As we stood on the windswept hillside with the jumbo planes landing behind us at Ben Gurion International Airport, I was struck by the gentle breeze full of fall hints that was engulfing our group of fifteen people. Shacaf, a photographer and fellow activist, turned to me and said, “we have a holy breeze today, the wind is blowing right on the soldiers so they do not want to fire tear gas.” Indeed, he was right, not a single shell of tear gas was used on our demonstration on this day.
The weekly demonstration against the Separation Wall and occupation in Ni’ilin was smaller than usual this week. Maybe this was due to the holidays, or perhaps due to the end of summer laziness or perhaps due to the successful Israeli campaign to crush non-violent resistance to the occupation in the city. Despite the small numbers, we did manage to walk to the wall and chant slogans like “no no no to the wall” and “occupation is a crime.” One of the members of the popular committee against the wall in Ni’ilin, Mohamad Amireh rushed with his hands high in the air, one holding a Palestinian flag, to talk with the soldiers face to face. The southern portion of the wall is actually a fence in Ni’ilin and so we can see each other.
Mohamed expressed his deep frustration to the soldiers, “This is my land. Please let me go to my land. You have no business here.” The soldier dismissively said to us “Inshallah, there will be peace. You need to have patience.” It was a stark statement given the situation, standing in front of a 6 meter high concrete wall randomly placed in the heart of Ni’ilin’s farmland and olive grove. Mohamed screamed and pleaded for ten minutes and then told us that there was no more point in talking for the day. We retreated to the village without a single shot of tear gas being fired due to the holy breeze of the afternoon.