Israeli buys Palestinian girl a new bike after border guards broke hers
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Israeli buys Palestinian girl a new bike after border guards broke hers

Sami Jolles says he felt prompted to help because incident reminded him of anti-Semitic encounter his father suffered in 1920s

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Anwar Burqan, an 8-year-old Palestinian whose bicycle was destroyed by two border guards in Hebron, tries out a new bicycle purchased for her by an Israeli man on August 17, 2016. (Lonny Baskin)
Anwar Burqan, an 8-year-old Palestinian whose bicycle was destroyed by two border guards in Hebron, tries out a new bicycle purchased for her by an Israeli man on August 17, 2016. (Lonny Baskin)

A Palestinian girl whose bicycle was taken and broken by Border Police officers earlier this month received a new bicycle on Wednesday that had been donated by an Israeli man, peace activist Lonny Baskin told The Times of Israel.

On August 2, two border guards were caught on film taking 8-year-old Anwar Burqan’s bicycle and putting it into nearby bushes. During the incident, the bicycle was badly damaged and could no longer be used, according to the family.

When Sami Jolles, a diamond merchant who splits his time between Israel and the United States, read about the incident he decided he wanted to help.

Burqan’s experience reminded Jolles of something that had happened to his father in Europe during the 1920s, when a group of anti-Semites attacked him and threw his bicycle into a river, he said.

Giving a little girl a new bicycle after hers had unfairly been destroyed was a way to “close that circle,” Jolles said.

On August 17, 2016, Sami Jolles stands with the bicycle he purchased for 8-year-old Anwar Burqan, whose own bicycle had been destroyed after border guards in Hebron took it tossed it into some bushes. (Lonny Baskin)
On August 17, 2016, Sami Jolles stands with the bicycle he purchased for 8-year-old Anwar Burqan, whose own bicycle had been destroyed after border guards in Hebron took it tossed it into some bushes. (Lonny Baskin)

Through a friend of his daughter, Jolles contacted peace activist Phil Saunders, in order to get Burqan a new bicycle.

Baskin, Saunders and Palestinian peace activist Ziad Sabateen delivered the bicycle — along with a “good lock” — to Burqan’s home in Hebron on Wednesday afternoon, Baskin said.

“She’s a shy little girl, but she was so appreciative; her eyes were shining,” he said over the phone on his way back from Hebron.

From left to right, Lonny Baskin, Phil Saunders and Ziad Sabateen pose for a picture with 8-year-old Anwar Burqan, whose bicycle was destroyed by two border guards in Hebron, on August 17, 2016. (Lonny Baskin)
From left to right, Lonny Baskin, Phil Saunders and Ziad Sabateen pose for a picture with 8-year-old Anwar Burqan, whose bicycle was destroyed by two border guards in Hebron, on August 17, 2016. (Lonny Baskin)

While his political beliefs did influence his decision to donate the bike — the treatment of Palestinians is often “shameful,” he said — Jolles said he was more driven to help Burqan because of the similarity to what had happened to his father nearly a hundred years before.

If it had been something else that was ruined, like an oven, “I wouldn’t have bought them a new oven,” Jolles said.

Jolles had already seen the pictures of Burqan on the new bicycle and shared them with his family, who he said were “overcome with emotion.”

“I think that my father would be proud of me,” he added

Burqan will share this bicycle — as she did with the one before — with her nine siblings, Baskin said.

Anwar Burqan, an 8-year-old Palestinian girl whose bicycle was destroyed by two border guards, smiles for a picture along with her father Amer, right, and three of her siblings in their family home in Hebron on August 17, 2016. (Lonny Baskin)
Anwar Burqan, an 8-year-old Palestinian girl whose bicycle was destroyed by two border guards, smiles for a picture along with her father Amer, right, and three of her siblings in their family home in Hebron on August 17, 2016. (Lonny Baskin)

In recent years the Burqan family has fallen on dire straits, after the father, Amer, had one leg amputated and lost use of his second after an accident on a work site, in which a 6-ton truck fell on top of him.

Amer’s legs were pinned under the vehicle for hours before it could be moved. Since then the family has mostly lived off charitable donations, Baskin said.

The family is trying to raise money for a wheelchair for Amer, he added.

Though the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department said the officers’ conduct in the July 25 incident was “inappropriate and unprofessional,” the investigators determined that it did not warrant criminal prosecution.

According to their attorneys, the guards told investigators that they confiscated Burqan’s bicycle to prevent her from crossing into the Jewish neighborhood of Hebron, which Palestinians are banned from entering, Haaretz reported.

The officers said they took her bicycle because they cannot speak Arabic and were afraid they would not get their point across.

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