09 August 2007

Just let the fire burn

*I'm still waiting for my journal to arrive via the postal service. For now I've decided to blog about stories that happened as I remember them. I may edit later when I recieve my journal.

One evening around 9:30pm in mid-July we received a phone call from a Palestinian coordinator that an occupied (by soldiers) home in the old city of Hebron was on fire. I think there were at least 12-15 of us staying in the apartment at the time and all of us decided to go check it out. For some reason we were split up. Some of the people arrived at the fire first to find black smoke billowing out of the building. Eventually we all met up and some people decided to return to the apartment while 5 of us decided to stay and wait for the fire brigade, I was one of the 5 who decided to wait.

We arrived at the building via a street coming down to Shuhada St behind the Quortoba School (the one that was recently set on fire, hmmmm a pattern?). We then walked down Shuhada Street a short way and waited in front of the building. Between this building which the soldiers use as a military post and the building across the street in which a Palestinian family lives as well as the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT) is a barrier set up by the military in order to stop the flow of traffic from Shuhada Street to the old city. The barrier consists of a metal fence approximately 12 feet high, razor wire and a concrete barrier.

Eventually the soldiers approached us to see what we were doing and to try to tell us that we are not allowed to stand there. We were allowed to be there however. We told them we were waiting for the fire brigade to come and put out the fire. The police arrived next and all claimed not to speak English, except for one who sounded like he had a Russian accent and his English was very poor. He requested that we designate one person as a spokesperson, so we appointed a Swedish man who happens to be a firefighter. The conversation basically consisted of the police officer telling us to leave, that it was suspected that a Palestinian started the fire, then that there really wasn't a fire! Yes, nothing ever makes sense in Palestine.

Next a few settlers decided to join in. They insisted that they saw the 5 of us internationals come from the old city, break through the barrier and throw something in the building to set it on fire. It was then I became aware of my super hero capabilities to jump 12 ft fences and razor wire in a single bound! Oh yes, and to set a fire that didn't exist. Amazing! Theatre of the absurd!
(This is a view from inside the old city; the building that was burning is the one on the right.)

Eventually an American police officer arrived. Nice! An American, typical attitude of the police here. Actually he was a bit more diplomatic. He said that he had to file a report for arson based on what the settlers said but that he is aware of the absurdity, well, he didn't use that word but that is the gist of it. So, he took our passports and another officer took them over to the police vehicle to copy down the numbers. It must have been around 10:30pm by this time. Smoke was still pouring out of the building, that was not on fire, that we started:-)

A young settler boy approached the police vehicle and leaned on it to get a glimpse of our passports. I intervened and requested that he be removed. The police officers told him to go away. Thank you very much! After about 20 minutes we had our passports in hand and were told to leave the nonexistant burning fire. We left.

The owner of the building had to take matters in his own hands unfortunately. The fire brigade never showed up. The building is still occupied by the soldiers who eventually secured the building by permanently sealing the side door shut.

Just another day in Palestine.

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