Photos by Ryan Rodrick Beiler
A resident of Al Ma'sara balances a birthday cake on her head signifying six years of popular struggle against the Israeli separation wall.
For the last few years, the Friday demonstration in the West Bank village of Al Ma'sara has been a consistent but modestly sized protest against the Israeli separation wall. Like many weekly demonstrations throughout Palestine, numbers have shrunk from initial hundreds due to arrests and intimidation by Israeli forces, as well as the use of various crowd control techniques like tear gas and sound bombs. Yet the demonstrations have continued, with the gathering of local, international, and Israel activists sometimes outnumbered by the Israeli soldiers that block their way.
However, as Al Ma'sara celebrated its sixth anniversary of popular struggle, the number of demonstrators swelled once again, overwhelming the soldiers and spilling onto the main road that they are typically prevented from reaching. As each week the stated purpose is to march to the land that the separation wall will eventually cut off from the village, this week marchers got much closer than usual before being corralled by the army and pushed back to the village. In the meantime, activists were able to block traffic and frustrate many Israeli settler drivers, while receiving signs of support from Palestinian cars.
The event culminated with a birthday cake for the popular struggle, which Palestinian demonstrators mockingly offered to soldiers who had no choice but to ignore or refuse the generous offer. Such a gesture helps capture the unique spirit of the Al Ma'sara protests--a commitment to nonviolence that confronts the Israeli occupation and exposes its absurdity and brutality.
As one organizer has stated, "Using nonviolence, we can send the right message to the people outside Palestine."
"Israel tries to tell the world that we are only terrorists," another adds. "When we use this way, internationals can easily see who is right and who is wrong."
While losing land to the wall and settlements leaves little to celebrate, recognizing the value of six years of struggle was an important encouragement for the community to carry on. In the weeks since the anniversary demonstration, marchers have again succeeded in circumventing the Israeli roadblock and made it even further down the road, even closer to their land.
As every Friday for the last six years, marchers emerge from the village chanting slogans against the Israeli wall and occupation.
Israeli soldiers attempt to block the road and prevent the march from proceeding.
This time, marchers succeed in eluding the soldiers and enter the main road which connects several nearby Israeli settlements.
Soldiers chase activists on the main road.
Marchers succeed in blocking traffic on the road, which includes both Israeli and Palestinian vehicles.
One Israeli driver emerges to confront the demonstrators.
Palestinian motorists caught in the traffic jam trade "V for victory" signs with passing marchers.
Israeli soldiers attempt to surround and remove activists from the roadway.
Some activists are removed by force.
At the end of the demonstration, Palestinians offer part of the birthday cake for six years of popular struggle to the Israeli soldiers, who do not accept.