by Harriet Sherwood from The Guardian
In a small village between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I joined a remarkable group
of women and children for lunch last weekend, a noisy and cheerful crowd
enjoying plates of chicken, fish, rice and salad. All of them were breaking the
The party consisted of around 20 mostly middle-aged Israeli women, slightly
fewer and younger Palestinian women and a handful of the latter's children.
The Palestinians were from villages in the West Bank and therefore forbidden
entry into Israel without proper permits. The Israeli women had illegally
brought them across checkpoints for a day out – a journey that is both just a
few miles and an impossible distance.
This wasn't the first occasion; there have been previous trips to Tel Aviv and
Jaffa and to the zoo in Jerusalem. For many of the Palestinians, it is their
first trip across the Green Line into Israel. Earlier trips have been described
by Ilana Hammerman, one of the organisers, in the Israeli paper Haaretz, and by
Rachel Shabi in the Guardian last September.
But in recent weeks, the Israelis – who describe themselves as "women who
disobey" – have begun to be questioned individually by the police about their
actions. Some see this as part of a bigger picture of intolerance and harassment
of groups and individuals supporting co-existence, civil and human rights, and
opposing Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.
Many civil and human rights groups and politicians across the spectrum here
detect a growing campaign against those challenging the "norm" of occupation.
That, on a small and individual scale, is what these disobedient women are
Two weeks ago, Nitza Aminov was questioned for an hour by police who took her
fingerprints and photograph for their records. She refused to answer their
questions. She told me that more women have been told to expect visits from the
police this week.
Another, Meira, said police intimidation would not deter her from taking part in
illegal days out. "If we have to sit in jail as a result, we'll sit in jail."
Hammerman has been questioned a few times, the first three months ago. "I've
been public about challenging the law, acting in an illegal way," she told me.
The risks are greater for the Palestinian women, who are likely to face a harsh
punishment if discovered illegally in Israel.
One of them, Fida – who by lunchtime had replaced the headscarf she had removed
to get through the checkpoint – was not afraid of getting caught. "The Jewish
people don't scare me – this is normal," she said.
As the group prepared to drive back to the West Bank in a sudden downpour,
thoughts turned towards navigating their way back through the checkpoints. "We
see that this is the way of life for Palestinians," said Meira.