Three years ago in Gaza, between July 21 and July 28, Israel killed (it is forbidden say murdered) 37 Palestinian children under the age of 7
The Amwaj (Waves) choir and the Ramallah Orchestra perform in the desert south of Bethlehem. Credit Amira Hass
1. My friend B. lives in Kobar. Somehow, during the four years of her young son’s life she has managed to protect him from the not-for-children narrations about the army and death, the occupation, shooting and guns. She and her husband have created an island around him, with children’s books and games, and made sure that the television, with its horrible sights, wouldn’t be turned on in his vicinity.
Last week reality forced itself on them. Every day the army bulldozers came, made the barriers at the entrance to the village higher and wider, and deepened the wound they dug in the asphalt. Every day the residents swept aside the earth at the edges of the barriers so that their cars could pass. And when my friend passed by there in her car, with her son next to her, he wondered and asked who had made those high piles of earth. Al jish, the army, she replied. He at first thought she had said the jag (the hen) and was very confused. And then she had to tell him what the army is, whose army it is, and why they’re against everyone large and small.
Comment 1: If until now B. was able to protect her son from the violent lexicon created by the Settlements Defense Forces, that says something about the relative quiet in the village of Kobar (despite pinpoint raids to detain residents). But almost a week of nighttime raids, with dozens of soldiers deploying among the houses, beating residents, firing stun grenades and tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets, reminded them that the relative quiet is deceptive.
Comment 2: The Shin Bet security services and the Israel Defense Forces were the subjects of exaggerated praise this week. Their stand concerning the metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount did in fact prove that they understand the overall picture. In other words, the collective revenge campaign that they carried out last week in Kobar did not stem from a lack of understanding or knowledge that the harassment of the entire village and the persecution of all its residents would only give rise to more anger, even among those who are opposed to the attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish or have reservations about it. This collective revenge is not a case of shooting from the hip. It’s part of the plan. Part of the logic of control. You escalate, you incite, you detain more young people, you scare more children to create more reasons for preventive activities and oppression, and to maintain the apparatus.
2. T., a sweet boy of 11, joined me during my visits to several of the families in Kobar whose homes the army had invaded. In a short lull between their testimonies he said: “He proved himself a man, Omar al-Abed” (who killed three members of the Salomon family in Halamish). I asked T.: “So do you mean to say that all of you, all the rest of the Palestinians, aren’t men?” T. was somewhat confused. “No, of course that’s not what I mean,” he said.
Israeli forces near the site of the attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish and assailant Omar al-Abed, July 21, 2017.
Comment: The words expressing understanding of al-Abed’s motives shouldn’t allow us to forget two facts: Relative to the intensity and duration of the injustice in which they live, very few Palestinians have chosen or are choosing al-Abed’s path. On the other hand, tens of thousands of Israelis (correct me if necessary, maybe actually hundreds of thousands?) were and are directly involved in the killing (we are forbidden to call it murder) of Palestinians; not to mention all the other things we inflict on them.
3. Noor, Malak, Miar and Dareen sing in the Amwaj choir. They’re about 12 years old. We met in the most unexpected place: the desert. A procession of camels was marching towards the sunset. The plucking of the strings in Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony and the strains of the piccolo from Ravel’s Bolero wafted above the row of plastic chairs placed on the sand.
The Amwaj (Waves) choir in Bethlehem and the Ramallah Orchestra, founded by the Al Kamandjati Conservatory, are offering a series of concerts for the general public, conducted by Diego Masson. The concert, which was supposed to take place on Friday in Dar Al Tifl (The Child’s Home) in Jerusalem, was canceled because of the circumstances. Ramzi Abu Radwan, founder of Al Kamandjati and a native of the Al-Amari refugee camp, immediately phoned Abu Ismail.
Abu Ismail heads the Bedouin Hospitality and Desert Excursions agency for those touring the desert, east of his village Arab al-Rashayida, south of Bethlehem. He immediately said, “Of course, play here.” The next day. The Kamandjati sound and lighting technicians worked all day on installing the systems and making sure they functioned. Girls from the Bedouin village, ages 3 to 12, sat fascinated on the plastic chairs and blended in with the aural and visual miracle taking place before their eyes. On Sunday the concert took place as planned in the Bethlehem Convention Palace. And on Monday, it will be held in the Ramallah Municipal Theater.
The Amwaj (Waves) choir and the Ramallah Orchestra perform in the desert south of Bethlehem, July 29, 2017.Amira Hass
4. The Amwaj choir includes 30 girls and boys from Hebron and 30 from the Bethlehem area, including villages and refugee camps. It began taking shape about three years ago. There are no auditions, all that’s required is a commitment to eight hours of study a week, and summer courses. At present there are 25 boys and 35 girls in the choir. The youngest singer is a 6-year-old girl.
5. Three years ago, between July 21 and July 28, we killed (we are forbidden to call it murdered) 37 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip between the ages of several months and 6 years. Next to the name of each toddler we killed (and who are included in the B’Tselem list of 546 children we killed in the 2014 onslaught), there is a dry notation: “Did not participate in the fighting.”
Comment. We no longer like to dirty our hands with blood. We’re experts at killing (we are forbidden to call it murdering) from a distance, with high-tech gadgets, at most with rifles and pistols. That way it’s not sickening. Not disgusting. Not horrifying.