Thursday, April 18, 2013

Learning The Secrets ...

I have a Palestinian friend (who will remain nameless) who ever so kindly has driven me all over the place, through Jerusalem to Beit Jala, Ramallah and any number of West Bank villages over the past couple weeks. All these journeys are interesting, but what caught my interest recently is his skill in coming BACK into Jerusalem/Israel through check points to deposit me back at my hotel in East Jerusalem - without being stopped. Now, he has a yellow license plate which obviously gives him an advantage - and he is doing nothing illegal - but that doesn't guarantee anything. He's Palestinian, and all Palestinians are suspect. Returning to Jerusalem/Israel last night, I asked him his secret. He listed 7 but thinks there are more he couldn't remember.

1. Never smile at the soldier. Many Palestinians smile, thinking that will please the soldier and he/she will let them through. Not so. A smile means you are Palestinian for sure.
2. Drive slowly through the check point, but never stop unless ordered to.
3. Keep looking straight ahead, lift your hand to the window in a gesture which says, "Hi guys, have a good evening." Very casual - as though you're one of the tribe.
4. If you wear a beard, shave it off.
5. Keep your car washed regularly.
6. Don't hang any of that stuff (Christian, Muslim symbols) on your mirror.
7. Try to get behind a Palestinian car that knows none of the above. Soldiers will pull them over and you will drive through unnoticed.

A footnote: I do remember one time we were stopped. It was a number of years ago and elements of the Second Intifada were lingering. We were going to visit his family in a West Bank village and were LEAVING Israel. The soldier refused to let us through. My friend explained we were going to visit his father who was ill (true). No deal. Back up and don't come back. My friend did as directed, drove back maybe 50 meters and headed off cross country on a road which barely made the definition. It circled the check point and came out on the other side. Because it was clear we could be seen from the check point, I shrieked that we would both be gunned down. He responded calmly, "No, the soldier just wanted to give me a hard time; he knew what I would do."

So much for Israeli security measures.

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