Reporter covering Amona finds own children protesting expulsion of Jews
‘I found myself broadcasting from Amona and seeing my children – and I can’t hold back my tears.’
Shabtai Bendt, reporter for Walla!, went up the mountain to cover the Amona expulsion – and was surprised to find his own two children Rachel and Yehuda fighting against the destruction of the village.
In a personal column Bendt shares with his readers the conflicting feelings between his journalistic work on the mountain and concern for the safety of his children. “I girded myself with the journalistic regalia, complete with the headphone and microphone, and began to work – all the while the constant grating at the back of my thoughts: ‘What’s happening with the children?’ To my great relief, out of the corner of my eye I saw Rachel walking around the outpost quite a bit, so I felt a little in control, but as for Yehuda – neither she nor I had any idea what was going on with him. After the forces arrived and entered the outpost, the loudspeaker announced for everyone to enter their homes and barricade themselves, and I was looking for a house to enter and cover from the inside.
“But then, to my surprise, I found Yehuda in the house among the dozens of protesters. We exchanged glances, but it was important for me to give him space and not pester him with questions and arguments and such. At first they just sat and sang, but when the troops approached, I noticed that he and the young man next to him had handcuffed themselves to each other. I panicked, but probably due to the fact that I was busy all the time reporting – I succeeded in not get getting too stressed out.
“After half an hour the forces began banging on the door and within minutes they burst into the building. In all the chaos occurring inside, and because of the pressure I was under, I went on describing what was happening as the photographer focused on the evacuation rather than turning the camera on me. This helped me to continue to cover the event but also to sneak glances at my son every few seconds when I could, to follow him closely.
“Soon the police began to pull the protesters out one-by-one and remove them from the area. Yehuda was deep inside the house, and I figured it would not end soon. Despite my desire to stay inside until the end, it was not possible. In the middle of the eviction the media were removed from the house. Every so often I looked in the window to broadcast a description of what was happening inside, and to check on him.
“Afterwards I was asked to move to a different house and fortunately, he was close to it. I found myself transmitting briefly on the events next door and running over every few minutes to check on his situation. Most of the time the police would not let me near the window, but when finally it was possible, I could barely hold back my tears: Yehuda was lying on the floor with one hand cuffed to his comrade-in-protest and with the other hand holding a book of Psalms, shouting verses and crying inconsolably. I tried to call out to him, to tell him I was nearby, but it didn’t work because the police wouldn’t let me get close.
“I went running between our transmission post and the window where he’d barricaded himself in the house and when his cries became overwhelming, and I felt he was falling apart, I managed to slip over to the window nearest him, and I called him and gave him my hand in hopes that he would be strengthened at least slightly from that, until I was hustled away from the window again.
“Meanwhile, the control team continued calling for me in my headset; they wanted to come back to me in the broadcast so I went on with work. The next time I slipped over toward the house Yehuda was lying on the ground outside the house, with five or six police officers standing over him and trying to make him get up. Something inside me told me that if I didn’t get involved, he’d end up getting arrested. I explained to Control that I need a two-minute break, tuned out and ran toward him. I turned to the female officer who was next to him, introduced myself and asked: ‘Please give me two minutes, I’ll try to convince him to get up and leave,’ adding incoherently, ‘This is my son’.
Her expression did not change for the better in light of the strange information I’d presented before her, but after a few seconds she asked the police to move back a little. I hugged him and tried to envelop him with my arms, and convince him to get up and leave:
“You’ve fought according to your faith, you’ve done what you can; what a shame it would be for you to get arrested now. It certainly will not help you or the struggle in which you believe,” I said. But he, with a cry of genuine pain, insisted. “I cannot leave of my own volition,” he declared, and I realized that I had to let go.
“…. After another long hug – during which I told him I loved him and I begged him to calm down and be proud of himself, that he went with what he believed in to the end – I returned to the broadcasting post.”
Bendt concluded: “Most importantly, my dear children, I want to say: I’m proud of you, I’m proud that you’re choosing your way and are willing to fight for it while maintaining clear boundaries for your struggle. I promise I will always be by your side even if we do not always agree and think the same thing”.