Al-Khan al-Ahmar: still waiting. Now that Angela Merkel has come and gone, and the holiday season is over, and the court has spoken, there are no further obstacles to the coming devastation. Germany joined other EU countries in condemning the planned demolition as a war crime, and Merkel herself is clearly against it; the government politely delayed execution until after she left Israel. We had hoped she might issue a strong statement while here: hope, or desperation, conjures up hopeless dreams.
The mood in the Khan was somber when Yigal and I arrived not long before midnight. The insouciant tone of a few nights ago has disappeared. Days of waiting to be violently expelled have taken their toll. The big tent houses about a hundred activists, mostly Palestinians from all over the West Bank, with a sprinkling of Israelis and internationals. At night they all sleep on foam mattresses, a vast dormitory for the men; women sleep outside in the school courtyard in the sweet desert air. We climbed up to the roof of the school and spread our mattresses, looking for a quiet corner, but sleep wouldn’t come. I was taut with grim anticipation. Below us, people went on talking through most of the night in small groups scattered over the site—a gentle drone of words along with the constant purring of the generator and occasional raucous notes from the donkeys. At some point I fell asleep.
And woke at 3 AM. For a long time I watched the stars. My old friend Orion was there, just above me, and to the right the Pleiades were smiling. In the darkness I checked my messages and found a terrifying one from Guy Butavia. On the main Ta‘ayush vehicle, which we use in the Jordan Valley and in South Hebron, the screws holding the suspension in place had come loose on both sides. We can’t say for sure how or why. Wear and tear? Did someone tamper with the vehicle?
Late-night thoughts. You can see why I didn’t sleep again after that. The stars move rather slowly in those hours before dawn. At 4:00 the roosters started in, one by one, as if a conductor were giving each his cue. Then there was the morning adhan—Allahu Akbar—in the haunting dissonance of prayer, the words tumbling and mixing into the almost audible breathing of the desert just before first light.
Another morning without the bulldozers, so far. You live in time that is no time. Kids come to school. Is it possible that international pressure could still forestall the demolition? Before we leave, the Israeli activists discuss the prospects. It probably won’t happen today. So it goes, day by day. When it comes, the destruction will be brutal. What is worse, it is but the start of a greater disaster. The people who rule Israel—the prime minister and the sordid circle of thugs, sycophants, and flunkies who surround him—will stop at nothing to achieve their maximalist plan, that is, to steal as much land, with as few living Palestinians on it, as possible. Al-Khan al-Ahmar is part of the plan.
On Thursday, while Merkel was having lunch at President Rivlin’s residence, some fifteen to twenty of the al-Khan al-Ahmar schoolchildren came to demonstrate outside. Some of the signs read: “Angela Merkel, please help save our school.” Arik Ascherman of Torat Tzedek and Guy Hircefeld brought the children there; afterwards they took them to places they’ve never seen. They bought them pizza, and the kids devoured it with a rare passion. They went to look at Al-Aqsa from the Mount of Olives. Then Arik said it was time to go home—the home that may vanish tomorrow.
Text: David Shulman © 2018 photographs © as credited.