The children live in the Palestinian villages of At-Tuba and Maghayar Al Abeed in the south Hebron hills. To get to At-Tuwani, where the school is located, they need to walk more than four miles, and pass through a Jewish settlement called Havat Maon.
Every morning at 6:30am, an Israeli soldier driving an army jeep waits for the group of children, usually about a dozen of them, at the eastern gate of the settlement. The schoolchildren walk alongside the jeep until they reach the western gate of the settlement, a journey of about 15 minutes on foot. After leaving the settlement, they finish the journey by themselves.
In the afternoon, when school ends at 1:00 pm, the soldier meets them again, and they make the return trip. The soldier does not leave his jeep unless Jewish settlers threaten the children, either physically or verbally.
“The soldiers are expected to intervene if an incident takes place and to notify the relevant bodies for additional measures to be taken,” an Israeli army spokesman told The Media Line.
Sometimes the soldiers are late or don’t come, Palestinians said. When that happens, the children take an alternative route through a valley—a journey that takes about two hours.
“Aside from being late or ignoring certain attacks, my biggest fear is trying to cross the flooded valley in winter time which could add another two hours to my trip as well as making me miss the first three classes of the day,” Yusuf, 13, told The Media Line. He asked that his last name not be used.
In 2015, Soujud Mahmoud Ibrahim Awad from Touba village was walking with her cousin, bringing food and water to her uncle, who was farming nearby. Masked assailants threw stones at the two girls, causing serious head wounds.
After six hours, it is time to start the trek home. The students leave the school and meet the soldier in his jeep at the settlement. After the escort through the settlement, they continue their walk home.
Reposted with permission from The Media Line.