I was at Israel’s house blogging when they said “Ryan you need to come outside” so I left to go outside.[Update by Brian of London 19/5 15:45: be sure to see the note about this story and Ha’aretz at the end of the post]
I walked down the hill a short way to a public area where there is a blue Schweppes truck sitting and a field where there are no olive trees. I walked past an ancient tomb of biblical Jews. There is an olive grove down the hill a bit farther, a grove that belonged to Jewish people in the 1920′s and was never sold to anyone. It’s important for people to understand that simply murdering people doesn’t give you the right to appropriate their property, even if they had to wait for their country to be liberated from the Arabs before reclaiming it. The area is known as the Jewish Quarter because only Jews lived there right up until 1929. The whole area is built over the first Jewish capital of Hevron. Aside from a few years before WW2 and up to 1967, it was empty of Jewish presence due to an illegal occupation by the Jordanian army.
Now for what I saw: there were boxes of sandwiches and cakes, pastries and pop and juices of all sorts just given out for free to everyone. There was a band playing modern music and small children playing and dancing everywhere. People were laughing and joking and the mood was joyous. It was actually one of the most joyous things I have seen in Israel and I was here for Independence Day! They had stacked wood the day before and I watched as they struggled to light the fire. I noticed they kept trying to light the top, and I showed a teenager to use kindling and to light it from the bottom. At that point the fire went up.
I asked my friend Sara if they had fire trucks ready because I saw a lot of grass and dry tinder that was getting hit with sparks and, being a Canadian, I am always about safety first. She said the fire departments would all be on high alert, and she pointed out several people with fire extinguishers. We watched everyone dancing around the fire and enjoying themselves. Some white people and Arabs were up the hill filming and taking pictures and some of the younger Arabs were taunting people who ignored them.
I walked up the hill a bit and spoke to one of the older Arabs. He was moving in time with the music and I was thinking it looked like he would rather be dancing than watching and I said that to him. He said that the palestinian kids would have nightmares from the fire, and he asked me if this is how the Jews worship god. I said it was not a religious dance, it was a party.
What he said was something I found offensive as I am pretty sure the Jewish kids hear automatic weapons and concussion grenades every day (at least while I was there). I asked him if he wouldn’t rather have peace and he said very clearly “No peace with settlers but peace with Israel maybe.” I said that some people see his people as the settlers. Another older Arab came out and said ” Why don’t you lose some weight Canadian?” and some of the smaller kids started yelling at me in Arabic, I laughed and said “Why don’t you lose some more land?” That’s when the policemen moved in and separated us and asked me to walk down the hill. So I did.
I stayed about another couple hours watching the kids dancing. Once the fire died right down, I walked up the hill and went to sleep. Not one olive tree was burned, not one photographer was “accosted,” and the music went on until the fire died down. There were several Europeans filming the entire proceedings, so if something actually happened, I’m sure they would have posted it already. I didn’t see one Jewish person engage with the people taunting them from behind the fence.
I just read this Ha’aretz story and it is complete fiction. I think that’s a huge part of the problem in the Middle East, because some uninformed person will read that story and will believe it because it’s in ” the news.” Frankly, the entire story is fabricated and untruthful. I am just glad I was there to see first hand the demonization of these people by a media with an agenda.
Update by Brian of London 19/5 15:45
The story as written up in Ha’aretz, and especially the headline “Lag Ba’omer in Hebron: Settlers torch Palestinian orchard”, is yet another case of malicious translation by the English editors of Ha’aretz. Even the notoriously skewed reporting of Amira Hass completely contradicts the headline given to the piece when it was translated. We’ve covered this kind of mis-translation so many times. And the odd thing is, they never mistranslate a headline to make normal Israelis look good, only ever bad.
CAMERA caught this one and have written in up in great detail: check it out.