March 9, 2023 — Everyday, just before 8 in the morning, all of the students from the Palestinian village of Tuba gather at the top of a nearby hill to begin their journey to school. There, they sit and wait, doing homework and playing games in the grass, until a single army jeep arrives to follow them on their way to school.
Tuba, a village located 3 kilometers from the regional school in Tuwani, is cut off from neighboring Palestinian villages by the Israeli settlement outpost of Havat Ma’on. Since Havat Ma’on was settled in 2001, the settlers have antagonized and committed countless acts of violence against the community of Tuba. In 2004, after settlers attacked children from Tuba on multiple occasions, a Knesset committee ordered the army to accompany the children through the settlement on their way to school on a daily basis. Apart from this daily patrolled commute, the army officially closed the road to Palestinian use. What was proposed as a temporary solution to prevent settlers’ attacks has turned into nearly 20 years of restricted movement for Tuba’s residents. The settlers of Havat Ma’on continue to use the road as they wish.
The Tuba children’s commute to school has become a routine part of Hineinu activists’ days. In the morning, the activists sit and wait for the kids to come down the hill from Tuba, and in the afternoon they walk with them from school to the entrance to the settlement where the army jeep waits. For as long as the escort has been happening, local and international activists have organized shifts and presence to support the kids. Soldiers are often late (and sometimes don’t show up at all), requiring activists to call the local army base and ask for them to come so that the kids can get to or home from school.
The army regularly declares the area where the activists are waiting to be a “closed military zone” and threatens arrest if they don’t leave. These types of orders declare a designated area closed to everyone but military personnel for a 24-hour period, but exceptions are often and solely made for settlers. Between the inconsistency of their timing and the threats to activists who are there to support the kids, the army’s “protection” has created a daily stressful and elongated journey to school for Tuba’s children. In the 19 years since the army closed the road, not a single settler has been arrested for attacking the children in 2004, or for any other violence or harassment against the children or activists since.
Photos and text from Emily Glick.