You would enter the houses? Listen, you don’t go in if you don’t have to, if there isn’t a good enough reason. Sometimes you enter the yards, part of the patrol enters the yards, but if you, let's say, need to find an observation point, you’ll be on their roof. Sometimes we located ourselves on balconies. The family leaves, they see we’re in their balcony, they’re already used to it, and they go. Or a family is watching TV in the living room and we’re watching from above, and there’s a soccer game on TV. Once, during Passover, there was a house in the middle of Jabal Rahmah that we needed for the period surrounding Land Day, I forget which Day it was… The house was in the middle of the neighborhood and we needed to stay in it for two or three days during these [expected] eventful days and scout the neighborhood from the balcony.
What events? In Passover a lot of Jews arrive, and on that time exactly there is an event of the Arabs, and we had to stay in that house for two or three days. It means that that the family leaves the house and we arrive at six in the morning, our platoon commander, who doesn’t speak Arabic, arrives and tells the family that they have to leave the house. They don’t understand what he wants from them, they don’t want to leave, and they’re a big family inside, a lot of people, he shouts at them and it’s really stupid. A guy from the army who speaks Arabic, the Civil Administration officer who speaks Arabic, arrives to talk with the Arabs and explain that we’re not throwing them out of the house forever – and it’s still shitty, they’re being evicted for 48 hours. What can they do? Go to their neighbors? – So he arrived (the Arabic speaking officer) only four hours later. And they’re standing there frustrated, fighting with us, and they don’t understand what we want, and the Civil Administration officer wasn’t with us there yet, so there’s an dispute and shouting, and they’re taken out of the house. At the end the youngest son maybe wanted to push the platoon commander a little bit, and the father, who has already seen everything, says to him: forget it, and they leave with their heads down, and then sat in their house for two days. Now this really got we worked up, it’s in the middle of an Arab neighborhood and the army’s order is to hang an Israeli flag from the balcony. Not only does the whole neighborhood know that we’ve evicted the family from their home for 48 hours, now they also have a flag in the middle of the street, the flag of Israel, and this isn’t a Jewish neighborhood, this is an Arab neighborhood, and you could hang an IDF emblem, a blue flag – you could do all sorts of things. And it's annoying, but inside the house, other than that, we made sure we only sit on the floor, we didn’t touch anything, we peed in bottles, we didn’t touch their home at all. If anyone accidently fell asleep on a chair, the platoon commander would immediately pick him up. In general, the whole company was very disciplined.
Purity of arms? Yes, if the company commander heard of the tiniest thing that a soldier did, anything that could be understood as violence against the Arabs, he would react with an iron fist, it wasn’t ignored…
How many family members did you take out of their home, in this family? I think there were the father and the mother, their son, his wife and a few of their kids, maybe like eight to ten people. Something like that.
And they simply waited outside until the Civil Administration officer who speaks Arabic came to explain? Yes, they waited downstairs, shouted, set at their neighbors, got angry. Yes.
And you were scouting from inside the house? Yes, one [soldier] would stand on the street, two downstairs, two on the balcony and one guy sleeping on the floor, dead tired. That's basically iy.
Why was that house chosen? Because it was in the center, second floor with a good view of the center and a central square. Its location was good.
You were watching the neighborhood itself or the Jewish neighborhood and the Cave of the Patriarchs? We were scouting the neighborhood plus the road you would have to use if you wanted to reach the Jewish neighborhood, if you want to go from Jabal Rahmah to Tel Rumeida, you have to go through that road. It scouted the roads but also the area of the neighborhood closest to the Jewish area.
You stayed there for two days? Something like that.
More or less? We were there between 24 to 48 hours, I think, they couldn’t keep us there much longer, we were dead tired, and it was Passover and all…
Did you have the Passover Seder in that house? Either the Seder itself or the next morning. It was an experience that got me all worked up.
Why? It was also the thing with the flag, the neighborhood could be… it’s basically saying to them: not only did we take you out of your house, but also fuck you, here's a flag. It bugged me, and I also felt like – what I told you in the beginning - that it was possible to better calm the family down. Maybe if they would bring along someone who speaks Arabic. Many times, there was another time when we set up an observation point in a balcony that watches a central junction, for about five hours. Another junction that leads to Tel Rumeida, in a different way. The goal is to enter the house, it was a sort of ‘straw widow’ (turning a Palestinian home into an army post). The object is to enter the house and reach the roof without being seen by the Arab families, so they won’t call their friends. On that day we were seen in the entrance to the building. The platoon commander asked if anyone spoke Arabic, there aren’t enough Arabic speakers for every patrol. There was one guy who knew Classical Arabic and he tried to talk to them and explain what's going on, and from that moment, if their home was on the ground floor, from that moment their door must be open all the time, and two soldiers had to be with the family downstairs. We didn’t sit in their living room, we sat at the entrance door to make sure they weren’t calling anyone, or doing too much. Even though they could to it from inside the house. The Arabs there, I think they’re already used to it, so they immediately sit down, pulled out their photo albums and showed the guys their family, offered the guys cucumbers and stuff. And that’s it, we were upstairs on their balcony for few hours.
And you were scouting too? Yes, we did. I’m not sure if it was that important, or that it was just to keep us alert since the company commander also wanted to show that he’s doing things and that the soldiers take part in missions other than guarding. I doubt it was really crucial.
Was it a routine mission, or was there some holiday? No, it was a special mission we were sent to execute, but all in all it seemed pretty meaningless. It was so that the Arabs know that the army is there. In short, they’ll remember that the Army was there that week, and they’ll be a bit careful.
In what neighborhood was that? I think it was also Jabal Rahmah.
By the way, in both cases – what happened on Passover and this one – did it go smoothly? You put up a flag in the middle of a neighborhood. Didn’t they throw stones? In this case they didn’t but in general sometimes they did throw stones at us. What could they do? Every time you’re sitting in their apartment and you’re saying to yourself: I hope the whole neighborhood isn’t about to get here and suddenly you’ll have a hundred people under the house and there's nothing you can do… Inside you’re stressed, but nothing like that ever happened.
Was it a routine mission to enter a house, get on the balcony, set a lookout, is that something you did a lot? Personally I did it a few times, not to mention arrests and raids. Let's say that scouting from the balcony I personally did around three times, usually we prefer not to do it, so the Arabs don’t know we’re there, I did three or four of these, but in general I think it was done at least once a week.
An initiated mission of entering a house? Yes, but again, usually it wasn’t something extreme where you evict an entire family for 48 hours and just tell them: get out. Usually we either used the balcony and allowed them to do whatever they want in the house, or used the third floor so it doesn't affect the Arabs inside, unless they saw us and then they were screwed because they had to stay within eye contact with you the whole time.
What does that mean - stay within eye contact? That’s the order: make sure they’re in the living room or see that they're within eye contact. But you know, there are two soldiers there, poor soldiers that don't really have the energy, and the Arab family is of about ten people, so you’re okay. If someone gets up and goes to another room, you don’t have the energy [to make a fuss]. That’s how it went with us. I don’t know how other [units] handled it, but we made sure they all kept together, that there was no hassle, but yes, you have to make sure they’re around, that they maintain eye contact, that they don’t leave the house. They can’t leave the house during that time, because then they’ll talk to other people or something.
And were there cases of resistance, other than the family that got worked up in Jabal Rahmah? I remember cases that suddenly they got angrier, but there’s nothing they can do, they’ll be restrained in seconds, they’ll be held. Either by their family or by us.