Erella, on behalf of the The Villages Group writes (27 Oct '23):
Every day on our way to south Mt. Hebron, we call our friends there to find out what awaits us on the road. Whether there are soldiers and / or settlers at the junctions and / or in the villages we wish to visit. On weekends we pay even more attention. "The religious settlers are very careful not to do any work on the holy Sabbath, but I guess destroying, threatening, giving blows, burning houses and cars – God likes all of these", M. will tell us later in the day.
We found out that the junction at a-Tuwani as of 9:30 a.m. was open, as well as the way from there to Khalat A-Dhaba, said N. from a-Tuwani. As we rolled onto the dirt road right below the village of Rakeez, we met N. harvesting his olives. The sky was overcast a bit, the green olive trees stood, a little dusty, on this late autumn day, and the ripe olives were gladly picked by the skilled hands of N. and women from his family. For a moment it seemed as though there was no war in the world. We stayed there a bit to breathe in the sight, and then our old vehicle continued to Khalet A-Daba.
A., G.s wife, was in their small cave with her sons (12, 9, 5 and twins 1.5 years old). "A day before yesterday", she begins, "settlers entered the cave. There were five of them. They trashed everything. The children were very scared. The settlers were armed so I could not do a thing. It was very crowded and they were right on top of us. It was very scary. They broke my phone and turned everything in the cave upside down. I didn't care about myself. I could hardly breathe. I only wanted for my children to be unharmed." The whole time A. described what happened there two days ago, she smiled with a mixture of shame and embarrassment. I thought it was really very embarrassing to say such things... I asked the older children what they felt. "I was very very scared" the eldest answered. In the meantime, Ehud and G. sat in the nice tree grove beside the cave. G. is wounded in the arm from the blows he received from settlers two days ago, and is telling Ehud about the settlers' attack on the village – how they passed between the houses with their weapons, threatened, cursed, and smashed the school windows, and gave blows to people without limits, always saying "You're all Hamas". Afterwards a conversation ensued.
"I shall not turn to violence. I will not be violent even if I have to die."
G. has both brains and an intelligent heart. Conversations with him are ones of mutual listening, respectful and instructive. Ehud told G. what the Hamas people did to the Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip on October 7th. G. who just now heard the details expressed deep shock. After staying silent for a long time, he said: "The settlers and soldiers say that we are Hamas. They are Jewish terrorists and they call us Hamas. There's no law, no justice, and no one to turn to. It is top policy. But I shall not turn to violence. I will not be violent even if I have to die."
On our way back we visited M. and his family at a-tuwani again (we wrote about them in our reports from October 17 and 20). Only he, his wife and the baby were home. The children spent the weekend at their uncle's, in Area B. "The day before yesterday soldiers came to the house. The commander called M. who came out, and told him: "I am a new commander here and I don't know what things are like here. I see many people on your second floor." I explained that these are my family members". He approved, and said": "Now I will tell you what is allowed and what is forbidden. You are forbidden to come out towards the settlement of Havat Ma'on" I told him that our oven is close to home but in the direction of the colony. "No problem", he said, "but if anyone goes out towards the wood beyond the oven, he will be shot without warning. There's a war now." I told him that Hamas did not notify me that the war is on. What is happening over there is very sad, but I am not responsible for it. "It's true, but you give Hamas its power", said the commander. "I did not want to continue this talk. Ever since then, every time we go to the outdoor oven to bake our bread, soldiers arrive..."
We parted, praying that the Sabbath would be a peaceful one.