Qalandiya - the DCO closes at 3 pm

Tamar Fleishman; Translator: Tal H.

Since I have been seeing the DCO only through its metal fences for months now, I decided to enter it and came early before it was closed.

I walked the length of the bridge, crossed the metal detector at the checkpoint, came out to the back yard, climbed two staircases and went down two staircases, walked along a narrow path in between a concrete wall and a tin one, and reached the shed in front of the offices. I was welcomed by empty rows of benches and locked doors.

I was forced to go back. Once again, made my way between concrete and tin, climbing up two staircases and down two staircases.

If my reader finds this description long and tedious, I assure you the way Palestinians need to make, as he who said “ask the soldiers”.

There were two active soldier posts. I turned to the first one – a soldier wrapped in a prayer shawl was sitting there and praying. I, who am intent on not disturbing a person communicating with his god, turned to the other, the distant post. From its soldier I heard that 3 o’clock is closing time. Perhaps new, maybe old - he has no idea.

The person who gave order in the chaos was a young Palestinian who sat helpless and desperate on the outer steps and said:

Don’t you know they do whatever they please?

They are the law. They gave me a permit and when I came to cross the checkpoint, suddenly there’s no permit.

The law is in the offices where those who sit control the lives of so many people in whichever way they please.

On the other side I met a security guard and when I asked why the DCO is closed before 4 p.m., he said they closed at 3.

Exiting towards the refugee camp, a billboard struck me, inviting one to the enjoyment park. The board stood on legs planted in potholes and filth and the rubble of demolished houses, its top in the sky, as though promising some virtual reality.

The sign has one advantage: child vendors who crowd by it from time to time find a short-lived shelter from the seething sun and from the reality of their life.

Among other things I met an old friend who talked about how hard life is in Palestine. He who recalls nearly 50 years back cannot remember a good time. It has always been just bad.

But a few weeks ago he had a satisfying day, when managing to drive his own car in spite of all the dangers and prohibitions, a car bearing Palestinian license plates - to the Tel Aviv beach. For reassurance, he showed me photos of that day – of that beach.

I was glad for him, for his daring and pleasure, and for his trust – not at all obvious – he has in me.

On my way there as well as back, in this closed space called a checkpoint, I was the only person wearing a mask.