17 Trees for 17 Prisoners: Burin Honors their Detainees
On Palestinian Prisoners Day in the small, yet beautiful village of Burin, population 3200, a 74 year old shepherd was tending to his flock when, according to Israeli occupation forces, he committed an arrestable crime. Having “stepped over the line” into what they told him was Israeli territory, the elderly man was arrested, blindfolded, handcuffed and remained this way for six hours until his release.
International volunteers with IWPS and ISM, along with numerous members of the Nablus based SFP, Solidarity Movement For a Free Palestine- who organized the day of action, and who were personally honoring one of many of their members who are currently jailed, gathered in the family home of Zachariah, a young Palestinian who has been imprisoned for over six months in Israeli prison.
His mother speaks to the dozens gathered about her son. This includes how she was recently strip searched by IOF soldiers during her last visit to the prison to see him. Hers is only one of many houses in the village who share similarly agonizing tales of their homes being raided and ransacked and their children being arrested. In mostly every case there exists no evidence to support the charge most commonly used when young Palestinians are jailed; throwing stones.
In the case of the SFP member currently detained for 8 months for intervening when he saw a large crowd of IOF, heavily armed and preparing to enter a school for girls, the soldier who chased him at gunpoint told him, “We won’t arrest you here. We will come to your home tonight and arrest you as a disgrace to your family.”
One family with two young cousins in prison spoke of decades of their loved ones being churned through the Israeli prison establishment. “At one point, we had so many family members in prison, we had to separate to visit different prisons on visitation days.” This is how the occupation works. It affects every human in some- or many- aspects who is existing under it.
The father of a man imprisoned now 14 years, who was tied to a suicide bombing and weapons transfer that killed numerous Israelis, spoke about his son’s life before being jailed, “He was 22 when arrested. He was with the Palestinian police but held no political affiliation. He was a son of his country.” When his son, who was sentenced to 11 life sentences plus 90 years, was asked if he was regretful for his actions, “No, this was my resistance to the occupation of my home.”
Burin village, like most in the West Bank, is no stranger to tragedy or brutality stemming from the occupation. A young boy offering fruit to the crowd of volunteers suffered the murder of his brother who was shot in the head just last month by Israeli occupation soldiers during clashes in their besieged home where they are surrounded by four illegal settlements, ultra religious and notoriously violent.
The soldiers using the hills surrounding the village for military practice force Palestinian farmers, who have had the land in their families for generations, to request permission to work their land. If they pass the permit process, they are then subject to routine violence from the colonizers who have taken the hilltops to violate international law by making it their homes.
Throughout the afternoon, Palestinians moved through the village of Burin, from one prisoner’s family home to the next with arm fulls of tree saplings which were placed into the earth and adorned with a photo of the jailed to honor each of them.
For the families of the imprisoned- the imposed struggle involving the separation from their loved ones, the humiliating searches both inside the prisons and at checkpoints along the way along with the financial burden of travel costs to get to the prisons for visitation with their children- continues.