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No milk, no movement in the West Bank

TEKOA, West Bank, Oct. 16 (JTA) – The air here has stopped. It’s hotter than it should be, summer weather in October. There’s no wind. There’s no movement.

Both the political situation and my personal situation mirror the weather. For the past week now, movement has been difficult, both in the negotiations and on the roads.

It’s been difficult to move, to leave my settlement of Tekoa, about 10 miles south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank. The one road still open closes periodically because young Arab men are throwing rocks, smashing windshields, burning tires and occasionally shooting at passing motorists.

The dairy company doesn’t want to deliver milk and ice cream. The driver wants an army escort in order to drive into my hilltop settlement. But the army is not always available.

The cease-fire we’ve been waiting for has fallen through, although one spokesman for the army claimed: Our side doesn’t have to cease, since our soldiers only shoot when attacked.

Egged, the national bus cooperative, will no longer drive to our settlement. Our local council arranged for bulletproof buses to take us to Jerusalem and back. However, the bus has to take a meandering route that quadruples the length of the trip from 45 minutes to more than three hours.

My husband I drive the long way around to go to work. On the side of the road, you can see piles of rocks the Arabs used to obstruct the road and stone Israeli vehicles. Some are the size of giant boulders. Seared into the asphalt is the silhouette of a burned-out jeep.

My friend’s mother is in a hospice in Jerusalem. My friend is called to her mother’s hospital bed in the middle of the night, but all of the roads out of her settlement are closed. Her mother dies without her. She’s afraid she won’t be able to leave the house to attend her mother’s funeral. She’s afraid she won’t be able to move. I want to go to the funeral, but I’m afraid to be out on the roads.

Another friend from Jerusalem calls to tell me not to go out. She says: “I read the Zohar last night. The passage said that sometimes the angel of death is unloosed and he strikes indiscriminately. It doesn’t matter how many good deeds a person has done. If the Angel of Death is out, anybody can get it. There’s no protection.” I hear gun shots in the distance, the whirling blades of a helicopter.

I smell smoke. I know a soldier has died in Beit Sahour, a town on the road that’s between here and Jerusalem. On TV, I watch a 12-year-old Arab boy die in his father’s arms. The announcer says that from positions above the boy and his father, Palestinians are shooting machine guns at Israeli soldiers. But you can’t see any guns in the picture.

On the loudspeaker on my settlement, they announce an activity fair for the children in the afternoon. My children go and bounce on the trampoline, ride on scooters, walk on stilts. They relish the movement. They know when they leave our settlement, we need to keep a gun ready. They know that anything can happen to us, God forbid, on the road between here and Jerusalem.

(Sherri Lederman Mandell lives in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa.)

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