I write these words back in my home in Los Angeles,
the latest Israeli operation in the Gaza strip continues
to kill innocent Palestinians including many children,
demolish homes, and create hell for a large population.
This afternoon, peace and justice groups in Los
Angeles will demonstrate in front of the Israeli
consulate. On September 29th, the day the operation
began, and before we found out about it, the following
took place in the West Bank:
funeral, a dog bite, an arrest, and a truckload
full of life:
ambulance carrying the dead body of Sa'al Jabara
is to pass through the Hawara checkpoint at 1:00
in the afternoon. This Palestinian taxi driver was
shot at close range two days ago by a Jewish settler,
and now his body is transported from the morgue
in Tel Aviv to the burial grounds in the village
of Salem. Four of us women from Machsom (checkpoint)
Watch are there to assure the ambulance is let through
without delay. Once at Hawara, we split into two
groups, D.B and N.S. go to the south checkpoint,
A.C and myself to the north one. Four ambulances
are in line for a long time on the north side, not
the one carrying the body. A.C rushes to the soldiers,
and in less than ten minutes the ambulances are
let through. "Why did you keep the ambulances
in the sun for so long?", she asks the soldiers.
ambulance carrying Sa'al Jabara's dead body arrives,
and under the supervising eyes of A.C the soldiers
let it through. The insignia on the ambulance indicates
it's been donated by a Los Angeles organization.
The four of us then, with D.B. driving, take another
road, a settlers' road, to the checkpoint into Salem,
to see that the ambulance is let through there.
D.B. tells us Sa'al Jabara has seven children, two
of them blind from birth. "Who will look after
them now?" she asks, "the settlement of
Itamar, the home of the murderer, - WHO IS FREE?"
D.B. and N.S. were at the south checkpoint they
came across Hallil, a young Palestinian man who'd
just been bitten by a settler's dog. His hand was
badly bleeding. D.B arranged for him to go to a
clinic nearby and got the soldiers to promise they'd
let him through upon his return. D.B. took Hallil's
cell phone number. "The settlers' dogs are
trained to bite Palestinians," D.B. says as
she drives, speculating, outrage in her voice.
the distance, stretching peacefully on the slopes
of the mountains, is Nablus, its white minarets
against the blue sky, the city blending into the
landscape. I want to take a picture for my friend
Nidal, a Nablus born Palestinian now living in Los
Angeles. I met Nidal at a large demonstration in
front of the Federal building in Los Angeles in
the spring of 2002, in protest of the Israeli incursion
into Jenin and other West Bank cities. "Weren't
your parents ashamed to come from Europe and take
our homes?" Nidal asked me then, when we were
first introduced. His question still rings in my
ears. "It's not a good idea to stop on this
settlers' road to take a picture", D.B. says.
the checkpoint into Salem we see the ambulance from
afar. It was let through and is now driving towards
a procession of cars. The villagers are out joining
the funeral, the voice of the Muezzin rising from
a Salem minaret reaching us over sunny hills and
valleys. We cannot go to the funeral, it's in an
area restricted to Israelis. D.B. says she'll return
in a day or two to console the family. "I'll
walk through the fields," she explains. She
then drives us to the site of the murder. The point
in which a narrow gravel road for Palestinians meets
the main highway, - for Israelis only. We stop the
car. Maybe it's our way of paying respect to the
at the checkpoint into Salem the lines are long.
It's a usual hot day. Three school boys with books
in their hands stand for inspection in front of
a soldier. The soldier asks to see their books.
"Why?" A.C. questions, "what do you
have to see their books for?" "It can
be material of incitement," the soldier declares.
"Material of incitement!?!" A.C. explodes,
and pointing her finger at the barrel of the soldier's
rifle, which, as always is aimed at the Palestinians
in front of him, she states to his face: "THIS
IS MATERIAL OF INCITEMENT."
soldier flips out, jumps out of his barricaded spot,
aims the gun at the four of us, shouts "The
checkpoint is closed!" and tell us we are under
ID numbers are taken, military superiors and the
police are called in. It takes them a long time
to show up. When the superiors arrive they videotape
us. When the police arrives they take a report from
A.C, the only one they can arrest under the clause:
"Interfering to a public servant on the job."
All this takes hours. In a way I am glad to experience
what Palestinians experience on a daily basis, -
even if for an iota. The next day I have to fly
out of Israel. I wonder if they'll stop me at the
airport now that they have my ID number and picture.
I wonder how many Palestinians lost their flights
because of the checkpoints. All awhile D.B. is in
communication with Halil via cell phone. By now
he's back from the clinic, in pain, and detained
at Hawara. D.B.'s focus is on releasing him. She
calls anyone she can, the military liaison dealing
with Machsom Watch, the military radio. But to no
avail. It's two or so hours since we've been detained,
and since Hallil has been detained. We speak among
ourselves. "Getting angry is a privilege,"
I say, "We don't have the privilege to get
angry at the soldiers
. it's counter productive."
But as I write these words, I feel, maybe I am wrong.
Maybe A.C.' pronouncement that "rifles are
material of incitement" are exactly the words
that had to be spoken.
our detention we are forbidden to do our job. "Stand
here and dont talk to us," the soldiers
order. Many Palestinians passing through the checkpoint
stop by us: "Ahalan (hello)", they say,
some smiling at us, some shaking our hands, "Shukran
- (thank you)". "It kills me when I see
such politeness and gratitude," D.B. says.
A large truck packed to the rim with furniture and
home appliances approaches. The driver, his wife
and four small children are relocating to a new
home in a nearby village. The soldiers reroute the
truck to the side of the road where the sun blazes
and ask the driver to take everything out of it.
The man asks for our help: "I have a refrigerator
and a stove, how can I take it down?." One
of his children fell off and his forehead is bruised
and swollen. Though we are not to speak to the soldiers,
we do, to one who seems kinder. Despite orders from
his officer, the soldier tends to the matter. The
Palestinian father of four thanks him.
A.C.'s investigation is over, she's taken to the
Ariel police, and the three of us are released from
detention. On the way to pick her up, from this
settlement which is more like a city, we stop at
Hawara. Hallil is still there along with a large
number of other detainees. His hand is bandaged.
I hold my hand on his bandaged hand to comfort him.
I speak to another detainee, there for three hours.
"I am amazed at how patient you all are in
all of this
. if these were Israelis detained
here, I don't know what they would do, they'd
The Palestinian detainee does not let me finish
my sentence. "Don't say that," he insists,
"there's many good Israelis, I have many Israeli
the sun is setting Hallil and the others are released.
Despite his pain, humiliation, insult, he's so polite
and grateful. D.B. offers to drive him to his village.
He crosses the checkpoint where he's allowed to
walk, and we drive where he's not allowed. When
we meet on the other side he tell us he'd met someone
to drive him to his village. "Go home,"
he says, "I don't want to take more of your
time, it's the eve of Sukkot, (Jewish holiday,)
- go to your families."
in Los Angeles, (I was not stopped at the airport
in Israel,) I wish I was there at the checkpoints.
Since they exist, "the gates of hell"
as D.B. calls them, I want to be there and do the
little that I can
it's so tangible. And maybe
I, we, here in the big wide world, can do something
about it too