|Palestinians wait to go through the Ibrahimi|
Sometimes, as in the case of the photo to the left, the turnstiles are locked and no one can get through. Thankfully, two days ago when I took the picture, it was only closed for about 10 minutes. When it was opened, we followed Palestinians and two tourists through (I wondered if the arrival of the tourists had anything to do with the opening, but I don't know). After we went through both turnstiles and passed the soldiers stationed there, we heard a male voice, "Hey! Hello!" We were ambling through the mosque area and decided that if the voice was directed at us and he really wanted to talk to us, we were walking slowly enough that he could easily catch up. No one stopped us and we walked through the area and continued our patrol. When we were in sight of another checkpoint (no more than 5 minutes down the road walking at our slow pace), another soldier, who we'd heard singing as we neared, called out to us, still in a sing-songy voice, "Hey, CPT! Come here" We had already turned around and were walking back to the mosque. Again we assumed that if he really wanted to talk to us, he would pursue us. Our walk went undisturbed.
|Mosque/synagogue; area checkpoint is out of sight around the|
corner from the farthest tree; the mosque checkpoint is visible;
the guard post is behind where this picture was taken
"You can't wear your hat and vest."
He paused. "Ask the soldier up there."
Without taking off our hats and vests, we walked through. No one at the checkpoint paid us any mind, so we did not stop to inquire about the status of our hats and vests.
Yesterday a different CPTer and I approached the mosque. After passing through the first turnstile, we were detained between the two.
"You cannot wear them here. You know."
"We have not seen the order saying this. We keep asking. Where can we get a written copy of this order?"
"You have to take off the hat and vest."
"We'd like to see the order saying this. We've never seen the order. Where can we get it?"
"Talk to TIPH." TIPH is Temporary International Presence in Hebron, an NGO begun in 1997 that "monitors the situation in Hebron and reports on breaches of the agreements on Hebron between the Israeli and the Palestinian side, as well as international humanitarian law and international recognised human rights standards." TIPH does not release its reports to the public, but rather to the Israeli Defense Forces, the Palestinian Police Forces, and the governments of its six member countries.
"TIPH?" This was an answer I hadn't heard before.
"Yes, talk to TIPH. You cannot come through with your hats and vests."
We were pretty sure that TIPH has nothing to do with whether we wear our hats and vests, but because there were Palestinians waiting behind us, we chose not to prolong the conversation, took off our hats and vests and walked through. After we passed the guard post on the far end of the area, we put them back on. We went a different way home, and though we passed more soldiers, none commented on our uniforms.
This morning at the beginning of our patrol, yet another CPTer and I happened to run into some TIPH folks. We recounted the conversation from yesterday and asked if they had anything to say about our hats and vests.
"Wear them. They are just saying that to annoy you, make it more difficult for you, and hope that you go away." None of this was news.
"So TIPH says it's OK to wear our hats and vests?"
We passed through the mosque checkpoint minutes later. We had chosen to only wear vests (no hats) and experienced no hassles. Later as we walked back through, I noticed that one of the soldiers on duty was the young woman who had held us between the turnstiles yesterday.
"I talked to TIPH, as you said. They said it's OK to wear our hats and vests."
"I will have to check on the orders."
"You told us yesterday that we should ask TIPH. We talked to them this morning and they said we can wear them."
No comment from the solider. We continued walking.
And so the hat and vest dance continues.
Five hours after writing the above: We did another patrol right after I posted this. Wearing our vests, we went through the checkpoint, no problems.
A few minutes ago, we went again. At least one of the soldiers at the checkpoint had been there earlier in the day when we walked through. Nevertheless, this time we were not allowed through wearing our vests. We turned around and came home.