Shanti Sena Stories: Moses and Mataal
2009 September 2
I was sitting in the shade at the Sahlah checkpoint, where Palestinians are allowed to walk, not drive, 100 yards only, on Hebron’s main street, before having to turn off (Colonists can drive anywhere they want on this street). I began jotting down some of my thoughts, and not watching the two Israeli soldiers. After several minutes, I realized they were calling me over.
Moses and Mataal (sp?) wanted to know, “Why are you here?” Their English was fairly limited.
I replied, “I'm part of CPT.”
“No, what are you doing at this checkpoint?
“I'm here to watch you and encourage you to treat the Palestinians with respect.”
Mataal announced, “This is a problem. When you sit here, the Arabs behave more independently. They don't want to do what we tell them.”
I suggested, “They don't like being told what to do.”
“We have to maintain law and order here.”
“They don't like your occupation here.”
Moses said, “Some of them are violent and dangerous. When I called one of them over to check his bag, he refused. I had to jump over this concrete road barrier to stop him. He had four Molotov (cocktails) and a knife in his bag. He was planning to attack Avraham Avinu (the colony next to the CPT apartments).”
I responded, “So what’s the solution? How do you plan to create peace?”
Mataal replied, “Peace is not possible.”
I said, “My father is from a pacifist tradition. His people refuse to fight or kill. They were driven out of Russia along with the Jews. So I am here trying to make peace. We want Israelis and Palestinians to live together as brothers and sisters.”
Moses said, “In October of 2000 there were many suicide bombers. Now there are fewer, because we prevent them.”
“Do you prevent them… or is Hamas recognizing that suicide bombings, and perhaps violence in general, play into Israel’s hand, ie, paint Israelis as the innocent victims, and Palestinians as the terrorists?”
Moses pulled out a cigarette. “You have a lighter?”
“Sorry, I don’t smoke.”
He left the cigarette dangling between his fingers, as if lit.
I explained, “We, of course, oppose suicide bombings. In fact, when bus #18 was bombed two Sundays in a row, we publicly announced that we would ride it the third Sunday. When Qassam rockets were falling on Sderot, we visited Sderot. We oppose all violence, Palestinian as well as Israeli.” Moses and Mataal seemed to soften, or relax, a bit. Moses’ cigarette still hung, still unlit, between his fingers.
I asked them, “What do you think the answer is?”
They both claimed, “There is no answer. There will always be fighting.”
I suggested, “Then it will turn into a human rights struggle, a civil rights movement.
I continued, "Martin Luther King changed my attitudes. I taught, almost 40 years, in a somewhat integrated school. Our student body is 20% black, 10% Hispanic, 10% Asian, 10% Jewish. Our students form many interracial friendships, date each other, fall in love, get married, have children. My own family is interracial. My wife is Thai, my daughter-in-law is Thai. My children and grandchildren are all mixed.”
I remembered my wallet photos. Soldiers, and Palestinians, love photos. Moses’ cigarette still dangled, still unlit, between his fingers.