Can trust be rebuilt?

The killing of a local resident by a police officer has left the village of Isawiya scarred and angry - and hoping for justice.

issawiya 88 (photo credit: )
issawiya 88
(photo credit: )
Two weeks after Samir Rivhi Dari (32), a resident of Isawiya, was fatally injured by a police officer during what was initially reported as a chase after car-thieves, the village is almost unbelievably quiet and peaceful, almost sleepy. To the visitor, it's hard to believe that just two weeks ago the village resembled a battlefield, exploding in rage. Residents burned tires and threw firebombs, and stoned the police. Protesters from the village also spontaneously organized a rally near Mount Scopus, during which two firebombs had hit the Hadassah hospital entrance (fortunately causing neither injury nor damage), but the rally soon deteriorated into rioting. The village authorities and the hospital employees alike were shocked. Hadassah Hospital provides medical services to the residents of Isawiya, and many of the staff know hundreds of residents personally. The riots were widely reported in the press but they were over the next day, so there is seemingly little to report. But the incident is still a vivid, painful memory for those who witnessed it - the employees of Hadassah Hospital, the residents of nearby French Hill, the students of Hebrew University and the residents of Isawiya who still have trouble accepting that Dari is really dead. The village of Isawiya sits along the steep eastern slopes of Mount Scopus, dramatically overlooking the Judaean desert. Strategically located, Isawiya, with a population of about 12,000 residents, borders the Hebrew University to the south, French Hill and Hadassah Hospital to the West, the Tzameret Habira neighborhood to the north, and the Jerusalem-Ma'aleh Adumim road to the east. The village has been here for hundreds of years and was incorporated into the municipality of Jerusalem after 1967. By most counts, with this setting and location, Issawiya should be thriving. It's not. Security forces have blocked off the pathway between the road leading to the University and into Jerusalem. Although most of the residents of the village hold Israeli identity cards, unemployment is high and the villagers are poor. Violence, drugs, and petty crime are on the rise. For the most part, the village has remained quiet and, as reported in In Jerusalem (Planning Cooperation, Jan. 25), has cooperated with several Israeli organizations to produce an updated development plan for the village and its environs. Police initially said that they had shot Dari because, when they caught him trying to break into a car, he tried to run the policemen over. However, by the next day, senior officers in the police investigations department were acknowledging that the shooting was unjustified. The results of an autopsy performed at the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine revealed that Dari had been shot in the back. So while it seems that life in Isawiya has returned to normal, under the surface it remains clear that to rebuild trust and faith will require concerted efforts on the part of everyone. Yet Darwish Musa Darwish, the head of the local council of Isawiya, says emphatically, "There is no justification for the killing of innocent people nor for the violence that erupted in Issawiya." He continues, "Those who led the rioting were teenagers, under the age of 15. No adults supported the vandalism. We are especially sorry about what happened in front of Hadassah Hospital. The Islamic religion specifically forbids us to harm any hospital or clinic. The doctors and nurses in Hadassah take care of us in our hour of need and we are deeply sorry for their distress." Darwish emphasizes his assurance "that what happened in Is-sawiya was a one-time thing, not an 'Intifada-Isawiya.' We understand that coexistence in this border area is crucial for everybody." Darwish and other villagers initiated a series of meetings with residents of French Hill. "We met with our Jewish neighbors from Bar-Kochba Street and agreed to work together to rebuild the trust. I can tell you that they are not afraid to enter Isawiya anytime - day or night." Rabbi Moshe Tutnauer, a resident of French Hill, was also one of the initiators of that meeting. "I have known Mr. Darwish and his wife for seven years," Tutnauer says."We are good friends, we attend each other's social events, our children and grandchildren know each other." Recalls Tutnauer, "During this meeting one of the participants raised a question: Why can't Isawiya be like Abu-Ghosh, a place where people go to enjoy themselves, visit restaurants, etc?" After discussing the situation in Isawiya and the political conditions in the area, Darwish offered to take the Jewish residents on a unique tour of Isawiya. The event is planned for the near future. But for the relatives of Samir Rivhi Dari, the return to daily routine may not be so easy. They warn that if the officer who killed him is not punished, "it will lead to a disaster." "Samir was loved by all," says Muhammad Rivhi Dari, Samir's older brother. "As the owner of a bus company he used to drive our kids to school, everybody cared for him a great deal. "Samir was killed for nothing, really nothing. He was shot in his back and now I have to explain to his kids that he is not coming back." He complains that the family has not been in contact with the police or any other authorities, and that they do not know what the status of the investigation is. "We have heard that the killer is walking around free and that he is still continuing at his job. This cannot be happening. He cannot go home and be with his kids if Samir can't. "We addressed a petition to the Interior Ministry and the police, demanding that the killer be punished, but we have not yet received a response," he says. In response to In Jerusalem's queries the spokesman of the Department for Internal Police Investigation reported that "the police officer has been notified that manslaughter charges will be brought against him and that he will have 30 days to demand a hearing."