For Three Days the Fire Blazed

By Tamar Fleishman – The West Bank

Since Talat Ramia’s murder tranquility had yet to be restored to the streets of Ar-Ram.

For the past three days the younger residents had been going out to the streets and protesting against the murder of their friend, while the army pushes them back with a barrage of fire and gas grenades.

"He was only twenty five, from a very poor family, his brother is the one who cleans cars at the checkpoint…", said my friend A’ who added: "Even though I didn’t know him very well, I wanted to cry when they told me the soldiers had killed him for no reason, really it was for no reason…"

And ever since that Friday the place was in flames. On top of the anger and rage over the loss of Talat Ramia was the frustration that had been piling up and increasing over the past three years, it seemed to flow in all the underground routes until finally bursting during these days, rising to the surface with the shot of the bullet that entered Talat’s body. 

It had been three years, ever since the protests against the building of the wall, since we last witnessed such fury and determination in a protest.

Slowly the feelings sprouted and tuned into an infected abscess that had formed with the end of the construction of the wall that closed Ar-Ram from three sides, upon which the decrees and regulations of the occupier had been added, turning the once thriving and flourishing town to a prison, cutting off the residents from the city that had been the center of their lives (East Jerusalem), and once the richer residents moved to the other side of the wall and since no void is left unfilled, new residents arrived, a poor and weakened population, and thus began the sluggish process of the demolition of the town into itself, this was marked by the closing of institutions for education and health, the destruction of private businesses, and the shattering and fracturing of the economy.

When we were there the demonstration and protest hadn’t yet cooled down. The fire from the soldiers hadn’t ceased either. The air was full of smoke and tear gas fumes, and fires erupted in the street corners. A natural leadership had formed among the older teenagers; they forced the children who tag along with them to move to the rear.

The teenagers fought with their faces masked for fear that they might be recognized, following which the hunters might come to get them. They were constantly throwing stones at the soldiers, who stood protected and armed on the other side of the main road at the entrance to the military base ("Rama") and fired with their various weapons at the protestors.

It had been three days without tranquility and many of the youngsters were in need of paramedic care. The paramedic wore a glowing yellow vest as he walked around giving treatment for hurting eyes and even ours were treated, as a moving gesture of solidarity with us for having chosen to stand together with and among the victims. In spite of the severity of these events there was no media coverage and no camera crews (a part for ours) were present, this was in accordance to the equation that Palestinians injured from military fire isn’t news. It was also not reported that a gas grenade fell and exploded inside the apartment of a family who lived right on the fire line, only their screaming gave indication to those standing outside of what had happened. The apartment was locked from the inside and those in it-women and children- could not escape. It was then that the youngsters stopped battling the soldiers and started throwing stones at the windows of the house. Once the windowpanes were broken white smoke came out, after which the entrance door was broken and medical crews rescued those entrapped, but the youngest of the girls had to be carried out while still unconscious and gently placed inside the ambulance.

As evening fell and the army’s patience was wearing thin, the soldiers drew closer to the entrance of the town; they blocked it and began fighting the youngsters who retreated into the back allies.

As all this was taking place news crews and photographers were only several kilometers away, covering and taking pictures of the minister of transport and the mayor in a ceremony remarking the end of the renovations in Beit Hanina, a neighborhood that had been annexed to the ‘Great Jerusalem’: at the front was an improvised podium next to which hung a blue and white flag that was like a thorn in the eyes to the local residents, even heaters were brought in case one of the VIPs might feel chilly.

"Why did they come here, they should walk a couple of meter further and see the pits in the roads at the other side…" said a resident of the neighborhood as he and his friends looked with contempt at what was taking place.

And at the same time, as though in a delusional parallel universe, Qalandiya checkpoint was operating sluggishly, which in itself is no longer a reality that is reproved. A seven year old child who was injured in a car accident in Ramallah was taken out from a Palestinian ambulance and into an Israeli one, all while maintaining Israeli safety procedures which were in fact no more than unnecessary shaking of the child which enhanced his suffering.

(Translated by Ruth Fleishman)

– As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com

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