Arabic.

The house was ransacked and vandalized. The family: Muslim. In a town with a majority of Palestinians Christians, why does it not surprise me that the one arrested was Muslim. I am not casting a judgement, but making a statement about the Israeli policy of discrimination toward Muslim followers.

It’s 2:46am now and I am still upset. I’m upset that something like this could happen in Beit Sahour. I don’t know what the people of Beit Sahour are feeling right now. I don’t know if they are upset as I am.

“There is not much we can do,” one said. We smile, but only for a moment.

1 comment:

Halla said...

I keep repeating the word "Unbelievable" over and over again. Its obsene how this Israeli incursion has been ignored by the world and is allowed to keep going.

By the way, the blog "from Gaza with love" was featured in the editorial section word for word in the LA Times. Maybe some politicians in this country will have their eyes opened. One can hope!
Stay safe, try not to antagonize the soldiers, I know its hard not to do when you see all the unfairness, but they don't care. Think Rachel Corrie.