Northern checkpoints: Journey into the netherworld during wartime

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Hanna Barag: Reporting Translation: Danah Ezekiel

The days are unbearably difficult. Depths of evil that we did not believe existed.  People lost their humanity and innocent people paid the price. The situation is terrible and there is no solace. Clinging to the news and praying each to his own God. Suddenly the phone rings and you jump because every conversation is startling. Too many friends and relatives in danger zones.

On the other side of the line is a man speaking Arabic. Shamefully I haven't learned the language and I'm at a loss. What does the man want? I try to ask him to search for a Hebrew or English speaker - nothing! And the man screams and cries for help. I came to my senses. My friend R. speaks Arabic and I decided that my salvation would come from her. It turned out that it was a private ambulance with a 24-year-old Palestinian guy who was murdered in a war of criminals and his body was rushed to Abu Kabir a few days before the outbreak of the war. Due to the events of the Iron Swords War, the Institute of Forensic Medicine decided to release the body for burial.  

A private ambulance with an Arab driver was ordered. The driver was told that he had permission to pass through the Barta’a checkpoint. The family of the victim was waiting for him on the Palestinian side of the checkpoint. The burial was supposed to take place late at night, in the village of Zahr al-Abd. I had no idea where on the globe this little village was. With difficulty, I finally  realized that the driver ran into a recently erected “surprise” checkpoint manned by reservists. Where is the checkpoint? I'm asking. "I have no idea" says the driver. I say to my friend R.: What to do??? Who do we turn to?

We start a telephone campaign - no one answers. WhatsApp messages fly to all winds - Nothing!! Even a wall might answer faster!  And desperation is growing. Meanwhile the driver is trying to convince the reserve men at this “surprise” checkpoint to let him pass. For their part, they hardly understand what they’re being asked for.They were ordered to let no one pass - and that's that! The driver who has lost patience - he has been waiting for several hours as darkness has fallen, and the road back in the middle of the night is dangerous - opens the ambulance doors and signals that he intends to unload the body down to the road and leave.  Let the soldiers transport the body - he had had enough.

And then the miracle happened! A Hebrew-speaking reservist took the phone from the driver to talk to me. Now I had to, at eleven at night, already impatient and boiling with anger, give the nice soldier a detailed lesson in the bureaucracy of the occupation. I had to explain to him what a 'back-to-back transfer' is and why the ambulance next to him cannot move to the occupied territories. Ignorance about the occupation’s details is probably common property. "Ma'am, don't get excited, everything will be fine." Indeed - the body remained in the ambulance and after midnight the deceased passed to his final resting place.