I have spoke before on this blog about the village of Tuba. Tuba is a small village in the South Hebron hills. It's one of the villages from which kids walk to school in At-Tuwani. My colleagues and I monitor the escort of these schoolkids.
I recently received a phone call from O*, a father of some of the schoolchildren in Tuba. O* was quiet upset which was evident from the emotion which radiated from his quick speech. I immediately assumed the worst, but waited for O* to explain. O* told me about all the problems recently: the kids being late to school because of the tardiness of the military escort, settlers stealing a donkey from their neighbors, his kids and nieces/nephews being chased home by settlers, those kids still being chased by settlers when taking a different and more lengthy path, the settlers plowing O*'s land and him having no recourse to get it back, etc, etc. O* went on for several minutes and I quietly listened with my head in my hands, feeling helpless and feeling his helplessness. Occassionally O* would ask me if what he was saying was correct and if the situation was just. I would respond, "you're right O*, and no, it's not just."
O* spoke extensively about their path from Tuba to the city -- where they purchase goods unavailable to them in the countryside. There is a direct road, which the kids walk on when escorted by the military, that should be available to them (as it is an old Palestinian road which existed before the settlements did) but is not passable because of continued settler violence against Palestinians who use the road. So the villagers in Tuba are forced to take a longer path, in an attempt to maintain a safe distance between themselves and the violent settlers. Nonetheless they are attacked.
The frustration in O*'s voice was palpable as he told me of their inability to safely travel to and from their house. "They attack us if we take the road, they attack if we take the 90 minute-western path, they attack is if we take the 100 minute-eastern path, what do they want us to do -- take an airplane!? What can we do, Sam? Have the internationals forgotten about us? Has the world forgotten about us?"
The conversation with O* rattled me. I laid awake most of that night, thinking about O* and the people in Tuba. The settlers wish they didn't exist, the soldiers wish they were invisible. Several times in the phone call O* said, "Biddna na'iish, biddna na'iish (we just want to live, we just want to live). As I laid in bed, I couldn't get that line out of my head. They just want to live. That's all they want. And for some reason God-forsaken reason, that's too much to ask.
Below is a map of the paths I am describing. A little orientation: Tuba and Tuwani are labeled in white. Pink path = Road that settlers control with violence (20 mins); dark blue = long/almost safe path (2 hours); light blue = risky path/reasonable length (45 minutes); greenish = longer/more safe(90 minutes).
Villagers from Tuba also use a path to the northeast (not labeled) and are also attacked there.
The other info on this map refers to a settler attack against two CPTers that happened in November.
**Click on the image to make it bigger and more clear