Talluza is a small village north of Nablus in the West Bank with a population of around 2,000. The village has been calm for two years following a number of house demolitions in 2002. The neighboring village of Asira, with a population of around 12,000, has been suffering constant harassment from the army for over a year.I have been in Talluza one week and my duties have been mainly to observe the IOF checkpoint between Al Badan and Talluza and to give occasional talks at the Talluza boys’ school.
Talluza is a small village north of Nablus in the West Bank with a population of around 2,000. The village has been calm for two years following a number of house demolitions in 2002. The neighboring village of Asira, with a population of around 12,000, has been suffering constant harassment from the army for over a year.
I have been in Talluza one week and my duties have been mainly to observe the IOF checkpoint between Al Badan and Talluza and to give occasional talks at the Talluza boys’ school.
I arrived on Monday the 19th of December to Asira which is a Hamas Village so I am told. I stay one night there before moving on to Talluza the next morning.
When we arrive in Asira we are met by hordes of small children leaving school. “What’s your name? What’s your name?” they cry I find myself submerged in a flock of chirping infants. Two men wade in through this melee and retrieve myself and Nav. They take all of us to their home and feed us the most beautiful bread and olives, I think that this is prearranged by ISM and am surprised to find that they are just being hospitable to strangers, I could not imagine this happening in England. We leave them to meet the local ISM activists outside an internet café.
20th December 2004
When I arrived in Talluza I found the other ISM activists sitting in a stony field at the back of the school. The children had built barricades along the road outside the school to impede the passage of the army. The rest of the village totally supports this. The rebelling instincts of youth, seen as such a problem in Britain are utterly respected and necessary here to the resistance.
The army has left the village for the time being so the teachers start to clear away the stone barricades, Tom and I assist them when, I am approached by the head teacher and asked to give a talk at the school on Scottish history of all things, I agree to speak to the class at 11.00.
At around eleven I am taken by a teacher into the school to meet the older girls who attend the boys’ school for special subjects not taught at the girls’ school.
I think I am being taken to give the Scottish History talk, however I have been abducted by another teacher so the girls can get their conversational English practice in.
One of the young women asks me questions but the others collapse into fits of giggles. “Why are you laughing?” I ask, laughing too because they are so infectious.
“Your clothes, your clothes are so funny” they gasp.
These chuckling girls are very beautiful and normally so elegant and serene but at the sight of my mock Russian hat and purple hippy Indian top over flared jeans topped with my Captain Birdseye navy coat, they are in hysterics. Tears of laughter fall down their cheeks as they struggle to breathe.
The girls are so friendly and they ask millions of things and then they ask me to sing a song. After this they march me off to their next class. I sit with them at the back of what appears to be a drawing class. I sketch their faces. They were so gracious and lively I was sad to leave them to return to the other internationals.
I then realized that I had been poached to speak to the girls by another teacher not the Scottish history man who was a bit peeved so I agreed to speak the next day. Off to check point watch at Al Bidan
Check point watch at Al Bidan an amazing excuse to sit amidst the most beautiful countryside gazing at the dramatic olive treed slopes wreathed in mist watching the changing sky.
I have positioned myself about 100 metres from the soldier’s/ border police jeep parked at the bend junctioning two roads. The weather here can get very cold and because of the intensely hot summers central heating is just not a priority. The beautiful Palestinian high ceiling houses get very chilly almost colder than outside, so Tom ( a young British activist) and I decide to build a camp fire. I took the idea from the people of Asira (the neighbouring village to Talluza), who make small fires in the street, and serve coffee to passers by to get the gossip as well as minding their children playing out.
We start to build the fire and then realize that neither of us have a light, it is very rare in the Middle East to find two non smokers together. I stupidly ask the soldiers for a light, they are very bored and with not much passing traffic to intimidate they rush about gathering fuel for the fire. This looks very bad as we appear to be chummy with the soldiers so T and I wander away leaving them building our fire.
Later the soldier shift changes and the new lot demand that we put out our fire, we refuse. They get very stroppy and try to prevent us gathering wood. Layla appears from out of a ‘Service’, the hybrid taxi buses, used here to get around. She has just returned from Jerusalem, she gathers wood in defiance of their silly impositions. The soldiers defeated by my fire tantrum, drive a bit further up the road we continue to watch them enjoying warmth of the fire, on this day they mostly wave people through the checkpoint.
That evening we have dinner at a families house which faces onto the main village street. Two army jeeps had stopped at the end of the high street just up from the mosque and were stopping shebab. I videoed them from the window of the families house they were checking ID. They patrolled the village, demanding ID cards. In at least one case, some young men were held in a jeep but later released. Activists witnessed a soldier aiming a gun at a young child and there were reports of beatings, though the activists did not arrive in time to witness these.
After this the family we were with were afraid to have internationals at their house so after the army’s appearance we left their home scuttling along back streets and yards, the boys taken to one house and us to another.
The youths guiding us were very nervous so we were just handed over to the house of Hassan although we were meant to stay elsewhere I think. Hassan, a cheerful old man who studied at UCL in his younger days was so welcoming he and his wife fed us fruit and argilah.
We stayed one night then the next day it was checkpoint duty again and Scottish history
Early morning at the check point people going to and fro to school with a lot of farm traffic.
The school was open as usual so Scottish history talk was on and activists spent the early afternoon meeting with a number of villagers. Israeli activists discussed contacting other Israeli groups to deliver medical and food supplies into the village and the export of local olive oil to Israel and beyond.
Internationals promised to be present during the school exams. These begin on December 23rd and will continue for two weeks. The villagers are concerned that around 100 girls will not be allowed to pass the checkpoint between Al Badhan and Talluza to take their exams. International activists will maintain a presence at this checkpoint to attempt to ensure safe and free passage.
At around 4pm, a Border Police jeep patrolled the village and the policemen fired at least one round of live ammunition. No one was injured, but children were nearby.
In the evening, while activists were in a house overlooking the main road, they heard a loud explosion outside. It turned out to be a homemade sound bomb thrown by teenagers. A barricade was built by teenagers in the main street and set alight in order to try to block the soldiers from passing. The army had been patrolling the village from around 5pm.
When an army humvee arrived at the barricade, it attempted to drive over it and failed. Soldiers then became aggressive and banged on doors of nearby houses, presumably in order to capture the kids who built the barricade. A Border Police jeep arrived soon after. Two activists left the house with a video camera and captured the soldiers’ activities on film from the roof of a nearby building. As the soldiers became more aggressive, the two decided to go outside and talk to them to try to ease the situation. In the ensuing dialog, the soldiers said that they were there because the kids had built the barricade and were burning their (the soldiers’, presumably meaning the Israelis’ (!)) village. One of the activists replied that the village was a home to the kids and they could do as they want in it. The soldiers replied that they are not there to talk politics. After further dialog (and some singing on the part of activists), another humvee arrived and cleared the way for all vehicles to leave. The situation then eased up and the village was quiet for the rest of the night.