A-Ram & Kalandia check points,
Friday the 31st, 2003
(the first Friday of the Ramadan)
V.S., H.B. and a guest
Despite the announcements in the media, that Palestinians over 50
years old could pass the checkpoints to go and pray in the Dome of
the Rock, all owners of Palestinians I.D weren't allowed through,
not even the ones who had valid authorizations (tasrihim). Only
those who have an Israeli I.D (the blue ones) were allowed through.
The atmosphere among the Palestinians, who expected
celebrate the day in a prayer, was hard. Many burst in yells and
cursed and everything was on the verge of explosion.
A larger-than-usual group of magav soldiers were in the checkpoint.
The commander was a captain that mostly yelled, both at us and
toward the Palestinians who were obviously on their way to pray
(some carrying praying carpets). We met also Basam from the Matak,
who said that yesterday night there was an announcement in the
radio declaring the need for special authorizations in order to go
to the Dome of
the Rock. Even he was forced to admit that technically it was
impossible to get those authorizations between last night and this
morning: "but what's the problem? There is lots of mosques
around one can pray in!". He tried explaining this point to
the hundreds waiting, but naturally the bitter and disappointed
crowd in the
checkpoint had difficulty excepting this explanation.
We encountered some heart breaking stories - a very old woman who
stood beside me in the checkpoint with a praying carpet announced
that she is going to stand there even if it will be until the
evening, all so she can celebrate the first Friday of the Ramadan
in the Dome of the Rock. Even the clearly humanitarian
(a boy with an acute problem in his eye for example) we couldn't
help get through. We called all the places but none was successful
in helping. We called Adi and other friends we thought might be
able to address the media and finally got from Yehudit A. the
number of Kol-Israel reporter Carmella Menashe. We called
and informed her about what was going on, and she promised to try
and find out what's happening, and pass it to the media.
Unfortunately, we heard that in the media it was told that dozens
of thousand were in the prayer today. Later we were told only 5000
managed to get there. Palestinians who saw our badge approached to
us angrily and asked where are human rights when you can't even
pray anymore. It was a very hard experience. Two hours later we
went to Qalandiya.
Hundreds were in the checkpoint. From far away it was clear that
the situation was tense. As we came closer we found out there was a
riot storming. People were yelling and complaining about the
situation, the pressure was unbearable and the soldiers in the
checkpoint were slow. One of the soldiers confronted
young Palestinian and they were literally head to head fighting. It
was only thanks to the checkpoint commander, a female reserve
lieutenant named Hagar, that a disaster was avoided. With amassing
leadership skills Hagar managed to come down both the nerves
soldiers and the bitter Palestinians. The three of us
felt like we met an extraordinary young woman. If it weren't for
her, a violent encounter would have been inevitable with casualties
in both sides. With her help we managed to pass through a few
pregnant women and some children out side the line. Both she and
the other soldiers couldn't understand why 80 year
weren't allowed through. Our cries for help, again to anyone we
could, including Roni Noma weren't answered, and Basam who promised
he'll be "right there" of course didn't show up. Hagar
smartly kept away two soldiers who were rude and insulted
Palestinians, and kept them in farther posts, out of contact with
civil population. We tried talking to one of them and asked him to
lower his voice and stop cursing - unsuccessfully of course.
"We watch over you, and it is because of us."
When we left two hours later, we thanked Hagar – more than we
usually do - and got back to A-Ram checkpoint.
Still a large queue of cars but the number of people by foot is
getting smaller. No wander, the pray is over by know, and now,
after the pray is over, the checkpoint is back to usual. We met
Basam again and talked to him, but it was too late of course. We
managed to pass a woman with a certain physical problem, who might
have pass without our help. We left ashamed and with a heavy heart
- what a cry would have been raised if Jewish people weren't
allowed to pray in the wailing wall on Yom-Kippur..