It was the summer of 2014, and I had traveled to Palestine to spend the summer with my family there. I will never forget the experience I had with the Israeli soldiers during that visit. It was the first time I was ever really afraid for my life while being there.
My sister-in-law and I were returning home from the market in Bethlehem in a taxi cab. At the only entrance that led to her parents’ home, where we were invited for dinner that night, we saw an ambulance parked and children throwing rocks in the midst of tear gas.
The taxi cab driver told us he did not want to drive us up the road as he was afraid that if Israeli soldiers were there, they would shoot at his cab. He said he couldn’t risk it, it was his livelihood.
But with her two-month old, there was no way we could walk up the street ourselves. It was too dangerous.
We begged him to try and explain to the soldiers that we have a baby in the car, and that we needed to get through because it was the only way home. And he agreed to try.
But as soon as we got midway up the road to where the soldiers were standing with their rifles blocking the road, they started yelling at us to get back and turn around. Terrified, the driver turned around and dropped us off at the bottom of the street.
Fortunately, my cousin was passing by and saw us, so he offered to give us a ride. We told him that we should just go to another relative’s house until things cooled down, but he insisted to try and get us through.
Just like the first attempt, they were yelling at us to turn around. But my cousin pulled slowly closer, and rolled his window down to try to explain where we were going and that we have a crying baby in the car.
This only angered them, and they approached our windows with their rifles pointing at us on all sides, yelling at us to turn around or they would shoot us.
My heart was racing, and my entire body was shaking uncontrollably. I terrifyingly begged my cousin to just turn around. We, of course, had no choice, so he did.
He dropped us off at a relative’s house close by. From their balcony, there was a clear view of the soldiers.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched them break into neighboring homes and pour sewage on the children that were throwing rocks from an unreachable distance. I stood there in disbelief until the soldiers pointed at us with their lasers, which was a warning for us to go inside.
I had been shaken up by what happened pretty badly. But everyone else was just…normal. It was like they were desensitized to it all. Someone even said to me, “Oh you American girl, this is nothing.”
If this was what it was like to experience their “nothing,” I can’t imagine the fear, terror and trauma of experiencing any worse.
But this is their reality. This is what life is like under occupation. This terror isn’t temporary. It isn’t a once in a while thing. It’s a part of their everyday lives. So, even in the midst of it all– the terror, the fear, the violence, and the risk that comes with their mere existence, their lives must go on.