Jaba (Lil), Qalandiya, Wed 6.8.08, Afternoon
For those who are for the first time observing the Bir Naballah-Rafat checkpoint, it is striking to see that although the checking takes place only for those going into the enclave of Bir Naballah, a small town
surrounded by the Wall and by Road 443, the other side of the road, the one going out of Bir Naballah, has been closed with barriers and rocks so thatcars have to go down from the road into the dirt at the side, causing damageto their cars because of the uneven height of both surfaces. The soldiersjustify this by saying that in case someone shoots at them, the culprit willnot be able to get away fast. This logic is quite absurd because if someonewanted to shoot they could do so AFTER crossing the stone barrier. In any case, the soldiers approach us and do not know who we are. They havebeen until now at the border with Lebanon and are relieved to be now here,they say, because "here we see people and are not in danger of beingkidnapped". One of us asks whether there is a 'separation policy' (bidul)today but they do not know what the word means. Palestinians driving through shout to us: "Welcome". In Qalandya we havemet Bir Naballah residents who have asked us to come to see this checkpoint.We distinctly remember that we were told by the Israeli authorities thatthere would be no checkpoint here because this is a road of "Fabric of Life"(Mirkam Haim) that exclusively connects Bir Naballah with Ramallah and hasno borders with any Israeli settlement. However, Palestinians going homeafter a days work are forced to stop, sometimes to wait for long time,contrary to what the Israeli authorities declared. We see 2 buses full of people clapping and singing. One is full of womengoing to a wedding and the second is taking the men. They are allowed to gowithout major harassment. Around 4:40 a traffic jam begins to form and we count more than 30 carswaiting in line. When we approach the soldierdoing the checking and askwhy it is taking so long, he responds that also he doesn't want to be here.
We continue on our way to Qalandya and reach it by 5:09. The soldier at thebooth controlling the passage through the turnstiles into the checking laneskeeps them closed so that long lines are formed inside the cages. Peoplestart to get nervous since there are very few people waiting in line at thechecking lanes and they could have been checked already if he would open theturnstiles. One of us takes a photo of the "Welcome to Atarot" electronicannouncement placed at the top of the cages and then the soldier comes outof the booth and shouts threateningly at us: "You have 2 seconds to get outof here (he in fact said 'to fly from here'). After he goes into the boothand makes a call, he just sporadically shouts: "Walla, get out of here".One of our watchers, who is more delicate than most and is still not used tothis, is very offended by the language used by a young soldier talking to"women with white hair".
Men who are sitting at the 'waiting hall' at the northern end of Qalandyacheckpoint tell us that they are internal migrant workers, coming fromNablus and other northern cities to work in Atarot and other places inIsrael, and they live in crowded rooms in Ramallah and go back to theirfamilies on weekends. After work, they meet in this waiting hall and sit onthe metal benches and smoke and talk about their day, before going back totheir little rooms.
At 17:44 a Palestinian-plated ambulance arrives at the checkpoint and waitsfor about 10 minutes for theIsraeli-plated ambulance to come from thesouthern side in order to transport a patient back-to-back from oneambulance to the other. This is a lucky patient who has a permit to go to ahospital in Jerusalem or through Jerusalem.
On our way back to Jerusalem through Jabba checkpoint we see a child with abig plastic bag collecting tin cans from the garbage. Children selectingproducts from the garbage, a very common sight in very poor underdevelopedcountries, is becoming a usual feature in Palestine.