In 1996, CPT’s Hebron team began sending out “Updates,” a collection of brief anecdotes and conversations that did not merit a full release, but which offered a glimpse into life as the team was experiencing it in Hebron. Below are anecdotes from March-April 1996 that relate to Tel Rumeida, and which give an idea of what it means for the current settlement enterprise at Tel Rumeida to expand.
From the Tel Rumeida CPTnet Archives: March-April 1996 Updates
March 20–Kathleen Kern and Robert Naiman find a local shopkeeper squatting beside the checkpoint at Tel Rumeida. One of the soldiers at the checkpoint tells them that the shopkeeper has thrown a rock at another soldier standing with him at the checkpoint. It is obvious from the facial expression of the other soldier that this information is news to him. The shop owner asks Kern and Naiman to call the police, which they do. The police come and tell the soldiers to release him.
Later, one of the soldiers from the previous evening approaches Naiman and says, “I have a message for you. The next time you interfere with us doing our work you will be arrested.” The same soldier tells Kern, “We were only going to hold him for an hour and then we would have let him go.”
March 26–The entire team takes Gene Stoltzfus to visit the Abu Haikel family who lives at Tel Rumeida. One of the soldiers there refuses to let Kern and Naiman pass because they are “troublemakers,” so the rest of the group passes to the Abu Haikel house while Kern and Naiman attempt to engage the soldiers in conversation. Ultimately, the soldier in charge tells Kern and Naiman that he did not let them pass because he did not like what they were wearing. Other soldiers gather at the checkpoint and question the officer in charge as to why they are not letting the CPTers pass. They cannot overrule the officer but treat Kern and Naiman in a considerably friendlier manner. One of the soldiers tells them it is his birthday and Kern gives him a pack of gum as a present. Everyone (except the soldier who has detained Kern and Naiman) sings “Halvah Nageelah” as the soldier celebrating his birthday dances.
March 30–Kathleen Kern and Misty Gerner–a professor at Bir Zeit University– go to walk five-year-old Wisam Abu Haikel to her house from the bus stop (In the past Wisam has been attacked by settler youth as she walked to her house.) The soldier who detained Kern and Naiman on March 26 refuses to let Kern pass, so Gerner accompanies Wisam to her home. When Kern explains to the soldier why they accompany Wisam, he does not respond, but later says, “She is a beautiful child. I don’t understand why anyone would want to hurt her.”
April 9–While the rest of the team is with a journalist at Tel Rumeida, Anne Montgomery receives a call that the students at Hebron University have decided to do a 24-hour sit-in. By the time Montgomery and Wendy Lehman arrive at the University, the Israeli military has dispersed the demonstrators. They beat many students and several journalists. Seven of the students are arrested and taken to prison.
Soldiers at the Tel Rumeida checkpoint stop Hani Abu Haikel and other Palestinian residents of the area from walking to their homes. They talk to their commander via their walky talky, saying that people who live in Tel Rumeida wish to pass. The commander says, “Are they Israelis?” The soldier says, “No, Arab.” The commander tells the soldiers not to let any Arabs pass. Hani and other residents of Tel Rumeida sit in the middle of the road, preventing traffic from going in or out. Eventually, the women and children come out of their houses inside the checkpoint and sit with the men on the ground. The police and Cpt. Eyal Ziv, military advisor on Arab affairs, arrive and tell the soldiers to let the people sitting in the road go to their homes.
The team celebrates Hani Abu Haikel’s birthday in his home near the settlement of Tel Rumeida. Hani’s wife, Reem, tells the team that she found a settler baby-sitting outside their gate an hour earlier. When it appeared that his parents were nowhere around, Hani’s father, Jameel picked the child up and carried him down to a police officer standing at the checkpoint. He thanked him politely and took the child.
April 25: Wisam Abu Haikel gets off the school bus wearing a silver cardboard crown she received during a school celebration in preparation for the Muslim feast of Al Adja. CPTers Anne Montgomery and Dianne Roe meet her at the school bus and begin walking her up the hill to her home. As they reach the crest of the hill, they notice that Wisam is no longer with them. Looking behind them, they see her chatting happily with a soldier at the checkpoint.