Monday, July 23, 2007
Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank-click on picture for larger image [source: http://www.palestinemonitor.org/maps/westbank_checkpoints.htm]
I heard two stories about Israeli checkpoints in Occupied Palestine and youth from other people.
One from my friend who was here last year. He told me about a conversation partner he had last year and they were talking about checkpoints. When she was talking about how long it takes for her to get to classes each day, he asked her what it would be like without checkpoints-and got a questioning stare. After trying many different ways to ask the question, they realized that it was less of a language problem and more of a problem of a terrible reality that was hard for someone to think out of. And how could you, when they surround your life-when maybe you get to a point where you couldn't envision movement without them.
I also heard another story-where someone who has family here in Palestine was inviting the young teenager to come visit her in Scotland. And the teenager said that she would like to see it-she asked, "What are the checkpoints like in Scotland?"
I said in one posting that I was sort of getting used to the checkpoints. I think it was just that I was in a good mood that day-because I am not used to them, but sometimes just resigned to them. Other times I am angry, sad, panick-y and insulted. Usually it feels like hours-the wait-although it mostly is 15-30 minutes. But I know this would be different if I were a different person.
At one checkpoint on a Sunday coming back from Bethlehem, the taxi we were in passed through rather quickly. But I saw a large bus full of families. The Israeli soldiers had made all the men de-board the bus. As the men stood there, all of a sudden I saw what must have been almost 30 children's faces, looking down off the bus-I assumed looking at their fathers-since Sundays are kind of a family traveling day. My husband was napping and I didn't feel like talking to anyone else about it, so I just watched the kids watching their dads with the soldiers. And I watched the dads with thier green plastic holders of the papers that seem to never make anything easier. As our taxi passed, I thought about how I would have felt if I was a kid on that bus, little, and watching my father have to get off the bus for 19 year old soldiers with guns. I also thought about the boys-who I often worry about-as they anticipated their futures.
Since I spend most of my time in OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories)-in the West Bank, these checkpoints are NOT between Israel and Palestine, but rather seperate Palestinian villages and towns from each other and from the roads that connect them. In my time with PMRS, one of the things that I've been looking at is the impact of checkpoints on health and health care access. As you can imagine, it is a disaster for both critical, acute care as well as primary, preventative care. I will dedicate a future posting specificially to this topic.
In my time here, I've seen both permanent checkpoints as well as "flying checkpoints". Permanent checkpoints are well established structures that most often have people sitting in watchtowers, even when the checkpoints are not open and people can't pass.
Flying checkpoints move from place to place. In these pictures, you can see a flying checkpoint on the only road that connects two Palestinian villages that were separated by the wall-Qalqiliya and Habla. The soldier is checking IDs and trunks of cars that pass.
When we were in Qalqiliya, we saw a group of Palestinian men who had to negotiate with the Israeli soldiers to get through. Every day now, these farmers must pass through this gate-the gate is only open a few hours each day-to get to their land. Our tour guide told us that across this checkpoint was her father's land, and that he only wanted to see it again before he died-which he was not able to do.
Today (July 21) we went to Qalqiliya. This is a town that is entirely surrounded by the wall and its fences. Trying to leave the town, there was a definite bottleneck and soldiers were hastling the young men...
We sat with a family in the taxi minivan, and I think what struck me was how this young family-mother, father, 2 young boys, a slightly older girl and a new baby-were just trying to get wherever they were trying to get-just trying to live.
I kept thinking to myself of the graffiti on the wall in Qalqiliya-to exist is to resist. To exist is to resist.