By Daniel Reisel

Too many Palestinians and too few of us. There is no way we can cope with the number of cars here. The only solution is to cause long queues in both directions.

Obediently, people line up. They wait their turn to enter or exit their own city. Some people are held up several hours per day. The people of Qalqilya have learnt that the best defence is steadfastness.

In traffic as well as politics, aggression will quickly get you killed.

It is Ramadan and people are tired and hungry. One unshaven fellow looks longingly at my cigarette. Feeling guilty, I stomp it out. As a soldier, I may occupy his country, encircle his village, destroy his vineyards. But I know what nicotine craving is like.

Then an ambulance arrives from Qalqilya. Inside sits a silver haired Palestinian doctor. He could have been my father. He explains that he is required to attend to a woman in the village of Hable. His licence plates are the wrong colour.

I look around. My officer is not paying attention. I let the ambulance slip past.

I feel pleased, like a naughty child stealing cookies from the cupboard when mama is not looking. The doctor does not smile, but acknowledges me with a slight bow of the head. Is he supposed to be grateful?

All of a sudden the flak jacket feels lighter. I feel good about myself. Perhaps it is possible to have an enlightened occupation after all. Occupation with a human face, as it were. Two hours pass by. Two hours of cheerful optimism.

My up-beat mood is shattered by the arrival of the battalion commander. He is puffed up with rage. He has received reliable information from the local shin-bet officer. Apparently, a certain soldier on the Qalqilya roadblock, no doubt a reservist, has allowed unauthorized vehicles to pass through.

He received this information about two hours ago. From a Palestinian collaborator in Qalqilya.

Daniel Reisel