A Night in a Palestinian Village

Someone said that the decisions you make affect the life you lead. I guess that’s pretty damn true. I remember a night a long time ago. It was dark and I was nervous but excited also. We disembarked from the vehicles a good few kilometers away from the village where our target was living. We hiked cross country through farmland to get to the outskirts of the village. We were stealthy in our approach. The whole reason we had left the vehicles behind was because they made too much noise. And so we crept towards the village where a young man lay sleeping. I guess where a lot of young men lay sleeping but there was only one we wanted.

At first we crept, then their dogs started barking. Uncontrollable, loud barking that went on and on. Until it was replaced by the infinitely more human sound of catcalls emanating from the dwellings on the outskirts of the village. And then we were running. All of us as one big group ran forward. No one gave an order but as an instinct we pushed forward. Each crew broke off on its own as we moved forward until there was just the three of us panting our way to our target.

There was Dov up front and Yuval behind me. The catcalls and wolf whistles were coming from all around us as we ran through the village. A wall came up before us and Dov vaulted it. I heard him land heavily on the other side. The ground was somehow lower down on the other side. He landed and then jumped up already on the run again, I followed him over and hit hard. I was prepared though. I hit the ground and allowed my knees to buckle just like at jump school. I let my knees collapse and rolled to my side before using the momentum to spring back up and carry on running.

There was no time to warn Yuval. I heard him hit the ground. I heard a muffled thud and a human grunt as he picked himself and followed. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I heard him. My good friend. My tough friend. He had come through training with me. Had stood with me when the army pinned the badges to our uniforms that said we had made it. Now we were together in a Palestinian village somewhere near Qalqilia whose name I can’t even remember. Trying to trap a master terrorist but don’t ask me which one. I wasn’t big on names.

The three of us found our assigned corner of a house. It overlooked the rear of the master terrorist’s dwelling place. If he tried to bolt out the back he would run into us. We had stalked and then we had run and now we were still. I was panting and sweating from the exertion. We all were. But on that corner of the house we stopped all movement. The night was without clouds and the blue tarpaulin of sky had been removed to expose the true extent of the universe beyond. From the other side of the house a megaphone crackled into life and Dov along with the other squad leaders relayed that we were in position.

And the night dragged on. But we didn’t move. The minutes moved slowly by. The North Star charted his course across the universe. I watched. Yuval began to doze off behind me. I jerked him awake. Minutes later I felt his elbow hit my chest as he did the same for me. And so the night became a conflict between my urge to be a good soldier and my ever closing eyes.

Then an AK-47 was thrown from a window. Someone  said it over the radio. We didn’t see it. The night moved from black to deep blue to purple to pink before disappearing altogether. And still we were there on the corner of someone’s house. Crouching on one knee.

The radio crackled into life. It was over, the bad guy was in our hands. We were called around to the front of the house. there he was. Kneeling on the ground. He was about 17 or so. He looked puny. Especially with a couple of our guys standing next him weapons ready. He was about 17. I wondered if he had really been worth the effort. I guess he must have been.

Then the Colonel came up in his jeep. A big man, tall, with a regal bearing. He stepped out and took a look at him. “Guard him well” he said to my friends and I. “We’ve been looking for this one for a long time.” Before walking away he turning to the Major in charge of my unit. “Sweep the whole village for weapons.”

And so we did. All day we went through that village. From the small dwellings in the center to the big palatial houses on the periphery. We found nothing. Except olives. Thousands of olives in at least one room in almost all the houses in the center. But no guns. No bombs.