Sunday, April 19, 2009

Simulate a Checkpoint, Why Dontcha ?למה לא לשחזר מחסום

In his op-ed piece published on April 16, Gideon Levy bemoans the indifference to the occupation in the public at large, and the lack of a crusader for ending it in the Knesset in particular. Well, I’d like to reassure Levy that I’m reminded of the occupation every (work)day as I enter our (communal) dining room during floor-washing time.

Our dining room team has recently taken to pushing all the equipment (steam tables and warming ovens of various heights as well as other assorted institutional-size pieces) into the entrance, leaving a narrow passageway and reminding me of nothing if not a West Bank checkpoint in miniature. It has that feel too, of not being able to see out the other side. Then I came up with an idea (danger!): The youth movement activity of the 21st century.
Friends who were in Habonim tell me of all means of anti-capitalism indoctrination such as a crawling-on-hands-and-knees race for coins spilled at one end of a long gymnasium reminiscent of the famous digging-for-money scene in the film The Magic Christian; and being taken to a mall and given a few quarters per kid but admonished not to purchase from certain purveyors of enticing foods because said purveyors allegedly supported the grape growers, the leftist enemy of the day.

Why not, I thought, have youth movement members set up and operate a checkpoint? The activity might consist of building the checkpoint out of crates and other junk, an education in itself, as it has to be designed according to certain needs and parameters, with signs reading “Do not go beyond this point”; “Place belongings here”; “Men this way / Women this way”, etc.

Then each kid gets a card telling his or her “identity” and reason for needing to cross into Israel, for instance: Muhammad Abu-Kabir, age 78, suffering from heart disease, needs to get to Israeli hospital for treatment; accompanied by 20-year-old grandson”.

Meanwhile, the counselors have donned IDF uniforms and explain that they have received their daily directives from the intelligence services, and they know that one person in line is a suspected suicide bomber. Their object is to keep that person from crossing into Israel while not obstructing the innocent people who want to get across. The kids’ job is to convince the soldiers to let them cross in. Afterwards, of course, there is a sum-up session.

I challenge all youth movement members and counselors, and anyone involved in informal education to take this one on. I’ll be expecting the reports to roll in…including how many parents complain that the activity is “unpatriotic” and that the movement or school should be “apolitical”, as if anything nowadays can escape being political.

What more relevant activity could there be for a youth movement in 2009? If the Habonim members of the 1970s could crawl around trying to get their hands on a few coins, certainly our kids can spend an hour simulating a checkpoint, the tangible symbol of the occupation, no?


  1. Miriam shalom,

    I always thought that checkpoints were meant to stop homicide bombers and other fanatic Arabs from trying to go into Israel, and prevent the murder of innocent Israelis.

    Only after reading your post, I understand that the Machsomim are indeed to maintain the occupation of territories.

    However, I myself can still remember the days when we hiked freely in Judea and Samaria; I still remember when my father drove us in an old Simca car to the beach of Yamit (there was once a Jewish town by that name; it was destroyed by Israeli colonialists who seeked peace, and agreed to destroy their own towns for peace, or a piece of paper; unfortunately, I cannot recall even one incident where Arabs were willing to evacuate even an inch of land for the chance of peace). Then, mid way, the car broke down, and my father took a lift with a driver from Gazza to the center of Gazza, to get a repalcement belt. He then returned safely with another Arab driver. We, my mother, my brother and I, stayed in the car in the middle of what-was-later called "Netzarim Intersection", with many Aarbs around. Not one of them was harmful or hostile to us.

    So why did we have to build checkpoints? To maintain the occupation, or rather to protect ourselves?

    As for the creative idea of Pe'ulah for a youth movement "Mock Checkpoint": Great idea! I have a better idea though, for a preleminary Pe'ulah or two:
    1. Simulate the rescue of casualties and injured citizens from a Jerusalem center of town pizza restaurant (like we, some of NOAM staff, did in August 2001, two doors down from the NOAM offices.)

    2. Let's use the famous Hadracha technique of "reverse positions": We will now simulate an Arab victory in the war of 2030 in Palestineland. To make it a bit more realistic, perhaps we split the groups: The girls will simulate the defeated Jews, and the boys will be the victorious Arabs. I think that then we can move on to "Checkpoint simulation". What do you think?

    BTW, part of this simulation can be the mock execution of suspected-collaborators(in the ordinary humane way it's done in Palestinian towns; trust me - I had to handle the results of some of those in the 1st Infifadah during reserves duty in places like Nablus and others): Hanging by the feet of a desecrated, torn up and tortured body, for example? Who wnats seconds on his steak?

    Looking from my office window in Kikkar Zion, I can see at least 10 memorials to barbaric homicide attacks of Palestinians against innocent citizens: I cannot recall even ONE event here, looking from my window, where an Israeli soldier (and not a citizen) was the target of these attacks. However, walking in the streets of Jerusalem, I can see hundreds of Arabs walking around safely; I hear Arabic spoken in the streets, on the bus, in restaurants and malls. Why can't I imagine Hebrew spoken today in the Ramallah mall? Is it because of the checkpoints you mentioned??

    I believe that no one in Israel really WANTS the checkponits; but reading your post only days after the anniversary of the Park Hotel homicide bombing of Pessach 2003, and a week after the last casualty of the Mazza Restaurant attack died, is a bit... inappropriate?

    Yes, this is not a perfect world. But Gideon Levy and his companions do not serve any positive purpose in my mind in our quest for peace.

    So I hope that as Yom haAtzmaut approaching, and Shavuot right after (with Yom Yerushalayim in between), they will be filled with Zionist and Chesed content in the Peulot of NOAM and Machanot haOlim in the Southern Arava.

    All the best from Jerusalem,


  2. Zeev, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I have two responses:
    1. "I cannot recall even one incident where Arabs were willing to evacuate even an inch of land for the chance of peace"

    Well, not evacuate, but had their lands
    methodically grabbed from them, so one might say that they have already ceded land, though not willingly and not in the context of any agreement.

    2. "I hope that as Yom haAtzmaut approaches, and Shavuot right after (with Yom Yerushalayim in between), they will be filled with Zionist and Chesed content..."

    I echo your hope, as long as "Zionist" is not synonymous with "uncritically patriotic" and "chesed" extends to all...

  3. I think this is a great idea. The Anonymous Zeev is being disingenuous. I manned many a roadblock before there were suicide bombers. But back then the average Palestinian only had to get through one or two of them to get to school, clinic, or hospital. Now that we've got settlements and outposts on hill after hill they have to go through a dozen or more. That's not to defend us, it's to defend the right to erect settlements wherever we choose.