In a land of infinite vulnerability, with noxious settlers at every step, Wadi Siq may be the most vulnerable of all. It consists of several encampments of tents and sheep pens huddled together, with large gaps between them, on a hill of a million rocks overlooking Jericho and the Jordan Valley. You can see the Dead Sea clearly from the top, near the solid-looking school that is the pride of this village. A demolition order hangs over it; what else is new? Palestinians are not supposed to build schools.
Every morning a bus brings children from the surrounding hamlets to the school, followed by a car with the teachers. This is a particularly dangerous moment, since the settlers like to attack as the children leave the bus. There are three relatively recent settler outposts surrounding Wadi Siq, one of them only 700 meters away—far too close for comfort. Not only that, the Palestinian tents are right next to the dust-and-gravel access road to the closest outpost, and there is frequent settler traffic on that road at all hours.
On August 13, settlers attacked the school, smashed its windows, and vandalized it. On August 29 there was a more destructive attack. We have no good videos from the critical moments, but according to the Palestinians, settlers first harassed two young Palestinian shepherds who, thinking the settlers were going to steal the herd, fled toward the school. Then the settlers– approximately 18 boy-men, some of them armed and masked—forced their way into the Bedouin tents, and fights broke out. Several Palestinians were wounded, including a child who had to be hospitalized in Jericho. Several settlers were also wounded. The police and army arrived and, as usual, arrested three Palestinians.
I am not going to go on with this all-too-familiar litany. I wasn’t there on the 29th of August. But our activists have been doing shifts in Wadi a-Siq, mostly at night, to protect the villagers. I slept there last night. Nothing terrible happened. But it’s clear that the settlers have targeted Wadi a-Siq and are attempting to drive out the 300-or-so Palestinian souls, as they have done in Ein-Samiye, Qabun, al-Baq’a, and Ras a-Tin, all in the same general area of the central West Bank. According to the statistics of the United Nations office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs, about 35 residents in Wadi a-Siq have already moved out. We mentioned Wadi a-Siq’s plight briefly in a recent post.
In the tent where we were welcomed, offered endless cups of coffee and tea, and eventually went to sleep (some of us) after midnight, ‘Ali said to me, “Our children are terrified; they cry a lot. But we are here to stay.” He’s been living in Wadi a-Siq for fifty years. I saw and heard no signs that the people of the village are wavering; quite the contrary. They have a certain insouciant élan, like other Palestinian communities I have known. Our support also makes a difference, as it has at Ein Rashash, where the shepherds have now started to reclaim some of their historic grazing grounds, with us beside them. (But this morning the settler terrorists invaded the homes of Ein Rashash, no doubt in revenge for this achievement, and as a threat and a preview of what lies in store. Arik and the other activists chased them away.)
Despite the danger and constant anxiety, or maybe because of them, Wadi a-Siq is a lively place late at night. Friends came from far away—from South Hebron, from Ramallah, from other villages and towns. A little before midnight they lit up the narghilehs; and, as I was told upon waking by Alex, who has almost made this village his nocturnal home, around 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning they proudly inscribed the name “Wadi a-Siq” in the sand and set the letters on fire. An act of eloquent defiance. Let the world know that we exist.
It’s that kind of battle, on the ground, in village after village. For us and them, it’s the No-More-Nakba war. We won’t let the settler terrorists win. As Alex said to me, “It’s impossible just to stand by and witness the murder of a people before our eyes.” For the record, unlike our enemies, we are, as you know, fully committed to non-violent resistance. We are also committed to standing up to wickedness and sadistic greed. Every millimeter counts. Every day that passes without hurt is a victory, every peaceful night a human triumph. You who read these grim reports also make a difference. I’ll be back in Wadi a-Siq. Shana tova umetuka.
text: David Shulman ©2023. Photographs as credited ©2023