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Voting for the reunification of Jerusalem

Uri Avnery

Social activist

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You must be a fool if you’re not afraid

Uri Avnery - Social activist

At every demonstration there was an assault with tear gas and rubber bullets and sometimes with a water-cannon, too. That created a big problem for Rachel. Rachel Avnery was a coward. Not only was she not ashamed of it, on the contrary, she boasted about it. She thought that a wise person must necessarily be a coward, and whoever is not a coward is stupid, unimaginative and can't foresee what could happen. And she had surplus imagination. But her problem was more tangible: Rachel was ill with severe liver disease which remains incurable, and we didn't know when it started. She had problems and went through a long series of tests but nobody found anything and they had already begun to think that she was imagining things, until one doctor − not a specialist, a general practitioner − said: 'Let's do a liver test', and the simplest test soon found she had cirrhosis of the liver. She was treated by a wonderful doctor −  a wise, humane, international specialist named Dr Danny Shouval at the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem where we would go once every six months, then every three months. He would examine her, very calming every time, but he said: 'You should be careful about all kinds of things' and one of those things was tear gas: under no circumstances should she be exposed to tear gas. But Rachel wanted to film, and filming in Bil'in and avoiding tear gas just didn't go together. So occasionally, in violation of her doctor's instructions, she was exposed to tear gas. She photographed us and photographed me. There is a photograph of the water cannon knocking me to the ground. I had never been exposed to water cannons before. The anarchists − who were the hard core of the Jewish demonstrators in Bil'in − were trained. Once they saw that there was a water cannon they had a technique for joining hands and holding on to each other to become a single mass which even the water cannon couldn't budge. I had not been trained. I sat next to them, and then the water jet came and I swept me along for dozens of metres and Rachel photographed it. I have the photograph. And as a result of that − even though she tried to remain at a distance − Rachel was exposed to tear gas more than once. Once, a rubber bullet hit her in the thigh and the mark it made remained, I think, for three or four or five months. It is very hard, being hit by a rubber bullet, even though it's almost never fatal, it is fatal if it hits here. The army is supposed to use them at only a fixed distance, I forget what it is – 20 meters or so it seems to me, just not at the head. But the soldiers, you know, some are like this and some are like that.

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