26 April 2011
HEBRON REFLECTION: A morning like any other.
by Inger Styrbjorn
“Biladi, Biladi … my country, my country…” the
Palestinians’ national anthem echoes from loudspeakers in schools all over Hebron, where Nina and I stand at the
checkpoint and note how many children have their bags searched. I count the children, but I also see
that today the soldier stays inside the trailer where the metal detector is,
probably so I cannot see how he treats the Palestinians.
The metal detector beeps for each person who passes. I hear the beep several times without
anyone coming out, which means that people inside are undergoing a thorough
search. A young boy waits,
presumably for his schoolmate. He
is trying to see what’s happening, but the brusque soldier pulls the door shut.
When the door eventually opens, a
small child comes out. After
several walks through the detector, the boy is finally free. His smile is a little embarrassed when
he joins his waiting companion with his backpack, belt, and cell phone in hand. A small girl, maybe seven years,
tries to take the shortcut past the trailer, but is observed by the soldier,
who hastily comes out and sends her back. When she comes out of the trailer, I see that soldiers have
searched her school bag. She stops
and does up the zippers and hurries to her school.
”Wahaad, tneen, tlaate.” From Ibrahimi Boys’ School, the voice of the man leading
morning assembly echoes throughout the neighborhood, so I know that the time is
a quarter to eight and the boys are doing their morning exercises. “One, two, three … forward, upward, outward.”
Some children are late, I can see them running towards the checkpoint and I
suspect they are wondering, “What will happen today? How long will
it take to get through?”
I never get used to the morning. It turns my stomach when I see the soldiers’ behavior. I wonder what goes on in their heads. What do the children feel when they see
their parents, teachers or siblings humiliated in front of everyone? The adults react differently. Sometimes I see the anger boiling in
their breasts, other times our eyes meet in a shared smile over this dismal
situation. Some have pushed aside
any emotions and hide them behind an impenetrable facade.
During the week I was asked, “What is the worst thing that
you face [in Hebron]?” When I
think about it, it is precisely these mornings at the checkpoint. It is the humiliation and harassment
from these very young soldiers with their big weapons that makes me feel the
worst. On the way back to the
team, some soldiers are training. As
we enter the street, I see two soldiers, one on each side of the street, with
their guns pointing at me, while another, seemingly finished shooting, runs
into an alley. Their exercise
interrupted, the commander and soldiers move on. If only they knew that, we go straight home to pray for them.
It’s a morning like any other.