2 November 2013

  Offending snacks
photographed by EAPPI
after the staff person
was finally released by
the soldiers.

by Kathleen Kern

A couple weeks ago, my teammate Alwyn
and I were sidetracked by phone call on our way to the market to buy food. Two
international monitoring groups in Hebron had contacted our office, asking us to
check out a situation at the container checkpoint that separates the H-1 area
(under nominal Palestinian control) from H-2 (under full Israeli military
control) in Hebron.  Soldiers had stopped a staffperson from a
kindergarten near Qurtuba School who was bringing in a box of snacks for the
children, which apparently the soldiers running the checkpoint deemed a
security risk.

The staff person had been there an hour
by the time we got there and would be there for more than another before the
soldiers finally let him go.  In the meantime, Alwyn and I became involved
in another small human drama.  A young man with Down’s Syndrome came
through the checkpoint.  Perhaps because he made the soldiers uncomfortable, something
compelled them to make him take his belt off, pull up his shirt, take off his
shoes, and pull up his pants legs.  They also went through the newspaper
he was carrying page by page to see if it concealed anything.

He continued up the hill afterwards,
belt in hand, cursing.  He would try to put the belt through the loops of
his pants, then start re-enacting the scene of his humiliation again and again,
yelling and shaking his fist.  Alwyn and I joined him and tried to calm
him down.  An older man came by to help him with his belt, and through
him, we learned the young man’s name, Abed*, and that his father had died recently.

What seemed to restore his good humor
was showing him my shopping list, and telling him, in Arabic, what we needed to
buy (apples, bananas, milk etc.)  He sat with us as we waited for people
from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme to relieve us.  At one point
he nudged me with his elbow, smiled, and said, “I’m Jewish.” 
“Really?”  I asked.  The smile widened, nearly splitting his face in
half and he nodded vigorously.

Before I joined Christian Peacemaker Teams, I worked with
developmentally disabled adults.  I have thought over the years I have
worked in Hebron, that while people with mental disabilities here sometimes
suffer worse treatment in the form of mockery on the streets than they do in
the U.S., they often feel that they are more a part of the community than the
people I worked with did.  Still, I guess I do expect that soldiers are
going to make special allowances for a young man like Abed, and not assume he
is a criminal, which seems to be their default assumption for most young Palestinian men in
their twenties.  I know that soldiers have taken away boys as young as
seven or eight on suspicion of throwing stones.  I worry what a strong
young man like Abed might face behind that gate where soldiers take the boys and men they
detain.  And I worry that we might never really find out what happens to
him if they do.

*Not his real name

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