The next stop on the Freedom Ride was Nabi Saleh, a small village surrounded by settlements, which is well known throughout occupied Palestine as a centre of non-violent resistance. Every Friday the villagers march towards a confiscated spring owned by the Tamimi family. The Israeli army try to disperse the crowds with tear gas and stun grenades, often injuring villagers. The army also routinely raid houses in the village, arresting people in the middle of the night because of their involvement in the popular resistance. A young man, Mustafa Tamimi was recently killed by soldiers after being shot in the face at close range with a tear gas cannister.
It is hard to do justice to the experience the Freedom Bus had visiting Nabi Saleh. The strength and unity of the villagers in the face of land confiscation and military violence is inspiring. The stories we heard from the people of Nabi Saleh were remarkable. Towards the end of our performance two cars drove into town square where we were performing, with car horns blasting and Palestinian flags flying from the windows. A prisoner, Mohammed Tamimi, from Nabi Saleh, had just been released. The villagers joyfully crowded around him to welcome him home. We asked him to come onto the stage and share his story.
|Mohammed was arrested at 2.30am on a Monday by soldiers with camouflage facepaint. The soldiers told him they just wanted to ask him a couple of questions and it would not take long. He was held for two weeks. They told him they wanted to stop the non-violent resistance because it was causing too many problems for the army. He said they blindfolded him, handcuffed him and chained his feet together. While he was in prison they would make him stand in a cage and hold one position for many hours at a time, before interrogating him. Often he was not allowed water. When asked how he felt about the performance of his story and his release, Mohammed said, “I have a beautiful feeling. I cannot put it into words.”
We heard several stories from women in the village, who are very involved in the non-violent resistance. A young woman from the Tamimi family told us the story of when she was arrested on a Friday demonstration in August. She became separated from the group of young girls she was looking after. When she found the girls they were being attacked and beaten by soldiers. She intervened and was arrested. As she was driven away in a military jeep she could see and hear the little girls running after the vehicle calling out to her. “I am a strong woman,” she added, “I am not afraid of the army.”
Another woman came forward with her 6-year-old daughter and told a story about sheltering in a house with fifteen young children during a particularly violent Friday protest. The army threw teargas cannisters into the lower floor of the house, and the women fled upstairs with the children. The gas started coming in under the door and the children started coughing and crying, and became unable to breathe. They were too scared to leave because of the violence outside. The effects of the gas became so bad that some of the children lost consciousness. The woman started shouting for help from the street. Some of the youth from the village climbed up under the windows. The woman tried to pass the children out of the window to the youth below, but the children were terrified. The woman said her daughter cried to her, saying, “Please don’t throw me out the window, Mama. I love you!” The conductor asked her daughter how she felt at that time. “I was afraid. I was shivering. My heart was beating hard.”
After Mohammed Tamimi’s story, the actors joined hands in a dance, and members of the audience joined in. They danced through the audience and then returned to the stage. Four children from the village came forward and recited poems and songs they had written in memory of Mustafa Tamimi. Their voices echoed out through the streets of Nabi Saleh. “We are the steadfast,” they sang, “We will not give up.”
Images by Al Mayuk and Natasha Andrews.