My first demonstration!

Trip Start Dec 10, 2007
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Trip End Jan 10, 2008


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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Friday, December 21, 2007

Aunt Jen and I went to a village near Ramallah today called Bi'lin. In Bi'lin there have been non violent demonstrations going on for three years now against the wall that's being built, deep in the West Bank, separating the villagers from many dunams of their land.
We marched on the road towards where the Separation Fence is, chanting "la la, l'jidar!" (meaning "no, no to the wall!") and "la la ihtillal! (no, no to occupation!)
You know, I was drawn in a home where I was told that when Palestinians demonstrate they want to destroy all of Israel or throw the Jews into the sea, but the chants that I heard were against this wall taking the village's land, and against occupation, and even a chant against apartheid. I never heard any chant like "no no to the Jews" or "no no to Israelis."
Actually, I wonder if the people in the house where I was drawn know that lots of Israeli human rights activists are also demonstrating against this wall and against apartheid, side by side with the Palestinians, some internationals, and, of course, the occasional two-dimensional boy!
We started to march down the hill with our signs and our flags towards the soldiers who were blocking the way to the wall. Suddenly, the soldiers started to shoot tear gas and rubber bullets at us. I was so surprised! I had assumed that soldiers only shot people in self defense, but here we were being totally non-violent and got shot at first! After the soldiers started to shoot, then a bunch of young men started to throw rocks at them--but the cause and effect seemed pretty obvious to me. The tear gas and rubber bullets came first, and the stone-throwing after.
With the tear gas being shot, everyone dispersed into the olive groves on the sides of the road. Aunt Jen and I were crouched behind a tree with two other Americans, a young college student and an old lady over 70 years old. Suddenly, a tear gas canister was shot directly at us--not lobbed in the air like it's supposed to. The young man got hit in the head--I'm not sure if the canister hit him directly or there was also a sound bomb that exploded on us at the same moment--and the tear gas exploded right in our faces. The old woman couldn't open her eyes at all, and Aunt Jen and I helped lead her through the olive grove back onto the road. We didn't want to turn our backs on the soldiers to walk up the hill, because we heard about activists that have gotten shot at close range (and had rubber bullets lodged in their skulls) as they were retreating, but Aunt Jen and I needed to get this old woman up the hill and out of the range of fire. Aunt Jen could barely open her eyes herself but somehow we all managed to get up the hill. We heard later that the college student who was with us was taken to the hospital because his head was bleeding pretty badly, but we were told that he was okay.
After we were up the road, we thought we were out of the line of fire, but the soldiers moved up the road towards the village itself. Aunt Jen heard a rubber bullet whiz past her ear and we saw that the soldier who shot it was crouched behind a wall just a few meters in front of us.
Once it looked like the demonstration had dissolved into a dance between rubber-bullet-shooting soldiers and stone-throwing boys, and once Aunt Jen could see again, we left Bi'lin for Ramallah and then from Ramallah to Jerusalem.
Aunt Jen is a good guardian--she took me to an eye doctor in Jerusalem. She said I'm not used to tear gas and wanted to make sure my eyes were okay.

Aunt Jen was pretty proud of me--she said that most paper dolls, after having a tear gas cannister shot directly in their face and a rubber bullet whiz past their ear, may be scared or upset--but I just kept on smiling like I always do!

She emailed some of the pictures of the demonstration to a friend of hers, and this friend wrote an email back saying, "Do any of these people fighting for their nation think it's odd that you have a paper doll? Just wondering." Aunt Jen laughed and laughed but I was pretty insulted. I mean, can I help it if I'm two-dimensional??
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