by Sean O’Neill
One evening a jeep pulled up on the road to Yatta for a flying checkpoint (see previous article), so I took my camera and went down to film. After checking several cars, a tractor, and even a donkey, one of the soldiers struck up a conversation with me.
It was the regular stuff: Where are you from? What are you doing here? I explained what we did and he said that he respected our work, even if he didn’t agree with it. He was a reservist, doing his one month for the year. Then he’ll go back to being a social worker in real life.
At one point, my teammate called and asked when I thought I might be back so she could put the pasta in the water to boil. I turned to the soldiers and asked, “Hey guys, we’re having pasta tonight and would like to know how much longer this will take.” The soldier smiled and told me I could leave and he would make sure nothing happened. I smiled back and said, “Thanks, but you do your job and I’ll do mine.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Everyone has to do their job. The tiger has to do his job and the deer has to do his job.”
“I guess,” I said. “But I don’t want to be a tiger.”
He looked down for a moment, contemplatively. “I don”t want to be a tiger either. You know, I am a deer at home.”
You meet all kinds of soldiers at a checkpoint – soldiers who aren’t sure why they are there; soldiers who want nothing more than to finish their service and leave; soldiers who admire and respect the settlers and think the Palestinians are liars, thieves, and murderers.
And then there’s the gentle, friendly, social worker – a guy who, 11 months of the year, devotes himself to helping the less fortunate. One month a year, he trains a gun on shepherds trying to go home to their families.
What is it that turns a deer into a tiger? Fear? A sense of duty? But to whom and to what? As for stopping the deer from becoming a tiger, I guess it takes love for our fellow human beings, an ability to empathize with them rather than fear them. Easier said than done.