David Levi, an activist with Tarabut-Hithabrut, spent the night with other activists in the homes of residents of al-Arakib village the night before the partially rebuilt village was demolished for the second time in a week. (A week later, the village was demolished yet a third time.) David was witness to the arrival of the shovellers and the police on their voyage of destruction. Here is his testimony.
“Let me through, otherwise he’ll run to the horses.” I tried to restrain Eid, a boy I had only met that morning, but whose love for horses I had quickly understood. Two black-garbed policemen stood shoulder-to-shoulder with blank expressions and stopped me. They bore huge quantities of ammunition and other “accessories.” “He’s a kid who isn’t aware of danger,” I tried to appeal to their finer feelings, but got only even blanker stares in response. Meanwhile Eid ran down the hill to the police horses and lovingly tried to stroke their legs.
The skies above al-Arakib are umbrella-like, on the ground mounds of refuse, witnesses to last week’s destruction, are scattered around – among them scurry chickens, pigeons, and geese. Tents and temporary dwellings had been hastily erected since the first demolition. An early morning calm prevailed. A tractor brought fodder for the sheep that were moved to the cemetery after the destruction of their pens. A cat lurked in the cavity left by an uprooted tree, and every three minutes two chickens squawked in almost perfect harmony.
Something about morning gives a kind of hope; maybe it’s the colors, or the smells, or the breeze on your face. During that morning walk, I reflected on how different life was out here. I don’t mean the lack of progress – before the first demolition, there were televisions, computers, and internet here. The people with whom we sat in the tent last night had studied at university, Mahmoud told me about the Jewish and Muslim poetry of Spain. You have to be at al-Arakib to understand the difference, life on the soil of the desert, respecting its idiosyncrasies but not giving way to it. Come to al-Arakib and see for yourselves.
When I got back from my walk everyone was awake. We sat in the tent and drank coffee, ate breakfast. A few pleasant moments before the rumour circulated that the police were on their way. After half an hour of tension, police cars could be seen in the distance and behind them the trucks carrying the heavy equipment. The police wore black with transparent face shields. Watching them advance was like watching a science-fiction movie. When they came near, evil suddenly became tangible and close.
“You’ve got two minutes to get out of here.” Somebody tried to talk to them, but the only response was “Now you’ve got one minute.” There were about 10 regular policemen and Border police for each resident. There was no need for that amount of violence, but...
Then the shoveller arrived and the destruction began. The shovel poised above the wooden structure with its jute roof and came down, smashing the building, then turned, scooped a shovel full of earth and tipped it out to bury the crushed cloth and wooden boards.
That’s how it went, house after house, the police pushing us forward. Those who tried to stay inside the houses were carried out and dropped to the ground. All the others were driven back to a point close enough to see the destruction, but not to get to the houses.
From this point on I don’t remember much. Violence makes me fuddled and this was a stew of violence in a soup of sweat and screaming: Elderly women who refused to move from their homes; threats of arrest, arrests, and people being dragged away; demolitions and the onward push to those lingering in the next house.
But Eid’s flight towards the horses returned me to full consciousness. He wandered between the horses legs until finally one of the cops picked him up and brought him towards us. Just at that moment his father arrived, he’d been trying to prevent the demolition of his home. He hugged Eid, who resisted. “He needs oxygen,” he told me. “See how hard it is for him to breathe.”
Contra el fabricante de odio,Contra el mercador de su sangre,Cantando, sonriendo y venciendo.Que despierte el Leñador.*
From Pablo Neruda, Canto General: "Against the manufacturer of hatred / against the merchant of their blood, / singing, smiling and victorious. / Let the woodcutter awaken." (Listen to Poem)