O soldier, where art thou?
It is possible that the officer who shot Ahmed Issa is at this very moment accompanying a settler woman who is about to give birth or who gave birth a day or two ago and is cradling her baby in her arms. With pleasant demeanor he helps them, tearfully; he will accompany them, the Good Samaritan, to the checkpoint, they will not walk alone, and he will make sure, with determination and with sensitivity, that they do not wait an unnecessary second under the blazing sun.
A few Israelis - Arab lovers - are still taking an interest in Israel's Palestinian neighbors even during these days of disengagement. There is no doubt that this is an extreme manifestation of eccentricity, not to say self-hatred, which has been so typical of converts across the generations.
Last week, three of these weirdos - Dafna Banai, Yishai Rosen-Zvi and Ehud Krinis - went to the village of Salem in the West Bank to meet with Ahmed Issa and hear from him what happened on July 18, 2005, at the Azmut checkpoint.
Ahmad is 50 and has five small children - the eldest, a boy, is six; the youngest, a girl, is one month old. He is not one of the richest people of the village or one of the poorest. He lives and earns a living by the sweat of his brow - for many years he worked for a renovations contractor from Ramat Gan.
On that day, more than a month ago, Ahmed was on the way from Nablus to his village by taxi, bringing back his wife and their newborn daughter from the hospital. Only 24 hours had passed since the birth and the family was already heading home. As usual, they stopped at the checkpoint. It was a punishingly hot day and Ahmed naively thought that the officer at the checkpoint would show consideration for the special situation of his wife and for Tala, their one-day-old daughter. The officer, though, was not especially impressed and ordered Ahmad to retrace his steps. Obeying, Ahmad turned around and started back to the taxi. He never made it.
With his back to the officer, he was shot in the leg, and one bullet was enough to wound both legs. Ahmad spent a week in the hospital and now is back home. For the next two months he will hobble about on his two injured legs and will not be able to work and earn a living.
Photographs of Ahmed, his bandaged legs and little Tala in his arms are on file with the paper. He does not cry in the photos, does not shout and does not even curse the checkpoint soldiers and police, because he is a man of sorrows and has known suffering, like many of his people. And what will his wrath achieve, what good will it do.
A few days ago a complaint was submitted to the chief of staff about what happened at Azmut checkpoint. The Military Police are apparently investigating and Ahmed Issa himself was questioned.
And the officer who opened fire - where is he now? Who knows? Probably he was among the evacuating forces in the Gaza Strip or the northern West Bank - polite, genteel and totally uncruel.
Maybe he even exchanged an embrace with Pinhas Wallerstein, that merciful and compassionate embrace that stifled so many tears in so many homes; the same Wallerstein who at the beginning of the first intifada also shot a Palestinian youth who threw stones at the car of the head of the Binyamin Regional Council and member of the Yesha leadership. Wallerstein stopped the car, got out, shot the fleeing boy in the back and killed him. The army, the police, the prosecution and the court joined forces on how to keep Wallerstein out of the hoosegow; he was convicted of offenses that underwent occupation sanitization and given a few months of community service as penance.
Or maybe the officer from the checkpoint is these days offering a tender hand to Daniella Weiss, another council head, picking her up softly from the road; gripped by grief, she pines in prostration, vainly craving salvation.
And it is even possible that the officer who shot Ahmed Issa is at this very moment accompanying a settler woman who is about to give birth or who gave birth a day or two ago and is cradling her baby in her arms. With pleasant demeanor he helps them, tearfully; he will accompany them, the Good Samaritan, to the checkpoint, they will not walk alone, and he will make sure, with determination and with sensitivity, that they do not wait an unnecessary second under the blazing sun.