The Walk to School in Hebron
by a recent CPT Palestine delegate
Imagine your children or grandchildren going off to kindergarten. Young, innocent, curious, proud to be “adults” going to school now. Not quite the same for kindergarten kids off to school in Hebron, Occupied West Bank, Palestine.
In one neighborhood the kindergarten kids round the corner from the courtyard where their families live. Then, to go to school, they have to climb a rather steep hill. This hill has some features that you would consider “out of the ordinary”.
There is a nice, hard-surface path that leads up the hill. On the right of this path is a low wall constructed of concrete barriers — somewhat like you might find separating the traffic lanes on an Interstate highway or autoroute — topped with a wire fence. The path becomes a kind of corridor, but it’s not the path for these kindergarten kids. They are Palestinian in occupied Palestine. Their path lies to the left of the barrier. It’s an eroded dirt path covered with rocks and debris — not so easy for little feet and short legs to navigate.
At the bottom of the hill is a checkpoint manned by Israeli soldiers who ensure that only soldiers and Israeli settlers use the hard-surface path and that all Palestinians use the dirt and debris side path. At the top of the hill where the kids turn left to their school is another checkpoint manned, once again, by Israeli soldiers.
You get the picture. A somewhat annoying climb when you have a nice path right next to your muddy, rutted one. A minor way for the Israeli occupiers of Hebron to hassle Palestinians of all ages, even those on their daily trip to kindergarten. However, this is only part of the story.
For several months now, Christian Peacemaker Teams meet the kids each morning in their courtyard and accompany them to and from school. I had the opportunity to assist in that several times. One morning, just outside the courtyard, I felt something against my leg. I looked down to find a little hand reaching for mine. Neat little kids, just like those all over the world. For the moment, thanks to CPT the hassles are less, and they can, once again, enjoy going to school with their friends.
Other groups of older kids go through other checkpoints — sometimes more than one — on their way to and from school. These often require going through a turnstile, where you can be blocked, and past soldiers who may check your backpack; or, if you’re older, have you spread-eagled against the wall while they pat you down — more to hassle you and show their control than with the expectation of finding a weapon.
Daily life under Israeli occupation in Hebron, Occupied West Bank, Palestine. I saw the soldiers, checkpoints and tear-gas, I heard a sound bomb, I testify to the illegal cruelty of this occupation.