By Tamar Fleishman
I decided to talk about the detainment of Palestinians by the army through the story of three people; I attempted to portray the larger picture by using personal stories.
These people aren’t heroes nor are they warriors, provocateurs, protestors or people who had made names for themselves.
A man, a lad and a boy, they are just three among the thousands that are crushed under the violent and vicious boot of the executors of the policy that aims to break the spirit and daily life of the Palestinian people, of thousands of people who don’t know what the future holds. Each one of their hopes and dreams is accompanied by doubt, since this everlasting and advancing terror that is used against the civil population is like a sword that dangles over all of them, men as well as women, children as well as adults, and they never know from where shall evil break and what will bring upon them the next disaster.
Statistics show that there are thousands of detainees.
But they, Shadi, Saif and Ali aren’t just statistics, they are human beings. Each one of them was arrested in a different place, at a different time and under different circumstances, and yet in spite of the distinctions, the similarities add up to more than the differences.
Even if each of them isn’t but a drop of the sea of detainees- each person is in himself a sea.
“Each family has a member that is either in prison or has been to prison” said Shadi the cab driver.
Shadi wasn’t always a cab driver, “I used to work in a restaurant that was owned by Jews, but then the Intifada began, there were those who wanted to kill Arabs, they asked if I was an Arab, I said I wasn’t and I ran away. I never came back. I was scared. I started working inside as a cab driver”.
Shadi who learned what routes should be taken to get to each town and village in Palestine, be it on a paved road or a dirt path, who knows when the longest route actually the fastest one- as it bypasses the checkpoints and soldiers, had gained a reputation for being a man of his word, someone who will bring his passenger to his destination even if it means using hidden paths to get to the other side of the separation wall, “a man has to live, isn’t that so?” he says.
When he isn’t driving his cab he stands by it eager to talk, he can always be found at the same junction, at the entrance to the town. Everyone knows Shadi and they have his phone number. Everyone does, even those who shouldn’t have it.
“One day I received a call: where are you? – At the junction, I said – We want to cross to Israel. -Then come here. They came, there might have been thirty of them, I was right here, as always, where we are now talking, they closed all the roads and attacked me, it was a mess you know… “- “Did they hit you?”- “Of course”.
There was a trial. Shadi spent five months in Ofer prison. In addition to the time served he was also fined for twenty thousand Shekels. The money was collected with the help of the extended family.
In the dead of night the door busted open. The soldiers came searching for Saif’s rifle; they never found it because he didn’t have one. He only had notebooks, books and a computer. Saif, who had only recently completed his final exams with excellence, was invited to a test to determine whether or not he is entitled to get a scholarship for a university in a faraway land. The invaders who during the search for the rifle shattered and broke every object and furniture that stood in their way, also shattered Saif’s hope for a future in a different place. Saif didn’t make it to the test, he was taken from his home with his eyes covered and his hands cuffed.
Saif was detained for sixty two days at Migrash Harusim. Some days he was interrogated and on others he was not. Saif couldn’t tell day from night, he only knew he was tired, he wanted to sleep but they wouldn’t let him, “how do they prevent you from sleeping you ask, each time my eyes would go like this”, he said and closed his eyes, “they would pour water on my head”.
Saif was released without any charges, without a trial and without the future he aspired to have.
(Learn more about the torture of detainees.)
Ali couldn’t contain his happiness when his father came back from the big city with a present- a toy motorcycle. He hurried out for his first ride. But his happiness and ride were cut short by soldiers who were patrolling the roads by the village: a military hammer pulled over by the young rider, the soldiers got out and placed Ali and his new gift inside their vehicle and left the site (my speculation: according the laws of occupation, up until recently, Palestinians were banned from using motorcycles. It would seem that in this case the law was taken too literally, the toy motorcycle was regarded as a real motorcycle and the boy was regarded as an adult).
Ali’s parents spent hours in a state of terror, up until the evening when they managed to locate their son. Ali spent the night detained at Migrash Harusim. His parents hurried to Ofer military court in the morning. There, at the court, they saw their son who was brought before the judge in handcuffs.
After paying a bail of 3,000 Shekels their son was released and he returned home with them.
But who is to pay for his childhood?
(Learn more about the detainment of minors.)
I never met Ali. His uncle, his father’s brother, told me his story.
And the thing that broke my heart was his last sentence:
“He cried when they took him” –”It’s only natural for a person to cry when he is being detained”, I said. – “No”, replied the uncle, “It was because he is little, I don’t cry any more, I’m used to it”.
(Thank you to Sharit Michaeli from Beselem for the help in finding relevant references to this article.)
(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. The majority of the Spotlights (an opinion page) that are published on the site had been written by her. 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.