On Tuesday afternoon we got a phone call from one of our neighbours letting us know that 5 military jeeps had just pulled into Jayyus. We went out into the street and sure enough there they were: 5 jeeps, probably about 20 soldiers, and several locals trying to figure out what was going on. They arrived around the time that school gets out here, so sure enough, most of the people in the street were kids.
As some soldiers stood guard, pointing their guns, and yelling at people that got to close, the rest of the soldiers went into our local bakery and began requesting IDs from those inside. One of my colleagues went up to a soldier and asked them what the problem was. The response we got was “there is no problem”.
After looking at the documents, and asking questions of those in the bakery, the soldiers got back into the jeeps and started moving down the road. One boy threw a stone that hit a jeep, and the soldiers let a sound bomb go.
About a block down the road, the soldiers got out of their jeeps again, and seemed to ask more locals for identification. They stayed there for a while, let a few more sound bombs go, and got back into their jeeps.
As the jeeps pulled out of the village one of the soldiers waved at us with a big smile on his face. At first I thought, that’s odd, why is he being so friendly? A moment later, my burning eyes informed me that they had just let tear gas go. They threw the tear gas in both directions down the street as they drove away, so many of the kids in the street were caught in the middle of the gas with nowhere to run.
In our first week here, we had a session with an incredible Israeli organization called Breaking the Silence. Breaking the Silence is a group of veteran Israeli soldiers, working to “expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories” (Breaking the Silence). The man we met with talked a lot about how much of his training and instruction in the army surrounded “making your presence felt”. He talked about the practice of arresting innocent people as part of training exercises and giving people a hard time so that they remember who’s in charge.
There were no arrests made in Jayyus on Tuesday and besides the tear gas, no one was physically injured. We’ve heard that the owner of the bakery is thinking about leaving Jayyus, but for the most part people have just moved on.
Despite this, I can’t stop thinking about what happens when kids grow up in an environment where soldiers are constantly reminding them that violence (be it structural, emotional, or physical) is what power looks like. I don’t know why this is a lesson that anyone would want to teach a child.