Tuesday afternoon. It's close to 40° C (over 100° F) and I feel a flu is coming up. Ahmad calls to tell he got arrested at the Qalandia checkpoint.
I immediately send a fax about his mental state to the police, in the hope this will get him out. However, the next day he's not yet released and my feeling of helplessness increases. I find out that he was moved to the Russian Compound in Jerusalem; a place where Palestinians are often treated harshly, and sometimes even tortured. After some investigation, I get hold of the name of the lawyer provided to him by the Public Defense, who tells me that Ahmad is charged with driving a car without an Israeli driving licence, use of drugs, impostering and entering Israel. My heart drops. The lawyer informs me that he will not continue with the case and it's unclear who will take over. The next morning Ahmad was supposed to take a couple of American visitors to a tour of Bedouin life, both to share the hardships about life in the West Bank and make a little money. I cancel the tour last minute and also rearrange the hours of my clients.
Thursday morning, after a series of calls, I discover the name of the new lawyer, who notifies me Ahmad will appear before a judge within half an hour at the Traffic Court. (Luckily, not the Military Court.) I rush to court, but Ahmad isn't there. We wait and wait, almost giving up, but three hours later Ahmad appears, hands and feet shackled, accompanied by three policemen (one of them the size of the other two together); a terrible view. We're only shortly before the judge, since based on the fact that an Israeli psychologist (me) is willing to be Ahmad's guarantor, the defense lawyer makes a deal with the prosecutor. Ahmad will be released on bail, if I manage to arrange the payment before the office closes (in less than an hour), for a week because of the holidays. What a stress! 2.30 PM, just before closing, the judge signs the paperwork. Ahmad will be brought back to the Russian Compound, where an officer will have to identify him (?), after which he'll be expelled from Israel near a checkpoint. However, by 6.30 PM he's not yet released and I get worried once again. While cooking, I cut my finger and blood is all over the kitchen. At 8.30 PM, Ahmad calls to tell that he's about to be released, but he has not yet received his belongings.
Friday morning, I'm going crazy. I try to get hold of Ahmad in any possible way. Call his friends, the Public Defense, the police, go to his house in the village, to the local cafe. What went wrong? No sign of him, until at 8.30 PM he suddenly answers the number a friend of his gave me, explaining that he slept the whole day until just now. I immediately go to see him and am furious. How possibly could he have gone to sleep without contacting me? The rumors about the drugs and the possibility that instead of calling me he went to see a girlfriend (as the friend suggested) do not make my mood better. In front of the people around, I refuse the coffee and knafe (Arab cheesecake) that he has waiting, realizing that this is an insult. He gets upset too and explains that he is very thankful for my help, but that I should know by now that getting arrested is a normal thing for him, and that it's "my" people who are doing this to them (the Palestinians). After I calm down, he shares that he tried to help a client of the garage and drove her car to get it fixed, when he was arrested. He adds that he was investigated extensively and had had little sleep during the days of his arrest. With interference of the lawyer and my letter, the police had dropped all charges, which were without base, except the driving in Israel. As a result he was moved from court to court, ending up in the Traffic Court. He was released only in the middle of the night, after being cursed by the police officer, without any of his belongings (phone, money, car keys & shoe laces). This was near Ma'ale Adumim (an Israeli settlement), from which he had to walk through a wadi (valley) and up a mountain, for an hour or so, to reach the house of a family member. There, being exhausted, he fell asleep.
Friday night, since Ahmad cannot legally go back to the Russian Compound, I go to the police and try to get his stuff. They tell me that only on Sunday they'll be willing to check if it's there. In the meantime, he has no phone, no car and no shoe laces, and my flu is not getting any better.
Tomorrow a new year starts!
P.S. I did go there that Sunday, and after waiting for half an hour or more, for no clear reason, I got Ahmad's belongings.
For more of my stories on arrests by security forces, click here.