Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Idiots" at the Checkpoints

One of the realities of having a son on the brink of manhood...is that sometimes he'll slip back off the brink into the boy. I thought about this during a discussion recently that Elie and I had. It isn't so much that he was wrong, as that he was not diplomatic. Perhaps he was honest, but it probably wasn't the best way to have gotten his message across. But Elie is a soldier, not a diplomat. He's 21 years old, without the maturity and wisdom that comes with age. In some ways, I prefer this age and this honesty, but I am sure that there are several women who don't agree with me after having met my son.

These women understand what Elie has yet to learn, that even in life's frustrating moments, you have to maintain a certain level of...let's say civility.

Recently several Israeli women came to Elie's checkpoint to "watch" how Elie and his soldiers handled the Arabs who were passing through. When Elie detained one of the Palestinians, the women approached and started demanding that Elie release him. They didn't ask why, nor did they have the right to know what Elie's reasons were. They didn't ask about security cause or concerns because their interest was in supporting the Arab first and foremost. Elie's job, Elie's attempt to be efficient without being too hard or unfair, was not important. They didn't know where Elie was from, how he was raised. All they saw, as too many do, is the green uniform and not the man/boy within.

"Let him go," the women asked Elie. "Don't you think you could just let him pass?"

A diplomat would explain the need for the checkpoints. A fully-matured person might attempt to defuse the situation while still attempting to maintain his authority. The soldiers are, without question, figures of authority. They stand there and demand to see papers, check packages, and more. The Arabs must listen, and they do. These women came and tried to treat these men like boys, scolding them and telling them what to do.

But these men stopped being boys, at least when they are at the checkpoints and borders of Israel. There, they are given responsibilities and tasks that weigh them, mature them, and demand they reach inside themselves and find the strength to meet challenges.

They stand for hours, filter, question, review, read, ask. They inspect and all-to-often, they find. So far, Elie has found weapons, drugs, people with no permits, and even a stolen car.

The checkpoints are not jokes and are not put there to disturb and disrupt. Lives depend on the accuracy and the efficiency of the soldiers. If a Palestinian man is detained, he may well get to school or a doctor's appointment or work or home late. It isn't the fairest of situations, but the alternatives, if they are not checked, have exploded in our cafes, our buses, our malls.

A classic example was the terrorist who blew up the Sbarro pizzeria on August 9, 2001. Fifteen people were murdered, including 7 children, and about 130 were injured. The terrorist, a pleasant looking young man, crossed a checkpoint with the explosives in a guitar case while chatting with his "girlfriend" (who shows no remorse for her involvement). It was a costly miss and Israeli soldiers must be vigilant because it only takes one slip to kill and wound dozens.

So, Elie turned to these women who were interferring in his job, actually causing even more of a delay than they were supposedly trying to avoid and said, "Let me guess, you're from Tel Aviv, aren't you?"

Actually, he was "spot on" as the women confessed they were indeed from Tel Aviv. To me, Elie said, they were "idiots." They didn't come to inspect, to ask questions, to watch. They came to make their point, and part of that was to disrupt and annoy the soldiers. I guess Elie was mature enough not to call them "idiots from Tel Aviv" to their faces, though I could understand his frustrations. He's given a task to do. There is no joy in delaying someone on their way to work.

"They even bring us cookies and cola sometimes," Elie told me of the Arabs who understand and give more respect to the soldiers than these women do.

"You don't eat it or drink it, do you?" I asked, a bit perturbed by the idea. I'm sure most of the food and drink is fine, but don't love the idea of testing that theory.

"No, but it's nice that they do it. We do take from one guy. He's a contractor, drives a really nice BMW, and brings us closed Coca Cola bottles from Israeli stores."

A BMW, huh? That's my son. He can spot cars - make and year. He's in heaven checking cars and telling me about the engines, the models, that pass through the checkpoint. He's gotten into discussions with Arabs about how much they paid, how fast the car can drive, the power of the engine. That's my Elie.

So, what made me think of this checkpoint issue today even though this conversation with Elie took place a few days ago? Well, someone sent me an email, calling on people to show support for the soldiers at the checkpoints. I can't make it because I'll be "showing support" at home with Elie, but it's a wonderful idea.

Show Your Support for Soldiers on Monday Sept 8th

Soldiers at the Checkpoint outside of Shechem [Nablus] Caught a Carful of Terrorists Yesterday

Arab Terrorists arrived at the Hawara checkpoint (South of Nablus, outside of Shechem) Wednesday morning. During security inspection, a terrorist drew a 30 centimeter dagger and attempted to stab the checkpoint commander. The commander gained control over the terrorist and transferred him to Israeli security forces interrogation. Five Arab gunmen were arrested. Border Policemen
searched their vehicle and found seven handguns.

Join Standing Together in saying "Thank You" to our unsung heroes.

In order to support our soldiers serving at the checkpoints and let them know that the people of Israel supports them and appreciates the difficult work they do, In order to support our soldiers serving at the checkpoints and let them know that the people of Israel supports them and appreciates the difficult work they do, Standing Together and Women in Blue will be there distributing treats and saying thank you.

Thank you, Elie - to you and to all the soldiers who stand at the checkpoints to protect in the most humane way possible, even when confronted by "idiots from Tel Aviv."

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

My son is a combat soldier from Tel Aviv. Does Elie classify him as an "idiot from Tel Aviv," as well?

ella said...

I just wanted to say that you write beautifully and I am very much looking forward to reading future posts.
Thank you.

A Soldier's Mother said...

Hi Parent of a soldier from Tel Aviv:

Elie's comment was based on a quick understanding of the women he was facing. If your son is a combat soldier, it is likely that he, like Elie, understands the importance of checkpoints and that there are thousands of soldiers who man these checkpoints every day...and that they do so as humanely and efficiently as possible. It serves no purpose to harass them, as these women did. They don’t make the policy and they certainly didn’t create the need for these checkpoints.

His "Tel Aviv" comment was based more on his belief that Israelis living in Tel Aviv come face to face with Arabs much less often than he, other soldiers, or those of us who live in the Jerusalem area do. This distance enables many Israelis in Tel Aviv and surrounding areas to minimize the threats faced daily at the checkpoints.

As someone raised in the US, I know that it is hard to see what appears to be prejudicial behavior towards another human being solely based on their religion or nationality. As someone living in Israel, I am acutely aware, as is Elie, that we are faced with a cruel reality in Israel: delay Palestinians in order to search and protect...or clean up the aftermath of a terrorist attack. The equation is simple and these women ignore reality and harass our soldiers needlessly. It won't change reality. If they want to change the facts, they need to apply to the Palestinians to get them to talk instead of attack. These women ignore the basic truth: the checkpoints were set up in reaction to terrorist attacks; the Arabs began attacking us in 1948 when there was no so-called refugee problem. They attacked us in 1967, when there were no occupied territories. They attacked us before there was a security fence, which has cut down terrorist attacks by 90%.

No, Elie would not call your son an idiot. He might not have the maturity to think it his place to thank your son, so I will. I am grateful to all our sons, who defend this country and those who threaten it or fail to see that our sons do what must be done. May your son, like mine, guard and be safe and know his actions are appreciated.

Paula

rickismom said...

Yes, I feel that we REALLY owe our soldiers a big debt of gratitude!

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Soldier's Mom: I saw this today and HAD to quickly find your blog to send it to you.

http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3594677,00.html

A Palestinian woman at the Chawara (Shechem) checkpoint went through the "Humanitarian" line, reserved for emergencies...so she could throw acid at an IDF soldier.

How wonderfully Ramadanian.

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