Be’lin

Today we went to Be’lin. People gathered after the Mulsim prayer- around 1pm. A very nice young woman from Tel Aviv informed us of procedures of what to do in response to the standard deterrents near the fence. Don’t get shot by the water cannon- your clothes will smell so bad that no taxi will take you home to Ramallah. Don’t stand between the people throwing rocks and the soldiers with guns- this is where you could get shot by the rubber bullets or live ammunition.

It was awesome- in the literary sense. It seemed almost choreographed, as it’s been going on every Friday for almost 6 years, but the fact that everyone knows what’s going to happen makes it all the more amazing- they keep going back. The Israeli military was waiting at least an hour before the march to the fence started. About a mile of marching with 50+ people through a village and past olive groves brought us to where the fence was visible, and my eyes started to sting. Apparently, 5-6 kids and teenagers ran ahead of the group to a side-area where they were throwing rocks and the soldiers were shooting teargas bombs. A little past this, we arrived to the awaiting armored water cannon. It was not filled with water though. It was some green-blue watery substance infused with sulfur or something (many people claim it’s got some sewage in it, which I would believe based on the smell). Being downwind within a 100 meters made me want to vomit. I tried to stick my head into my armpits to mask the smell with body odor, but it seems that I had not yet exercised enough to overpower my morning application of antiperspirant. Then, they shot more tear gas. The nice young lady from Tel-Aviv had told us to keep your eyes up because you can see the bombs coming, so just make sure not to get hit in the head (there is a guy in a coma in Tel-Aviv who wasn’t watching closely enough). She was right. James saw a guy with a “Press” bullet-proof vest got hit in the side of the face after one of the cartridges had bounced. This is the same guy I happened to stop and help too- the Tel-Aviv lady gave us some alcohol wipes which help decrease the feeling of asphixiating. I gave it to him too soon though, because a few minutes later, they shot one bomb short to push people back further from the fence, and another went a lot further- a little past me. So, I moved forward, between where the wind took the streams of smoke. Then they shot 3-4 more- between the ones already on the ground. Thus I was boxed in when the gas got to my eyes and lungs. As advised, I turned and walked calmly and briskly, but the burning in my lungs and eyes was extremely disorienting. Without the vision I’ve become quite accustomed to, tripping over uneven ground, I tried to feel along a rock wall, but ran into the razor wire fence which overhung it. “Don’t rub your eyes, it will make it much worse, because it’s on your hands too.” I focused on remember the advice. “Keep walking straight.” It only took a few seconds to get out of the fog, but the burn did not subside so quickly.

We had an afternoon appointment to get to, so after watching and gaging and burning for an hour or so, we continued on our journey.

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