Ba’lin

Josh and Mike made us do it. It was relatively safe as long as you didn’t get too close to the fence. You could see the tear gas canisters in the air and avoid getting hit directly. The gas is unpleasant, the way I imagine anaphylaxis is unpleasant. Luckily, the effects pass after 3-5 minutes in fresh air. The worst part was the skunk water. Foul smelling doesn’t quite encompass that nauseating stench. They tell you not to get hit directly because you can’t get a cab ride back if you smell like a Haitian outhouse.

The entire protest had the feeling of a well-rehearsed play. The main body of protestors on the Palestinian side stopped 25 yds short of the first fence, at the extreme range of the water cannon. The Israeli security was in place beyond the second fence. The water cannon “tank” remained parked near the gate most of the time. Rogue Palestinian teenagers approached the fence to throw rocks at the Israeli troops and the water cannon. They shook the fence supports and bashed at them with pieces of debris. The water cannon moved to engage them, the troops threw hand held gas canisters, and the troops at the gate would scatter the protestors intermittently with volleys of launched tear gas canisters.

Regroup and repeat. For 2 hours. The Israeli’s showed restraint. They did not target the main body of protestors with the water cannon, and the volleys of tear gas were never overwhelming. IF anything, it seemed like an opportunity for training in crowd control. The protestors had many amateur photographers with them, to record the protest and the Israeli response. For their part the Israeli’s also had soldiers photographing or taping the protest. Which makes sense. IF the protest turned violent or brought firearms, the Israelis would want proof.

These protests are a surprise to no one. Every Friday afternoon, a small group of Palestinians supported by a group of international “tourist protestors”, confronts the Israeli military at a gate in the border fence. They have been holding these protests weekly for almost 6 years now.

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