*This is a summary of events from 8th May 2015 – All photo’s credit to International Solidarity Movement (I forgot my own camera this day).
The village of Al-Zaim sits on the edge of the Wall – within the Jerusalem jurisdiction, but nestled inside the West Bank. It is a Palestinian village, however the majority of Palestinians living here have been issued with blue I.D.s meaning that they can travel into Israel without the need to apply for a permit.
After a Palestinian youth was shot dead at a military checkpoint two weeks prior the gate leading into Jerusalem has been closed and as a result many of the villagers cannot get to work in Jerusalem.
We began the demo by walking up to the front where the children were holding signs of peace and freedom translated into both Arabic and English. The border police were lined up in front of them blocking the end of the tunnel which leads on to the gate.
After half an hour the rest of the demonstration moves forward just behind the children, 20 metres from the border police, they begin afternoon prayer.
The prayer goes on for 5 minutes, the children still at the front of the demo. They finish and begin chanting – loudly – several slogans. As the rise from the ground the border police strap on their helmets in unison and rifles are loaded – a tense feeling fills the air as the villagers move forward, directly in front of the soldiers, who stand blocking the tunnel. A silence has taken over.
At this point I convince myself a tear gas grenade has been detonated behind me as I see faint smoke and feel my eyes begin to burn – It seems that some others feel the same, but this was not the case.
A child beside the soldiers, posing with a Palestinian flag, two soldiers gesture him back into the crowd and he complies.
The wind is blowing directly down the tunnel.
The demonstration begins to move back up the tunnel towards the village, the soldiers follow in unison.
It becomes apparent that the head of the village council has come to an arrangement with the commanding officer of the border police present – the gate will be opened if the demonstration disperses, which it does. Some cars begin to move through the crowd.
The demo comes to a peaceful conclusion, no tear gas, no stone throwing, no nothing. On the way home our Palestinian companions tell us that they are not pleased with the result of the demonstration – the wall is still there, the occupation persists and the villagers appear to associate the village council’s collaboration with the commanding officer as submission to the occupation.
This was the 3rd demonstration this week and the first week that the village of Al-Zaim has collectively demonstrated. The general consensus is that the Israeli authorities will close the gate in the future.