It has been about two hours since my electricity came back on. The electricity to my neighborhood was cut around 9:30am on Friday. Since then, I have relied on word of mouth and the occasional transistor radio for information.
Comparatively speaking, this neighborhood has been relatively unscathed. We have tanks posted across the valley from us and every now and again they make their way towards our building, but as of yet, it has been quiet, save the occasional outburst of gunfire.
On Friday night, a tank, an APC, and a massive bulldozer came to our building, parked right under my window. The Israeli soldiers appeared to be looking around, then the bulldozer started moving earth about, and then they left. I am not certain what they were doing but neighbors told us that our water line was severed during the bulldozer’s earth moving, so we need to conserve the remaining water in our tanks — it doesn’t seem likely that it will be replenished anytime soon.
With no TV and no radio, most of my time has been spent on the phone with friends throughout the city and also in Jerusalem, trying to find out what is happening on the ground. Through these conversations I discovered that almost everyone was out of electricity, but most had some phone service. The only person I couldn’t get through to is an Australian friend and co-worker.
I discovered, late Friday afternoon, that his house had been taken over by around 20 Israeli soldiers in the morning and that he and the other inhabitants of the private home (8 in total) had been forced into a room four meters square. They remained there for a day and a half. Most of the time, they did not have electricity.
Last night he phoned to say that they had finally left. He sounded quite happy to be out of the room and to have electricity once again. I spoke with him this morning and learned that the electricity to the house was out again. Last time I spoke with him, his mobile phone battery was about to run out and, with no way of re-charging, I guess we will be out of touch again.
Another friend’s house, near Arafat’s compound, was taken over briefly yesterday by about ten soldiers. Her day started with her car being run over by a tank or an APC (I’m not sure which), even though she had moved it up on to the sidewalk so it would be safe.
Later in the day, Israeli soldiers entered the house and stayed for around four hours, making themselves at home, rifling through her personal possessions, eating her food, positioning themselves and their guns in the windows of her living room.
Fortunately, she was not physically abused. Perhaps it was her American passport that prevented it? Or that she was a woman? The same soldiers also entered the home of a Palestinian family living behind my friend. There they proceeded to throw the family’s possessions outside the house, trampling on bedding, lying on the family’s beds.
They forced the eldest son to kneel down and place his hands behind his head. They forced him to stay that way while they placed a gun to his head. Eventually, they let him go. His younger brother, around 13 years, and his niece, around 5 years of age, both witnessed this. You learn of stories like this, living here on the ground, but outside, all they can do is repeat the mantra about Palestinians teaching their children to hate. If these kids go grow up to hate, there is little question in my mind where they learned it.
What shocks me the most about the repeated stories of soldiers invading private homes is the absolute arrogance with which they do it. There is absolutely no respect for privacy, for a person’s personal possessions. In worst case scenarios, people are beaten, soldiers urinate and defecate on the floor, possessions are destroyed. In best case scenarios, one’s most private domain, your home, is invaded by a hostile force.
hey have no shame about making themselves completely “at home,” while acting in a way they would probably never act in their own home. Using curtains to wipe their hands on. Putting their muddy boots all over the furniture and tables. Throwing garbage on the floor. They appear to have absolutely no recognition that this is someone’s home that they have entered. It has made me wonder whether, in order to be able to do what they are told to do here, they have completely dehumanized everyone who lives here.
With the electricity back, I am seeing the first images of what is going on. Palestine TV just showed an image of tanks in the Manara. Earlier, I saw images of the now burned out Natshe building. I just got off the phone with a friend who said that another building caught on fire today, on the street where Rumours nightclub used to be located.
Now there are photos of them rounding up young men. “Kneel on the ground. Hands behind your head. Come forward one at a time.” And then there are the photos of the five men found shot in the head yesterday. Too many images to process now.
I just remembered. Today is Easter.