Spring days in Bethlehem

by Toine Van Teeffelen, Arab Educational Institute

The taxi driver is obviously nervous and suddenly brakes when a car passes by he doesn’t see. Throughout the journey he keeps talking. “It’s state terrorism,” he says about the killing of Ahmed Manasrah the previous night by the Israeli army. “It is the elections in Israel. They want to show who is the ruler here.” And: “Unbelievable, the racist treatment of taxi drivers near Battir and Wad Foukin.”

Thursday is strike day due to Manasrah’s death as well as of several other Palestinians in the West Bank killed earlier in the week.

All shops and companies are closed. It is the first day of spring, Mother’s Day, a big day here. Good weather day, too.

I realize once again that one unfortunately gets used to the killings – though never completely. However, the driver’s nervousness compels me to closely read the accounts of the killing near Bethlehem in the news agencies and papers.

The Israeli army says there was friction between Palestinians and rocks were thrown at cars. Soldiers intervened, shot Manasrah dead and seriously injured another Palestinian.

Family members of Manasrah have a totally different account. First there was a car accident. Somebody left the car that was hit in the accident to see what had happened to his car. He was shot from a military watchtower. Then Manasrah came out of his car and brought the injured man to a nearby hospital. After this he came back to bring the family members of the injured man home. When reaching the scene he himself was shot and killed. Manasrah’s family members say it was “beyond bizarre” to think he was throwing stones. It all happened near Road 60 between Hebron and Bethlehem, at the entrance of Bethlehem to the south.

Two more were earlier in the week killed after throwing explosives to a group of soldiers in Nablous, according to the army, though again not according to bystanders.

This morning Amira Hass writes in Haaretz that on March 4, some weeks ago, two Palestinians were killed west of Ramallah after they had rammed their car into a group of soliders and seriously injured one. While Israeli media reports afterwards suggested that the killing by soldiers was in self-defense, a video collected by Btselem, the Israeli human rights organization, indicated that 9 of the 10 bullets were shot 4,5 minutes after the crash – proof of a wanton killing.

The incidents were or are undoubtedly ‘investigated’.

On Friday it is Marathon Day. The strike is over, and people are allowed to move again, and move long and well. Music along the roads is on, runners and walkers are cheered or given the high five. Life goes on. There are over 8000 participants – more than in previous years. Mary shows me a video on Facebook how near Rachel’s Tomb some people shout “free, free Palestine” under the military watchtower.

Mary and I tell each other to finally join next year’s marathon.


Photo: Hundreds of Palestinians gathered on Thursday at Ahmed Manasrah’s funeral in the southern occupied West Bank (MEE/Akram al-Waara)


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