16 March 2013
PALESTINE: Tent for school children demolished hours after it was built
On 16 March 2013 the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee built a tent to protect school children from Tuba and Maghayir Al Abeed while they wait for their military escort. Hours after the ceremonious construction of the tent — attended by villagers, school children, internationals and various media outlets — was over, the Israeli military demolished the tent and arrested one of the internationals present.
The schoolchildren coming from Tuba and Maghayire Al Abeed walk between the Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the outpost of Havat Ma’on in order to get to school in At-Tuwani. Since 2001 settlers have repeatedly attacked the children along this route, preventing most of the children, who feared for their safety, from being able to attend school. In 2004 volunteers from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) and Operation Dove began accompanying the children along the path, but the violent attacks continued. These attacks brought the matter to the attention of the Children Rights Committee of the Knesset, which established in November 2004 a military escort to protect the children.
Since November 2004, CPT and Operation Dove have constantly monitored the military escort, documenting the failures of the Israeli army as well as settler violence toward the children. During the school year 2011-2012, the volunteers of Operation Dove and CPT published areport, The Dangerous Road to Education, which found that in 35% of cases the military escort was late. In addition, in 48% of cases, the military escort arrived late after school, forcing the children to wait for a total time of about 21 hours. There is nothing to shelter the children, some as young as six years old, from the elements as they wait for their unpunctual military escort.
The Popular Committee wanted to give the children a tent to shelter them while they wait. The event had around one hundred in attendance. These included some of the children whom the tent was being made for, teachers and administrators from the school, CPT and other international organizations, Palestinians from At-Tuwani and surrounding villagers and the media. The crowd was immediately met by soldiers who filmed all the attendees and took down Palestinian flags that children had put up around the building area. The children played and chanted in front of the soldiers while settlers on the next hilltop yelled down at them, “Kill all the Arabs.” The tent was completed and christened “Michele’s tent” after the late daughter of the Italian woman who funded the project.
As the afternoon wore on the crowd started to leave. Two hours after the tent was build the Israeli military demolished it and arrested one of the international volunteers who had remained there. The volunteer was released, but must leave the West Bank for two weeks. The Popular Committee plans to rebuild the tent, but as for now the schoolchildren will have to wait out in the rain when they return to school on Sunday.