Letter of Black on White: ‘Ulpana-War-Price Tag’

By Tamar Fleishman – The West Bank

Not so many years ago, when my friend and I arrived at Beit Furik checkpoint, the assigned commander hastily made his way towards us and demanded that we step away. Since we did not obey and kept standing with and aside the Palestinians, the officer ordered his soldiers, as a punitive measure, to close the checkpoint. A long line began to snake, the head was at the soldiers post and the tail had immersed in the evening shadows.

Cramped and silent stood the exhausted people: working people, students, women, the elderly and children; they, as opposed to us, knew that any complaint they might sound would be followed by a violent and painful reaction. I approached the commander and told him a fable about a family in which while in midst of an unresolvable refute between the parents, one of them had hit their child that stood close by.

"But that really not fair!" was the officers response, failing to see that the allegory was about him.

Beit Furik checkpoint is no longer operated. That place where every day for years, people were abused, humiliated and detained is manned no more.

From an active checkpoint it turned in to a checkpoint on hold. Only the tower, the violent phallic symbol that remains, testifies to what happened and expresses the threat that in any given moment it might reactivated as before.

Lately, the recollection of this incident flooded my memory. I returned from a solidarity visit at Jaba village, which fell victim to the vengeance spree of some settlers that penetrated in the dead of night into the village and damaged the mosque. The harming of the powerless, the helpless and of those that are uninvolved in this conflict, has become over the past years the reaction of the settlers to decisions that are not to their liking, made by the Israeli government.

Jaba village, which as all the Palestinian villages in the West Bank is not protected or fenced, has existed for hundreds of years (archeological diggings performed in the village have exposed relics of an olive press from the first century BC).

During the years of occupation, settlements built on stolen Palestinian lands began to surround the village.

This was the first time I entered the village, I was not acquainted with any of the residents. However, at the entrance to the damaged mosque, my friend and I we treated as guests that they have long awaited their visit.

They led us around the building, told us about the events of that evening, about a little girl that woke from her sleep, saw the flames rising from the burning mosque, screamed and woke her father who rushed to his car, and while driving he honked his horn and woke the neighbors, they described how people came running from all directions, hurrying, swarming to save the mosque, how fortune had it that a barrel of water was place by the entrance, water that were used to extinguish the fire. They pointed at the pieces of the broken stained glass that had been shattered by the outlaws and that pieces of which were still scattered on the ground; they showed us the sooty walls of the main hall, they walked with us on the trail outside and pointed towards the roads leading to the neighboring settlements.

The writing that those vicious people left on the outside of the walls did not have to be seen, the writing screamed in letters of black on white: "Ulpana-War-Price Tag". 

And perhaps more painful than the physical damage, was the desperate need of these people to be seen, to be listened to, to have others know of their existence, know their thoughts and feelings that have been hurt.

The fact that these millions of people, of victims, have become transparent to the Israeli society and most of the world had scorched my mind.

(Translated by Ruth Fleishman)

– As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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