Archive for the ‘checkpoints’ Category

little to do

October 14, 2007

Iman welcomed me.  It had been a few weeks since I’d been to his internet cafe.

“Eid mubarek,” I wished him, this, the third and last day of Eid.  I asked if it had been a good one.

“Good, yes, but not like in other countries. you see, there’s nothing for kids to do. They can play computer games, but they can’t go anywhere… even getting to Al Aqsa to pray is difficult to impossible for many. We have West Bank IDs; we can’t go to Jerusalem.”

I thought of Christmases as a child, of going on mini-vacations, going across the country to see relatives.

I saw the lines at checkpoints, particularly Qalendia, separating Jerusalem from Ramallah and leading away from most West Bank destinations.

A week earlier, passing through the Dahir al Bariit exit from Ar Ram, an older man befriended me en route. From Salfit, in the north half of the West Bank, he had come down for an eye doctor’s appointment. His clouded eye quite clearly needed attention, as his doctor’s note testified. He was sent away, sent to Qalendia checkpoint where he stood little chance of entering forbidden Jerusalem lands without the difficult to attain permit necessary for West Bankers.

I always feel wary of being trite when wishing a happy Ramadan, happy Eid, nice day…to Palestinians who would be most happy if they were allowed to move freely in their own land.


September 22, 2007

The Dahir al Bariit checkpoint was open today, open for Ramadan, explained an English-speaking Palestinian Jerusalemite on the servis.

I ask how he got his Jeru ID. He explains that he born in Jerusalem and was living there in 1967 when Israel took over and occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Elaborating, he mentions how families were split after the Occupation: Maybe someone from Khalil (Hebron) had gone to Jerusalem. Israel registered them as living in Jerusalem, while their families were still in Khalil.

“Are you glad you have Israeli ID?” I asked him.

“I’m from Jerusalem,” he replied. “I don’t care if I have Israeli or Palestinian ID. I love the land, not the label.”

Our servis is stopped, traffic at a crawl. A man outside leans over and taps the door with his small hand-saw. The driver opens the door with a warm “Ramadan Kariim!” to his sawdusty craftsman friend, then to his 12 year old boy. They chat, exchanging further greetings, for a few minutes while traffic ahead starts to move again. Chatting a bit more, they bid goodbyes and the servis begins its crawl again.

None of the passengers uttered a complaint or were visibly put out by the exchange’s slight delay. Likely they would have done the same in the driver’s place

September 16, 2007

“They’re to waste your time. It costs money: half an hour, that’s half an hour of work, of your life gone,” the Jerusalem ID-carrying Palestinian told me. From just outside of Jerusalem, to get to work in the old city, where he sells hand-made jewelry, he must daily travel in the opposite direction, to Qalendia checkpoint, to then travel anew in the correct direction. Before the checkpoints and the Wall, his trip to Jerusalem was an easy one.

He, too, sees little security in the so-dubbed ‘security barrier’: “If there’s a will, there’s a way. If somebody wants to go over the Wall, they can.”

He talks about how the Occupation has changed not only daily life for Palestinians, but also life related to surrounding travel venues: “When my father was young and went to Damascus Gate (in Jerusalem), the taxi drivers called ‘Amman, Beirut, Baghdad….’ When I was younger and went to Damascus Gate, the taxi drivers called ‘Eriha (Jericho), Nablus, Khalil (Hebron)….’ Now, when my son goes to Damascus gate, the drivers call ‘Machsom Qalendia, Machsom Bethlehem (Qalendia checkpoint, Bethlehem checkpoint)….’

It gets smaller and smaller and smaller, our permitted area of travel.”

The road from Qalendia to Jerusalem normally involved a delay, in which the Border Police do another security check. Then, it’s just a matter of traffic…

Today, that stretch of road has a flying roadblock, possibly in place because of meetings with Condi Rice. If so, that is another irony in the endless, fruitless, staged peace talks: disruption of even an already disrupted journey.

The roadblock entails re-routing a re-routed entry to Jerusalem. The detour means that people already detouring from Ar Ram to Beit Hanina –just around the corner but out of reach due to the Wall and checkpoints –must further detour. The bus then has to backtrack to drop of these greatly-delayed passengers.

Back, all the way to the Dahiir al Bariit back exit, all because that particular exit is closed. It is closed, and yet one can evidently get dangerously close to it.

August 27, 2007

The road is ridiculously pot-holed. His servis threadbare: drivers mirror cracked but functional; bare minimum of upholstery with trivial bits of frill dangling around the ceiling edges. He’s working on a Friday –the holy day –and literally getting no breaks.

Just outside of Fawwar refugee camp we approach an impromptu roadblock (a “flying checkpoint”). Rather than risk the potentially long wait, he turns up a road, chugging up, up, up, and nagivates this pittance-earning servis over crusty roads.

He stops to ask locals for directions, alternative roads, then shares his new expertise with servis drivers passing in the opposite direction.

It isn’t about security, this flying checkpoint. A rambling and coughing servis can easily dodge the checkpoint. So, too, could those who supposedly want to commit terror attacks.

July 30, 2007

A smooth ride into Tel Aviv, as to be expected, on level, wide, roadblockless and checkpoint-free roads, pass lush treed scenery. It is no wonder many Israelis are unacquainted with Palestinians real and daily suffering: on these roads, life continues as normal and one can exist in the bubble of a car, oblivious to life on the Palestinian side. There, on the other hand, it is simply a matter of adjusting. Even someone from a comfortable Western developed country can get used to slow services, bumpy dusty roads, long lines, lines which often result in waiting in the heat of the day for movement…

The bus driver, the Interior Ministry clerk… perhaps not fair to generalize, but, in general, Israelis lack the social graces I’ve encountered every day among Palestinians. On the other hand, it is a question of privilege, (lack of) awareness, and indoctrination, rather than by virtue of being Jewish Israeli.  I’ve certainly met like people in Canada, and have equally met wonderful Israelis among the more honest and activist groups, Israelis who recognize their country’s culpability in the killing, torture, and abuse of so many Palestinians, and who resist being a part of the system of racism.

So unlike Palestinian roads: narrow, inevitably pot-holed and under construction, roadblocks and checkpoints abounding, masses kept back waiting, masses squeezed and honking.

The cafes, restaurants, cities: Westernized, modern clean, expensive.

Israel is so much greener than Palestine. A vibrancy like Nepali rice paddies. Much water has obviously been diverted to these trees and crops –lush areas. Visiting Tel Aviv, where Palestinians live under Israeli ID but without Israeli rights, and seeing massive development and utterly non-Arab culture is heartbreaking and insulting. And I know that uttering these thoughts leads to attacks and criticisms of anti-Semitism and bias.

This transparent strategy of defeating criticism of Israel is, while obvious, effective.

[see: Academic freedom doesn’t extend to those who speak out against Israel ]

My scorn, uncontainable, for the brutal manner in which Israel was founded and has been continually expanded, and its brutal continuation of racist policies cannot be subdued to appreciate Israeli cities where Palestinian rights are non-existent and Palestinian culture verging on the same fate. They repel me with their injustice.

Qalendia Machsom was full this morning, traffic from Ar Ram’s Dahir Al Bariit Machsom diverted here.

“It’s not fair. You can go to Qalendia. We can’t. We can’t leave here.”

“Where do you work?”

“All over, in many cities.”

“So you cannot work today?”


“What about that space in the Wall just over there that people climb over…Can you use that?”

“The police are watching it. From 7 until 5.”

“Working hours.”


They closed the Ar Ram Machsom (“checkpoint”) to foreigners and to Palestinians without Israeli IDs. Qalendia is the other option, and for me is not a real problem. A foreigner can sail through on a servis without even getting out of it (while Palestinians, particularly young male Palestinians, must get out and go through the turnstile security system.). Even if going through the turnstile system in solidarity with those who have no other choice, foreigners still face relatively few problems, save at times excruciating lineups. The woman who wants to visit her grandmother around the corner from the Dahir al Bariit Machsom must now travel at least 1.5 hours –if the lineups are tolerable and the waiting masses are permitted through the System –to reach her grandmother in what should have taken a mere 5 minutes in a direct route from her home.

The soldiers are non-plussed: “I’m just following orders.” The old song and dance that slides morality through immoral situations. The passing of the buck, the shirking of responsibility.

S was there. We caught up and joked morosely about the system, about the need to push our ways through the crowded Machsom lines but both our unwillingness to do so. Unwillingness to fall prey to the set-up: to forget our neighbours, to turn against (or turn ignorant of) the people in the same situation around us, in the desperation to get through the system. I hate to push my way through in this fucking situation, where people going to work are stopped, squashed into a caged space, and taunted with a small opening to ‘freedom’ [temporary and confined as it is]. It isn’t the same as pushing through a crowd in east Asia, where that is an everyday situation and cultural norm. Here, the mobs are created by the oppressors.

S got caught in the turnstile, the next in line after I’d passed through. He took it in stride [halted stride], as they do, but it hurt me again. As did his having to take off his belt to pass through security. Every security metal detector means taking off belts –seems like I’m always seeing well-dressed Palestinians re-adjusting their pants, tucking back in their shirts…

And the Palestinian man from earlier at the Dahir al Bariit closed exit was right: it isn’t fair. Not one aspect of the punitive and degrading Occupation is remotely just or fair, including my very own freedom to pack it in and give up, to leave when I choose, to say I’ve had enough of Israel’s belligerency.


May 4, 2007

Meetings in Jericho, to discuss logistics of bringing together Israelis and Palestinians for the June peace event. The difficulties lie not in finding the people but in getting them to a mutually ‘safe’ and accessible venue. Anata proves easier. [later note: Tulkarem proved impossible. Aside from a handful of regular Combatants for Peace Israelis, the busloads of Israelis who arrived at the checkpoints near Tulkarem were denied entry by the Israeli soldiers controlling the region.]

Passing through a checkpoint back towards Ramallah, a bored, cocky IOF soldier holds us back a little:

“Why are you going to Ramallah?”

“I have friends there.”

“Are you sure you want to go to Ramallah now?” This is asked with a look of disbelief. It is after 10 pm and I’m in a car with a Palestinian. The soldier cannot believe this.

“Of course.”  As if my Palestinian friend were the one brandishing the rifle.