The knocks on the door were loud enough to wake us all up. The doorbell ringing followed. Before any of us were able to roll out of bed to see who was there, they were already in the house with their guns drawn. Five of them positioned themselves inside while another five were standing just outside the door.
“Put your guns down. You see I don’t have anything with me,” Khalil pleaded with the soldiers as he made his way towards them.
“Who is the owner of these buildings?” the soldiers shouted.
Amal, Khalil’s wife quickly became fearful for her husband’s life. She began to panic as the kids started making their ways out of their bedroom. “Go inside! Go back to sleep! Go.” She also pleaded with me to hide fearing that maybe it was me that they were looking for.
I was spending the night with them at their home in the town of Qaladnya. It is just a short walk away from Qalandya checkpoint, which divides Palestinian towns in Jerusalem with the West Bank, Palestinian Territories. Though they live in the West Bank side of the checkpoint, the Israeli army has completely free range on Qalandya.
Khalil stepped outside to talk to one of the soldiers. “Are you Khalil? Who lives here? Who lives downstairs? Upstairs?”
Without asking for his identification or anything to give a glimpse of who or what they were looking for, the soldiers simply left. We stood by the windows to watch them depart. One military jeep, a tank, and a bunch of other heavily armed foot soldiers noisily made their way through the narrow road. It seems they came specifically to Khalil’s house, as we did not see them stop at anyone else’s.
Finally, they were gone. We all took a deep breath and took some time to gather our thoughts. What did they want? Who did they want? How did they know Khalil’s name?
Khalil felt sure they were going to take him away. “They only do this in the middle of the night, like that, when they want to take someone.” Amal felt the same way. “We have no security here. None. They can just come whenever they want and do whatever they want,” Khalil says with frustration.
Good morning Qalandya and welcome to life under occupation.
*The names used are not the real names of the individuals in order to protect their identities.