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Kafr Qaddum 2/8/2013

Boy offering us sweets
 We went to our first demonstration in the West Bank today.  When we arrived in Kafr Qaddum the male villagers were already gathering in the center of the small town.  As soon as we got out of the service (shared taxi) the villagers welcomed us warmly. One gentleman went into his shop and brought chairs onto the road for us to sit in as another served the group coffee.  Suddenly a young boy around four years of age walked up to us one-by-one and opened a bag with his little hands to offer us each a sweet. I couldn't wrap my mind around how joyful and welcoming everyone was in the face of what was sure to come.

Just before noon, while the adult men went to pray, a member of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (Our equivalent of an EMT)  suggested that we walk up the hill to see where the march would be going.  As we got to the top we noticed a group of small boys engaged in a standoff with a line of Israeli soldiers and a military armored truck.  I could not believe what was playing out before me.  A small group of school boys were facing off with grown men from one of the largest armies in the world!  The soldiers on the ground as well as a large group of soldiers in the treeline on the hill to our right above us were dressed head to toe in full tactical gear carrying automatic weapons.  They were there to block the route of the march.  At one point a couple of the young boys picked up some small stones in the road and threw them.  These stones rarely hit anything but seemed to be a way for the youth growing up in a life of occupation and war to say "I'm here."

Right next to the village of Kafr Qaddum an illegal Israeli settlement has been built on Palestinian land.  This is common practice.  The Israeli government conducts illegal land-grabs in occupied Palestine forcing the people living there to move, often demolishing their homes and destroying their fields and orchards.  After displacing the population an illegal settlement is built.   This has been devastating to the region and is also against international law as stated in The United Nation's Resolution #446 and The Fourth Geneva Convention.
Young boy helping to build a barricade in the village
Not only has the land near Kafr Qaddum been stolen from it's people, but the main road has also been claimed as a "Settler only" road. Meaning, the villagers can no longer drive down the highway connecting them to the main nearby town of Nablus. The demonstration today was to be against the closing of this road, however the protest seemed to already have started.

Just then, the soldiers came rushing at us in a line throwing sound bombs. The Occupation Force was engaging in war tactics with children!  Unarmed children!  We fled with the children down the hill into the village.  Once inside the village center, the sound bombs stopped. Suddenly the boys rushed back up the hill towards the soldiers, pushing the invading army back out of their town.  Children as young as seven, eight, and nine. Yelling, running, pushing the soldiers back. The soldiers retreated. We followed the boys and ended right back where we started at the top of the hill engaged in a standoff.

A loud roar of chanting came from behind and it was then I noticed that the march had started. Fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, all the adult males came in a large group marching up the hill.  Proud, chanting,   waiving the Palestinian flag.  Some of the men built barricades with large stones to block the soldiers from reentering the small village while others with flags climbed on top of dirt hills waving the Palestinian flag.

 The occupation force blocked the road and some of the boys again threw stones.  At one point a stone hit the armored Jeep.  The adults cheered to congratulate the boy for his good shot. Then it was time to run again.The soldiers charged, sound bomb, sound bomb, then tear gas!

I could smell it. I looked up as one of the canisters was fired horizontally from the hills next to us.  It was like a rocket shooting over our heads. Everybody was running and yelling "ras", Arabic for "gas".. Something like bleach, pepper, and noxious chemicals started to enter my lungs. At first it reminded me of Raid bug spray, then it turned to something I have no words for. RUN was all I could think of. Run!  As I was running, people started to fall on the ground. Others would pick them up. The wind was blowing so we could not escape the cloud. It was filling my lungs and eyes. Inescapable, lingering, everywhere. I fled into the center of the village to regain myself. The villagers charged right back up the hill.
Small child playing with spent teargas grenade
After I could see and breathe again I slowly walked half-way up the hill and sat down. I looked up and there was this little boy maybe around five years old standing in the middle of the street that had been filled with teargas just moments before. He wasn't doing anything in particular, just standing there. He had huge brown watery eyes and reminded me of my son. All the children reminded me of my son. The adults- my father and brother. If I had been born here, my son may be throwing stones, my father on the hill waving the flag and my nephew perhaps would be the little boy with the bag of sweets. I wanted to curl up and bawl my eyes out.  

How do I explain this? How do I make people care? These are not terrorists!! This is an occupied nation and small children with rocks! Most Palestinian children at some point will see long prison sentences for accusations of throwing stones. Thankfully, none of them were arrested today.
I found this next link shocking: please take time to read

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