Qalandiya, Fri 8.10.10, Morning
Translation: Suzanne O.
It was the first Friday after the closure due to the Jewish Festivals. Many people cross in order to pray at the El Aqsa Mosque. At the roadblock about half the people hold the blue ID of Jerusalem residents and the other half are West Bank residents who mostly have prayer permits which are granted to men and women over 50 years of age. Hundreds of people crowd around each time, tens between the bars of the narrow cages and behind the turnstiles of the checkpoints, there is also much crowding in the car lanes; naturally the owner of the tea stall is very happy with the crowds, and the ending of the closure. Even the windscreen cleaner scuttles around with renewed energy.
It takes an hour in the pedestrian queue. We hear the miserable experiences of the roadblock and the exchanges between people, while orders and scoldings by the soldiers concealed behind bullet proof windows are heard over the tannoy system. Of all the impressions of standing in the queue the most painful is of a soldier, angry at someone for something trivial such as not opening a passport at the right page, ranting into the microphone. She is angry so she is offensive; she shames, humiliates, curses, scorns, and thus demeans the humanity of the Palestinian standing in front of her. In one case she consciously adds insult to injury by tormenting the other, the Palestinian, because she can and also because she enjoys doing it. I am using the term she because it is women soldiers who were present that day, I didn't hear male voices, and so it has been on most Fridays during the last few months.
In the queue, with a long wait, a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem from the village Ekev, whose way to the clinic is barred by the roadblock, works out the time each turnstile opens, and whether the soldier will get annoyed and waste more time on hassling her, to calculate whether she can get to the clinic before it closes.
Her neighbour in the queue is also occupied with the same calculations, this time concerning the post office in Sheikh Jerrakh.
A father with two children is busy keeping them under control so that they do not run about between the people and, having run out of ploys, tries to frighten them by telling them that the Jewish soldier will not let them through because they are misbehaving.
A young couple with a small, disabled child are in the queue; others in the queue ask them: "Why didn't you get the bus, you could have crossed via the car lane while being seated?" They reply: "Only the mother and not the father could have crossed and the child would not be parted from him".
Those with prayer permits from the West Bank noted that they wished to go to Jerusalem not just to fulfil the religious commandment to pray but also to demonstrate the political standpoint that Jerusalem also (at least also) belongs to the Palestinians and what right do the Jews have to decide who can go to El Aqsa, and when. This conversation has recurred time and again when I am at the queue at Kalandia on a Friday and I thought, how logical and just are the arguments heard between the bars.