Qalandiya

Place: 
Observers: 
Tamar Fleishman; Translator: Charles K.
Apr-13-2014
|
Afternoon

 

 

 

Freedom

 

Women and men crowded together at the mute metal bars of the locked gate outside the DCL offices. A fair-haired female soldier sat in position opposite them, leaning forward slightly, busy chewing mouthfuls of food on the table before her. Her glance passed over them as if they’d been transparent. They saw her; she didn’t see them.

 

Most had come to obtain crossing permits because of medical conditions. Fewer than two hours remain until the offices close; then a closureinfo-icon will be imposed on the occupied territories for the first two days of Passover, the Jews’ festival of freedom. They know that if they don’t reach the offices within the next hour or hour and a half, their condition will become worse.

 

An old woman held a file filled with medical documents; she’s to be admitted to Makassed Hospital. An old man wanted to obtain a permit for his daughter who needs an operation, and one for him to accompany her. Murad was there; his month-old daughter was scheduled for an eye operation at Saint John Hospital.

 

I stood alongside Murad. All of us were worried. A woman from Gaza who’d been discharged from a hospital on the West Bank and wanted to return home also stood there worrying, along with others – I don’t know what they needed.

 

The minutes passed; the fair-haired soldier who controls the button that opens the gate kept eating. Many phone calls were needed, and many conversations with many dispatchers, until one of those who said they’d take care of it kept their promise and the locked gate opened. We passed through to the covered waiting area at the entrance to the DCL offices, which were empty.

 

People were admitted in groups. The old man knelt to pray at the entrance to the offices. Only then did he enter. He exited holding a permit for his daughter. They refused his request for a permit to accompany her. Those are the laws of occupation. Being the father is insufficient reason to care for an ill daughter. The old woman also returned disappointed. She’d presented the bundle of medical documents to those who determine her fate, but one piece of paper was missing.

 

The woman from Gaza emerged satisfied, holding a permit to go through Qalandiya checkpoint, home to recuperate.

 

And Murad received a permit for the infant Aram.

 

*

In the refugee camp I met Ahmad, who’d been released from the Ofer prison a few days ago after serving the sixteen months imposed by a military court. He’d been arrested at his workplace on 1 January 2013. I’d photographed him at the time of the arrest being taken away, holding a half-eaten sandwich. He’d been accused, tried and convicted. Many preceded him; many will follow.