The Qalandiya checkpoint literally wrecks lives. We used to call it that, the “life-wrecker,” me and another officer. Families were completely broken apart. Neighboring villages suddenly had this barrier running right down the middle. Mothers, fathers, totally separated. Company—— of the 932nd (Battalion of the Nahal Brigade) was there, a platoon of yeshiva students. These guys are sick, totally crazy, hate Arabs, willing to risk jail for the chance to do something to Arabs. They’ve got no God, they wear a yarmulke but they’ve got no God when they’re in the army. Eight-hour shifts at the checkpoint. There are two sides at the checkpoint, with a sergeant and a squad commander. During the day there’s an officer there, at night there’s a sergeant and a squad commander. The officer stands on one side, and there’s just the squad commander on the other. And there are also soldiers and another squad commander patrolling around, making sure no one sneaks through. It was the Wild West, the area around the checkpoint. What do I mean, Wild West? Setting tear gas, booby traps where the fence is broken, where there are holes and anyone can sneak through. I’m not talking about terrorists—I’m talking about women and children who go through every day. Kids who don’t want to be late for school, women going to doctors’ appointments use that hole. So where there’s a loose brick, right at the hole, you put a tear gas canister with no safety pin, so it’s released the moment someone steps on it. There was endless shooting in the air. And not just in the air, but also what’s called preventive fire. Aim at a stone near the person and fire.
A firing wall.
A firing wall. Exactly. We used rubber bullets, stun grenades, tear gas. Really the Wild West. No one knows, no one hears anything. No supervision.
There was no hierarchy of a commander giving orders?
Every soldier does whatever he wants?
Yeah. It’s the yeshiva students’ favorite spot, that Wild West, because they know that they can do whatever they want, beat people up as much as they want, just go wild. I remember many times when we’d detain people just for the hell of it, because someone started pushing at the checkpoint, or someone tried to go around it. Handcuff him, sit him by the concrete slabs, dry him out there the whole day. On principle, “Don’t mess with my checkpoint.”
It was up to each soldier’s judgment?
That whole checkpoint is the Wild West. Everyone does whatever he wants.