Shooting at Freedom Kites

by Diana Alzeer, Frontline Echo: 27 June 2011

 
Last Friday in Nabi Saleh, we planned for a day of fun activities to take the minds of the village’s kids off occupation, tear gas, and the constant fear under which they live.

At 9:00 we began the day by calling on the kids of Nabi Saleh to join us to make and practice how to fly kites, dress in clown outfits and have their faces painted.

The kids came along; it felt amazing to see them happy, running around and sharing the idea of freedom in colors. A while after, towards 12:30, we decided to take the kids to the main hill in Nabi Saleh behind the gas station on the main road to fly the kites that some of us had spent all night making. We carried the kites and headed down the main road.

Each week on the road to Nabi Saleh, we are faced by closures and obstructions on the main roads and entrances to the village. We are usually handed a piece of paper and a map stating that this area is a closed military zone and accordingly we are not allowed to enter. We turn the car around and drive to some other villages in the area, where we park the cars. We then go hiking down the mountains and hills to reach the village of Nabi Saleh through the agricultural land behind the village.

This week however was different; for some reasons the IOF did not block the main road. All cars made it to the village without any problems. And all journalists and activists arrived to the center of the village harassment-free.

I naively thought that the Israeli Army would let this day pass peacefully. That day was meant for fun as the kids were supposed to be flying kites. As soon as some of us and the kids decided to walk towards the hill; crossing the main road of Nabi Saleh, we came face to face with IOF soldiers.

After three minutes of standing still, they then shouted with megaphones: “This is an illegal demonstration, go back to the village. This village is a closed military zonel; if you don’t turn around and go back to the village within 5 minutes, we will start shooting.” I look at the clown faces around me; the big colored smiles turns into sad faces. A little boy continues to try flying his kite in front of the fully armed soldiers, a few minutes later the shooting begins…

The kids, who had in their innocent minds and hearts high hopes of a fun day, were sadly disappointed. Everything collapsed as the happiness in their eyes turned to fear followed by confused tears and sighs.
No one escaped those tears. In the case of us adults, it was due to fear and gas; for the children it was fear, gas and disappointment.

I look around me and saw little Ahmad, who suffers from Down Syndrome, running up the main road. His face expressed a terrified looked, his shaky voice shouting as he pointed towards the soldiers and the gas. A good friend of mine, Ben, and I ran towards him. We provided him with a small piece of alcohol-soaked cotton to breathe through. Later on, Ben suggested that I walk the kid home.

That’s how the day continued. More gas, sound grenades and being shoved around. A group of the youth managed to get to the hill after 3 hours of face- to-face confrontation with the soldiers. They decide to rest under a large tree, and then started to sing. The IOF jeeps drove to the mountain and gassed the group–for singing under a tree!

I recall being in the house of a local family, using their internet connection to tweet updates of events happening in Nabi Saleh ,when little Spiderman (the “Super Hero” of Nabi Saleh) showed up carried by some of the activists, unable to breathe or speak–they have gassed him too. He later falls asleep like a little angel, exhausted from shouts, gas, sound grenades and much more.

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