Qalandiya, Wed 27.5.09, Morning
A "regular" day at Qalandiya checkpoint. As always, the absence of the thousands of Palestinians who used to go through this crossroad to the southern suburbs of Ramallah (A-Ram), north of Jerusalem (Bet Hanina, Dahiat Al Barid and Shuafat), East Jerusalem and eastward is heavily felt. The few lucky Jerusalemites and permit holders are used to the shouts coming out of the loudspeakers and somehow manage to understand what the soldiers say, which is unintelligible for us.
We find the usual men sitting idle on the metal benches at the northern side of the checkpoint. They explain that they do not have a permit to work in Israel but some of them do get in somehow. The others are there just waiting, as they don't have other work alternatives. Waiting for what? Maybe an asteroid will hit Earth and things will change. One of them tells us he was caught this morning and his finger prints were registered and he was returned to the checkpoint.
Muhammad is waiting for us for almost an hour. He worked, with a permit, for 17 years in agriculture in the area of Nataf and before he got his severance payment, his boss managed to accuse him of theft and then he was apprehended. Although the police are not pressing charges for lack of proof, it will take a lawyer to close the police file and hundreds of NIS, which he gives us to convey to the lawyer. This, as Haya O. explained, doesn't mean he will be able to work again in Israel because the fact that he got a police file, even if without proof, means he will be automatically forbidden to go into Israel for at leas 1.5 years. He is not aware of these procedures and believes that after he pays for closing the file he will again get his permit and will talk to his ex employer who will probably give him the 60,000 NIS he owes him (!?).
Our guest, an Italian professor of Jewish contemporary history and contemporary Israeli literature is very quiet during all our shift, watching the car and pedestrian lanes going southward. When we cross the pedestrian checkpoint southward at the end of our shift, she sees the greetings in Hebrew, English and Arabic (we don't know what is written in Arabic), wishing pedestrians "Have a safe and pleasant stay". She is shocked by these greetings in the context of the surrounding cages, walls, fences, barbed wire, loudspeakers, closed circuit cameras and weapons. She tells us that every diplomat and visitor to Israel should be taken, obligatorily, to 2 sites: Yad Vashem and Qalandiya checkpoint.