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MITA'AM - A Review of Literature and Radical Thought, Edited by Yitzhak Laor


STEEPED : In The World of Tea. A Literay anthology



Occupying Hebron

Closing a school, abusing civilians at a check point, following orders, staying in a family's comandeered home, posing for trophy photos with enemy bodies, being the law, enjoying power, feeling ashamed, getting addicted to controlling people, dispersing a funeral, wanting to forget, not caring, the ease in which you actually do whatever you want to do unsupervised, the unbearable lightness of these things that happen. 12,643 words of testimonies

Shovrim Shtika - Breaking the Silence

30 Jun. 2004

Testimonies page 4:

Every day a six-man unit would cross over the roofs and enter a house. First they’d search the entrances and exits, order the entire family into a single room and get them to talk: ID cards, profession, begin to interrogate them. It also serves one of the army’s aims—to make its presence felt. I remember many of the interrogations, but I recall one in particular where we asked… we spoke with an older man who, unlike many of the others who say things like, “We’ve got no problem with Israel,” “We’re neither Fatah nor Hamas”… “All we really want is peace so we can work”… Usually when they say things like that you can see that they’re just looking at you. They’re looking at your weapon. They’re all scared, so it’s only natural that they act so defeated. But this man was not obsequious, and he spoke the truth: that his life was a living hell, and that he wanted us to get out already. He said that we are to blame for this entire situation, and all he wanted was for us to get out. I think someone asked him why he hated us, why he supports the opposition fronts. Why he supports killings. I don’t agree with the man’s opinions, but he told the soldier that he had entered his home just like that, and was humiliating him, undermining his dignity. And I looked at this man and said to myself: wait a minute, here is this man in his own home, and it made me think of my own family home, surrounded by a garden, and greenery, a kind of fortress surrounded by a hedge of lantana and hibiscus, and I thought what if someone were to burst into our house like that, entering through an upstairs window, and force my parents and my younger brother into one of the rooms and start interrogating us, questioning us, searching the entrances and exits, and treating us so patronizingly… If I had not received the kind of education I did, I think I would certainly support even … That is to say, this going into people’s houses, how can you relate to it as something separate? These are not people of a different kind. The men even physically look like my grandfather. … An elderly man, or an old man who has to beg you at the checkpoint to allow him to pass, who shows you an X-Ray and you have no idea why he's showing it to you, or the man who tells you that his brother in Bab al-Zawia is ill with asthma or some other disease and that he’s has to pay him a visit. That same person could be your own father, for whom you have the greatest respect, but do we really understand what respect is…

Its hard to say what I felt at that moment. On the one hand, I was stationed there, I didn’t choose to be there. On the other hand, I wanted to get the hell out of there. As an individual who considers himself a nice guy, a moral kind of guy... I said to myself, damn I’m really doing something here that I don’t believe in. I don’t believe in it 100%, and I’m putting myself in a position where someone wants to kill me because of it. The question is, where am I? Do I have no choice in the matter? In other words, should I refuse? Is refusal the answer? So there I was torn by the dilemma, pondering. I had lots of time eight by eight [eight hours on-duty eight hours off-duty] to think about it. The point is that I was faced with a crazy dilemma where I was torn between personal freedom and personal choice. Here lies the contradiction between the military, which is undemocratic and the state, which is supposed to be democratic. When you see that you are doing things which in your own home could not possibly happen and must never be allowed to happen, this is where you cross a certain line. Okay, so here you’re in a different state. That is to say, everything you have known until now, all the rules by which you and your own family conduct your lives, all that does not seem to count here.


Be it during the day or at night, whenever I feel like it, we choose a house on the map, according to the geographic position of our unit at the time. We feel like it, that’s the one we choose, we go on in. “Jaysh, jaysh… iftah al bab” [army, army, open the door] and they open the door. We move all the men into one room, all the women into another, and place them under guard. The rest of the unit does whatever they please, except destroy equipment—it goes without saying—no helping yourself to anything, and causing as little harm to the people as possible, as little physical damage as possible.

If I try to imagine the reverse situation: if they had entered my home—not a police force with a warrant, but a unit of soldiers, if they had burst into my home, shoved my mother and little sister into my bedroom, and forced my father and my younger brother and me into the living room, pointing their guns at us, laughing, smiling, and we didn’t always understand what the soldiers were saying while they emptied the drawers and searched through my things. Oops it fell, broken... all kinds of photos, of my grandmother and grandfather... all kinds of sentimental things that you wouldn’t want anyone else to see, wouldn’t want them infringing on your privacy, your home is your place.

There is no justification for this, it definitely should not be happening. If there is a suspicion that a terrorist has entered a house, okay, so be it. But just to enter a home, any home: here I’ve chosen one, look what fun, there’s a number on it in Arabic numerals that I can’t even read. I felt like going in there. We go in, we check it out, we cause a bit of injustice, we’ve certainly asserted our military presence… and then we move on.


So I was on patrol one day, it was the morning shift, and there was no curfew that day, which means we have less work, you don't have to go and close shops and stuff… And then at some point during our shift they told us that there was a curfew, suddenly, and that means we have to go into the Small Shalala [street] and into HaShoter Square and shut down all the shops and that's a nightmare. So we started doing it, we began from the Small Shalala, that's how we advanced, and shops are starting to… we shout "curfew" and "mamnu` tajawul," [there’s a curfew] and so on, and the shops start closing slowly. And then we get to the square and we are surrounded by scores of people and lots of commerce... you know, business is booming. So we get there and people start telling us, that's impossible, they told us there’s no curfew, and, like, there's nothing I can tell them, I tell them, "There is a curfew. Get lost." And they start shouting at me… and at some point things there… they weren't really paying too much attention to us and we decided… we threw a stun grenade. So there was mayhem and we started, like…people started, like, running. The operations commander arrived and he started yelling curfew and stuff… and that's it, we started… We took tons of ID cards from people and we detained them in HaShoter Square, we made a mess there to impose the curfew, and then an operations commander came and went on with imposing the curfew, with the turmoil. And then we left, we returned to the Shoter post, and then about a half an hour later they announce that there's no curfew. I felt like an idiot, you know, scores of people coming to plead with me, ask me, beg me, that they cannot live like this, and they try to talk to you immediately, and you’ve got nothing to say to them. And a half an hour later they tell you there's no curfew. Anyway, life there feels as if, you know, there's no life there, every other minute someone comes and pushes them this way and that, whichever way he wants.


As soon as they don't know where you are, and they just suspect something is up and they don't know what it is, that's even scarier, that's why at night you need to fire as many grenades into the air as possible. Or else make a lot of noise or yell in Arabic in the middle of the night. That's why there were times when we actually got up in the middle of the night, in some house that we captured, in the East Casaba, we took some man's house, and there were actually some nights when we got up at 2am, went out, took loads of grenades, different types of grenades that fit onto your weapon and make a terrible noise, and moved between the houses and shot and screamed, and made awful noises and all just to frighten the enemy… and that’s it. I don't know whether we made a few kids cry in the middle of the night or whether it really had some sort of psychological effect on someone who meant to attack us.


Well. This was following… There was a call-up one night, meaning we went in with two APCs [Armored Personnel Carriers], and we started driving towards Abu Sneina, this was after there had been too much shooting in town, meaning, the Arabs started shooting in the direction of the Jewish settlement and we fired back. Well, sometimes we used to go in there to demonstrate, when the shooting would get out of hand, we would simply go in, we'd go with the APCs pay a visit to Abu Sneina just to make our presence felt, do all sorts of things, shoot at some houses, just to intimidate them, so… I don't know… just so they wouldn’t try again. Anyhow, that night we went with two APCs, one of them belonging to the platoon commander, that's the one I was in, and another one following us, and what we did, simply, in order to deter them, we simply moved through Abu Sneina with two APCs and all we did was shoot, shoot…. We were shooting, we stopped by a house, we moved through a street, and we fired at houses, not at windows, we fired at all kinds of houses. And I remember I was like a slightly better shot, my task was to shatter streetlights. And I remember that I fired at car windshields, and one of the soldiers who was with me fired a rifle with a grenade launcher right into a shop, simply into a Palestinian shop, to blow up the shop. And all of this, for no good reason, I mean, deterrence and not one of us asked himself what he was doing in order to, actually, you know, by way of a response. I think… I remember myself that night, I really meant it when I said that it was me who fired at the streetlights, me who fired at the cars, because it was me, I mean, among all those soldiers, I was shooting. And I remember that not one of us, that night… all of us were happy that we got the opportunity to shoot at streetlights and cars, because there's nothing so cool. Nothing like hearing a streetlight blow to bits after you've taken aim at it. And you know, I remember us doing it with such determination and with such a smile, and, I don't know, I consider myself someone who actually did think of what he was doing during his army service, and tried to avoid doing such things, and, like, I remember where this reality managed to… how it managed to sweep me into doing those things without any… without conscience, without any thought, maybe, yes, afterwards, but what good is that. Simply with a shit-eating grin on my face. comment: Names and other details that may idengify individual speakers, or others they describe, have been ommitted from the public version of this text by the organizers, for reasons that have not been declared.