Our first day in Bilin – the warmth and hospitality of Palestinian families and the burning of tear gas

We arrived in the village of Bilin by taxi from the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. We had to find a taxi driver who was Arab as Jewish taxi drivers will not drive into the West Bank.

Upon arriving in Bilin were welcomed with incredible warmth and delicious food. The Burnat children immediately welcomed Elijah and Isabella, asking them to play games and showing them around the house and village. Elijah was taken to the gym to lift weights with Majd Burnat (16) while Isabella played with Mayar (10). As I write this Isabella has still not stopped playing with Mayar.

The next morning we were offered a delicious breakfast that included olive oil that had been pressed from Bilin village olives and zatar picked and ground by the Burnat family.

After breakfast we prepared to go to the weekly demonstration. Isabella stayed behind with Mayar while Elijah accompanied Mohammed Burnat (12) to the demonstration and Katya and me. While the weekly protests in Bilin used to take place next to the Apartheid Wall, these days the soldiers do not let the protesters walk very far down the road at all before they start to shoot tear gas at us (Iyad said the reason for this is that the soldiers do not want the nearby Israeli settlers to be bothered with the sounds or smells of tear gas). The tear gas burned all of our eyes and throats. Far away from the soldiers Isabella and Mayar could feel a little bit of the tear gas jut from opening the door to the house. This is everyday life under Israeli occupation. We will leave and go home to the comforts of our lives in the U.S. The village of Bilin will continue to inhale tear gas.

Tomorrow we travel to Hebron where will see the occupation there. On Sunday, Isabella will attend school with Mayar (school here is Sunday through Thursday).

– Ariel Gold

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