Jaba (Lil), Sun 12.7.09, Afternoon
Atara/ Bir Zeit checkpoint:
"This isn't a checkpoint, it's an inspection post"- said the soldier that was trying to get rid of us.
When we reminded him that the Minister of Defense announced that there was no longer a checkpoint at that area, he replied: "Did the Minister of Defense also tell you that yesterday there were two armed men around here?"
No, the minister didn't tell me about that. But I myself was sure that at that moment I could see, not two, but seven armed men hanging around there.
"Make sure you take in a flock"- One soldier yelled to his colleagues.
When we arrived the first "flock" (six men) were being inspected: Their IDs were placed on the ground, from fear of making physical contact, their shirts were pulled up, their legs were exposed and the entire content of the vehicle was examined, all their luggage were emptied and shaken. Then the soldiers picked up their IDS, their details were given to some sort of a mysterious center, and only once the members of that flock were found "clear" or "un clear" they were sent on their way.
In the mean time the Palestinians that sat in their vehicles, stopped in hesitation, you could see the despise on their face. They didn't dare to drive on until they saw the soldier signaling them with this finger, that familiar signal that means "drive on". That signal was escorted by verbal text: "forward, forward... you ass...", "forward, forward, you son of a bitch..."
And then a new flock was taken in: a bus of Palestinians, full of men women and children.
- The men were the first to be taken out. The whole ritual started all over again. The young men, and especially Yusuf, the driver, appeared to be not as succumbed as regulations or custom would have it. They wouldn't conceal their ridicule towards the soldiers the whole time they were obeying their orders, they made things worse when they used provocative hand signs. The writing was on the wall, and the soldiers behaved according to the slogan of the Cellcom commercial: "What does each and every one of us what- to have a bit of fun", and boy did they have fun. It was the opening whistle of a macho game: the metal sound of the weapons being cocked, and someone called "Ho, Ho, Ho..." The two groups got mingled with each other, gas and shock grenades were taken into the soldiers' hands and place some where reachable: they all formed a packed cluster of men.
The commander arrived and ordered his soldiers to avoid physical contact with the Palestinians. Once again, a gap that constituted a "no man's land" stood in between the two groups. Once everything settled down, an angry and bitter soldier, that was unsatisfied with the result, approached Yusuf and made a promise: "I'm not through with you yet".
-Time grew longer and the hours passed. The answer from the secret services regarding the clearance of those people was delayed. Abdalla, a young and agitated man, wander around the place as though he owned it, and was rebuked. Abdalla didn't take notice of this reproach and kept on doing as he did, he was then sent to the thorny filed as punishment: "sit over there". He was also directed as to the specific posture his must sit in- his back was turned to his friends and he was looking at the distant horizon, while the whole time a soldier rifle was pointing at his back. He was to make sure he stayed in that very position even when his legs hurt and his bones stiffened.
- An hour and a half after this event started, either out of boredom of from his will that his soldiers have a nice time, the commander ordered that the women and children also be taken off the bus.
They now arranged another line up: the women were told to stand in a line, a crying baby was among them. They were ordered to place their IDs on the ground and to empty their bags.
The women, unlike the men, didn't ridicule or insult the soldiers. They ignored them while throwing their belongings from them with a deafening silence, anger and protest.
At that point the soldiers realized that they hadn't yet preformed a physical inspection on the men- each and every one of them was now inspected: shirts, shoes, belts, pockets...
What else? The uniformed men had a brainstorm and came up with the idea the Yusuf (the driver) should perform the "Neighbor Procedure". He was told to unload all the language, the shopping bags, and all students back packs- anything that was inside the bus. He was told to open, to shack, to brows- he had his job cut up for him: new close, personal belongings, books, note books, new shoe boxes, items that had been taken to a professional for fixing... it was a real and endless violation of privacy fest, and it was all done in the name of security.
Since no bombs were found in their belongings and as the belts on their waists were just that and nothing more, they were all sent back to the vehicle and their IDs were handed back. All of them, apart for Yusuf. After all they gave him their word... Yusuf was taken away to the other side of the wall that surrounds the pillbox, and the gate was locked with him inside.
The whole group sat silently inside the bus. The sat and waited. Then racket from inside the restricted area was heard: bashing, the cocking of rifles and loud shouting.
As though on signal, the men burst out from the bus's door, they ran with no shirts on towards the soldiers who were pointing their rifles at them, and yelled (in English): "Kill us! Kill us! We want to die, now! Bring our driver back".
The stood right in front of each other. Two groups of men. As equals.
The spokesman of the shirtless group, an elder man with gray hair, preached in the ears of the soldiers in bulletproof vests as they were still pointing their rifles in their at the other group, he summed up before them all the crimes and wrongs they have done.
Like the explosion of a volcano, an abscess that had been forming in the depth of these peoples' bodies, during the long years of occupation, the mutiny burst and flooded the place with blinding lava that light that good forsaken place from the darkness of night, right in front of the overwhelmed soldiers and before us, who were dazzled by the event.
There was no fear in their eyes of hearts.
Once the fear from the rifle had diminished, the upper hand of the armed side fades as well.
The weak were the powerful ones, and there was nothing but that moment. Such an essential moment. It was the essence of forty-two years of occupation and oppression, of preventions, humiliations and orders.
An ambulance had been waiting at the northern square (for an hour), in it was a 72 year old man with heart disease, he was being taken to Mokased hospital. At the parking lot on the other side of the checkpoint, an ambulance from the Red Crescent waited for him.
The ambulance drivers told us that they have been trying to get a permit for that man since the morning, but nothing had been happening. It didn't require much of us until we were told that he wouldn't be getting a permit: "there was no co-ordinations", now there is one of the IDF's most original euphemisms to: "the patient won't be treated where he deserves to be".
The explanation was that that man was refused passage by the GSS and: "what on earth did he think.... That he would just arrive at Qalandiya and he would be permitted to pass to Jerusalem?"
How much of a menace could a 72 year old man with heart disease be?
It was the third anniversary of the checkpoint, that had been placed there by sheer opportunism and which existence is no less them a sin.