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Resistance in the Village of Sarra

"A large fire broke out in the forest.
All the animals began to run away, including the lion.
However, the smallest bird stayed and began spitting water at the fire.
The lion came back and asked the bird,
“What are you doing? You are too small. That will do nothing.”
The bird responded, “It is my duty to do something.”

- Member of the City Council at the debriefing following the nonviolent demonstration
(translated into English)

On Saturday, June 28, 2008, MPT travelled with IWPS (International Women’s Peace Service) north to the village of Sarra for a roadblock demonstration. The roadblock is a mound of earth placed across the main road of Sarra by Israeli soldiers. It cuts the village off from other nearby towns. Villagers now have to travel through Nablus and back, making what used to be a fifteen-minute trip two hours. One resident told internationals that this way they are living in a jail.

Climbing over the roadblock

This was the second week of what the villagers hope will become a weekly demonstration. Last week, 150 people, mostly youth and about fifteen adults, had marched to the roadblock accompanied by five internationals. The soldiers told the demonstrators that as long as they stayed off the main road, they could remain standing on top of the roadblock.

This week, the protest was larger and the local villagers were joined by about twenty internationals. They went back with shovels this week. They also had prepared some of the village boys to perform the Dabka, the traditional Palestinian dance.

MPT processed with the Palestinians through the streets from the Mosque to the roadblock. The march had the feeling of a festival. The young people were filled with energy and passion for change and a commitment to nonviolence. MPT felt strength and hope from this community

Children lead the march

Almost immediately after the group had reached the roadblock, Israeli soldiers began shooting sound bombs and tear gas. It was clear that this was only the second demonstration, as the young people panicked at the sight and sound of the weapons and they began to run, creating a dangerous scenario. More and more soldiers appeared. Soon there were six army vehicles.

Tear gas canisters are fired into the crowd

Running away in fear of the sound bombs and tear gas

Palestinians, joined by internationals, went down to negotiate with the soldiers. The soldiers agreed that the protesters could have ten minutes in front of the roadblock, and then they would begin to fire.

Palestinians, internationals, and the Israeli army in negotiation

The ten-minute reprieve allowed enough time for the boys to come down in front of the roadblock and perform the Dabka. The beautiful dance gave a new energy and confidence to the group and the Palestinians clapped along with pride for their heritage.

Boys from the village of Sarra perform the Dabka between the roadblock and the army

When the ten minutes was almost over, soldiers began to surround the group of dancers and other demonstrators, climbing up onto the Palestinians’ farmland, and getting into firing position. Those demonstrating left the earth mound and backed up a fair distance.

At ten minutes, the soldiers began to fire their second round of tear gas and sound bombs, even though there was no one left on the roadblock. Panic again surged through the young people and they all began to run, creating a dangerous stampede in tight areas. Some boys picked up rocks and began to throw them in the direction of the soldiers.

One boy dropped his mobile phone as he was running. He was hysterical at having lost it, but terrified to go back after it. He asked MPTers to get it for him, which we did. It was not so risky for us as internationals to move back toward the soldiers, but we still held our hands out to our sides to show that we posed no threat.

This protest was much more violent than the one the week before, but the Palestinians are hopeful. They hope that next week there will be more international people than this week. By continuing to foster nonviolence in their youth, they hope that change can happen. MPT’s hope is that as the youth become more accustomed to nonviolent protests, their fear and their urge to retaliate will lessen. What terrible lessons they have to learn!

Palestinians stand up in face of violent occupation!

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