Settlers Visit The School
November 18th 2007
Click to enlarge all photographs
Last Sunday morning, the start of a new week at Cordoba School in Hebron, and the first Palestinian children arrive at 7.15am to find the path to the school door covered with big, heavy rocks.
Last year, settlers destroyed the school's well by throwing rocks down it. This August, they tried to burn the school down, causing extensive smoke damage, so it was completely refurbished and decorated in bright colours by the Red Cross.
In recent months there have been no actual physical attacks on the children, which used to be common, so the atmosphere was relaxed and joyous when Reem invited dignitaries of the town and all the internationals who help to protect the school to the celebration of the refurbishment on November 14.
But the school is situated right opposite the settlement of Beit Hadassah in an area of Hebron which the settlers want to take over so, for them, the ceremony was a slap in the face. (Actually, many of the settlers support the aims of the Jewish National Front, whose founder lives near the school, which are to take over the whole of the West Bank and drive the Palestinians out into neighbouring Arab countries: they are just making a start with parts of the city).
There is a continually-manned army post some 50 metres from the Cordoba School gate and the school has had a guard sleeping overnight since August. But on Saturday night the guard's grandfather died and he left to be with his family. And the soldiers at the post, well, we are told they say they heard and saw nothing of the scores of rocks being ripped from the wall and dragged across the path and people jumping down into the courtyard garden.
I was infuriated by what seemed to me a petty crime against an obscure little school of just 116 pupils but a woman from Machsom Watch who came to see the damage put me right. Machsom Watch is an organisation of Israeli women who make daily tours of checkpoints in the Occupied Territories to try to reduce the harassment and humiliation suffered by Palestinians.
Leah Shakdiel is an Orthodox Jew, a member of the Jewish Religious Movement for Peace as well as Machsom Watch, and someone who says it is totally nonsensical for the settlers to claim land in places like Hebron just because the Bible says it was 'promised' to them 4000 years ago.
"This is not a petty crime, it is deadly serious," she told me. "To the settlers, this is not a garden. It is a hold for the Arabs on the Jewish land of Israel."
The settlers are right, of course, the little school is a hold on the land, which is why the Palestinians perfectly understand the message of the broken plants. This is a war of attrition, depressing, destructive and at the moment apparently eternal. I wonder how it can ever be brought to an end.