On Day 4 of the September Freedom Ride the Freedom Bus visited the town of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem.
In Beit Sahour we performed in a beautiful stone room, hosted by the Alternative Information Center. The actors of the Freedom Bus listened to stories from the First Intifada, an uprising against the Israeli occupation that lasted from 1987 to 1993, and transformed them into short peices of improvised theatre. Beit Sahour was known as a centre of peaceful popular resistance during this period.
We heard from an older man called Jawal, who was involved in an audacious project to help the inhabitants of Beit Sahour to boycott Israeli goods. At that time there were no dairy farms in the West Bank, and the Palestinians were reliant on milk imported from Israel. Jawal came up with a plan to bring a herd of cows to Beit Sahour. They travelled to an Israeli kibbutz, bought eighteen cows, and herded them onto a piece of land in Beit Sahour. Jawal knew nothing about cows, he had never even seen a cow before in his life, but there was huge enthusiasm for the project amongst the people of the town.
Within a week an Israeli commander came to the farm with many soldiers and an intelligence unit. They took a photograph of each individual cows and the numbers on their backs. They arrested the farm workers and arrested Jawal.
The commander told Jawal that the cows “posed a threat to the national security of the state of Israel”.
The commander told Jawal that if the cows were not removed the army would demolish the farm. That night a group of shabab, or village youth, helped to smuggle the cows out and hide them all over Beit Sahour. Jawal told us that half of the cows escaped and had to be chased! One of the cows gave birth to the first calf of Beit Sahour. The eighteen terrorists had become nineteen…
The army searched for the cows with hundreds of soldiers and two helicopters. The had photographs of the cows that they showed to the townspeople, asking, “Have you see these cows?” They could not find them. At that time, there were long curfews imposed on the inhabitants of Beit Sahour. During the curfews the youth of the town delivered milk clandestinely to families. The milk became known as the “milk of the Intifada”. The cows were hidden for 4 years!
A film has been made about ‘The Wanted 18’. You can watch the trailer here: