We hoped, or wanted to hope that it happens less often
now. That ongoing ritual that continues for years of
little children throwing stones or not, and soldiers
shooting at them and they die. It happened again at
the same place I saw it for the first time. Five years
ago. I was speaking with one of the taxi drivers; my
gaze was directed vaguely, laxly in the direction of
Ramallah, and I saw three soldiers, coming down the
road, then I saw small children throwing stones at the
soldiers and the soldiers stopped, bent down and started
spraying bullets in every direction as the children
escaped. It took me time to understand what I was seeing
and to believe,
because reality felt like a dream, a nightmare, and
everything happened slowly, and time stopped, and the
body stopped, and the heart stopped. And froze. That
time, the first time, a child was not murdered.
Maybe the difference from then to today is that it
seemed there was more shame, or that they tried to
camouflage their actions.
Adults threw Molotov cocktails, they said after wards,
after shooting at the escaping children, piercing the
doors with bullets and smashing windows smashed. That is
why they had shot at them they said later, because they
were adults, because they had thrown Molotov cocktails,
they said, they lied.
Today they say, yes, true, children threw stones and we
shot at them, sure, because they threw, because they
will, because their children shall, because they are
This, they almost say, not quite, but it is completely
clear that this is what they think.
They are Palestinians, that is it more or less, their
lives are not a value, to preserve and cherish and keep.
Ahmed called, a friend. This time it is his son Mohamed
who I saw when he was little, fifteen years old now. I
think, why him, At least it should be people I don't
know…such is egocentrism…he will live. He was shot with
live ammunition in the leg, the bone was not injured. it
is still early to know the extent of the damage but he
will live. That's good.
They have been shooting at the children of Qalandiya
refugee camp for years. It's not the same soldiers, and
not the same children, different age groups, and corps,
and seasons. Do they pass the ethos of the hunt from one
group to the other. Is it a serviceman's duty. Is it a
norm or an order or somewhere between the two...
sometimes children throw stones and they shoot. If the
children aren't throwing stones then they stand and wait
until they do, and then shoot. Once, a long time ago, we
saw the soldiers crawl up the hill and throw stones at
the children in order to get the longed for stones
thrown at them and then they could shoot "to protect
their homes" while the children ran away.
It is hard to know with what to start, with Mohamed,
Ahmed's son or Tah, the sixteen year old who was shot
and killed last Thursday, or with every day almost in
the last few weeks, and for the last years, or with the
day I shall never forget because It happened before my
own eyes, Friday the 23 of March the day the checkpoint
soldiers shot and murdered fourteen year old Omar Matar,
with a live bullet in his neck, a boy who threw stones,
and soldiers ran after him and shot at him and he got
wounded and was in a coma for a week and then died.
Every day is as good as the next, I think, and until my
words will reach one place or other, it will happen
again, most likely, maybe it is happening right now and
another child is wounded or killed, or maybe not, until
the next time when he is.
On Wednesday the 24 of January Ahmed stood by his cart
at the entrance of the refugee camp and sold lupine and
humus. There wasn't much work he said but he is after a
by pass operation and is not allowed to engage in
physical labor, not that he would find any, but the only
thing he is allowed if he wants to remain alive is to
stand in one place and not move around, and so he does,
he stands by his cart and tries to sell to those who
don't have money to buy even the cheapest things. In
order to do something, not just to wait… Mohamed his 15
year old son arrived to visit his father. Ahmed at first
wanted him to go back home, out of worry about the
soldiers who shoot almost daily. It's dangerous outside.
But two hours before, two jeeps passed and shot rubber
bullets, maybe, he thought, they've concluded their
Shadi was shot, a tiny child, six years old, with three
rubber coated bullets in his body, and after that the
jeep had drove on, shot the child and drove on, as
always. Shadi was taken to a hospital in Ramallah.
But as it usually happens not more than once a day Ahmed
thought well they had probably concluded the day, and
agreed that Mohamed would stay. And used the opportunity
to go speak to friends down the road, an eye's reach.
Mohamed stayed by the cart, at the entrance of the camp.
Near the road.
First two jeeps arrived from their usual place and then
two more one after the other, quickly. Usually when the
jeeps pass the camp they slow down, who knows, maybe
they will be lucky and there will be children or stones
Near the place the jeeps came out of, Job the 17 year
old was busy putting away things in the grocery store he
works in. The first jeep ran over produce that was
outside the shop. Job was frightened and ran into the
shop. Just then the children on the other side
identified the jeep and started throwing stones. The
soldier who had run over the produce stood outside the
shop and began firing into the shop, at Job who stood
perhaps two meters from him, a live bullet hit him in
his leg, and another penetrated his hand, even though
Job was nowhere near or with the children who threw the
stones at the soldier but that doesn't really matter. He
Meanwhile the two jeeps moved forward and stood at the
entrance to the camp, the children started to run away
and from the roofs of the jeep live fire started, live
fire, rubber bullets, not seen, from inside the jeep,
right and left in every direction.
It was about four fifteen. Everything happened very
fast. Ahmed heard the children call out "they came they
came" and understood immediately that the soldiers had
come, or were on the way and began walking towards
Mohamed. Or running. Exactly then the shooting started.
Mohamed, who stood near his father's cart tried to turn
it around and escape, a good boy that does not abandon
the family's source of income, and a live bullet entered
his leg and came out again. A hole the size of a small
well in his little foot and his father who saw
everything, who sees him fall, and can't save him.
Seventeen year old Rassan saw Mohamed fall and
approached to help him rise got a live bullet in his leg
that broke the bone. Shadi, sixteen years old, was among
the children who didn't manage to run away, and was
wounded by a rubber bullet.
After they finished spraying with rubber bullets in
every direction and four children lay on the ground
wounded, they left, finished with the hunt for today,
they left until next time.
Ahmed immediately went to hospital with the boy. He
didn't think to call home. Everything happened so fast,
but apparently the children who came out of hiding ran
to give Mohamed's mother his shoe, with the holes on
each side because it was forgotten behind and the
mother, who didn't know anything, collapsed.
The bullet entered Mohamed's leg on one side and went
out on the other, apparently he has a big hole there and
they will have to transplant from a different part of
his body, he was in hospital for three days, since he's
been home he goes to hospital every day to change the
bandage, he manages to hobble around with one crutch. It
happened on the last day of school before winter
vacation. At least he won't miss school Ahmed says.
The other children have since been released from
hospital as well. Six year old Shadi who was wounded by
three rubber bullets was transferred to Hadassah because
he is a resident of Jerusalem and has since been
released as well.
It happens every day now, says Ahmed. Every day. There's
nothing one can do about it. This sort of thing can't be
changed, not by the children and the soldiers.
The other day it was little Ibrahim who was wounded.
From the rubber bullets. The same ritual. Soldiers
driving their peacock drive on a road used only by
Palestinians slow down near the refugee camp on purpose,
there was a distribution of good from the UNWRA and
there were many people around, many children, so the
children threw stones, and the soldiers shot at them so
he was wounded. Not too seriously this time. Last time
Tami and I saw Ibrahim he was with a giant bandage on
his forehead because it so happened that just then the
soldiers shot and he was wounded. A bullet grazed his
head, it's lucky he is alive, a neglected touching sad
The day before yesterday the soldiers killed Tah. On
Thursday, the first of February. He was sixteen.
I know his father, Ahmed says. I don't know exactly what
happened to him and how he was wounded but we heard it
was around six in the morning, that he was wounded in
the leg. The soldiers who stayed near by after having
shot him allowed him to bleed for two hours until all
the blood flowed from his body.
People say that he prayed at the Mosque in the morning,
said Abu Omar, a friend of Ahmed we befriended at about
the same time we met Ahmed, they both pushed carts at
Qalandiya checkpoint…after loosing their jobs in
Israel….he went out to work, Abu Omar continued…he
worked at…there is an UNWRA school here where I work as
a guard.. so there is a road behind it, it passes by the
fence, but it isn't concrete over there, it's (he makes
a drawing in the air of a spiral) metal. So maybe they
thought he was trying to cross, something, I don't know,
a jeep came and gave him a bullet here, he points to his
thigh, from six o'clock until eight the boy is on the
ground and there was a jeep there next to him. Nobody
knew there was a person there. If people knew they would
come. There was nobody there. Morning, six-seven.
Ahmed says the boy lived near by so he passed there. He
prayed in the mosque and wanted to go to Jerusalem. They
shot him there.
He wanted to go to work, or school, don't know. He lives
just before the kafr Aqab, there is a path there that
passes near the fence, a path the soldiers pass on,
behind the UNWRA school, a path that continues in the
direction of Ramallah. There is a metal fence between
the road and where the soldiers go, their own road, a
road for guarding the fence, and next to it is our path,
the Palestinians' path. There is a fence and a gate the
soldiers open when they want to come across. That's how
they come in the direction of the camp. That's how they
entered when they came on Mohamed.
After he died they left him there for another two hours.
Dead. Then they took him to the checkpoint. They called
an ambulance that took him to Ramallah. From the
hospital they called the Tanzim and told them there was
a casualty. They came to the hospital to check. On the
news they announced that a person from Qalandiya was
Abu Omar said, only when the boy was gone do they call
the Ambulance from Ramallah. Then they say there was a
boy who wanted to cross the fence and now he's dead.
An ambulance came and took him, a young boy, he lived at
Qlandiya village at the part near kafr Aqab, near
Jerusalem. I saw in the paper that he was born in 91,
sixteen he was.
We knew about it at eight, nine thirty, it was on the
news. We heard there was a dead person from Qalandiya.
We didn't know who. Everybody looked for his kids.
Mine were sleeping.
So the men in charge, from the Tanzim went to Ramallah
to see who it is. They found his ID and called his
After that the children went to the place, to see where
his blood was, and then came the jeep and they started
to shoot rubber bullets on them.
Again there were wounded. Not badly.
Every day they pass and enter. They have nothing to do
here, Ahmed says, they come and go. They have nothing to
do here, they come for spite if there is a child they
stand at the entrance, if there isn't they go on their
Last week there were shots on children four or five
We visited Ahmed's house and saw the wounded Mohamed, he
was shy, and finally saw Ahmed's new house. And his
little daughter who we had not met before. Abu Omar came
as well and we were very glad, it was nice. And Mohamed
looked really good and it seemed he would be alright. We
ate and laughed and Abu Omar explained to me why it is
important to study and I was almost convinced and they
saw a film Tamar made about Qalandiya Checkpoint and Abu
Omar held his head the whole time and cried and asked
what the Jews say about it, what do they say... And the
film ended and we laughed some more... And Abu Omar said
we have two Jewish women here, bring all the prisoners,
and I said that it isn't certain that anybody would be
interested in two like us…and it was nice but we all
knew that sooner or later, today or tomorrow or maybe
even as we sat there a jeep would appear near the
children who would likely throw stones and the soldiers
would shoot and the children would be wounded or killed,
and that we can never know anything, that is how it is,
because that is what the soldiers do, they shoot at
children, that is how it is.
When they were asked how it happened that they shot him
and let him die, the IDF spokesman, who is actually the
advertising agency of the occupation, said that he was
shot because he tried to cut the fence.
He tried to cut the fence and that is why they shot him.
And as to why they didn't help him they said that he was
on the other side of the fence, not where they were,
that is why.
The truth is that there is hardly any doubt that Tah did
not try to cut the fence. He was alone. He is a resident
of Jerusalem and can come across whenever he wants the
"legal" way. He doesn’t have to sneak across. The
likelihood that he was trying to cut the fence is null.
But what is most amazing is that they say in their
response, which isn't surprising because that is what we
always see, that a boy who cuts the fence is condemned
to death, deserves death.
And that a boy bleeding to death on the other side of
the fence is condemned to die and there is no need to
There is no wonder that a system that sends its
spokesman out to give such an explanation is a system in
which such things occur.
Children with no names and no individual identity or no
humanity, who are legitimate targets like in a shooting
range, are the same ones who, when they are bleeding to
death can be abandoned to die. One need not take
responsibility for their inevitable death because they
are on the other side of the fence.
Translated by Nurit Steinfeld