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An incident in Ramallah

2 September 2004

Last night I was sitting in a bar in Ramallah having a drink with a friend that I met here. He too had only been here for less than two weeks. It was a nice atmosphere and we were both talking about the western media and its lack of real reporting. We agreed that no article we had read, or documentary we had watched, accurately portrayed the situation here.

And then, in the midst of good conversation and drinks, a bomb exploded just outside. It was the first time Charlie or I had heard or experienced anything like this.

We quickly got away from the window and got down low. People in the bar told us that it was just a sound bomb and tear gas. But nothing they said could stop my heart racing. I was terrified.

The street was then surrounded by four Israeli army jeeps. The boys of Ramallah were also quick to gather themselves. Armed with stones, they were ready. A "battle" than ensued between the Israelis in their heavily armored jeeps and hi-tech weapons, and some twenty or thirty boys armed with stones and anger.

We watched from the verandah. I was surprised how quickly my fear disappeared and turned into anger. Just like that, at 10 p.m., the Israelis can storm into any area they want and terrorise the people of the town.

And the boys … the same boys that were hanging out on the street a minute before! The same boys that tried to chat up my friend Tala and I when we walked past them. The same boys that were just as annoying as teenage boys everywhere. There they were, face to face with an Israeli jeep.

The clothes they were wearing were surely something they wouldn't have worn had they known they would be throwing stones at an Israeli jeep. Polished shoes, nice pants or jeans, a smart shirt, hair slicked back. But there they were, face to face with an Israeli jeep and they were no longer the annoying teenage boys trying to chat girls up or doing any of the things that teenage boys do. They were throwing stones for not being allowed to be teenage boys; stones for all the restrictions imposed on them; stones for the settlements the Israelis are building around Ramallah; stones for all the checkpoints they have to pass; stones for the prisoners on hunger strike.

Trapped in the bar that was now completely surrounded, I stood on the verandah like a mother – or grandmother – yelling at the boys to be more careful.

With a strength that can only be the result of years of oppression they moved closer and closer to the jeep. The Israelis, with the cowardice that can only be the result of years of being occupiers, began to shoot rubber-coated steel bullets into the crowd, the same rubber-coated steel bullets that have killed many of our boys.

I didn't want to witness one of our boys get killed. Ultimately that is exactly what Israel wants – to reduce the number of Palestinians here, either through killing them, or through forced expulsion, or by making life so impossible that people leave voluntarily. Israel has been trying to destroy people internally, to break the spirit of Palestinians, to break that stubborn refusal to die, refusal to leave, and refusal to submit to Israel's colonial plans for the rest of Palestine.

One of the waiters was concerned for those of us standing on the verandah. We were asked to go back inside – including the guy worried about his car that was parked in between the Israeli soldiers and our boys.

Half an hour later we heard some whistling and chanting. The boys were celebrating. They had managed to drive the Israelis out of their town.

© Rihab Charida 2004.

Also by Rihab Charida: Dispossessed all over again