Listen to the Mad Man of Qalandiya

(Photo: Tamar Fleishman/Palestine Chronicle)

By Tamar Fleishman – Qalandiya, West Bank

Hundreds of years have passed since the prophet Hosea spoke these words of reproval:  “The days of punishment have come, The days of retribution have come; Let Israel know this! The prophet is a fool, The inspired man is demented, Because of the grossness of your iniquity, And because your hostility is so great” (New American Standard Bible, Hosea 9:7) and they are relevant and precise today as they were back then.

“Soldiers, you are imprisoned- it is your occupation!”

Abu Nahadi, “the mad man”, yelled at the bulletproof window behind which the soldiers sit.

People say that Abu Nahadi wasn’t always a mad man, that he was once fine, that he had plenty of money, that he lived in faraway countries and only when they were about to sign the peace agreement he returned home, to Qalandiya refugee camp. But then his son died. Soldiers shot him in the head and he died. The dead child’s father died along with his son. Ever since, Abu Nahadi has been wondering about without a purpose, on his broken and crooked body are clothes from the old days, he is always making a racket, constantly mumbling and bursting out with a hollow laughter.

At the checkpoint there was also a thirteen year old boy who had been waiting since the morning for a passage permit for his father, who had an operation scheduled for the next day. The child stood for hours pressed against the metal partitions, while holding in his hands a file full of medical permits. “If he doesn’t get the permit today- his father is done for” said a person who also waited at the entrance to the lane leading to the offices, to “renew” his magnetic card.

And a five and a half year old child made it before his parents to the turnstile, which revolved and locked with him on the other side. He was inside, they were outside. The child looked at his parents through the separating bars with a small smile, it might have been because he felt embarrassed or maybe he was frightened, but then the clicking sound that opens the turnstile was heard and the parents hurried to reunite with their son.

There was also a young man who arrived at the internal inspection post wanting to go to the GSS offices, he said he had something to sort out, “only for a few minutes and that’s it” he asked- “my brother, the Mukhabarat (GSS) is on a break, they are eating now”, said the soldier who sent him back.
And at the entrance to the checkpoint was an ambulance transporting a child with paralyzed legs from Nablus. The ambulance was detained at the checkpoint for an hour under the false pretext that: “it has not been coordinated”, and the whole time the child whose legs were tied to the gurney, was laying there and playing with a plastic and colorful wind vane that his father bought him, and waited. He waited patiently. Because patience is code for survival for those living under occupation. Even a seven year old child knows that.

And not far from there, at Jaba checkpoint, once again soldiers from the Oketz unit were training a dog:

They pulled over a passing car, took its owner out, told him to take his personal belongings and his Koran out of the car.

To them this was a humane gesture indicating that they were upholding his dignity.
The owner of the car stood and watched the dog enter his car, sniffing the font and the back as well as the trunk.

The man stood trembling with disgust. And in spite of the guns and the soldiers’ orders, he couldn’t control his body that kept pushing him forward as if to protect his car from the intruder.

“What’s wrong with you?” asked the soldier, “the dog won’t harm your car”.

I intervened and gave them a lecture on Islamic laws. I explained that a dog to a devoted Muslim is a like a pig to the devoted Jew, that not only its body but also its breath is impure and so is anything that comes in contact with it. As I said this I saw from the corner of my eye the man nodding his head.

When the dog completed its task, I took out a package of pre-moistened towelettes and we cleaned the inside of the car which the dog touched and exhaled on.

I don’t know whether or not the soldiers thought I was mad, I also don’t care, but later one of the dog trainers, Ronny was her name, came over wanting to converse and understand.

(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: 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

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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