We were on our way to the club.It was family time, husband ,son, daughter and myself .Leaving behind the over-crowdwd city of Nablus to a quieter place where families gathered , kids could go wild ,and where teenagers would find a legal place to be themselves.
Giving my non Palestinian readers some background about checkpoint culture in occupied Palestine , is quite essential . So checkpoints are two types, the permanent ones , and then there is the "Jack -in-the-box" type(please respect my copyrights regarding this term).This is a checkpoint that could pop out of nowhere anytime any place.
So that evening we were destined to be stopped by a type B military patrol ; A jeep ,some portable iron bannisters, and a bunchfull of soldiers...in quite a "jolly" mood . But then talking about soldiers cannot be limited to types A and B, for there are also soldiers of diverse origins, colours and certainly varied degrees of hatred .Those comming from Ethiopia (the Flashas as they are called in Israel) are the toughest to deal with , them being treated as inferior citizens in the State of Israel-the country they thought would free them from their poverty, their color and sustain them in dignity and prosperity-. Finding out that that was not the case in Israel, and that discrimination there was at its worst ,they needed an outlet to their oppression ,anger and disappointment . It was only the Palestinian women ,youth and elderly that they felt superior to , so they got full satisfaction through torturing them, dehumanizing and humiliating them .
So fate was merciful that evening , no "Flashas" were in sight .Approaching my husband's window the "merry" soldier asked in broken Arabic :"La wein (meaning where to)"?
Husband replied:"to the Club"
"What club ?",he asked with a grin(as if he did'nt know)
With his blood pressure starting to raise , my husband answered:"would it make a difference if i told you?"
"Ok ,Ok where do you live" insisted the gunman ( apparently he wanted a conversation ...regardless.)
Tension was gradually eating up the remaining positive vibes around us ,my husband started to lose his patience, my usually very friendly 21 years old son became restless, and his face revealed feelings which i feared the soldiers would notice.My 15 year old daughter started shrinking in her seat.
He insisted to know where we lived, still grinning,and snearing and nodding his head in admiration of his all generous and "friendly"act of communicating with us...
I decided to divert his attention away from my husband,so i stepped into the conversation,pointing with my hand to the direction wher our home stood..
"There" , I said
"Maybe we can come and visit sometime ...and maybe have tea..."...replied the oppressor.
It would have been so normal of me to say,"yes, please do"...but i could'nt......I will be a traitor...to all those humiliated Palestinians like myself and my family, to all those who were killed at checkpoints, to all those who were deprived to pass ,deprived access to a farther place where they could have worked for a whole day to buy some food for a family of ten or maybe fifteen.
The occupier, whose only credential was his weapon, stepped aside, still putting that lifeless , meaningless grin on his face!He waved to us with his arm in a "go if you want " manner, without even looking at us,...we the unworthy , the unseen and the non-existing.
Silently we drove on to the club, each staring out of his window, having his own thoughts which we never shared.Suddenly I recalled how during the seventies The Israeli Military Governor would impose himself on Gazan families.He would call and express his "kind" wish to come over for a cup of tea".Accompanied by armed forces, he would invade homes of dignitaries ,terrifying their kids,provoking rumors around them .....all for a cup of "enforced "tea...
At the club we were so quiet.We did not order our usual tea with mint .We opted for ice cold fresh juices.But even that could not drag us out of our drooped spirits...So they have murdered our happiness at the checkpoint, (no , happiness is an exagerated fairy-tale oriented term) better say they smashed our hope for spending a basic normal time when possible...!
Nevertheless the incident was not wasted without any input from our side. For as always...we were not totally helpless.We made a choice....Tea was not an option at that point....and I'm definnitely not talking about the club......!