Humiliation at a Checkpoint

September 24, 2009

There is an infamous checkpoint between Ramallah and Bethlehem known as “The Container”.   It exists because there is an illegal Israeli settlement nearby and the Israelis like to remind Palestinians as often as possible that THEY are the ones with the power, and Palestinians are not welcome in their own land.

The Container doesnt look like much as you drive up to it.  There are two little structures that look like toll booths–one for the traffic going to Bethlehem and one for the traffic going to Ramallah.  Guarding the checkpoint are not only 18 year old soldiers with M-16’s, but wild dogs who bark incessantly at any car that drives up and even attacks those who enter “their” territory. 

The soldiers here must be bored.  More bored than at any other checkpoint I’ve heard of because they looooove to mess with Palestinians coming through.

Story # 1:

A friend of mine, who works for the Palestinian Authority (PA) security, finally got permission to move freely outside of Ramallah (he is from Gaza, so he had the Gaza ID, which is even worse than the Green ID–which doesnt allow the person to ever leave the West Bank–the Gaza ID quarentines the person to one city.  In my friends case, Ramallah).

So he was very excited to finally leave the city he had been trapped in for months.  He decided to take a trip to Bethlehem, which is about an hour and 2 checkpoints away.  When he reached The Container, he realized that it wasn’t going to be the relaxing day trip he imagined.

The soldiers stopped him, saw his ID and aparently weren’t aware that he had gotten permission to travel freely.  So the 18 year old boy soldiers take my friend, a 30 year old captain in the Palestinian army, and lock him in The Container–a small room that is about 4 feet by 4 feet.

He waits.  And waits.  And waits for over an hour.  He talks to the soldier who is pointing an M-16 at him, and tells him to stop treating him that way.  “Whats your rank?”  My friend asks the soldier.

“What does it matter?  Im in charge here”  The kid responds.

My friend stands up and looks the kid in the eyes,”Well, I am a captain.  Im sure you don’t outrank me.”

“A captain in the Palestinian army, so what does it matter” the soldier says.

“A captain is a captain, a military is a military.  You have to respect that and you know it.  So treat me with some respect.” 

The soldier left.  Another soldier comes in, and my friend asks him why they are holding him in The Container.  He has permission to travel around the West Bank.  If the soldiers would just call their supervisors they would be able to see that he has permission.

“I can’t use the phone or the radio.”  The soldier says.

“What! Why?” My friend asks.

“Its Shabbat.  I can’t break the shabbat.  I cant use the phone, the radio, the internet, the lights, nothing.”  The soldier responds.

“When does Shabbat end??”

“Tomorrow.”  The soldier says casually.


Story #2″

A Palestinian girl that I work with, who spent most of her time in Chicago and just moved back to Palestine a few years ago, went on a trip with her family to Bethlehem one day.

It was a normal family outing, and everything was going fine until they reached The Container checkpoint on the way there. 

The soldiers stopped their car, and rudely ordered them to show them their IDs.  My friend’s mother and father calmly did as they were ordered, and handed over the IDs.  As the soldiers were checking the ID’s, my friends father started shaking his head. 

“Whats wrong?” My friend asked him.

“This 18 year old kid is treating me like a criminal in my own country.” He responded.

Just then, the soldiers returned with the IDs and asked my friend to step out of the car.

“What?!  What do you need from her?” Her mom asked.

“Come with us now.” The soldiers repeated to my friend.

So my friend got out of the car slowly, and walked between the soldiers and their M-16s to The Container, as her family waited in the car pulled over to the side of the checkpoint.

Once inside the tiny room, the 2 male soldiers approached her until she had her back up against the wall.  Their guns pointed at her.

“What do you want?” She asked.

“Whats your phone number?” One of the soldiers asked with an evil grin on his face, getting closer to my friend.

“Im not giving you my phone number.  What do you really want?  Why am I in this room?”  She said.

“Well, if you dont want to give me your phone number, what about him” he said gesturing to the other soldier with an M-16 in the tiny room, “he’s good looking, isn’t he?” The first soldier said, the grin still on his face.

“Im not giving either of you my phone number.  Now what do you really want to know?” She asked, still backed up against the wall, with two unprofessional, 18 year old soldiers facing her with their guns pointed at her.

“Why won’t you be my girlfriend?  Or his girlfriend.  You can decide who you want.” The soldier said.

The other soldier, who up until this point had been silent, just observing the entire scene–bored, yet amused–finally broke in and said something to the first soldier in Hebrew and got up and went to the door.

The soldier who was hitting on my friend while aiming a weapon at her, and had her backed against a wall, thought about what the other soldier said for a minute, then shrugged his shoulders.

“OK, we’re done.  You can go now.” He said, finally.

As my friend walked out of The Container and back to her family’s car, she was shaking–scared and extremely angry at the same time.  And as she got in the car, she saw that the same soldiers took another young girl from a car behind theirs and led her back to the same little room she had just escaped from.



  1. You should be ashamed of yourself making up childish stories and propagandising with them. Story one? It is also forbidden to carry a gun on Shabbat but when one is a soldier they can violate the Sabbath in pursuit of duty. No soldier would be ever allowed to serve if he felt he couldnt use a phone or radio. As for the second story, your knowledge of “al Container” seems to have been gleaned on line since you omitted the CCTV array that covers every milimeter there. Two soldiers sexualy harrassing a girl? Why didnt she file a complaint? You claim sh is an American, she could have had the embassy access CCTV tapes but of course its utter nonsense. Stop lying.

    • Yeah didn’t make that shit up, thanks for the comment though!

    • And if you have to ask why my friend did not go to the Israeli authorities about abuse committed by Israelis you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about, or the reality of life as a Palestinian under illegal, immoral, brutal Israeli occupation. Try going across the Green Line and through the checkpoints without using your privilege and you will see a side of Israel that WILL shock you. If not, don’t talk about shit you don’t understand.

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