Shanti Sena Stories: “Sit Down!”
"Sit down." I had just decided to do my daily meditation indoors, and was half way across our small patio, when I heard the words. I glanced to my right, and was startled to see, five feet away, a soldier in full battle gear, his rifle pointed directly at me. "SIT DOWN!" This time he was shouting. It took a second for his words to register. I sat down.
Yesterday, a Palestinian journalist friend had explained that when an Arab offers "Salaam", it means that he feels secure. I wish I had greeted the soldier with "Shalom". But I was a little rattled that first moment.
Two more soldiers followed. One of my teammates inside realized something was up, and came out. "May I help you?" They ignored her offer, and pushed past her. About this point my mantram kicked in. They were much more frightened than we were - that's why they carry guns - and why we don't. Soon I found myself praying for them.
After a few minutes, they said they were looking for the person who had photographed their watchtower on top of the Avraham Avinu settlement, 100 meters east, from our rooftop. Photographing military installations, especially the Israeli base 20 meters west of our rooftop, is forbidden. But we have taken photos of this settlement for years, without a problem.
One of our delegates finally realized he was the person. Ironically, he had already been required to erase that photo from his camera earlier this morning, when he had been stopped at another checkpoint. When he stepped forward, the soldiers suddenly became cordial. They even apologized for having tracked a little water into our apartment.