This morning the streets of the town of Kofor Ra’ai in the district of Jenin were almost empty except for people and families waiting on both sides of the street for transportation. It was a weird situation with no vehicles driving at 11 in the morning but it was obvious that there was a nearby checkpoint blocking cars from passing.
I was traveling for my first day at university in Jenin after a break of three weeks for the summer course, but my trip lasted for three hours which is four times more than a normal day. After thirty minutes waiting side the street, a mini bus arrived and I was lucky to get the last seat at the back. Just few minutes outside the town, an Israeli mobile checkpoint of two jeeps were stopping and checking vehicles in both directions of the road.
Finally it was our turn after one hour of waiting! One Israeli soldier motioned to our driver to get closer and told only males to get out of the bus and get our ID cards out. Two soldiers were already occupying a roof of a house by the street; I could only see the barrel of the gun of the soldier from where I was standing.
After five minutes, anther soldier asked us to walk forward and form a line. In an aiming motion, he was pointing his gun at each one of us slowly and one by one. It felt like he was looking for someone to shoot at. The soldier aims at each old man and tells them to go back to the bus. One of the Palestinians who was with us said that, this checkpoint was for students who are traveling to their universities from home after the break.
The same soldier was keeping our IDs on the top of the jeep; he looked at one ID while keeping his gun pointing at us and asked the first Palestinian who was about 19 years old to walk towards him. Immediately, the soldier told the young Palestinian in Arabic to turn around and lift his shirt up. The young Palestinian was detained!
While we were standing there mumbling from the heat, a small yellow taxi jumped over a queue of approximately thirty Palestinian vehicles in order to bring an old sick man through the checkpoint. The two soldiers on the roof of the house yelled loudly at the driver to go back and wait in line. The driver was waving and trying to address to the soldier that he has a sick person. The soldier cursed him in Arabic and told him to move back.
A big soldier approached to see what was happening and said in Hebrew to the soldiers on the roof “maybe he has a patient” then he motioned to the driver to go to the checkpoint. Meanwhile, an old woman who was apparently a relative to the sick person was trying to speak to the first soldier. The soldier on the ground behaved like if he was a doctor, checking the old person and asking him questions, it was obvious that the old sick man was unable to move and leaning his head against the person next to him.
The detained Palestinian was released after twenty minutes and interrogated by the same big soldier who checked the patient. The soldier confiscated the boy’s wallet and cigarettes, we all thought that the army was going to arrest him and leave which is an ironic tactic that the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) uses at checkpoints to round up random young Palestinians. The soldier gave only 10 shekels and two cigarettes back to the boy and stole the rest. When the boy asked him about the rest of his stuff, the soldier replied that what he gave him is enough for a boy!! Was that soldier asking for more money and cigarettes from the old sick man too?!
After anther twenty minutes, the soldiers asked the driver to get the bus closer to check it with everyone out, including women and children. We were all asked to walk to the checkpoint one by one and get in the bus. As I approached the soldier who was holding our IDs and was apparently the officer in charge I asked in English, “Do you know what you are doing? you should know that this is a horrible checkpoint.”
The soldier looked confused and didn’t hear so I replied “This is a horrible checkpoint!” then got on the bus immediately. After we all were in the bus, the officer came to my window and said “You are not in a position to tell us what we should do at the checkpoint, ok!” the officer didn’t wait and walked away!
In the bus, I was told by the boy that he recognized the soldier who stole his stuff and that most people of Tulkarem city know this soldier as a thief stealing money and gold from homes that the IOF occupies during invasions. The last case that was reported on for robbery done by the IOF was by an old mother of five children in Tulkarem, she last all her gold and money which she has inherited from her dead husband. As the boy was telling me about the horrible things that happened in Tulkarem, how he travels and the crimes of the IOF, he replied to my long silence while listening to him “What do you think of these people?”, “What do you think of this life?!”