Motorcycle diaries: A brief moment of humanity with an Israeli policeman

He had no idea Palestinians couldn’t import high quality motorcycles. I had no idea Israeli policemen could be so friendly. How one motorcycle brought us together during a traffic stop in the middle of the West Bank.

By Bassam Almohor

Israeli police stop — Thursday, September 24, 2015.

An Israeli policeman standing at the entrance to Ofra settlement, just east of Ramallah, motions for me to park on the side go the road. He walks slowly with his M-4 rifle, inspecting the license plate on my motorcycle, then pats my shoulder: “With all due respect, this is great; you wear your helmet, your gloves, your jacket.. this is perfect.”

– So this is a new motorcycle?

– Yes.

– And you just take it everywhere?

– Everywhere in the West Bank.

– Oh nice, I am a biker too, you know. I have a big bike, a Honda CB 900, here take a look (he takes out his smartphone, and scrolls through photos of his bike.) Take a look, it’s all shiny and big.

– Very nice, is this your girlfriend riding on the back?

– No, this is my wife.

– Lovely. My wife doesn’t like to ride with me. Only my son.

– You take your son, wow.

– Yes, but only short distances in the city.

– But why don’t you get a big bike, this is only 250cc?

– Well, we can’t. The Palestinian importer is only allowed to bring in this bike.

– What? You mean you can’t get bigger one?

– No, and I can’t buy these from Israel either.

– But I see big motorcycles. The other day I stopped two Palestinians riding 600cc Hondas.

– Yes, perhaps they are the only ones.

– Too bad.

– Well, actually for the West Bank, and with the limited area we are allowed, 250cc is not that bad.

– Yes, that’s true. I have this 900 and there’s not much road out there. I live in Ariel, do you know it?

– Yes, of course I know it. I actually drove past it yesterday.

– I take my bike and drive those roads. I take my friends and they all love it, especially the hilly countryside — it’s great.

– Yes, Palestine is beautiful.

– I love riding here you know. So where are you coming from now?

– Well, I started at 6 a.m., leaving Ramallah on Road 60, before heading toward Jericho on Road 1. There I drank coffee and then continued on Road 90 until the Hamra junction, and back through the Jericho-Ramallah zig-zag road.

– Wow, that’s amazing. I wish you could take me all those beautiful roads — I love riding there.

– Unfortunately it’s not easy here, unless you don’t mind driving through Palestinian villages.

– I wish I could, but unfortunately they won’t allow me. I’m in the police, after all.

– Oh, so you are police. What kind?

– As you can see, traffic police.

– But you are a nice gentle policeman. Unlike any other I have ever met.

– True. That’s because you’re riding a bike.

– I guess bikers have no nationality then.

– No, they should open all borders to us.

– True, and then i will never stop until I reach China.

– Yes, take me with you.

– You are most welcome to come.

– Unfortunately it’s going stay like this for a long time. I’m not happy with it.

– Unfortunately. But at least we had a nice conversation.

– Yes, have a lovely day, man! I hope to see you while on my motorcycle, not in uniform.

– Same here. Have a great day.

I drive on to Ramallah. The policeman waves to me as his colleague stops an oncoming Palestinian car.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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