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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 6:

The thing about these stories is that they’re a matter of daily routine, and there are lots more like them. And these stories were an integral part of my daily routine over a six month period of active assignment which was total, your whole life. It’s eight-by-eight. No day and night. It’s constant. And even when you’re sleeping, it’s very likely they’ll call you up, and you really live these events. I knew that as a soldier there was no… I didn’t agree with all these things. It really hurt me inside. There were many incidents that hurt even more than these. And I told myself that… my justification for being there was that afterwards I would take action to change it. The most serious problem meanwhile is that as a soldier who has not been there for a month now, I notice about myself that while two months ago that was all I thought about and I was burning up inside, that is, I really wanted to take action, I couldn’t live in that situation. It’s not that I was at my house surrounded by grass and neighborhoods with French streetlights and a car waiting outside… I was living in poverty, in my daily life… where people dig through the garbage, and there are mice everywhere, and rats, and it really bothered me. And now, much as I said it would go on burning inside me, I notice that gradually I’m starting to forget about it. And if at first I couldn’t enjoy a show calmly, or be with a girl, I couldn’t relax because I kept saying, just a minute, there’s someone in the… post now, or someone needs to do eight hours of duty now and he has someone sick trying to get out of the Casaba to an ambulance and he has to detain him for an hour. So now I notice that it feels less urgent to me, like the rest of the people in the country, who, after all, don’t live this reality, and it’s really easy for them not to think about it and to detach themselves, but the problem is still there.


There was another house called… that overlooks the entrance to Abu Sneina, at the time there was no IDF unit sitting inside Abu Sneina, today there is, so what the company commanders and two companies did was to take… two reinforced APCs once every week or so and go up there in a kind of armored caravan… to Abu Sneina. There’s a route that’s more or less… that’s the entrance to it, and then you go up to Abu Sneina and come down again to Gross Square. It was kind of like a violent patrol. I mean, they’d go in two reinforced APCs taking along... the APC equipment… they’d also take a grenadist, who launched detonated grenades, and that’s it. They’d go out on a kind of violent patrol, to demonstrate our presence. One night I was in… in that house, we got a report that they were coming in, everyone jumped to their posts so we could cover them so they wouldn’t get shot at from the rooftops or anything, because at the time there were a lot of armed men around… precision shooting, automatic weapon fire at IDF posts, at us. And then all of a sudden we heard an enormous explosion and everyone got scared, we thought something had happened, right away everybody looked into their sights, tried to see what was going on… and then one of the company commanders just said, “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s me. Somebody just parked their car here, so we launched a grenade at it. So he knows not to park here again.” Or suddenly you’d hear laughing over the radio, again, another explosion, we hear, “Good, tomorrow morning he’ll find his shop remodeled.” All kinds of stuff like that, you know, to make the IDF presence felt.


One incident I remember from Hebron that I want to relay, from the Abu Sneina neighborhood, we were driving the armored jeep and there was a curfew just then… During the curfew we ran into a line of cars, three-four cars all decorated, at dusk, and it was actually a wedding, a whole family going to a wedding. I was with the deputy company commander of the operations command in the jeep and as soon as he saw the wedding caravan, this glee: we’re onto something good here. I don’t know if glee is what I’d call it, but a sort of sense of come on, we can deal a good blow here, in terms of what he’s going to do. We get down out of the jeep and of course stop the car, people get out of the cars, Palestinians, dressed in their finest clothes, you see the groom, you see the bride, the father… as soon as they get out you can see the panic on their faces that just like that the happiest day of their life… something can turn sour. They get out of the cars and an argument ensues with the deputy company commander. He won’t let them go on, he wants to dismantle everything, to send them home, takes the car keys, and actually after they plead, the bride cries, the groom’s father, everyone there is really begging, you can see on their faces how worried they are for this significant day in their lives, and on the other side you can see the deputy commander looking at them and not seeing human beings. Just like that. Because when you come and see a wedding that’s going to start any minute, and it’s for real, the most important day in a person’s life, that he’s going to get married, and everything’s ready, you see them coming out with the baqlawas [pastries] in hand, and all the food, everything is ready, you see all of them dressed up, the kids, everything, and an entire family looking on this spectacle of an IDF officer taking their car keys and hanging them all out to dry there and canceling [the wedding], for me it was to see… how the IDF sees the Palestinian population.


When I served in Hebron, for the first time in my life I felt something different about being a Jew. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it, but I felt something a little different regarding what it is to be a Jew, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the ancestral city, it did something to my soul on the one hand. That was my initial feeling there. At first I really felt there, I don’t know if defending the state, but defending Jews who are part of the State of Israel, and a city where the controversy around it is, in my view, a little different from cities where there are Arabs, other cities, because it’s the city of the forefathers, and there’s the Tomb of the Patriarchs there and all that. But from day to day… the truth is, its not from day to day, it was there that I suddenly realized: I was standing at… along the worshippers route… route, and I was standing there with... It was a day when there was some terrorist attack. Suddenly, out of the blue, a group of about six Jewish women landed on us, with about six-seven girls, little girls, and simply started running around, started kicking stalls and turning them over, and we were just two people and we didn’t know what to do and they started going wild and spitting on Arabs and spitting at elderly people. There was Mohammad who… didn’t do a thing except just sit there, he was just there, he simply didn’t do a thing, and they just came and kicked him and spit on him and yelled at him to go away and overturned stalls. I remember we came to the worst moment, when one of the women simply picked up a rock and shattered a window of two meters by two meters, of a barber shop that was there. And she just shattered its front window to bits. A man comes out, and I simply find myself on the one hand trying to take the rock away from her so that she won’t throw it and shatter his window, and on the other hand defending her, so that they won’t beat the shit out of her, and suddenly I find myself facing a Palestinian and telling him, “Watch out!” I look up, and see a mountain of a man about two meters tall at least, and a 1.63 meter soldier in front of him and all he has to do is land a blow and knock me to the floor, but he won’t do it, because I’m armed and he knows he’ll really get it if he does that. So on the one hand you say to yourself fuck it, I’m supposed to guard the Jews that are here. On the other hand these Jews don’t behave with the same morality or values I was raised on. I reached a point in Hebron where I didn’t know who the enemy was anymore: whether it’s the Jew whose going crazy and I need to protect the Arabs from him, or whether I need to protect the Jew from the Arabs who are supposedly attacking…

There are a few things that stayed with me. One, I think my definition of a Jew has changed a little. I used to think that anyone who defines himself as a Jew is a Jew, as far as I’m concerned. Today I’m not so sure. After I saw Jews that… I don’t know if my definition of Jews even makes any difference with regard to the fact that… they’re also human beings, but they don’t act like… Jews who went through a holocaust, they themselves didn’t go through a holocaust, but I’m sure that some of them are from families that survived the Holocaust. If they’re capable of writing on the Arab’s doors “Arabs Out” or “Death to the Arabs,” and drawing a Star of David, which to me is like a swastika when they draw it like that, then somehow the term Jew has changed a little for me with regard to who’s a Jew. That’s one thing. Another thing that has stayed with me from Hebron? I think of myself as a little injured maybe, I don’t know. Not physically injured. More emotionally injured.


I admit that Hebron is not divisible into periods, for me, its like one long line. As far as I was concerned, I wasn’t sensitive enough to it at the time, to when curfews were imposed, when curfews were lifted. It only affected me when I would go on guard duty. All I knew was that before going on guard duty… I’d ask: is there a curfew? Is there no curfew? There’s a curfew? Cool, I’ll enforce it. No curfew? Cool, be on your way. Most of the time there was a curfew.


Once I was in... in Hebron, when from a gate near our post, that leads to the Casaba and from which it is forbidden to enter or exit, out came a man in his 50s or 60s with a few women and small children. I always think of him as the head of the family, without knowing whether the women with him are his wives, sisters, or what. He’s the one heading this clan coming at you, and you walk up to him and say in Arabic: "Waqif, mamnu` tajawul, ruh `al beit" [Stop, there’s a curfew, go home]. And then he starts to argue with you. They almost always argue. In short, go on, get the hell out of here, there’s nothing you can do about it. I don’t like doing this, but enough. Just go home. And you argue and argue, and he gets real bold, like he believes that he’ll get through in the end. He’s not trying to weasel his way through, he really believes that one way or another he’s in the right. And that confuses you. You remember that actually you’re in his favor, and you would like to let him pass, but you’re not supposed to let him pass, and how dare he stand there in front of you proud and all… and the argument goes on and on. Finally the patrol shows up, and from an argument of two soldiers with ten people, it becomes an argument between ten soldiers and ten people, and an officer who, naturally, is less inclined to restrain himself. In short, weapons are cocked, aimed with a hint, not straight at him, at his legs. Go on, “Get the hell out of here, enough talk!” And I was standing closest to him, about a meter or two from him. He was all dressed-up, wearing a suit and a kaffia, he looked really respectable. And I’m standing there with my weapon like this, close to the chest, trying to defend myself, protect myself. I don’t know, I was afraid that he was going to try something now. And really the atmosphere was charged, more than usual. Then he sticks out his chest, and both his fists are tightly closed. Then I… my finger moves to the safety catch, and then I see his eyes are filled with tears, and he says something in Arabic, turns around, and goes. And his clan follows him.

I’m not exactly sure why this particular incident is engraved in my memory out of all the times I told people to scram when there’s a curfew, but there was something so noble about him, and I felt like the scum of the earth. Like, what am I doing here?


That morning, a fairly big group arrived in Hebron, around 15 people or so, of Jews from France. They were all religious Jews, French Jews, they didn't really know Hebrew, and spoke half English, half Hebrew, and half French. They were in a good mood, really having a great time, and I spent my entire shift following this gang of Jews around and trying to keep them from destroying the town. In other words, this is what they were busy doing for hours. They just wandered around, picked up every stone they saw off the ground, and started throwing them in Arabs’ windows, and overturning whatever they came across. A gang of Jews from France simply came along, to the area we were responsible for, and did whatever they wanted. And there’s no horror story here… he didn’t catch some Arab and kill him or anything like that, but what bothered me about this story is that along came a gang of people from France, and I have no idea how in tune they are with what's going on here, and without… maybe someone told them that there’s a place in the world where you can just, I don't know… that a Jew can take all of his rage out on the Arab people, and simply do anything, do whatever he wants. To come to a Palestinian town, and do what ever he wants, and the soldiers will always be there to back him up. Because that was actually my job. I guess I could have tried to keep the rock from being thrown, something I can't do, of course. I couldn't run after them all the time, not successfully at least. But my real actual job was to protect them and make sure that nothing happened to them. And that’s how the job was also explained to us. Not to stop them. To try and stop them. But mostly to protect them. 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.