NY Times' Jodi Rudoren lovingly admires the 'Palestinians' hobbyhobby. She focuses on Beit Omar, a town between Gush Etzion and Hebron where the incident pictured above, and in the video below, took place.
“Children have hobbies, and my hobby is throwing stones,” Muhammad explained weeks before his most recent arrest. “A day with a confrontation is better than a free day.”
As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed peace talks last week in Washington, the stone throwers of Beit Ommar are a reminder of the abiding tensions that animate relations between the two peoples that would populate the imagined two states living side by side.
Youths hurling stones has long been the indelible icon — some call it a caricature — of Palestinian pushback against Israel: a recent United Nations report said 7,000 minors, some as young as 9, had been detained between 2002 and 2012. Here in Beit Ommar, a village of 17,000 between Bethlehem and Hebron that is surrounded by Jewish settlements, rock throwing is a rite of passage and an honored act of defiance. The futility of stones bouncing off armored vehicles matters little: confrontation is what counts.
When they are not actually throwing stones, the children here play Arabs and Army, re-enacting the clashes and arrests. And when 17-year-old Bilal Ayad Awad was released in June after 16 months in prison, he was welcomed like a war hero with flags and fireworks, women in wedding finery lining the streets to cheer his motorcade.
Muhammad sees it as his Islamic duty to help bury the dead, and he has his own funeral-preparation ritual. He pulls on boots. He sprays his hands with perfume to counteract the gas. He grabs a face mask, to protect his identity, and his muqlaa — a homemade slingshot.
It was the June funeral of a 2-year-old girl accidentally crushed by a relative’s bulldozer that led to his most recent arrest. “They were shooting gas, and I was with my mother in the car while the soldiers’ jeep was entering the town,” Muhammad admitted to a police officer after the arrest. “So I got out and threw stones at them.”
Musa Awad, a teacher at Beit Ommar’s high school, said that eight generations of his family are buried in the cemetery, but that he is one of many village residents who have stopped following funeral processions there because of the inevitable clashes. Two years ago, Mr. Awad said, he and his brothers offered to donate a patch of land for a new cemetery, far from the main road, but the Islamic authorities declined.
Mr. Awad, like many here, views the stone throwers with a mixture of pride at confronting Israel and fear for their safety. “Nobody dares to criticize them and say, ‘Why are you doing this?”
Indeed, Jodi sounds downright admiring... of thieves.The youths, and their parents, say they are provoked by the situation: soldiers stationed at the village entrance, settlers tending trees beyond. They throw because there is little else to do in Beit Ommar — no pool or cinema, no music lessons after school, no part-time jobs other than peddling produce along the road. They do it because their brothers and fathers did.
Muhammad captures the contradictions of growing up here. He was tickled at the first salon-slicking of his short hair for a relative’s recent wedding. But he shunned a snack of popcorn outside: prison food.
He recently sneaked into a settlement before dawn to steal apricots he finds especially delicious because they grow on land he sees as stolen from his people. One of his hobbies is rescuing abandoned bird eggs and nurturing them in cages warmed by light bulbs until they hatch.
“When they fly,” he said, “it’s like a person in prison, and he will take his freedom.”
Muhammad’s first arrest was in October 2010: his family paid a fine of about $1,400. He was jailed from April to June of 2012, then returned to prison that September for another seven months. Graffiti welcoming him back remained on the outer wall of the family home as a dozen soldiers arrived July 8.
The terror victim above, Adele Biton, age 3, survived. So did the lady at the top of this post. But what's unusual about the lady at the top of this post is that the attack on her was videotaped.
Let's go to the videotape.
Looks just like Brooklyn, doesn't it?
No, Jodi. Throwing stones at passing cars isn't a hobby. People who do it in the United States are prosecuted for murder or attempted murder. And rightfully so. Try venturing out of the city in a car that doesn't have a big PRESS sign on it some time. Then you won't describe it as a game anymore.