This was a tough one today. I was told before I left Jerusalem that I would get through no problem on the way to Ramallah, but coming back, there would be a long line at the Ramallah checkpoint to return to Jerusalem. I was on foot as I entered the checkpoint. I went into a building and had to stand in a single file lane that was barred and there was barbed wire above me. Two people can’t walk side by side in these little railed tunnels. It was much like cattle being herded. Then we’d get to the turnstile, but it locked when a certain number of people had passed. When we got through the first turnstile, we still stood in line for awhile. I saw Palestinians around me pulling out these green passport cards. I asked a man if he spoke English and he said yes, so I asked him a million questions and he was more than willing to share. Do you do this every day? No. Maybe once a month. I’m a merchant and I have business that takes me to Jerusalem. My sisters have been granted a week-long pass to enter Jerusalem to buy something and then we will return to Ramallah. 99% of us living in Ramallah cannot get permission to go to Jerusalem. Has it been this way all of your life? Yes. Except it was a little easier around 1987-88. Now, it’s really difficult. I’m never allowed to drive my car there and it would only take 10 minutes. Instead, I have to go through this, then take a bus. How is that any good for me? Where are you from? America. Welcome. (EVERYONE says that. They LOVE Americans, they do not like our government.) I didn’t take any pictures because I was stunned upon entering that railed single line…I couldn’t believe it and I just thought of all of us who know freedom (of thought, of religion, of movement) and I was seriously struck numb at this process. I think he could see on my face, my disbelief and quiet outrage. And that’s why he was willing to explain it all to me. If you walk through these checkpoints, you really can ‘feel’ a second-class level of being human that Palestinians feel every day of their lives. At the Qalandia Wall, there is a lot of graffiti expressing the injustice. And there’s a BANKSY (!)
BANKSY’S GIRL FLOATING WITH BALLOONS OVER THE WALL:
The morning started by walking to two bus stations before I found the third one (the one I needed) to get to Ramallah. I had a nice, strong Arabic coffee while I waited. The man said, “You’re taking pictures? Come here.” He opened the door for me to get a better view and then said “You really need to take this in video, but that’s ok.” haha.
Shuhada Street used to be an integral part of the vibrant centre of Hebron. The shops and markets, for which the city is renowned, lined the pavements. The street itself was a busy main road through the city and was considered the most important street in Hebron.
Since the Goldstein Massacre, the Israeli occupation forces chose to make restrictions on the Palestinians rather than on the Israeli settlers living inside Hebron and the Palestinian movement have been restricted intermittently. Vehicles were banned from using the Shuhada Street, but it remained a hub of activity in the old city.
This sign says basically that it is forbidden for Jewish settlers to enter Palestinian territory – that it is a danger to their lives.
The wire above the Palestinian market to provide security and to prevent the garbage and stones that Jewish settlers throw at them:
Two Jewish settlers (whom, according to all international laws, should not be allowed to live there) on the balcony. You can see the one man’s hand motion – he had just thrown trash down onto the Palestinian market.
Ayman termed this “Palestinian Coffee.” I’m not sure if it’s not also known as Arabic coffee, and what makes it distinct from other coffees, is the amount of cardamom they put in it. After sipping, there is a mild aftertaste:
Another gate separating H1 and H2:
Notice the heaps of trash thrown down upon Palestinians by the Jewish settlers:
In the Abraham Mosque, also the site of the “Cave of the Patriarchs” massacre. In 1994, an American-born Israeli, Baruch Goldstein opened fire on unarmed Palestinian worshippers, killing 29 and wounding 125.
This used to be a bus station, a hub of activity. Now, it lies dormant and decaying, of no use to anyone:
This is a Palestinian school:
This is written near the children’s school, causing Palestinian children to read that and from of a very early point in life, get an image of what their world is really all about. It’s enough to be displaced, it’s another to have to ram it down their throats with these kinds of scrawlings:
Gate next to the checkpoint trailer keeping the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers separated:
I took a bus from Jerusalem to Hebron and got dropped off at the last stop, not that I knew what that meant. I then hailed a taxi for the Old City. And then I got dropped off and still didn’t know where to go from there, so I walked around the market for a bit and EVERYONE said “Welcome! Welcome!” They don’t have nearly enough consumers and they need them! I did my part, bought my favorite Casio watch in blue (for a steal, but fair for the seller) and got some mixed nuts, which this area is famous for. Before long, I was approached in a gentle way by a man named Ayman, who is a Palestinian activist and wanted to walk me around and explain the situation to me. I’m so glad we met.
Ayman, my Palestinian guide:
This was a Palestinian residence, but was destroyed in the Second Intifada in 2002:
Now we’re getting into “H1” and “H2,” the inhumane division. Feels like I imagine the East vs. the West Blocs in Germany, must have felt like. H1 is Palestinian and H2, which used to be a thriving residential and commercial Palestinian area, is now controlled by the Israeli Army and is called “Ghost Town” because no one is allowed to live there or have a shop there. The buildings are locked up and falling into decay. The street is silent, somber.
This building stands between H1 and H2:
Look to your left, people, movement, in H1. On the right, desolate, empty:
This is the checkpoint on the deserted street that used to be filled with lively Palestinian market life. It’s just a sad little trailer. And to think it keeps people who actually have homes and old businesses over there, out!
Once through the checkpoint, here are the images of desolation. Ayman could only walk with me to a certain point and then was not allowed to go any further. (I hope you understand the injustice in this. It’s his home, his country, his land, his birthplace, yet he is forbidden to enter):
These images are from looking out of the bus in Jerusalem in the morning to meeting Ayman, my guide in Hebron to returning to Jerusalem for a chicken shish appetizer to freshly squeezed orange juice in the evening: