AL-KHALIL (HEBRON) REFLECTION: Welcoming the Enemy

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CPTnet

5 January
2012

AL-KHALIL
(HEBRON) REFLECTION:
Welcoming the Enemy

by Michael
McRay

 

“CPT!
 CPT!  Come, come!  The soldiers have a man!”  Her voice
startled me.  Jean, Rosie, and I had been on afternoon patrol, but I had
lagged behind to look at a few shops in Hebron’s Old City.  Though I did
not know the woman requesting my presence, she knew who I was because of my red
hat and gray vest bearing the Christian Peacemaker Team logo.  I was
alone, inexperienced in the field. 

Four
soldiers stood in a semicircle next to a wall.  One was pointing a gun at
a Palestinian man; another had the Palestinian’s green identification (ID) card
and was radioing his headquarters to check the ID.  They do this from time
to time—randomly check the IDs of passersby.  As far as I can tell, no
rationale exists for their method of choosing whom to check; the superior gives
the command to check IDs, so they check IDs.  For the soldiers, the agenda
of the Palestinian or timeframe are not important.  If a soldier wants to
check an ID, then the Palestinian must stand there and wait.  This man was
not even crossing a checkpoint.  He was walking through the Old City like
everyone else. 

“Why are
you holding this man,” I said to one of the soldiers in the middle.  “What
did he do?”  No answer. “Why do you need to check his ID?”  The
soldier looked up at my eyes, with seeming disdain, but said nothing.  I
turned to the man pointing the gun at the detainee.  “Why are you pointing
a gun at him?  What did he do?”  Still no response.

I began
photographing and videoing  with shaking hands.  I had never before
confronted someone carrying an automatic weapon, much less six people.
 After only a few minutes, however, the ID cleared, and the soldiers
released the Palestinian.

Trailing
them by only a few feet, I followed them as they walked in two lines, three to
a line, and seemed to be practicing some kind of drill.  Periodically, a
couple would lift their rifles up, briefly taking aim at houses above, or down
alleyways.

As they
approached the end of the Old City, one of the soldiers in the back turned and
quickly pointed the barrel of his weapon into an elderly man’s shop.  The
store owner sat out in front, his head just beneath the level of the gun’s
barrel.  He simply looked up at the soldiers passing his shop, bowed his
head, lifted up his hand, palm upwards, and said, “Ahlan wasahlan (you are most
welcome).”  His response so caught me off guard I laughed out loud.
 Here was an Israeli soldier, a member of the military occupying this
Palestinian man’s land, who walked the streets of Hebron to protect the Jewish
settlers who were illegally taking more and more land from this man and his
people.  In short, there walked his enemy.

And this
Muslim man extended his hand in humble invitation.  Resistance.

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