Jews in the Diaspora knew there were days they should avoid leaving their homes. The Jews of Hungary know, even today, that the anniversary of the rising against the Soviet occupation in 1956 is one such day, when the anti-Semites crawl out from under their stones. In earlier days, Easter and other holidays were days of wrath for Jews. Steadily, the Palestinians learn the hard way that Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, is such a day, when the settler youth, dressed in Sabbath finery and bored out of their skull, are looking for amusement.
A few Saturdays ago, A. – a resident of a small village in the vicinity of Bethlehem – left her house and went to the adjacent vine-covered hut. Surprisingly, she found it occupied by several young settlers. As she went in, one of them took position behind her, and said “Rukh min hon”, “go away”; Arabic as spoken by the occupier.
A. was not scared, and told them to leave her territory. The settlers began surrounding her, and then came the attack. First a feint masquerading as a slap, then a slap, a kick. One of them pushed her to the tables, and the others rose; ‘A estimated they were about to attack her. She picked up a stone; the cowards fled.
A. escaped from the hut back to the house, where her three siblings were. The settlers began stoning the house from a very short range. One stone hit A.’s leg; she felt pain but didn’t require medical attention.
A short while later, A.’s neighbors arrived. Their number was larger than the marauders, and here the mob’s golden rule went into effect: That the intelligence of a mob is that of its stupidest member, divided by the number of participants; and that resolute resistance to this sort of organism, which eggs itself on, scares it. The marauders fled to the nearest settlement.
The Judea and Samaria District Police (JDSP) showed up and gathered evidence, but avoided entering the settlement to which the marauders fled. That would have required a confrontation, and on a Saturday of all things. It seems that the JSDP has a problem with arresting settlers on a Saturday: this can easily blow up. But, of course, once the day is over, the criminals can disperse, and finding them again would be like chasing the wind. The inability of settlers to move on Saturday gave the police an advantage which it preferred to forego. I wonder if run of the mill criminals from Tel Aviv would have this sort of luck.
In the West Bank, however, law enforcement takes a second and distant place to maintaining Jewish supremacy in front of Palestinians, and after the quiet terrorism which is intended to make them despair and convince them to leave.
Now try to imagine how a young woman feels, when she finds herself surrounded by a group of marauders, who later attack her house as well, when she knows the chances of the police arresting her attackers is lower than the chances the Finance Minister will manage to makr an error-free statement. When that is the case, when even leaving your house is dangerous, when being in the house itself does not guarantee protection, your psychology begins to change.
Martin Luther King described, in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” how awareness of racism affected his children:
when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”
An ancient axiom in English law says that a man’s home is his castle. Settler violence turns the homes of Palestinians into a small pen within the larger pen, where the hut in their garden is also turned into a place of peril. And this, too, is a part – and not an unimportant part – of the story.