Since 2001 we have observed dozens of army checkpoints on paved and unpaved roads in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley and along the Separation Fence; Civil Administration offices which grant permits to Palestinians; and military courts trying Palestinian prisoners. We stand at the checkpoints observing the behavior of soldiers and Palestinians without interfering, intervening only when soldiers behave offensively to Palestinians. Then we try to speak to the soldiers themselves or telephone...
Qalandiya, Sun 11.10.09, Afternoon
three kilometers south of Ramallah, in the heart of Palestinian population. Integrates into "Jerusalem Envelope" as part of Wall that separates between northern suburbs that were annexed to Jerusalem in 1967: Kafr Aqab, Semiramis and Qalandiya, and the villages of Ar-Ram and Bir Nabala, also north of Jerusalem, and the city itself. Some residents of Kafr Aqab, Semiramis and Qalandiya have Jerusalem ID cards.
A terminal operated by Israel Police has functioned since early 2006. As of August 2006, northbound pedestrians are not checked. Southbound Palestinians must carry Jerusalem IDs; holders of Palestinian Authority IDs cannot pass without special permits. Vehicular traffic from Ramallah to other West Bank areas runs to the north of Qalandiya.
Click here to watch a video from Qalandiya checkpoint.
"The storm is behind us"
Replied the store owner at the refugee camp when we asked him what was expecting us on that day. He explained that flutters are like storms: they come and go. That's how it was and that's how it was going to be.
The storm was over. The air stood still, it was filled with pollution and was hard to breath. The atmosphere was tense and explosive: on the hill by the wall was a group of teenagers waiting for their signal. On the other side was a BP vehicle with armed men with helmets, they were alert and ready to fire back when needed.
Remains of a fire that had faded could be found on the scorched earth, blackened spots, burning marks on the pillboxes and most profoundly in the eyes and coffee cart of Wagi, our acquaintance who sells coffee. On Thursday tear gas grenades hit the wall surrounding the checkpoint, and their substance was sprayed all over the coffee cart and smashed its glass screens. Wagi, that the gas penetrated all the pores in his face, feared he might go blind, he hurried to a tap of water to wash his face, which only made matters worse: "Saturday was the first time I hadn't been to work. I went to see a doctor", he said. His eyes were still red and swollen, the constant heart warming smile on his face had disappeared.
We were curious about the speedy construction work taking place on the western side of the vehicle lane. We were once told that two more bus lanes, in effort to ease the passage on the vehicle lanes, were to be added. Surprisingly, we also found a new turnstile standing beneath a roof and surrounded by walls- almost a checkpoint in its own that was about to double its size.
A Palestinian driver told us that once the constructions were to be finished, bus passengers with blue IDs were to arrive at the new checkpoint, they will be taken off the bus for a quick moment, go through an inspection and returned to the bus. We were puzzled by the need to add an additional construction. The old one was too big as it was, and when asked about the long lines that linger through it, the soldiers complain about lack in personal and not in constructions, which usual remain deserted most hours of the day. The person replayed: "Each time the build something and then take it down. When they take everything down, it will be a sign that peace had arrive".
An ambulance from Ramallah had arrived once it grew dark, it was parked on the square and waited.
We hurried to pass to the other side of the checkpoint. The line wasn't moving. Inside the inspection zone, right in front of the sterile window was a woman that was holding her child and trying to explain to the soldier that he was sick and desperately needed to be admitted at a hospital. The soldier, after taking one look at the documents yelled: "But you haven't got a permit! You can't pass! Get out!"( a though she had just caught a criminal on the run)- the woman burst into tears and yelled back in a mixture of Arabic with Hebrew: "Do you want him to die? I don't want him to die... I don't want him to die..."- that was already to much for the soldier: "Ouscut! Don't you yell at me! He doesn't look sick to me! What kind of a mother are you? You should have renewed your permit... Bye bye..."
The crying woman ran out and with her child she disappeared in the night.
While I was standing in front of the soldier I noticed a police officer standing right above her and stroking her hair. The Palestinians' eyes apparently aren't regarded as human eyes. It was my look that got him to deter and take a step back. We notified the soldier that we had documented each and every word that came out of her mouth. "What's the big deal about what I said?"- She asked, I told her that she wasn't a doctor and therefore in no position to determine the state of the child.
While I was walking towards the turnstile she yelled at me: "I only hope that one day someone will find your body torn to shreds". I documented that as well.
After the delay caused by the inspection and our chat with the soldier, we reached "the Jewish side" of the checkpoint. The Red Crescent ambulance from east Jerusalem was already there. The ambulance from the occupied territories had arrived before hand but had yet to gain permission to pass.
The coordination work was fine, as were the patient's documents. Meaning: the GSS gave its permission. When the ambulance from the territories was signaled to drive on the remaining way to the checkpoint, the papers of the men on it and its inside were examined once again. Then they began the procedure: a 31 year old man, suffering from a severe lung condition and who had only received a first aid treatment at a clinic at the occupied territories to stabilize him, was moved into the ambulance that was to take him to Mukased hospital. They moved him from one ambulance to the other in a public place, where anyone could see him and while a soldier and two civilian guards were holding their rifles and watching the procedure.
7:00- Hizme checkpoint- A ten year only Palestinian boy was waving his documents about in front of a soldier. He wanted to pass the checkpoint. A civilian security guard ran towards him and shouted (in a distinct Russian accent): "You little son of a bitch, get lost!"