I am most concerned these recent weeks in Hebron. Young teens and even smaller children are disappearing from our neighbourhood in the Old City of Hebron. It’s not by kidnapping. It’s not by trafficking. It’s not an unknown person with a criminal record perpetrating the crimes. Rather, the Israeli military is again pressing its boots down harder on the heads of the Palestinian people. If restrictions on travel and commerce, land confiscations, home invasions, and forced business closures have not succeeded in convincing Palestinian families to leave their land, then MAYBE taking their children will.
Our Palestinian neighbor sent her 15 year old son to buy bread. Fifteen minutes later, Israeli soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed him, accusing him of throwing stones. The boy insisted he did not throw stone/s at the soldiers. Nevertheless, he is now spending time in the Israeli prison system. Having spent the first 17 days in Ofir Prison among men who may/ may not have committed serious crimes, he continues to insist on his innocence. He will spend four or five months in another Israeli prison until his court case is completed. All for the “crime” of supposedly throwing a stone at soldiers!
Mohammed, and Eissa too, were walking with the 15 year old. Mohammed is 14 and Eissa is 19. The Israeli authorities held Mohammed in Ofir Prison until a donor contributed 2000 shekels. (This amounts to $500 approximately.) Eissa is also serving time in Ofir. Both these boys insist they did not throw a stone.
Near our CPT apartment soldiers accused a 12 year old boy of throwing stones. He too spent one week in Ofir prison.
Soldiers recently blindfolded and handcuffed an eight year old boy for stone throwing. They forced him to spend eight hours with a dog behind a military gate.
A 14 year old neighbor boy was helping his dad in his store, cutting cardboard boxes filled with wares. The soldiers saw him with a knife, blindfolded him, whisked him away behind the military gate, holding him for two hours while the father pleaded at the gate.
A 15 year old boy in the neighbourhood ran an errand for his father. The soldiers saw him running, grabbed him, and likewise detained him behind the military gate for 2 hrs. as his father also insisted his son did no wrong.
Besides the issue of the boys’ ages, and the severity of the sentences imposed, there is also the persistent need of the parents to travel two hours to the prison, their consequent loss of work, and their travel expenses involved. (Approximately $15 each trip) Sometimes before a child’s case is settled, the parents must travel four or five times to the courtroom.
I have only begun to enumerate the stories of children recently taken from our midst. Though the people’s patience has been great and their will to resist persists; yet anyone who witnesses these actions firsthand will call them insanity, dehumanization, oppression, collective profiling. From my point of view, this problem in Hebron and throughout the West Bank is a matter of conscience, an embarrassment to humanity, and a horrid usage of tax dollars. It is urgent that the international community pressure the state of Israel and each one’s own government to put a stop to this madness.
Paulette is with Christian Peacemaker Teams – an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT’s peacemaking work, see:www.cpt.org