taxi-van drivers, residents of Beit Sira village, near the concrete
slabs that block all entry to the villages and prevent their residents
from traveling Road 443 that has been paved on their land.
We got out of Tamar's car. Concrete slabs block the road. Behind them
stand taxi-vans. Men are seen leaning, some smoking, idle or so it seems
at first. An army jeep stands nearby, closed and threatening, soldiers
inside. Stark Occupation embodied right in front of us. Blocked
villages. Unemployment. Armed soldiers and power and over-privilege. And
other Israelis speed along the apartheid road in full view of injustice,
not wanting to know about it, not caring.
There was one near the checkpoint, the soldiers called him and he
escaped in this direction. Several voices overlap, telling us. "Then the
soldiers came, asked who this is. The coffee vender here told them I
don't know, don't know him, he's from another village. Now you see what
they did to him?" Pointing to the ground. "They spilt his coffee. And
hit him. Poor guy. No food. He doesn't make even ten or twenty shekel a
day. He can't work inside Israel. Blacklisted. Why did they do this to
him? He has a fractured arm and metal plates in his leg… Disabled. They
spilt all his stuff on the ground so he won't earn a thing… The guy
they're chasing is probably a worker. That's why he ran away from them.
Maybe he put his bag here. All the workers come here because the coffee
vender sits here all the time. So the soldier says, whose bag is this?
You must know who it is. He said I don't know. Then they said you must
not smoke. No talking. Shut up. And finally they beat the people here.
And spilt everything. And took the guy. His leg with the plates and his
arm in a cast. They wanted to handcuff him but his arm is broken. He
told them that. And the soldier says he doesn't care."
They took him over there, now he's next to the checkpoint.
Things are still strewn all over the ground. Everything happened just
now. "Want a cigarette?" No thanks, I said. The force of reality on the
one hand, and the disturbing laconic way in which it is told. Not
laconic. Matter of fact. Strange.
It's those soldiers there that did it? We pointed to the jeep nearby.
Yes, those soldiers.
Minutes after we arrived with our camera, we film them. One of them gets
out, an officer, and says we must not film. We said we may and went on
filming him. He got back in the jeep and they drove away.
Did you see how they ran because they're being watched?
Some of the faces are flushed, perhaps they were running away from the
soldiers and just got back, maybe it had just happened, maybe they are
concerned about the coffee vender… "I was just reversing the cab," says
A., "when they came. The soldier approached me, opened the door. Went
like this with his leg on the car. And the car was moving. He caught me.
I said, wait until the car stops. Come here with me, he yelled, and
signaled handcuffs. I said, no way you're going to do this. There were
four soldiers. They all came to me. Stand. Shut up. I refused. This was
about five minutes before you got here.
When they saw the camera they ran. Because now someone is after them."
They went over to the trees, someone else says, and we all look at where
he is pointing. They went to the village now. Look over there. And we
could – barely – see a jeep far by the trees on the hillside. And a
trail. Then there were sounds. It took a moment to realize what they
Bullets. Don't you hear?
They're at the entrance to Beit Sira. Not inside yet, someone else says.
Maybe they're shooting in the air.
Some long, terrible moments of shooting, and then the shooting stopped.
This place where we stood and talked is the blocked access road to Beit
Sira and Kharbata and Beit Liqya and other villages from road 443, the
road that used to serve traffic to Ramallah and everywhere else for the
villages of this entire area. For several years now they have been
forbidden to use it. This means that instead of getting to Ramallah –
the regional urban center – in ten or twenty minutes at the most, they
must drive for an hour and a half through six villages, on potholed
roads over bumps and ditches.
It means that there must no longer be labor pains or dying or heart
attacks for roads are blocked, and lengthy, and dangerous. The short,
smoothly-paved highway is strictly for the over-privileged. Two value
systems, two road systems and different civil rights and a different
right to life.
Harassment has only increased ever since they appealed to the court with
the help of an attorney appointed by the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel, in an attempt to lift the ban on using this road (that was paved
on their land, which they had not sold, which was confiscated from them
with the absurd and cruel pretext that the highway was being built to
answer their needs).
Yes, there were always harassments, but lately it happens all the time.
Sometimes everyday, and especially at night, sometimes once a week the
soldiers invade villages, shooting, sometimes in the air, sometimes
teargas, sometimes just making noise to frighten people.
It's to frighten the children, says A. That's why they enter. A. has
seven children, he says. So at night they came, last week, stuck
everyone in a corner, in the middle of the night. They were already
asleep. The little children are afraid. And they throw teargas. At the
children too. It's too hard, he says. Too hard. If you see my kids,
you'll cry. They're little. Two-years old. Seven-years old… They can't
sleep. Sometimes they come every day. Once they close the village
streets, no one is allowed outside.
A young man, maybe 30-years old, perhaps a bit
older, suddenly interrupts. His face is fierce and withdrawn. After we
heard him, we understood.
I have a sick child, he will be dying soon… They closed the roads at
ten. Said no one was allowed in the street. Curfew… And the child is
ill. I told the soldier, let me out of the house, to get the doctor. I
said, I'll be back in ten minutes. Here's my ID, keep it. He said, no. I
beg you, I said, he'll die. The child will die.
Let him die at home, he said.
He said I must not go out, you see. My child is ill. These soldiers are
all bastards. A small child should die at home? I got back home. Took a
drink of water. Sewed my mouth. What shall we do? They closed the
entrance there. Said it was forbidden… He's sick here, his heart. Twelve
years old. Needs treatment. They said, don't come out of the village. I
took him in the morning. I waited until 4a.m., until they left the
village. Then I took him.
You understand? He told me, let him die at home. My child.
And then he was quiet for a moment. Stands like a man with his gun, he
continued. Lucky for them they have their guns. If they didn't, I'd take
all ten of them and stick them in the mud. Throw them on the garbage
And we were all silent for a moment. Because in the sea of things, of
injustice, abstract and tangible, his small son, so ill, took up all the
space, and the imagination, and priorities, and we waited until his gaze
subsided, and we continued.
It's these soldiers here. From the Checkpoint. From here. All the time.
They answer our question.
Sometimes soldiers come at midnight. Yesterday they came into the
village at ten in the morning. Caught a ten-year old boy. Began to beat
him with a stick. Just yesterday.
At night they cannot sleep. Afraid, says a slightly older man.
Everything is forbidden. Don't talk. Turn off the engine. Don't want to
hear you… As if we're not human.
Voice after voice, they tell about the incursions, about the children
who wet their beds at night, about how in Kharbata soldiers came in at
night and shut people in one room while they looked for money and took
it, too, house after house, and how hard it is, and how much easier life
used to be.
First of all, this road is land taken from our village, says H. In
Israel when they come to pave a road through someone's property they do
things for them and they pay compensation. We don't want to be paid,
just open the road, let us use it by law. I don't want compensation for
my land. I want to use the road… to get to Ramallah… It just makes
people suffer, all of this. They suffer.
Two people died in my cab at the checkpoint because they wouldn't let us
through, said someone who had kept still until then. Severe-looking,
anger tightening his eyes. They were ill, in my cab, he continues. And
the soldiers said we couldn't get through. Let him die in your car, the
He studies history in the Open University, he told us. He wants to know
everything. Because it's all about history. I haven't been in town for
five years now. Only here. We want things back as they used to be… The
Israeli is permitted to move, and I am not? It is simply South Africa
here. Separate places. Going out separately. At the beach separately.
Same thing here. It's now my fourth or fifth or sixth year of not going
anywhere. This is life?
People are being too pressured. Then they… What can you do. People will
go crazy. We want to live. The soldiers keep pressuring people. If you
pressure someone too long, what will he do? Blow himself up. Go crazy.
Even if Israel's point of departure were not blatantly false and
immoral, namely if the entire policy of oppression and restriction and
dispossession and pressure were really a consequence of terrorist
attacks, even if we assume that at the absence of terrorism Israel would
not have exercised such discriminating and brutal apparatuses – from the
individual Palestinian's point of view, there is absolutely no
connection between these accusations and himself. He cannot possibly
conceive why he is not allowed to use the road by which he could access
the spaces of his life, or freely cross the checkpoint. What has all
this got to do with him? Nothing, really.
He did not want his picture taken and we didn't. He is in his late
twenties. His forehead bears a fresh wound. He too was beaten by those
soldiers, earlier. He has just recently lost his work permit for the
Mevo Horon colony, so he sits idle at the blocked entrance to Beit Sira
village, his village, with his private car, hoping someone will come
along and need his services as a taxi, although chances are meager. The
few people who arrive use taxi vans and pre-arranged cabs who do not
fill their workday with fares anywhere.
I used to work in Mevo Horon. They open the gate for workers at 7 a.m.
For an hour. They open it again at 5 to 5:30 p.m. And that's it. Then
it's closed. And if someone has to work until 7 in the evening, what can
he do? I finished at 7, the gate was closed. Where can I go? So I went
to Modi'in in order to get here. The police caught me. Wanted to see my
permit. I said here is my permit. They said this is for Mevo Horon. Why
are you coming to Modi'in? I said, what can I do? I am not allowed to
stay at Mevo Horon. And the gate is closed. I want to go home, that's
all. They took me to the police station and interrogated me. Opened a
file at the Modi'in police station and now I went to the DCO at Beit El
to get a new magnetic card. For the permit. They said, you can't get it.
You have a problem with the Modi'in police. That's it. No permit. And
they opened a file. Now I have a record. And no more work.
He's a terrorist, F. laughed at A.
Said he paid a lawyer 1,500 shekel to get his name off the police
blacklist so that he can get a permit to go back and work at the colony.
He has been waiting for two months now. So far, no go.
The second time we saw him, a few days later, he told us the lawyer told
him it's alright, his name has been taken off the list. And that means
that after several months out of work, he will soon be able to go
through the gates again to work at Mevo Horon. Until the gate closes
again. Because he finished work after 5:30 p.m. or because the soldiers
didn't feel like opening the gate. And then perhaps the police will
catch him again, perhaps not right away, but eventually. And he will
lose his work permit again.
H. worked at Mevo Horon colony for a while, until his permit was not
renewed. His employer owes him 35,000 shekel which he has not paid him
back for three years now. Maybe that's why.
How opportune the automatic, sweeping restriction system is for greedy
exploiters. They stop requesting workers, and the civil administration
(a kind of monstrous entity serving the Occupation and dispossession
under the pretense of caring for the civilian
population) stops issuing permits. How easy… The employer does not want
to pay, or it's time for compensation, no problem. The worker is no
longer required. Automatically he will not be issued a permit. And he
will be prevented from entering his former workplace. And if he is
caught without a permit, he is then an 'outlaw'. And the robber is safe.
A taxi-van stops, five young fellows get off, walk determinedly towards
the checkpoint. Soldiers caught them near Ni'alin checkpoint, an inner
checkpoint a few kilometers deeper inside the West Bank. They were
beaten up there, their IDs taken away, and they were told to walk back
to Beit Sira Checkpoint to get their IDs back. One of them, N., very
scarred, his ears protruding, almost a boy. Look, look what they did to
me, he says, his face still very much a child's, wearing bright red,
very unkempt, restless. Two weeks ago he was beaten with a rifle butt.
In his face. There, in Ni'alin. The cut has not yet healed. He is from
Shabtin, near Ni'alin. Our life is not pleasant, he says. Not good. We
go only to earn money for our little brothers. They beat us all the
time. Yelling. Come here. Beat up whoever does not follow. Now they
caught us. The soldier says to me, hey, son of a bitch, what are you
doing here? I said I came to work. Only to work. He said, give me your
ID. I gave it to him and he kicked me. Said, go to the checkpoint. Walk.
I said it's far to the checkpoint on foot. He said, walk or I'll beat
you up if you don't. I said, I have to go now? He said, if you don't go
to the checkpoint now for your ID I'll screw you. I said, okay I'm
going. We do what they say so they won't mess us up. Only for that. Not
to get in trouble.
We hear more and more about Ni'alin checkpoint. Located near a place
where the Wall has not been completed. And many workers try their luck
passing through to find work. It has turned into a space open for the
soldiers' personal and institutional cruelty. Who ambush them there and
beat them up. Detaining them for hours. Sometimes just scaring them and
forcing them to stand with their backs in one or the other direction for
a long time. Or do not return their IDs. So we sneak in there, says N.,
whoever wants to work… What can we do.
Then we all see a blue civilian police car arrive. And stop. A policeman
and a policewoman take out a young man, his feet chained, his hands
cuffed in back. They release his legs and hands and he keeps rubbing his
wrists, to get the blood flowing normally again, it seems. The policeman
hands him his ID. He hands the policeman something, we do not see what
it is. What has he done? people ask. He is a worker. Needs money
to feed his children. His little brothers.
We see a tired worker. And think he has not earned anything today, for
he was caught.
The young men turn to the checkpoint again, to get back their IDs.
From afar we see two soldiers at the checkpoint give the IDs to these
young workers. Who return. Rapidly crossing between the concrete slabs
to get into one of the taxi vans and leave. Probably to Shabtin.
The young men who were caught will probably try to sneak in again, for
what can they do? says H. They have to earn. Bring bread for the
children, family, brothers.
There will be a food Intifada (uprising) here, someone says. People have
to work. We are good people. This is not right.
Some time ago, there was this pregnant woman – the history student tells
us. He took her all through the villages. She gave birth in the car,
they did not make it. She had a girl, he laughed. Lucky.
I’m sick of life here, says H. I want to go where I please. Just go
where I please. Just go and go…
Why do they do all this? So we won't eat? Won't work? Won't bring
anything home to our kids?
In the evening, the coffee vender was released. They came, threw
everything he had on the ground, beat him up, threatened and detained
him, and in the evening they released him. Until next time.
There is something terribly strange about this place. That is so open
and visible to anyone. A few meters away from the highway where Israelis
speed by. How can they not see? I wondered. Don't they see the concrete
slabs? Don't they ask themselves what it means, that the road here is
blocked, with a sign naming a Palestinian village, without any
possibility of entering or exiting it. Do they not have eyes?
It had been Wednesday again at Qalandiya Checkpoint, a few years ago… A
father and his little son stood waiting their turn, then walked up, the
father's ID was checked and he was "permitted" to proceed, his little
son in front of him, when the soldier – probably unintentionally, I
think – just carelessly, accidentally bumped the father in the back.
The father was pushed forward and hit his son who flew down to the
The father, knowing it was a soldier who bumped into him, did not
protest, his face did not change, he did not look back. Silently he
picked up his little son, who also got up silently, and they went on
their way, as if nothing had happened, his little son in front, he in
The soldier who unintentionally pushed the father saw the father being
pushed and the child falling to the ground. He is not blind. He turned
around to his mates and joked with them about this or that, not out of
any special cruelty. He did not seem to have any special intentions, he
was not especially content with what had happened, I'm fairly certain he
did not mean to make the child fall on his face, and when he joked with
his buddies it was probably about their stuff, unconnected with what had
just taken place. Occupier and occupied – the occupied knows, sees, and
keeps silent. Withdrawn. Walking on. For he has to bear his life, his
son, what is left. At that moment crossing the checkpoint was more
important than pursuing justice. Demanding it.
The occupier does not see, looks and sees nothing. Nothing had happened
as far as he was concerned. A Palestinian father being bumped into and
pushing his son on the ground is nothing. A non-event.
Aya Kaniuk and Tamar Goldschmidt. January 2008. Translated by Tal Haran.