I just read this article, which another truthseeking blogger talked about, on a Turkish news website and I really liked the idea that goodness is still there and that sometimes you get help from the unexpected.
Jewish grandmothers patrol West Bank checkpoints
JERUSALEM – Reuters
Hanna Barag remembers the day an Israeli soldier called her a Palestinian whore. She was 67 and had just joined Machsomwatch, an all-woman group set up to curb human rights abuses at military checkpoints in the West Bank.
”It was at the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah,” Barag said, “And the remark at first struck me speechless. But then I asked him two questions: ‘Do you really think a woman my age has a chance at that profession? And would you say what you said to me to your grandmother?’”
The soldier said nothing but was embarrassed, and when Barag, who was born in Israel and describes herself as a Zionist, returned for another “shift” of watchdog duty a week later, the soldier was there – and apologized.
That was in the early days of Machsomwatch, set up in 2001 by three Israeli women who were alarmed by a spate of reports of beatings and abuse of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers manning checkpoints.
The group takes its name from the Hebrew word for checkpoint, machsom. From a few dozen in the beginning, Machsomwatch now numbers around 500, many of them grandmothers, who take turns watching 40-odd checkpoints in the West Bank.
”We do this 364 days a year,” said Barag. “Except for Yom Kippur (the most solemn Jewish holiday).”
The sight of Barag, now 71 and just five feet (1.52 meters) tall, recently in action at a busy checkpoint south of Nablus shows why women are more effective than men in dealing with soldiers when lines are long and tempers frayed.
After conveying, with a smile, a complaint to an officer who towered over her bird-like figure, she remarked: “Who wants to fight with a little old lady?”
Over the years, Machsomwatch has recorded a long list of checkpoint incidents: babies stillborn to mothers held up in queues, sick patients denied passage to hospitals, arguments that ended in Palestinians shot, food rotting on the way to market, students missing their final exams and bridegrooms their weddings.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Jerusalem says there are 528 permanent and temporary checkpoints in the West Bank, 40 percent more than a year ago.
Most are not between the West Bank and Israel but between West Bank towns and villages, a fact that makes anti-occupation Israelis and Palestinians doubt the Israeli government’s contention that their primary purpose is security.
”The idea is to make life so unpleasant and so uncomfortable for them that they just give up and leave, emigrate to an Arab country, to Canada, wherever they can go,” said Nomi Lalo, another veteran of Machsomwatch.
For Palestinians, the checkpoints, and the permits they need to cross them, are a constant source of anger, resentment and frustration.
”The checkpoints haunt your mind,” said Sireen Droubi, a teacher who has to go through several on her commute from her home village to work in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm.
”You think of them all the time. You never know how long it will take to pass them. You can’t make plans. It’s like living in a cage.”
The vast majority of Israelis think checkpoints and travel restrictions for the 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank are needed to protect Israel from Palestinian suicide bombers.
”As long as they bomb us, let them stand in line as long as it takes,” said one Tel Aviv resident. “If it’s 10 hours, too bad.” Tel Aviv has been the target of several suicide bombs, the latest last April. It killed nine people and injured 50 at a popular restaurant.
Barag and several of her fellow activists are on a right-wing group’s Internet list of “Self-Hating Israel-Threatening (SHIT) Jews” and the right-wing volunteer group Women in Green has called them Judeonazis.
Some Machsomwatch members also face criticism from their own families. “My four brothers all served in the army and they think I’m crazy,” said Barag. Her own army service included a stint as a secretary for Moshe Dayan, then chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces.
Lalo has two sons who have completed their army service and a 17-year-old who is about to begin. “My eldest is very critical of what I do. But I think it’s important. We are making a difference.”
How much is difficult to judge but the women’s monthly incident log, published on its website (www.machsomwatch.org), is read by the Israeli Defense Force, advocacy groups and probably at least one member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s family. His left-wing daughter, Dana, belongs to Machsomwatch.