Shanti Sena Stories: “The Soldiers Are in Your House!”
2008 October 17
I went on a long shopping walk this morning – a pharmacy, a hardware store, a leather shop, a dairy shop, and the farmers’ market. As I turned into our alley, a young Palestinian friend said, “The soldiers are in your house!” And, just as he said, when I rounded the last bend, there they were.
Two Israeli soldiers were standing, guns drawn, in our street doorway. We choose to keep this door unlocked during the day. Four more soldiers were standing in our stairwell. But right above them stood two of our CPT women, Laura, an Italian, and Jan, a Scot, and our Palestinian neighbor woman who shares our stairwell, arguing with the captain. Johann, a Canadian teammate, was taking digital photos.
Actually, when they first heard and saw the soldiers, Laura hid our three computers. Jan called our lawyer in Israel-Palestine. What this poor officer, who struggled to speak English, did not know is that these two women love to argue with soldiers. They have both been doing this for two years.
“I need to check your house.”
“To check security for the settlers.” (This is Sukkot week, which brings many Jewish visitors to the settlements.)
“What about security for the Palestinians?”
“That is not our mission.”
“It should be. The Geneva conventions say that an occupying army is responsible for the security and safety of all the civilians under its control.”
“I’m just following orders.”
“”Soldiers, especially Jewish soldiers (after the Holocaust) should know better than to ‘just follow orders’.”
“I would be willing to discuss that some other time and place.”
“What about Israeli law? Some of the settlements here in Hebron are unrecognized and illegal even under Israeli law.”
“Hebron is a closed military zone right now.”
“Where are your orders?”
“No papers are required.”
Soldiers are required to present and allow photos of military closure orders and maps. Jan called a contact with the Israeli military, who later confirmed that this closure was authorized.
“Our only view of the settlers and “their” street is from our rooftop, not from our windows.”
“May two soldiers go to your rooftop?”
I finally thought to serve the soldiers coffee (an idea I read in Michael Nagler’s Nonviolence course at UC Berkeley seven years ago.) I began preparing six cups of coffee (instant, not Arabic, unfortunately).
Just before I finished, the soldiers were gone. The captain had finally agreed to not search our apartment at all. Our Palestinian neighbor had agreed to allow the captain to search her apartment alone, as long as some CPTers accompanied him. He accepted that arrangement.
Afterwards, I thought I could have proposed another solution: “Our House is a weapons-free zone. One soldier stays outside with all your guns. The rest of you come in, without your guns, for coffee.”