Doreen’s Diary: July 2, 2004
Today we were off to Ramallah. Besides our own bags, Stacey and I carried Jenny’s, Anni’s and Gail’s (as they had only taken backpacks to Tulkarem) from the community center to the center of town where our vans were waiting. Once in Ramallah, we found out that there was to be an action in Kufr Al Labad. Gail, Annie and Jenny were heading there from Tulkarem and the rest of the group was going to join them for the day, to return to Ramallah for the evening. I stayed back at the Retno Hotel in Ramallah after everyone left. I had not been feeling well, fatigued emotionally more than physically, and I needed to sleep. Somehow I had become a mediator, event planner, and intermediary between Huwaida and the group, in addition to just being one of the 14, and all that gave me very little down time. So sleep is what I did while the women went off for a very exhilarating and exciting adventure of removing two road blocks. I was sorry to miss the action, but I truly needed to recoup my energy. At some point along the trip, each of us had found her time to just chill and this day was mine.
I was so fatigued that I fell asleep on the lobby couch within ten minutes of the group’s leaving. Raji woke me up after two hours and directed me to my room, where I slept another four hours. I awoke and showered and took a stroll around the area surrounding the hotel. I walked over to a Bedouin campsite. Blankets were hanging everywhere on ropes tied to trees. Men and children were tending goats and women were cooking in open fires. It was a scene from National Geographic. I had hoped to speak with the people, but they kept to themselves, pretending not to notice me. Not wanting to intrude, I walked by and then turned around and headed down another road back to the hotel, enjoying the view of the homes and the hill.
The view from our hotel in Ramallah.
By the time the women returned, I was my usual energized self. The women were talking over each other, finishing each other’s sentences as they shared their day’s experiences with me. Their exuberance was palpable. Then they asked after me. As they walked back to their rooms, one of my more honest friends said, “You’re looking good now, but boy, did you look like shit this morning!”
After everyone showered and changed, we went to Ramallah to eat in the Chinese restaurant owned by the uncle of Azam (the young man I had met in the internet café in Biddu.) Raji happily joined us. We were seated at two large round tables. We had just taken our seats when all of the lights went out, a typical occurrence in Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank. It was almost pitch dark, and we were about to sigh, when the owner of the restaurant came in from the kitchen to tell us not to worry. Within minutes, candles were lit all over the room. Obviously, everyone is well-prepared for such occurrences. We ordered and began to eat by candlelight when, suddenly, we had lights and air-conditioning and a very delicious meal.
We returned home to a go-round to process the very successful road-block action and the wonderful people the group had met. It was a pleasure for me to sit and listen to all that I’d missed.
Gail’s Diary: July 3, 2004
Yesterday, the plan was to remove a roadblock in a small village in the Tulkarim region. We arrived early from the ISM house in Tulkarim, having driven in vans through a very circuitous route on dry, bumpy roads, up and down hills, riding often at the very edge of the road to avoid stones and holes.
Today we went on to another action. At Kufr al-Labad, the Sports Center was filled with men dressed in freshly pressed shirts with collars, slacks and leather shoes. The village is a farming community; these were the town dentist and other professionals and businessman, community leaders. It was explained to us and to continuously arriving internationals that we were joining around 300 Palestinian locals – men, women, farmers and landowners – who would be joined by a bulldozer to remove the large boulders that prevented entry and egress from the village to the olive groves, the fields, and to other nearby villages and cities. We expected to be attacked by the Israeli army, so the women smashed onions for us to insert into the bandanas that we would use to cover our noses. The onions would make our eyes tear enough to clear the expected teargas. The front line of our march would be the blockers and protectors of the marchers and the equipment. Some people were assigned the role of scouts and observers, keeping their eyes on the surrounding hills to alert us to the approach of soldiers. Internationals would be peppered throughout the villagers. The shebab would be in the rear.
The group reunited at Kufr al-Labad to join the villagers, Israelis and other internationals in their efforts to remove two roadblocks.
We were brought the 4 kilometers from the club by various vehicles, taxis, vans, open backed trucks, a large bus, private cars. Many walked but I accepted the offer of a ride. We walked the last km to the roadblock which consisted of three enormous boulders and piles of rocks. There were many local women, heads covered, welcoming us with warm smiles and handshakes. There were villagers of every age including the very old and the very young. Some farmers with their own donkeys along with their children wandered back and forth, in and around us. Three women of our group took up a position at the top of a tower at the side of the march to provide a better vantage point to look for soldiers.
The men had hand tools and began to remove the smaller rocks and dirt. Together men and boys, internationals and locals, tried to rock the large boulders. A man on a tractor arrived and he was able to dislodge some of the rocks as we waited for the bulldozer. Finally, to cheers, a bulldozer moved towards us, several men riding the shovel. It approached a boulder and lifted it, and continued rolling it down the hill on the other side. Then another, and it was done. A farmer on a horse rode through the open road to cheers, then some village leaders in a car. No soldiers, no tear gas, great smiles.
Trying to move a boulder before the bulldozer arrived.
We were transported a few kms back through the village to the roadblocks on the other side of town where the remaining two were removed. During that time I called WBAI in NY and put Muhammad Qubaa on the phone where he did a wonderful live interview.
We walked back to a glorious feast in the grape arbor of a gracious family who fed us all, in shifts, seated at a long banquet table under enormous bunches of green grapes hanging from just above our heads. On our walk back to the sports club, women called to us from their porches, to come by for delicious tea and to receive their thanks for coming to help. Ten internationals, including some Israeli anarchists, stayed with families in the village in case the army came during the night.
The feast consisted of homemade bread, homemade, still-warm, cheese, fresh olives, olive oil, hummus, tomatoes, and more. We ate our fill and then we heard them returning.
It was a small victory which may be undone at any moment by the army. These kinds of roadblocks, between villages within Palestinian communities, serve no purpose but to make life, harvest, the local economy more desperate for the people who live there and rely on the land. There can be no security purpose invented that would make any sense. Roadblocks and checkpoints keep children from schools, villagers from clinics and hospitals, farmers from markets. They are designed to de-humanize, to degrade and humiliate. Our small demonstration of support for the people of this village sends a message to them and maybe to the Israelis and to the world community, that they are not alone, that we will spread the word and send more people to see the struggle of Palestinians to live free and we will continue work to bring this cruel, illegal, oppressive occupation to an end.