HomeJanuary 2012The Fence Nobody Wanted, Part One

The Fence Nobody Wanted, Part One

Who really built the fence?
The recent stabbing of a teenager in the northern Jerusalem suburb of Ramot, apparently by a resident of Beit Iksa, hit me hard.  I lived in Ramot for 23 years, 16 of them directly across the wadi from Beit Iksa.  All during the intifada when buses were blowing up all over the country, the men of Beit Iksa walked across the wadi and up the steps next to my house to work as laborers, without incident.  Often, they passed me by in groups, watching as I tended my fruit trees and grape vines.  Sometimes I even offered them fruit, which they smilingly declined or accepted.  The sound of their muezzin and darbuka (drums) filled my home.  I accepted it as part of the experience of living in this beautiful spot with its rolling hills and apple orchards.  In fact, during the euphoria of the Oslo Accords, I even sometimes imagined walking across the wadi to visit and inviting some of them to my home.
I was rudely awakened by the Palestinian Authority election results in Beit Iksa, where Hamas won a resounding victory.  Tangible changes soon followed: powerful new loudspeakers aimed at Ramot brutally blasted the singsong call to prayer like a weapon.  Home robberies, always a nuisance, steadily grew worse.  One night, robbers invaded my home as my son and his wife were sleeping downstairs.  The next morning, among other losses, we found two large kitchen knives missing.  On another occasion, I watched in disbelief as in the middle of the night a dozen or so men leaped out of the house next door and down into the wadi before police could arrive.  My neighbor, who had been away, arrived to find they’d not only stolen everything not nailed down, but also urinated on her bed for spite.
While the police dutifully came and investigated, they admitted helplessness.  Under the Oslo Accords, Beit Iksa was governed by the Palestinian Authority.  Only the IDF could go in there.  And for that to happen, someone would have to do more than steal a computer.
Nevertheless, most of us with homes adjacent to the wadi were adamantly opposed to a security wall between Ramot and Beit Iksa, reluctant to turn our lovely, rural backyard and heavenly view into an ugly border.  So instead we put in alarm systems, which regularly went off.
All that changed on October 22, a sleepy Sabbath afternoon, when Zaid Abd al-Rahman, a 20-year-old enrolled in Al Quds University, allegedly took the 10-minute walk through the wadi, entering Ramot with a six-inch knife and attacking the first person he saw, 17-year-old Yehuda Ne’emad, son of the local grocery owner.  Viciously, al-Rahman stabbed Yehuda twice in the back and twice in the stomach, doing his best to kill him.  As his victim lay in a pool of blood, al-Rahman turned his attention to a twelve-year old girl and her six year-old brother.  “I was sure I was going to die,” she later said.  “I took my brother’s hand and I ran.”
As a crowd gathered, Rahman, who apparently wasn’t interested at that moment in martyrdom, ran back down the wadi.
(This article first appeared in the Jerusalem Post, November 18, 2011.)

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