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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 5:

There’s a very clear and powerful connection between how much time you serve in the territories and how fucked in the head you get. If someone is in the territories half a year, he’s a beginner, they don’t allow him into the interesting places, he does guard-duty, he’s not the one to… all he does is just grow more and more bitter, angry. The more shit he eats, from the Jews and the Arabs and the army and the state, they call that numbness but I don’t… maybe it’s a heightening of the senses, like getting drunk… because serving in the territories isn’t about numbness, it’s a “high,” a sort of negative high: you’re always tired, you’re always hungry, you always have to go to the bathroom, you’re always scared to die, you’re always eager to catch that terrorist. It’s a life without rest. Even when you sleep, you don’t sleep well. I don’t remember even once sleeping well in Hebron. At home I’d arrive, fall asleep, get up—wow, that was some sleep! It doesn’t need to be a long sleep. It’s simply an experience that no human being should have. It fucks with your head. It’s the experience of a hunted animal, a hunting animal, of an animal, whatever…


I remember an incident when there was shooting, I’m not sure whether the shooting was from Abu Sneina toward the Jewish neighborhood, or from the Jewish neighborhood toward Abu Sneina , maybe it was an exchange of fire, I don’t know exactly who was shooting at who. It was early evening … we got an order over the radio… that from now on the city is a to be a ghost town. Meaning everybody is to get in their houses, and we start firing at “locations,” which are points from which shots were fired at one time, or are suspect and could be used as firing points. I remember that we emptied magazines all night long, tons of ammunition, and I remember that I personally fired on an empty school, or empty windows or streetlights, just as a deterrent, just to instill fear. It was like target practice, but with real targets. And this horrified me, because… it wasn’t justified, the quantity. If they want to deter, I think it was a bit more than a deterrent, it was grossly exaggerated.


I had a friend who carried a weapon equipped with a grenade launcher, and everybody with a launcher got ammunition for dispersing demonstrations. [And he] got lots of tear gas grenades, and he really liked to fire this gas, so he would also steal them from other guys who were equipped with gas grenade launchers, and he would fire them whenever he came on duty and before he went off. He would simply fire on groups of people who were just standing around and talking, to see them running and coughing, he got a kick out of it.

Q: How did the guys in his unit react to that?

I don’t know, even the ones who were bothered by it didn’t lay into him about it or… I don’t know, everybody just took it as normal.


I remember a post called… and it was manned by the Sahlav company [military police unit], and it was a post in the middle of the street. There really was a pharmacy there, that’s why they called it The Pharmacy, and they would simply stand there and stop people, which was legitimate, check their papers and stuff. And somehow, in the evening and at night, there was always mayhem. So, from talking to soldiers: how come there’s always trouble at your post, and word gets around, a rumor circulated, one of their soldiers told me that one day they were bored and wanted some action, so they backed up a few meters inside to where they couldn’t be seen, and he goes: “We slammed two or three bullets into the concrete blocks of the post, to leave marks, we reported that we were being fired at, and we started to shoot. We started throwing stun grenades and all kinds of shit.” They were shooting there for no reason.


The thing that I remember that affected me emotionally the most from my time in Hebron, was when we had just arrived there. I was on guard at our post, when suddenly, from one of the small streets, a settler girl shows up and shouts at me very urgently: "Soldier, soldier, come quickly, there's an Arab here who's attacking a girl." I get very alarmed and advance with my weapon cocked. The scene that unfolds is of an Arab with his two children, he's trying to protect them from another settler girl who's throwing stones at them. I blew my fuse and starting screaming at her: "What are you doing, what's going on here," and I'm torn between the girl who's throwing stones and screaming that he's an Arab and he should be killed, and that they shouldn't be here, and the father, poor guy, who sort of says with his helpless eyes, "We're used to it, we've been here a long time now, it's alright."


Eight hours at the… post, it's hard, real hard, no fun. I was with… and myself, and the three of us stood at the post. It was a Saturday when the company commander wasn't there, so we felt less constrained and more free, we knew they wouldn't inspect our balls. Our deputy company commander was there that Saturday, and we got really, really bored, and started talking, trading war stories, who had already thrown a stun grenade, and who hadn't, who used tear gas, who shot, who hadn't shot, things like that, and we discovered that… had never thrown a stun grenade. So we decided to blow-up an incident, so as to throw a stun grenade. We threw a glass so it would break and shatter, reported that an empty bottle was thrown at us, and asked permission to throw a stun grenade. The operations command showed up, looked at the area, and said there was no need to use a stun grenade, they checked the area where we reported that the kids were and, of course, the kids weren't there. The operations command moved on, and we were pissed off that we hadn't thrown a stun grenade because we were still bored and nothing happened except that the operations command came by and helped us pass five more minutes of our shift, and we still had something like four-and-a half hours to go, only half our shift had passed, and we decided that we wanted to throw that grenade, because we were really bored and wanted to do something. We started over, and this time we didn't ask permission to throw a grenade,… just threw it. It's not that I put the blame on him, we were all there, and I gave him the grenade and explained to him how to throw a stun grenade, and that's it, he threw the stun grenade towards a group of children that were far away, but they were frightened and ran away.


Blowing up a house in the Casaba where two terrorists were staying, we entered the Casaba that night, took families out of the houses, and moved them away. At a certain stage it was decided that from one point onward some people could go back home, to a certain building. Four people went in; still outside were a three year old kid and his older brother, aged seven or eight or maybe even ten. It got tense, soldiers were shouting that the kids should get in the house, we were about to begin, or something like that. A senior officer showed up, stood next to me and started shouting at the two kids to get in the house. The mother of the little kid came out and yelled at him to get in quickly, he snapped out of it and ran in, his big brother was a bit… sort of froze on the spot, he didn't understand. At a certain point the senior officer stood there and started screaming: "kid, go home, get into the house.” The kid didn't respond, still frozen on the spot. The officer raised his weapon, held it savagely, turned on the laser and started… pointing the light on the kids face, on his body, all over, screaming "get in, get in." Some of the neighbors shook the child and pushed him in the direction of the entrance, and on his way, just before he went in, he passed between me and the senior officer, and the officer just… wham! Slapped him from behind, a serious blow from the hand of a senior officer, and that's it, the kid sort of crawled in, and his mother closed the door. The same senior officer lit a cigar, and then we heard the explosion.


I personally, sort of had this inner process, which made me kind of confront myself. I found myself in situations that I didn't know how to cope with. It had me checking myself all time to see how I held on to my values, how low I could go, because once it becomes a routine, you reach a situation where you can't control it, it's your routine, it's your day-to-day, you just get orders and you carry them out without giving them a second thought, it's like, you're at your post and you say to yourself, "Shit, today I don't mind getting killed, like, today I… don't mind getting killed, it's my duty to be here and that's what I’ll do."

Q: Simply burns into your consciousness…

Yes, exactly, you just become like a robot, I don't know how to explain it. There's a stage where… either routine or fatigue when you no longer have the strength to be patient, you have no strength to… Someone comes and throws a remark which he shouldn't like, "What do you want from me?" which is legitimate in his opinion, and even in my opinion, that person lives there, you know, it not… It's a street where they're allowed to pass, and a soldier comes and stops him and checks him and searches him and his kids are there and his family is there, and its humiliating for him, and there's a stage when you just don't care anymore, old man, not old man, you check them all…


If there was any shooting or any chance of anything happening then, with the permission of the company commanders or one of the platoon commanders, we would get into an APC [Armored Personnel Carrier] and simply go, one or two APCs, towards Abu Sneina, the goal was deterrence. In my opinion, there was no real potential there for capturing someone or anything like that. We’d go up to Abu Sneina with coverage, to all kinds of spots in the area. What I remember from those incursions into Abu Sneina … deterrent firing at cars, alleyways, shops, without any particular target. Go in, make a lot of noise, get out. I think we were part of a system, and our judiciousness didn’t work very well. It worked very well when it came to basic humanity towards humans, I think, especially in our company, but not when it came to the little things, at least the things that are little to us, but apparently aren’t so little. Whether it’s going in and maybe escaping our daily routine, and instead of doing eight-by-eights [eight hours on-duty eight hours off-duty] maybe getting a little action, going up, shooting a little. There was no concept behind it, as I see it, that we were actually going up there to make an arrest or anything. 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.