Only In Israel

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The job.

I've been serving in the West bank for about a year now and it's clearly not an easy job. I don't mean I'm not having fun, but sometimes, it can get to you. One of the most disturbing things for me are shepherds.
Usually they're either young boys, or very old men with lots of sheep and goats going around the mountains and hills of the region. Them being a security hazard is unquestionable. They collect intelligence overlooking major junctions, settlements and checkpoints, and for all I know they might as well be terrorists waiting for a chance to get near and blow up. Occasionaly, when a shepherd gets too close, you get sent to drive him away. Now, this is about the worst image you can possibly imagine, at the beggining of my service in the territories, the shepherds were guys around 20 so telling them to go away was an easy thing, but now? The Palestinians learned the trick. The shepherds are either very old 70+ men or very young 15- boys.
I'm telling you, going to an old 70+ guy and telling him he can't be there, breaks my heart. Trying to explain a young boy he can't be there and has to go away because he's a danger is one of the hardest things possible. I'm sure you can see the picture in your mind. A soldier with full-gear and automatic rifle telling a little boy to go away, you don't even have to imagine, because the media always bothers to find those scenes and publish them all over the world.
And here's what happened two weeks ago. I got called, as usual to drive away some kids (kids would be unnacurate, teenagers is more like it: they were about 15-17) with their flock that always get to a hill near the checkpoint. I never really understood what they were doing there. There was plenty of grass all around the valley which is lower than the checkpoint. The same kids used to return to the same point over and over again. It was quite annoying, you go there, tell them to go away, they go away, and come back within the hour. Once in a while you shout your lungs out hoping they'll get a hint, and occasionaly throw in a few swears in Arabic which the Arab soldiers serving with us bothered to teach us.
I swore the next time I see those boys, I'm gonna load my weapon on produce a similar noise with it and spook the hell out of them. It was getting out of hand, everytime they came back, they were getting closer and closer to the checkpoint. They were already in the position to throw rocks and hit us good, and I'm not even talking about the option of them having granades.
That occasion arrived within the week. I was on another shift in the checkpoint, and the boys returned. As usual, we geared up, rushed to them, and then I noticed something weird. One of them turned around and quickly put something inside his pants. In such occasions you usualy think of the worse: an explosive device.
We kept a good distance and shouted at him to remove what he just put in his hands and put it on the ground. He reached into his pants and took out something I haven't expected. A book. I told him to put it on the ground and step away from it. A book? why would he read a book there? Why would he hide it when we came near?
I took the book away. Seemed like some schoolbook, probably history, and then I noticed the sidenotes. I read a little arabic, and noticed that many numbers were in it. We drove the boys away and took the book down to the checkpoint. One of the Arab soldiers serving with us translated. What those little innocent boys did, was write down every single action we were taking in the checkpoint. When did we switch positions, How many trucks have we let in and when. What were the procedures for checking Palestinians going to work. Every single thing was right there in the notebook.
Suddenly letting the guys off didn't seem like such a smart idea.
What those kids were doing can easily clasify as terrorist activity. They were clearly collecting data for an attack. They had it all ready, and who knows how much they managed to collect before we caught them. There's now a high probability of us being attacked.
Naturaly, all the procedures and times that they managed to gather were immideatly tuirned over to the higher ranks and everything in the checkpoint was altered, so the data is now useless. But still, this clearly comes to show that the Palestinians are using the decency and the moral values, me and my friends were brought up with to sneak in spies (I can't think of a better definition to that) that we'll have problem handling.
Don't get me wrong, it won't change my attitude one bit. I will still have a hard time driving out old men and boys from hills next to Jewish towns and Israeli military positions, but atleast I'm aware of the risks of it now.


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