At the Qalandiya checkpoint
The same scene, walls in a single shade of gray, horizonless, the same procedures, the same bureaucracy, the same uniforms and the same guns.
The differences are in the human beings, in the victims, in the individuals.
These are people on the way to the hospital. Their hospital, not ours. By right, not by sufferance.
Two were detained at the entrance and waited. Two people made to suffer longer because of the procedures.
The first who arrived was the first to go through (because there’s order, and there must be order) – an ambulance from Jenin transporting a woman with a bleeding growth in her brain.
The ambulance waited more than twenty minutes at the checkpoint entrance. More than twenty minutes of waiting by a woman for whom a bleeding growth in the brain isn’t a minor matter. A physician accompanied her. “I’m a specialist at the Jenin hospital” he said to me after the woman had been transferred to the ambulance that took her to Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.
And the physician and I stood talking about ambulances and about waiting and about growths in the head and in the brain.
At the same time, but for a longer time, an ambulance that had arrived from Qalqilya. It carried a man with cancer in his head. He waited almost an hour at the checkpoint entrance. He was also sent to Makassed Hospital for an operation to remove the growth, after which he’ll be transferred to Augusta Victoria for treatment.
Nor, through all this, was it possible to overlook the sergeant in charge of everything and everyone who also raged and yelled and threatened to arrest me and file a complaint because I’m photographing which is prohibited and he has the authority and he can and he… Only a policeman was able to calm the sergeant. And when his back had disappeared it was as though he had left his voice behind, which provided the medical personal with a bit of comic relief as he shouted: “She’s the reason our buses get blown up!”… It was worth it to me.
When on Saturday I saw a photograph that Hussein Abu-Khadir had taken of the memorial, near his house, to his son Muhammad who’d been set afire, which was covered with snow, my heart ached again and remembered the mother’s face growing gray as the days and sleepless nights passed, and I remembered what the father had told me, and I knew the rain and snow have no power to extinguish that conflagration,
And these lines echoed inside me:
Rain falls on the faces of my companions
On my live companions, who
Cover their heads with the blanket –
And on the faces of my dead companions, who
Cover nothing at all. (Y. Amichai)
And even though I knew they’d driven to Jericho, I came and stood at the steps where he had been kidnapped and at the memorial to the boy and entered the Abu-Khadir family’s inner courtyard and saw on the wall the placard with the face of the boy who hadn’t grown since then and will grow no older.
And I spoke with neighbors, and saw the burned train stop, and heard that since that day the ground has been seething, that the train has been stoned, that regular and undercover police forces are always there.
And at the same time, right across town, the mayor’s bodyguard prevented the death of a young Palestinian who’d stabbed a Jew, when he seized and neutralized him and didn’t obey the order of the Police Minister to execute him.