Friday, October 17, 2014

"Lite" Interrogation

So I’m back in Palestine/Israel – my first time here since finishing my EA stint in April, 2013.  I’m traveling with four other women on what we’re describing as a “Spiritual and Cultural” trip and we are spending time in Israel (Nazareth) and Palestine (Jericho and Bethlehem), as well as in the “mixed” city of Jerusalem.  The trip is so described because our pastor friend is providing spiritual guidance on the trip and we will take cooking classes in Bethlehem.

Yesterday was our first checkpoint experience of the trip (first ever for one of our group!) and, when I wrote a Facebook post about it, I described it as “lite” interrogation.  I thought I’d expand on that a bit…
A checkpoint similar to the one we went through

The five of us, plus a Palestinian Israeli woman friend of one group member and our Palestinian Israeli driver, went to Jenin, to visit Canaan Fair Trade and the Church of the Ten Lepers.  We crossed into Palestine with the Palestinian guards taking only a cursory look at our passports (typical – nobody cares who goes IN to Palestine!).  The return several hours later was a different story.

One (Israeli) guard collected our passports and the driver’s ID card – later returning for the woman friend’s ID card when he realized the numbers didn’t match.  They then took the passports and directed the driver to a “holding” area so they could question us further.  First there was some discussion between the male guard and our driver – it turned out they were related and were joking with each other, which irritated the other male guard. 

However, the female of the species is definitely more deadly – something that, had we not already known it, was reinforced by that female guard.  Because I was in the window seat on the side closest to the guard, she directed her questions at me.

“What were you doing in Jenin, shopping?” she asked.

Me (holding up Canaan bag):  Yes.

Guard:  Did you spend the night or did you come over this morning?

Me:  We came this morning.

Guard:  Show me the bag.

I complied, realizing belatedly that, in addition to Canaan’s name, the bag had writing “I (heart) Palestine.”  She handed it back without further comment and declined other proffered bags.

Guard: Are you members of a Palestinian support group?

Me:  No (literally true – while each of us may support certain organizations, we were not ALL the members of any single group!)

Guard: Did you bring weapons to protect yourselves (presumably from the Palestinians)?

Me:  No (but wanting to add – “if we did it would be to protect ourselves from Israeli soldiers.”)

After then carefully checking our passport photos against our faces, she handed back the passports, briefly questioned theIsraeli woman (in Hebrew – we later learned that because the photo on the ID card was “old,” she wasn’t sure it was the same person), and then told us we could go. The male guards had disappeared long before!

“Well, that wasn’t too bad,” we told ourselves as we continued our journey. 

“If that wasn’t bad, I’d hate to see what bad is,” our “newbie” responded.
Taybeh Checkpoint - Workers crossing on a typical workday
We all know that Palestinians have it far worse when they cross a checkpoint – and many of them must subject themselves to humiliation every day just to go to work or to school.  We need to remind ourselves of that – and if our providing entertainment for a bored teenager on a slow holiday (Sukkot) is a way to do that, I’m happy to oblige!

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