At-Tuwani/Tuba – School Patrol

Like every morning, students walk to the school. Among the cackles Said tries to look longer to make sure that there is Israeli army, which has the duty to escort them along the road between two Israeli settlements. Said doesn’t see the flashing lights of the army jeep. That means it is late. Thirty minutes pass but no sign of the soldiers. The schoolchildren keep waiting at the meeting point. They are dangerously close to the Israeli outpost, and if the settlers wanted to attack them, they would take no time at all. At this point there are three possibilities: going back home, but they want to go to school; taking a path that winds through the hills trying to keep as far away as possible from the outpost, but they would arrive at school even later; walking the road unescorted, which seems the best choice. Said asks the volunteers of Operation Dove, with whom he has been in contact since they left home and who are waiting for them at the end of the road, to reach them so they can walk together.
Just as the mutatawain - volunteers - arrive with their cameras at hand, a car stops in front of them. A settler gets out and aggressively orders the children to turn back, threatening to call the Israeli police.

"They just want to go to school and doing so is their right" one of the two volunteers says. The group moves away trying to ignore the settler’s threats who begins to follow them. Said urges the little ones so as to step up the pace and sow him. "Just a little more and we’ll be arrived" Said repeats to himself. He turns and sees the settler going away. He breathes a sigh of relief. Without saying anything, everyone slows down a bit without stopping, they have not arrived yet.
Said hears the rumble of an engine. He turns around and sees the settler driving the car chasing them, then he overtakes them and steering blocks the road with the car. The settler gets out of the vehicle screaming, his eyes are full of hate, he trembles with anger, blue in the face accuses them of being dangerous, thieves, terrorists. He is armed, Said sees the gun. The children, behind the volunteers, try to get around the settler: they just want to get the school, but he places himself in front of them every time they try to make their way through. Said feels the trembling hands of Mariam, the youngest one of the group, clinging to his leg and hiding behind him.
The soldiers come running. They kindly invite the settler to go home, but he doesn’t stop shouting and ordering the soldiers to arrest everyone. They could do it. Said knows that. The soldiers calm down the settler who, after giving one last hate-filled look, turns and goes away. Then a soldier says, "go on, go, nothing happened." Said looks around, they are all paralyzed.
It could have ended differently. The presence of the volunteers probably prevented that anything worse happened.
Said remembers when the settlers ran after them along that road with chains and sticks, and even when his cousin had been beaten: her shocked face, wet with tears and blood dripping from her head wound is an image he will not easily forget.
And yet, despite the nightmares and the fear, Said and the other ones want to go to school. And to do so they are willing to walk that road every day.

For more than fifteen years, schoolchildren of the Palestinian villages of Tuba and Maghayir al-Abeed have had difficulty to reach the school in the village of At-Tuwani, the only one in the whole area, because of the numerous attacks by Israeli settlers on the road which passes between two Israeli settlements. After a violent attack, when American activists from the Christian Peacemaker Teams were also involved, Israeli Parliament, moved by public opinion and press indignation, laid down that children should be escorted along the road by the Israeli army every day, to go and go back from school, in order to protect them in case of danger. However the escort doesn’t guarantee children complete safety: settlers often attack schoolchildren anyway and Israeli soldiers frequently arrive late or even don’t show up. The escort’s negligence and the settlers’ violence violate the right to freedom of movement and the right to education of the children of Tuba and Maghayir al Abeed (Articles 2, 19, 28, 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child). Over the past five years, the Israeli army did not show up 44 times, with the loss of more than 55 hours of school, causing more than 220 hours of waiting with the risk of suffering violence by settlers. There have been 26 cases of violence along the way and more than 1000 cases of negligence by the army.