The non-violent demonstration in Al-Khader village changed course Friday when Israeli soldiers erected a metal barrier encased in barbed wire. Heavily armed and protected by the barrier, the soldiers allowed for no room to advance.
Reaching Highway 60, the illegally built Israeli only road, is one of the main goals of the demonstration. The idea is to prevent Israelis from using the highway, which the government built to protect settlers on land confiscated from the Palestinians, and to attract the attention of Israeli civilians passing by at the time. Around 18 Israeli soldiers, including snipers, faced 70-100 determined demonstrators. Six army jeeps and one Armored Personal Carrier (APC) were positioned just behind the barrier, prepared for clashes.
“You who claim to want peace, we will write on the wall. I want to live in freedom and we will tear down this wall,” chanted the demonstrators, who consisted mainly of youth. The chanting started at the intersection of Al Khader main road and Khader Igayt and continued throughout the demonstration. Another chant Locals waved Palestinian flags high in the air and raised signs reading “Wall = Annexation” and “Remove Fence and Settlements.” The tension increased slightly when one soldier refused to stop taking photos of the demonstrators. Local youth responded by blocking the cameras with their hands, flags and signs, attracting the attention of more youth and more soldiers, who joined the action located on a high point overlooking the road below.
Every Friday local Palestinians and internationals gather at Al-Khader Mosque at 1:30pm to accompany one another to the demonstration site. The demonstration is in its ninth week now and was organized to stop the Israeli government from constructing a wall that will cut through the village of Al-Khader. Samer Jaber, the demonstration organizer, said, “We are sending a message. This wall turns Palestinian villages into ghettos and prevents farmers from reaching their lands.” When finished, the wall will take a total of 62,000 dunums of land from Palestinians. The Israeli government has also decided to build tunnels under the highway to connect Palestinian villages. In an effort to further control freedom of movement for Palestinians, all entry and exit points will be controlled by Israeli checkpoints and manned by soldiers.
Each week the location and strategies of the demonstration change in an effort to surprise the army. Last week demonstrators gathered at what is called the tunnel location, where they successfully advanced to the Israeli-only road and this week they gathered at the checkpoint location. Israeli soldiers are now present at both locations, waiting to hear where the demonstration is taking place. Despite perfect attendance and modified tactics, little progress has been made, especially in light of the current political situation in Lebanon and Gaza.
One demonstrator, Vivian Sansour, noticed one of the soldiers pushing a few of the kids, but beyond that, the demonstration was a solid example of non-violence in action. Jaber confirmed that there have been no injuries, as the demonstrators are wholly committed to non-violence.