Every Friday after prayers the people of Bil’in, near Ramallah, are joined by other Palestinians, internationals, and Israelis in their protest against the Apartheid fence which cuts the villagers off from their lands. The protests have been going on for five years, and have become symbolic of the non-violent struggle of the Palestinian people.

The march sets off.

The march sets off.

The Israelis on the march

The Israelis on the march

The Scottish contingent

The Scottish contingent

Every week, the Israeli army responds with violence. Tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets, sound grenades, and even live ammunition. Although their newest weapon is seen as the worst in many ways. Called the skunk officially, or more commonly ‘stinky water’, it’s a foul-smelling liquid that sticks to clothes and skin for days. We’re told that it’s harmless, and it’s actually organic (though there’s still uncertainty about its fair trade status), but if they begin using it, run!

Fortunately, this week they didn’t. We set off from the village Mosque at about 1.30pm and marched down the hill to the fence. We could see the Israeli soldiers on the other side. The protesters then began to clear the razor wire away from the gate that leads to the area in front of the fence, then climbed over and began to approach the fence itself.

Moving the razor wire

Moving the razor wire

Moving the razor wire

Climbing over the gate to the fence

Climbing over the gate to the fence

John, who was perhaps a little more adventurous than I, suggested joining them as they inched towards the fence. I hesitated. Was this the right thing to do? What were the dangers? Then I saw one of the Palestinian organisers encouraging people to climb over. He looked at me, saw that I was dithering, and just smiled and waved me over. That answered my question. He wanted us, as internationals, to join the others, and that it would be (at least relatively) safe to do so. This was something I have witnessed many times. The Palestinian people are very welcoming, friendly, and caring. Not the image the Israeli government would like to portray — if you believe them, you are in constant danger of being killed or kidnapped by these ‘terrorists’. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So over I went. I didn’t stay for long, though. At that moment the army attacked — coming through a gate in the fence. Everyone who’d climbed over the gate suddenly began scrambling back over. I was the last, and for a moment thought I may have been in danger of arrest if the soldiers got to me before I was back over. Fortunately I escaped.

See what happened next:

Video of the demo:

The demo gets tear gassed

The demo gets tear gassed

Some of the locals were used to it.
Some of the locals were used to it.
But they remain defiant

But they remain defiant

An Israeli protester shouting abuse at the soldiers

An Israeli protester shouting abuse at the soldiers

Soon the organisers announced that the demonstration was over. They thanked everyone for being there, and invited everyone to iftar (breaking of the fast) that evening.

Our group headed back to Ramallah, and John and I then took the service back to al-Quds.

The next two days were spent in Ramallah at the ISM training and briefing.

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