רשת אינדימדיה העולמית


The fall of El-Arakib


Yesterday I witnessed an entire village being demolished by the Israeli police force and Kakal.

It was four o'clock this morning. A few members of the Negev Co-existence forum, me included met in Be'er Sheva and rode off to El-Arakib, a Bedouin village just north of the city, fearing we were already too late. We rode off the main road to the rocky track that leads to the entrance of the desert village. We were temporarily pleased to find, that the huge expected police forces which were sighted in the nearby junctions were not there, yet.


We reached the village and parked the car near the cemetery, where we were told there would be less of a chance it would be towed away. In the village itself we met weary men in a state of restrained panic. Several tens of young boys came down to help during the next dreadful hours. Some twenty left wing activist, shook themselves awake from the blankets and mats that were laid down for them earlier at midnight when they arrived from Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv.

For a little while it wasn't clear what we were needed to do. Some men that we spoke with told us there was no plan made, no strategy, and that as far as they're concerned, every person or group should do what they think is right. At some point, however, one of the men had us gather round in a group and asked us to split up in to pairs and small groups and go sit in the different houses, holding on to the foundations when the cops arrive. Our Be'er Sheva team coincidently was asked to remain in the main Shig (a tent where the men gather and meet), which was to be the last of the evicted structures.


Around the tent, there were young planted olive trees and I think what was going to grow in to a fig tree. I went over to look at the trees, so timid and pretty in the cold desert air of dawn, unaware of the injustice they were about to be done. I touched the fig tree lightly and hoped, it would to survive this morning.

I went back inside the Shig and one of my companions suggested we prepare ourselves for a non-violent protest. We held our hands and feet tied together and decided how to respond if one of us is in pain and needs to be released of our grip. We then chatted in the strained relaxation, while the sun began painting the sky a lighter shade of blue, and showing its first rays. Many times did one of us go over to the entrance to see what was happening outside. Meanwhile, as was expected, police vans by the hundreds, Kakal Jeeps, buses filled with armed units, Bulldozers, Trailers and other vehicles came streaming to the entrance of the Village. A seemingly endless convoy of government law enforcers.

Hundreds of Cops and Yasam (special squat units used frequently to dispose of demonstrations), some of them riding horses, at standby, awaiting their orders. Quite swiftly the order to start evicting was given and the Yasam teams spread out through the small village like a black wave of uniformed robots, carrying hard rubber clubs and fortified plastic shields, they looked like they were prepared for a war zone. Swiftly they entered each of the tents and tin buildings, pulling out people of all ages with force. Screams could be heard from all over while we awaited in the main Shig for our turn to be washed out by the tide of black violence, like an angry wave may throw you back on the shore at storm, or carry you back with it.


There soon came the point when we were the last activist to remain holding on to a building. All the rest of them and a great number of the village men and boys were gathered together, against there will, trying to yell reason at the black still wall of cops that towered over them on the little hill. I came out for a moment, for it seemed rather ridiculous to remain inside the tent while all the other pe


ople seemed to be facing the cops outside. I asked one of the activist if she thinks there is any point of us staying in the tent and she said there is no point. That the rest of the village was already cleared out. That they are just too many. In the confusion of the moment, with a squat team rushing in the tent suddenly, we left without protest. It was a frustrating decision and hours later I went around with a feeling of worthlessness. In truth, what difference would it make if we'd put up a fight and would have been pulled out a few minutes later, like some others? But I still felt lousy for missing the only real opportunity to resist the terrible injustice that has been done to the villagers of El-Arakib.

About twenty impatient, violent Yasam cops pushed the last of the activist, down a steep gravel slide at the fringes of the village about to be destroyed. One of the activist tripped over a rusty metal container and cut his cheek. The Yasam pushed him on, regardless of his state. Another activist shouted at them that they have no right to be so violent and careless, to no avail. The class of black fish swam on with the current, riding over us.

The eviction was over, the Yasam units retreated and were replaced immediately by a circle of cops in blue. The diligent ushers of the El-Arakib horror show, stood like proud sentinels, securing the stage from the angry crowd's attempts to get back on it. Like a dark age ritual, the fruits of the poor villagers sweat, were to be sacrificed to the gods of politics, and squashed under cold metal shoes.


Now, there seemed nothing left for us to do, but watch. So we watched, helpless as homes, public tents, trees, animal shelters and so on, were crushed to dust and gravel under the bulldozers steel palms, heroes of the second act in this tragedy. I watched the young olive and fig trees fall, my wish no match for such indifferent cruelty. The whole show lasted about two hours. Expert's efficiency.

There was a terrible rumor, that later on was found to be true, that several farm animals (mostly chickens), which remained in the deconstruction site were crushed under the falling buildings. Others, chickens and geese, could be seen wondering around, too close to the bulldozers, searching for shelter and peace between the piles of wreckage. A goat, who seemed to have harmed her leg, was limping inside her broken mess of a pen.

One of my friends and I turned to a few of the guard cops, asking them permission to go up to the village and try to lead the miserable animals to safety. One said, we can't go in. Another suggested we talk to the commander. He didn't seem to know where his commander was, though. A third cop told us they had been ordered to scare all the animals away from the tents before destroying them, an order they obviously took half seriously.


The situation was so frustrating, but I couldn't think of anything more I could do. My hands were already numb from despair.

Calls of rage and anger from the Bedouin Villagers, uprooted from their rightful land, attracted the a Yasam unit to surround a large group of them. For several minutes it seemed as if they were all going to be arrested or detained, but finally they were left be. Waste of energy, they must have thought, their entire village was already being destroyed and left in rubble, a severe enough punishment for these Bedouin scum. I noticed an activist yelling at a cop who had apparently cursed her, insisting that he shows her his officer badge and give her his full name. By Israeli law, cops in duty are obligated to show their badges to civilians wishing to report them later. But now the demolishing warrants were done with, law finished his duty early and left home to have a coffee and a bagel.

A few minuted later the show was over. The little village, seemed now to be made out of shattered bowls of stew. The blue and black units retreated to their air conditioned vehicles, to their steady houses.vThe young broken trees kissed the earth, too close to her, bowing towards their shamed masters, begging for forgiveness. The scattered geese and chickens continued walking around, in a desperate attempt to find water and shelter from the blazing sun. The people of El-Arakib returned to their village. What was left for them was like a thousand piece puzzle, broken apart again, most of the pieces torn.


A few more news reporters and a TV van arrived to document the aftermath. Children and mothers siting in the little shade provided by a folded house, with no doors, no windows, no privacy. Tired, strained men walking here and there, trying to figure out how where to begin again, to start repairing their lives, with no time to bandage their broken hearts. Groups of young boys, that so far held themselves back from casting stones upon their enemy, left with the stones and unsatisfied anger, but with no one to target the stones their guilt at.

One of the young photographers, that visits the village regularly, said to me that up to now, whenever the state came and destroyed a single house or two, it wasn't so bad. Hard times make good neighbors, and a family whose house was destroyed will be taken in by another and helped out to rebuild their tent. But how will a family, whose house was destroyed, manage when all the neighbors houses were wreaked too? What choice to they have?


Sheich Sayach, the head of the village seemed ever more desperate. Half an hour ago he ran to take his tractor and came back to try and save a large generator which powered the village. I could see him and a bunch of men securing the generator to a chain and to the tractors spoon but the little tractor could not stand the weight and almost fell over. The generator was left on the gravel, a short distance away from its post, left for the state to claim it instead. They had much bigger towing machines.

About an hour after the destruction, breakfast arrived. A few boxes of dusty tomatoes, cucumbers, pita bread and closed plastic cups of white cheese, that someone must have picked up in Be'er Sheva had been laid out on the bare soil. Me and about two other activist who still remained on the site to see if any aid will be needed from us, were welcomed to share the food. I had not much of an appetite but convinced myself to swallow down a few vegetables. In the end, I left with the person who gave me a lift there earlier that morning, before the disaster. I fell asleep in the air conditioned car, aware of the privilege of being out of the sun and on my way back to my safe home in Be'er Sheva, leaving behind a broken stage, with broken actors in a scene they did not dream they would have to act in.


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