19 June 2012
AL-KHALIL REFLECTION: Cat and mouse play
by Maarten van der
A young boy met the people leaving the Friday prayers at the Ibrahimi
Mosque in al-Khalil, giving them a colourful paper with offers of flat screen
TV’s, vacuum cleaners and dishwashers. Young and old read the pamphlet with interest
while two Israeli soldiers watched people passing and handed back to some of
them the ID’s they had taken on their way in.
Another boy about seven years old came, stood in front of the soldiers,
ripped up the pamphlet with the vacuum cleaners and threw the pieces on the
ground. The soldiers asked him to pick them up again. He refused and walked off
to sit on a big concrete block across the street. The soldiers talked with a
higher-ranking army man who decided to confront the boy. He pulled the boy off
the concrete block by one arm. The soldier dragged the boy in the direction of
the checkpoint. Then the boy dropped himself on the ground, but the soldier
pulled him up again. The boy started to cry. A Palestinian man intervened and
the soldier let the boy go. Then a group of Palestinians gathered around the
boy and went to the soldiers to complain about their treatment of him. After
some strong debate, it ended there.
How easy it is for situation like this to escalate. What if the soldier
had continued dragging the boy to the checkpoint? What if the adults would have
continued pursuing their argument with the soldiers and an even larger group of
people would have started to tell the soldiers off? What if someone in the
crowd would have picked up a small stone and thrown it in the direction of the
This pattern of cat and mouse play between children and soldiers is very
common. It is understandable. Teasing the cat is a way to show some power. In
the end, the cat often wins.
The ripped up paper remains on the ground. Who won? the cat or the mouse
– or neither of them?