February 13, 2004
[Bethlehem, West Bank] I had a tough
time sleeping last night. At 2:00am I blamed it on my friend Asher's
extra-large, turbo-powered coffee, but that wasn't the real reason.
At 3:00am I thought it was that darn unmanned Israeli drone aircraft
flying low over Bethlehem, but truly that thing wasn't keeping
me awake either. At 4:00 I had to admit that the real reason I
couldn't sleep was because I couldn't get an image out of my head.
Earlier Cathy had invited me for
dinner in Jerusalem, so I made my way to the Bethlehem checkpoint.
About twenty Palestinian men were detained against the rock wall
there. Unlike the photo below, which was taken a few days earlier,
they were facing me. A young and very blonde Israeli soldier walked
to the group and randomly pointed his rifle at three men and demanded
that they turn and face the other direction. The three men turned.
As the soldier was walking away, one of the men turned back around.
The soldier took offense at this, so he cornered the man and forced
him to walk behind a wall, out of the view of any vehicles stopped
at the checkpoint, but in full view for me.
As soon as the man was out of site
behind the wall, the soldier started kicking him. He continued
to violently kick the helpless man who was leaning against the
wall with arms and legs spread. I hardly paid any attention to
another soldier asking for my ID and searching my bag, because
I was watching the beating. I was allowed to pass, so I walked
directly to the soldier who still continued to viciously kick.
I wasn't sure what to do, so I just stood there about three feet
beside the soldier. I didn't say anything, although there was
a lot I felt like saying. My adrenaline was really pumping though
-- so much that I was worried I might do something really stupid.
When the soldier saw me he stopped kicking the man and looked
at me. And I just looked at him. I think I could have taken him
in a fight. Even though I'm 40 and he was maybe 18, I was a head
taller and probably a good 50lbs heavier. Those were the kinds
of stupid thoughts going through my head at the time. Really stupid
thoughts from a man not worthy to be sharing the loving and peaceful
message and life of Jesus Christ.
I walked very slowly to the soldier
and maybe just barely brushed his rifle when I passed. He watched
me until I was about ten feel from him. Then he turned and disappeared
to the other side of the wall, leaving the man. I waited a couple
of minutes to see if he would return, but when he didn't, I walked
away. I commented to a few other Palestinians who witnessed the
beating, then I headed to Jerusalem. Perhaps the soldier returned
later and delivered another beating. I don't know. But I know
that I couldn't get the image of the violent kicking out of my
mind all night. Actually, there are a lot of things I've seen
here that no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to forget.
Men at Bethlehem Checkpoint a few days ago.