Ina, Virginia and Hanna Barag (reporting)


Guests: author Mario Vargas Llosa (Nobel Prize Laureate for literature 2010; in 1990 he contended for presidency of his country but lost; known for his liberal views; in his books he criticizes the hierarchy of social and racial classes in Peru and in Latin America in general), Nadav Bigelman of Breaking the Silence, and a film crew.

Another tough day at Qalandiya – it is 16 years since we began our monitoring shifts there, and there is nothing new – the (Israeli military) Occupation is “celebrating” nearly fifty years now, the suffering of those having to cross checkpoints has not become any lighter, and we stand there, reporting and hurting.

04:00 Much pedestrian traffic on the way to Atarot industrial zone. At the checkpoint – mayhem. All the “sleeves” are open but only two turnstiles are in operation. People rushing to work are crowded, practically crushed together. Have we become accustomed to these awful sights? Do they seem obvious to us today? Troubling thoughts come up as we watch this horror year in year out.

We were set to meet the author and his entourage at 5:30 a.m. but they were very late and we had little time left for explanations and conversation.

Ina and Virginia came towards 5 a.m. It is easier to share such a shift with friends, sense the joint sorrow and pain. And what, after all, is our pain compared to what the Palestinians have to go through on a daily basis?!

Just before 6 a.m. our guests arrived. Mario Vargas Llosa, his face alight, asked questions typical of one who has already seen the occupation and understands what it entails. With Ina’s help we found an acquaintance (Palestinian) who spoke with the author and very briefly told his own story. We explained the bureaucracy of the Occupation, the meaning of revoking tens of thousands of entry permits (as was done in the past week), and the political and economic background. We also told stories of people we have met over the years, and learned that a “personal” story (not our own, of course) has significant weight.

After about half an hour, the guests left. The “humanitarian” gate was opened at 6:30 a.m., because someone “didn’t wake up”. Policeman Menashe was verbally abusive as usual (we complained for the nth time – again in vain).  We have also complained about the callousness of the civilian security guards at the checkpoint, and that too apparently has no chance of changing. At 6:30 a.m. about 30-45 minutes were needed for crossing. We left shortly before 8 a.m., when pressure lifted.