JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli Jewish man bought a Palestinian girl a new bicycle after border guards took and broke hers.
Sami Jolles donated the pink bike Wednesday, according to The Times of Israel. He told the news website the girl’s experience reminded him of when anti-Semites attacked his father in 1920s Europe and threw his bike in the river.
“I think that my father would be proud of me,” Jolles said.
Two Border Police officers in the West Bank city of Hebron were caught on film July 25 taking 8-year-old Anwar Burqan’s bicycle and putting it in nearby bushes. The bike was damaged beyond use, according to the girl’s family.
The video was released on Aug. 1 by the left-wing human rights group B’Tselem.
After reading about the incident, for which the border guards were suspended but not charged with a crime, Jolles said he decided to “close that circle” between Anwar and his father.
He contacted Israeli peace activists, who together with Palestinian activists delivered the bike, along with a “good lock,” to Anwar’s home, one of the Israeli activists, Lonny Baskin, told The Times of Israel.
“She’s a shy little girl, but she was so appreciative; her eyes were shining,” Baskin said.
The Burqan family has struggled in recent years, after Amer Burquan, Anwar’s father, had one leg amputated and lost use of the other after a 6-ton truck fell on him at a work site. Since then, the family has mostly lived off charitable donations and is trying to raise money for a wheelchair, according to Baskin.
Hebron is home to some 200,000 Palestinians and fewer than 1,000 Israeli settlers, who live under heavy military protection. The city, religiously significant to both Jews and Muslims, has long been a hothouse of Jewish-Palestinian violence.
The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department said the officers’ conduct was “inappropriate and unprofessional,” but the investigators determined it was not criminal.
The guards told investigators they confiscated Anwar’s bike because they could not communicate with her in Arabic and wanted to stop her from crossing into the Jewish neighborhood of Hebron, which Palestinians are barred from entering, Haaretz reported.