Fragments: The Body behind the Checkpoint

By Tamar Fleishman

It is difficult to write of the death of a young man whose name we don’t know. Not once did his father or uncle mention it – "Ibni" mumbled the father.

 It is hard to relate the story of a father who waited patiently and silently for hours, with only soft sobs escaping his lips. His brother to speak on his behalf for he himself was lost for words.

How to describe his hunched down appearance, his facial expressions which reflected the fact that perhaps he hadn’t fully grasped that his son, who the police had told him over the phone was: "badly injured…", was no longer among the living?

 After all, perhaps there was still some hope that he had yet to take his last breath, as the formal words hadn’t actually been said?

The uncle said to us in secret, for fear his brother might hear: "He is dead. They want us to come and identify him…"?

Would our inquiry make it possible for us to understand this reality? A reality in which all the actions that seem simple to us are in fact an excruciating procedure for Palestinians?

A reality in which nothing in their lives is simple, and everything is either extremely complicated or utterly impossible?

If that is not enough, in this reality they must over and over again express their gratitude towards those stand at the end of the endless lines in which they wait, those who with their insolent and hostile faces open the gate, and towards the person who inspects their documents and then orders without a sound but with the movement of his finger: "proceed…"

And they never forget to thank us as well, for seeing them, simply for having seen them and having been with them in their time of pain and sorrow.

The banality of the checkpoint and the roaring orders echoing from above had dried our tears. The father, whose tears ran down the wrinkles in his cheeks, couldn’t hear those sounds or see those sights.

The chronological events:

A man, who hadn’t yet turned 25 and had been working at Burnim which is Har-Homa, fell to his death from a height of eight meters.

At 13:00 the family was notified by the police over a phone call made to thier home in Ramallah. The father was requested to arrive at Qalandiya checkpoint and from there (so he was told) he would be taken to Jerusalem, where his son was to be found. – The father and his brother immediately headed off.

It was only at 17:40 that the father and uncle had passed through the checkpoint, they were taken in a police car to the police station, where they identified the deceased’s body.

At 20:00 that evening they passed the checkpoint together with the body, and headed back to Ramalla. Two ambulances were needed for this.

The bodies of the dead, like those of the living, aren’t permitted to pass directly through the checkpoint, but must be taken out of the first ambulance and then into the other.

That evening (the uncle told me over the phone), in accordance with their religion and with the commandment of our religion, that the deceased must not rest before burial, the young man was buried.

"He was built house over there for the Jews", the uncle said, "The constructor was an Arab from Zaitim, from forty eight".

– 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: 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

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