Friday, 20 January 2012

Chapter 99 All the time

They've lost their novelty haven't they? The checkpoints I mean. Isn't everyone just about over it by now?

I'm not speaking in terms of big ideological principles either. I'm not talking about 'events' or 'historical moments' or indeed moments of any importance whatsoever.

Just plain old life.

I'm talking about your random, uninspired, uneventful Tuesday afternoon when there ain't shit goin' on but the rent type of day.

I'm talking about one of those days when it's cold and raining, and all you want to do is get to where you're going so you can then make it back home, because the only place anyone wants to be on a winter day like today, is under the blankets and in front of the heater.

That kind of day. Made up of a long series of unremarkable moments that should have no reason to stick out in your memory.

That is until the kind of moment where you're pulled out of your escapist reverie as the car stumbles to a halt and it slowly dawns on you that you are now at the end of, what will soon be the middle of, a hundred car queue leading up to a spontaneously manned check point at the entrance to a Zone A city, leading to the kind of moment where it hits you like a canceled holiday that your day has now officially been hijacked.

Because it has. And you have no way of knowing how long it will be until you get it back.

Hours will go by as almost every car is stopped, passports and identity cards demanded without so much as a reason, let alone a 'hey, how's it going?'.

Trunks of cars will be searched, calls on walkie talkie radio phones will be made and all the while the line up of cars keeps growing as people get increasingly edgy at the fist shaking, foot stamping, head banging helplessness of it all.

And a frustration that literally feels like it's eating through your body, starting at the very core of your being and burns its way through your organs and bones. A frustration that is only just barely being held back from exploding through your retinas and splattering onto the passenger seat in front of you.

Don't even try to hit me with a 'well I'd be fine with it because I know my turn is coming' either. Because you wouldn't. Nobody would.

Allow me to direct your attention to the Qalandia checkpoint into Jerusalem.

There is no 'one served off you go, next please' sequencing here.

There is no friendly customer service agent you can address your letter of complaint to because you've missed your doctor's appointment or the bored 4 year old next to you has peed on your shoes. 

This is military occupation. This is 'you will stand there as long as it takes and if your friendly checkpoint service agent decides to take another break to check Facebook, have a chat or just stare at the ceiling for half an hour then you'll just have to wait it out won't you'.

This is not 'this will just take a minute sir, as painless as possible' ushering people through to the other side.

This is 'you are disempowered as all hell and there ain't nothin you can do about it but stand around sun, rain or snow til your turn comes up.'

This is hordes of people let through a few at a time through a turnstile that locks remotely and suddenly just when you think you're about to get through.

That's what it is. Not once, not twice. Not during times of instability, uprising or violence. All the time.

It takes hour after frustrating hour, after who-knows-when-this-will-be-over hour out of your life.

All the time.

Qalandia Checkpoint - source


  1. What adds to the frustration is not knowing whether you're going to be let past the gates or not because god only knows what God forsaken mood the soldiers at the borders will be in. "naaah... I don't really feel like letting this one pass..."
    ilna Allah...

  2. Hi Reem,

    Thanks for your comment. Definitely the borders are nerve wracking. I don't know anyone who isn't apprehensive before crossing into the West Bank because you never really know how it's going to go. Even if there's absolutely no reason whatsoever for you to have any issues, that doesn't mean it'll be smooth sailing at all :(

  3. as you said, what does me in is that it is done in the worst possible way...i feel like a piece of meet in a factory going through the Bethlehem one...

    going thru Qlandia on foot only to be 'screened' by kids with guns, often with very little interest in what they are doing, chewing gum, doing facebook, doing whatever, taking long breaks while the queue backs up, then when you finally pass through the airport security, giving you a dismissive wrist flick and a sneer from inside a bomb proof, heated, box.

    AND it's tougher on those without cars those out in the cold, snow,wind, rain, with puddles under foot. Those without cars, who take the bus like me: they aren't Palestine's elite.

  4. i hate the wall-effect on the palestinians.. but as an israeli its now at the point were i dont understan how we ever lived without it.. so deep runs the fear..

  5. It's terribly sad isn't it? The status quo.

    Life in fear is almost a given I suppose in this area. Tragic.