Two children wearing matching tops sit next to each other at the base of a tree with a backpack resting between them. One child is pointing to something out to the other on the page of a schoolbook.

Walking to School from Tuba to Tuwani

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.

A Jeep follows a small group of adults and children down a dirt road. Surrounding the area are plotted groves of trees, the edge of a forest, and a number of red-roofed homes in the distance.

Armed soldiers in green uniforms walk alongside children who are wearing backpacks. They are all walking on a dirt path with a number of trees scattered throughout the area and homes in the distance.

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.

Adults walk alongside a child wearing a backpack. One of the adults is holding the child's hand.

In the foreground and in focus, a very small child stands at the feet of a group of heavily armed soldiers in green uniforms. The child's head only reaches the soldiers' waists. In the background and out of focus, a group of children walk down a dirt road.

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.

In the foreground and out of focus, a person us running from one side of the frame to the other. Behind the person and in focus is a settlement of homes built upon a hilltop in a rural environment.

A few small red flowers sprout from the rocky and grassy ground.

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.