Neighbors

Toine van Teeffelen January 2013 Mary feels pain, a pressure on her breast. She asks herself if it is because of her feelings for two young people killed this week: the 15-year-old boy Saleh from the refugee camp ‘Azza opposite our house, and 22-year old Lubna from Bethlehem. While the media lamp lights are focused on the Israeli elections, these are the “small” things that happen in the shadow of the news. Four young people killed in the West Bank in less than one week. In front of our house we hear the slogans of demonstrators, now already for three days in a row. Mary tells me, “Haram [have pity] for the boy, why don’t you go and visit the family?” In fact, I do not often go to pay condolences for persons whom I do not know, but the circumstances of the boy’s death were terrible, and after all, the refugees from ‘Azza are our neighbors. (Neighbors are persons living in a circle of, let’s say, 100 meter around one’s house). I walk a hundred meter into the camp. ‘Azza is the smallest camp in the West Bank, with some 2000 people. It is completely enclosed by Bethlehem town. Mary knows the sheikh who leads the prayers in the mosque. He used to drive her home when she had to carry vegetables and fruits from a shop owned by somebody from the camp, Jibrin. (Recently I was in the shop and experienced quite a quarrel between customers and owner about the sharply rising prices of vegetables. The owner gave me for once a discount apparently because he wanted to show that he cared for his customers). While walking into the camp I see on all houses the poster with a photo of the boy, his face fresh-looking and a kefiyeh [head scarf] on the background, the national symbol. In the hall the men are assembled, chairs are also outside. There is a three-day mourning period usual among Moslems, as among the Christians. Visitors pass by to shake hands of the relatives and drink a cup of bitter Arabic coffee. The father comes and sits next to me. He looks resigned, is quiet but wants to speak. Saleh was his only son. He was mad about soccer and therefore the father had sent him to a sports school. “Why did the soldiers shoot him? Did he carry an M 16, was he in a F 16 fighter jet? Even if he had thrown stones, why do they shoot to kill?”

A friend of the family tells that it happened in nearby Aida camp. It seems the boy was killed by a dumdum bullet, not a rubber bullet. The dumdum bullets widen the diameter of the wound. A soldier had shot from one of the 9 meter high and well-protected military watchtowers built in the Wall around Rachel’s Tomb. While sitting among the mourners, the Franciscan Father Ibrahim Faltas comes in to also pay his condolences. A loudspeaker at the house speaks about his visit. I shake hands another time and leave. Lubna, from Bethlehem, was killed too in terrible circumstances. Witnesses told the Bethlehem news agency Ma'an that Israeli soldiers traveling in a civilian car opened fire at a group of people at the entrance to al-Arroub refugee camp, south of Bethlehem. Lubna was shot in the head and died from her injuries, medics said. She seemed to be visiting an agricultural school opposite the camp. An Israeli army spokeswoman said that "soldiers were attacked by Palestinians who hurled multiple firebombs at them while they were traveling near al-Arroub. Soldiers returned fire and the circumstances of the incident are currently being reviewed." Bystanders denied there was any unrest at all at that moment. Witnesses told Ma'an that after the shooting Israeli soldiers prevented an ambulance for around 10 minutes from arriving at the scene. While writing, I hear once again the demonstrators outside, expressing their helpless anger.

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