The Separation Fence Comes to Ramot, Part 2
By Mendel Weinberger
The separation fence in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot is well on its way to completion. However there are still a few gaps where it is possible to slip through and enjoy the peaceful silence of the wadi. A few weeks ago I decided to go for a walk on Shabbat afternoon, not my usual time for walks outside the fence. It was cloudy, a little cool, and felt like rain was on its way. But I felt I needed a break so I took the chance of getting wet. As I started down the dirt path I thought to myself, why not try a new place. So instead of turning left and climbing up the hill, I went right, down into the olive orchard. I figured the chances of meeting anyone there was fairly small, so when I spied an inviting looking olive tree I turned off the path and sat down under it on the grass. I started my usual meditation and was well into feeling very relaxed when I heard voices.
I opened my eyes and looked around. I didn't see anyone but from the sound of the men speaking I could tell they were close by. Then I heard the sound of a car moving towards me. I felt panicky and jumped up from my place. The sounds were coming from further down the path. I hid behind the tree and hoped they wouldn't see me. My heart was beating wildly and my imagination shifted into high gear. I imagined being captured by Arab youths who would torture me mercilessly before killing me. I pictured the search parties looking for my body, my children crying at my funeral, and my wife's angry remarks about how irresponsible I was for taking a chance with my life and leaving the family without a breadwinner. I kicked myself for turning right instead of left on my walk and prayed to G-d to make me invisible to whoever was out there.
When I heard the vehicle pull up opposite me I pushed myself up against the tree and didn't move a muscle. They were about 25 yards away. I heard two men speaking in Hebrew so I took off my hat and peaked out from behind the tree. What I saw caused me to breathe a sigh of relief. It was an IDF jeep on patrol. I thought of showing myself but on second thought decided against it. I didn't want to be questioned about what I was doing in the wadi and why I was hiding behind a tree. So I stayed where I was. After a minute the jeep continued on its way and I came out from my hiding place. I considered returning home but thought it unlikely the jeep would return any time soon. So I sat back down and continued my meditation where I left off. It took me a few minutes to calm down and I laughed to myself about all my macabre imaginations.
A short time later the sound of the jeep again invaded my reveries. I instinctively jumped up pushing off from the ground with my hand and in the process felt the sharp pain of thorns piercing my palm. This time I had no reason to hide but because of an old fear and distrust of men in uniform I didn't want to deal with these Israeli soldiers. I figured I would repeat my previous performance and then go home. But this was not to be. This time when they stopped on the path opposite where I was hiding they saw me. I heard one of the soldiers call for me to come out from behind the tree. Okay, I thought to myself, the jig is up. Now I've got some explaining to do. I walked out from behind the olive tree and was greeted by an M-16 aimed at my head. The one holding the gun looked kind of nervous and I thought isn't this ironic. Here I was worrying about Arab terrorists and I might just be shot by a Jewish soldier. The second soldier did the talking.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I'm a Jew," I answered.
"What are you doing here?" he continued.
"I was going for a walk," I replied.
I started to walk towards them with my hands up feeling really stupid being questioned by Jewish soldiers.
"Stop!" shouted the soldier.
"Maybe he's got a belt," said the one holding the rifle. (He was referring to the explosive belt worn by suicide bombers on their way to an attack.)
"Take off your coat," his friend ordered.
Wow, I thought to myself, they really suspect me of being a terrorist. Here I was wearing a long black coat and hat, sporting a full beard, speaking fluent Hebrew and they think I might be on a mission of destruction.
I untied my gartel, unbuttoned my coat, and took it off. I was wearing a dark sweater over my shirt.
"Take off your sweater too," he continued. I did so. "And pull up your shirt"
I bared my belly and finally they seemed satisfied I wasn't an agent of Islamic Jihad or Hamas. The nervous soldier lowered his gun and the second one motioned for me to approach him. When I came close he continued his interrogation.
"Show me your identity card," he snapped.
"Today is Shabbat," I answered, "I don't carry it on Shabbat."
"Why were you hiding behind the tree?"
"I thought you were Arabs," I said honestly.
"But didn't you see this was an Israeli army vehicle?"
For this question I didn't have an answer so I just shrugged my shoulders.
"There are all kinds of Arabs wandering around these hills, so I suggest that you don't walk here," he said. "It's dangerous."
I nodded and started walking back up the path feeling humiliated but relieved that the ordeal was finally over. When I returned home I told my wife what had happened. She laughed and found it hilarious the thought of me being interrogated at gunpoint by an Israeli patrol for being an Arab terrorist. I laughed as well. But upon further reflection I find the incident as a reflection of a reality that is bordering on the insane. I am a Jew walking on my own land in my own country and the mere sound of a car approaching sends me scurrying for cover behind a tree. And Jewish soldiers who find a Jew dressed in traditional garb speaking Hebrew suspect him of being a suicide bomber.
It is true craziness and I never could have imagined this reality would come about when I arrived in Israel 23 years ago. I hope and pray that the current Prime Minister will not be able to carry out his "Convergence Plan" and that true Jewish leadership will somehow emerge from the cesspool that is Israeli politics today. I pray that the separation fence will be torn down and the only "disengagement" and "uprooting" will be of hostile Arab communities, not Jewish ones. This will be a true Exodus from our current Mitzraim, our current difficulties.
from the May 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine