On November twenty fourth, I wakened in occupied Ramallah to the information that Israel and Hamas had agreed to a short lived ceasefire. It was Friday, and the streets have been empty. In a café, just a few outdated Palestinian males have been watching a information broadcast, which reported that the 2 combatants had agreed to alternate human beings for 4 days: Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners, at a ratio of 1 to a few. The ratio mirrored Hamas’s weak spot: in the latest hostage swap, in 2011, the militant group had traded the soldier Gilad Shalit for a thousand and twenty-seven imprisoned Palestinians. However within the café this depreciation was ignored. The lads greeted the deal as an incredible victory—maybe the one victory in two horrifying, bloody months.
By lunchtime, the Manara roundabout, in downtown Ramallah, was filling with folks. They stood in twos and threes. The gang circled 4 stone lions that guard the roundabout’s central island. A poster confirmed the faces of some dozen of the hundreds of youngsters killed in Gaza. Palestinian policemen, in baby-blue uniforms, stood watching; they served the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah’s nominal authorities, and most residents contemplate such officers little greater than quislings for the Israeli occupation. The P.A. has typically suppressed rallies and protests, however right this moment, it gave the impression to be permitting an illustration.
The gang superior down an avenue lined with cafés and juice bars. A Christian priest marched in entrance, arms interlinked with the chief of Palestine’s Communist social gathering. Males masked by kaffiyehs carried the flags of the Democratic Entrance for the Liberation of Palestine, one other left-wing faction. Dozens of ladies marched behind the boys; just a few waved the inexperienced flag of Hamas.
A person shouted slogans, and every time the gang echoed him: “Come on out, Oh, Moon! Mild up our camps! We weren’t created to stay within the shadow of oppression!” Girls held indicators printed with the images of little kids taken by the Israelis. Their hope, although they didn’t spell it out, was that their youngsters can be a part of the swap.
I approached a lady talking ardently about imprisoned Palestinians. “They need to make our houses empty,” she stated. Her identify was Aman Nafa, and she or he was fifty-nine. She stated that she had been a prisoner herself a number of occasions: her first arrest occurred when she was seventeen, after she’d organized protests in opposition to the occupation of the West Financial institution.
Upon her launch, she stated, a prisoner named Nael Barghouti despatched a message asking for her hand in marriage, and so they fell in love. After he was launched, through the 2011 swap, they married. However 9 years in the past Barghouti was arrested once more—the troopers who made the arrest accused him of being affiliated with Hamas. (Nafa denies this.) Previous to October, Barghouti’s sister Hanan and two of her sons have been arrested. On October seventh, one other of her sons posted a TikTok video mocking an Israeli soldier who was being dragged throughout the bottom; he and his brother have been arrested. Hanan and three of her sons have been positioned underneath “administrative detention,” during which Palestinians are held with out cost or trial. The arrests, Nafa believed, represented “revenge” in opposition to a household identified for its resistance actions. (The Israel Protection Forces have killed members of the Barghouti household, and have referred to as them “terrorists.”)
The demonstrators returned to the roundabout. Nafa acquired a cellphone name. A rumor was circulating that the primary prisoners would quickly be launched. “We’re prepared!” she exclaimed.
The alternate was purported to happen exterior Ofer Jail, just a few miles to the southwest, close to the city of Beitunia. I drove there on a avenue that ran by shabby neighborhoods. Within the distance was the West Financial institution separation barrier, which many human-rights teams name the Apartheid Wall, and, past that, the outlines of Ofer Jail.
I parked and proceeded on foot towards the alternate level. Many Palestinians have been headed the identical manner. A lady advised me, “I don’t know any of the prisoners, however I’m right here to assist them.” An S.U.V. negotiated the thick visitors; protruding from its sunroof have been three youngsters, every wearing a special coloration of the red-green-and-black Palestinian flag. Individuals streamed down the encompassing hillsides. The phrase was that, at exactly 4 o’clock, thirty-nine Palestinians can be launched from Ofer.
By 3:45 p.m., greater than a thousand folks had gathered. Kids in kaffiyehs, balancing on tires and vehicles and fallen girders, peered down the street on the jail’s watchtowers. The gang was alive with an expectant buzz, as if at any minute figures would materialize within the distance, and the horror of the previous seven weeks—the practically fifteen thousand lifeless, the flattened neighborhoods in Gaza—would now be price it. “What Hamas did was an incredible achievement,” a person in his sixties advised me. I requested him whether or not the discharge of some dozen prisoners might justify the deaths of so many civilians, on either side. “I’m not blissful,” he countered. “Nobody right here is blissful.”
But, throughout us, I noticed smiles and heard laughter and tune. Patriotic tunes sounded by automobile home windows. It was as if the gang needed the prisoner launch to show to the world—or, no less than, to remind themselves—that, beneath all of the current struggling, their battle for self-determination was nonetheless alive. The state of Israel sensed this ambition. Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national-security minister, had ordered the police to suppress celebrations in East Jerusalem. “There are to be no expressions of pleasure,” he declared. “Expressions of pleasure are equal to backing terrorism. Victory celebrations give backing to these human scum, for these Nazis.”