To The State Of Palestine!
Enjoy Your Visit!”
By Chana Katz
says Brooklyn businessman Chaim Yaacov Hendrick, was the greeting
he recently received at the Arab checkpoint outside the city of
Sh’chem, where he was planning to visit the tomb of Yosef
visit turned into “the most frightening experience of my life”
Hendrick later recounted. Waving their rifles at him, his Arab
hosts asked him to take off his kippa and follow them to what
turned out to be Nablus Police Headquarters for two hours of
interrogation, Hendrick said.
mouth was as dry as its ever been in my life,” he said. “I
knew the only way out is trusting in Hashem and I prayed for
Hashem to help me.”
five hour indoctrination to the fruits of Oslo began when he
followed an “old map” given to him by a car rental company in
said he planned to daven at Yosef’s Tomb the week of the
patriarch’s yahrtzeit on his way north to the city of Tzfas.
his way through several major Arab villages, Hendrick said he
arrived at the outskirts of Sh’chem, where Arab police stopped
him, checked his papers and passports, and after about 15 minutes
of questioning told him, “Welcome to the State of Palestine.”
down the road after another 15 minutes, two cars raced up,
“sandwiched” him in, pointed a gun at his car and told him to
get out, Hendrick said.
Palestinians dressed in civilian clothes and a big Palestinian
with a gun on his hip asked for my papers,” Hendrick continued.
“They told me to take off my kippa but didn’t seem to
mind when I covered it with my baseball hat.”
15 more minutes of interrogation, Hendrick said his hosts told him
they’d escort him to the burial site. Instead, he said they took
him down a dirt road to a gray building marked “Nablus Police
was now praying to Hashem,” said Hendrick, an Australian who
moved to New York last year for business.
up stairs past “cells smelling of urine,”
Hendrick said he was taken to a room on one of the top
floors filled with uniformed and plainclothes Palestinians.
broken English, Hendrick said they asked him what he did, where he
was from, where he was going and who were his friends, “over and
over the same questions.”
captors noticed a cellular phone clip on his waist, went to his
car to retrieve his cell phone and asked about the last number he
had called his New York office about an hour earlier, but said he
deliberately lied to his captors, telling them he had just called
his office and told him where he was and what was happening to
of the plainclothes Palestinians made a phone call and summoned
the head interrogator to the telephone.
will release you,” he was told. “Don’t let your imagination
get the better part of you; we just did this for your protection.
Welcome to the state of Palestine. Would you like a glass of
water?” Hendrick “made a bracha and took a sip.”
later reported to Israel Defense Force (IDF) officers things he
had seen during his visit including a room in the police building
with Palestinians dressed in blue and white camouflage uniforms.
Hendrick also told the IDF that as he passed through the Arab
village of Ramallah he saw yellow vans with taxi signs delivering
Palestinians dressed in army uniform, suggesting a disguise for
told the Army they should put signs up warning Jews not to drive
in the area,” said Hendrick. “They said it wouldn’t be
IDF spokeswoman, confirmed that a “frightened” Hendrick had
spent the night at the District Command Office near the Arab
village of Jenin, but admitted the IDF’s hands were basically
he has complaints he has to speak to the Palestinian Police —
not us,” the IDF spokeswoman said. “It’s not the fact that
it’s enter at your own risk. It’s not our territory. Basically
they can do whatever they want.”
if the state of Israel had an obligation to protect its citizens
and tourists, the spokeswoman replied, “It’s Palestinian
territory, I can’t really say it’s Israel — whether or not
it’s a different state is something determined way beyond the
army. They have their own rules, their own police, their own
the time he left Sh’chem, Hendrick was desperately searching for
signs of a Jewish settlement. Following the “red line” on the
dated car rental map, though, he said he found himself only in
villages with Arabic signs. It was already dusk, but Hendrick said
all he saw on either side of him were Arab restaurants and stores
and lights from the Arab mosques on distant hills.
I started davening to Hashem,” Hendrick said.
another Palestinian checkpoint, Hendrick said they again took his
passport. Hendrick later told the IDF that while he had been
sitting by the side of the road he heard gunfire coming from what
sounded like a target range.
guard saw me looking and made a phone call and the firing
stopped,” Hendrick said.
an hour, Hendrick said he was released and escorted to a big arch
and told, “On this side of the road is Palestine. And on the
other side is Area C (joint Israeli and Palestinian control). Go
to Area C.”
turned right like the guy told me and I found myself in the heart
of Jenin,” Hendrick said.
through the main street of the Arab village that has often made
news for local unrest, Hendrick said a car started chasing him. He
drove into a gas station and his pursuer followed, blocking him
said he was thankful that the Arab at the gas station told the
pursuer, “Australian...tourist...friendly” and they let him
“five hours of terror,” Hendrick said he saw “the first sign
in Ivrit” some 20 kilometers down the road.
time he found himself at the guard house of a Jewish settlement.
Hendrick said they told him it was too dangerous to
continue driving there at night. He spent the night at the IDF
command office outside Jenin.
was kidnapped, interrogated, and investigated because I was
Jewish,” charged Hendrick. “It was daytime and there was
supposed to be peace.
I didn’t think going on a main road my life would be
thought it was only in history that a Jew was taken in and
interrogated for being Jewish. I didn’t think this was happening
today in the land of Israel.”
Shows Little Interest
Hendrick claims the army told him he was the first foreign tourist
to be harassed by Palestinian police, most foreign and even local
Israeli media seemed to take little interest in his plight.
has been happening quite a bit lately,” one American network
correspondent said, “but the fact is that Nablus and Jenin are
autonomous Palestinian territory. And if they decide to stop
someone for questioning, it’s their complete right.”
a news staffer at Israeli-based Arutz-7 radio, which aired a
lengthy live interview with Hendrick last week, disagreed.
the media wasn’t silent about this, I have serious doubts that
the government could carry on its policy, the Arutz-7 employee
said, speaking on background information. “But the media has
sworn itself to silence so as not to hurt the peace process.
to Oslo, it’s kidnapping. The Oslo agreement states that we have
completely free passage rights in the Palestinian territories.”
problem, he said, is that relations have deteriorated in recent
months between the Arab police force and the IDF, which were
supposed to conduct joint patrols and be notified of such
can detain you, but they are supposed to notify joint patrol to
escort you out,” he said.
foreign press, however, appeared to focus on Hendrick’s
ignorance of political realities in Israel.
don’t think a journalist would wear a kippa if he were
driving an Israeli-plated car in the territories,” said the
“It’s like you’re in Manhattan at the wrong time, at
the wrong place, on the wrong day, with the wrong skin color.
I’ll tell you one thing. When
take my family somewhere or myself, I know what I’m doing or
where I’m going.”
if the media were prematurely making the Palestinian state a
reality, the correspondent said, “This is the reality. It’s
not getting used to it. It’s putting up with it.”
correspondent from a major wire service, said she felt Hendrick
should have been more in tune with travel advisories from his
tomb is a well-known flashpoint,” she said. “Quite a number of
soldiers were killed there in September of 1966. Some of the more
radical settlements are centered around the Nablus area. Anyone
who comes here and is not aware of it — it seems to me a little