How long does it take to travel from the north-east of the West Bank, to the centre? In such a small area of land, you might think not long. A Palestinian ISM co-ordinator gives an account of the realities of trying to get out of the prison that the Israeli military is turning the north into.
by Abdel-Karim Dalbah
An average journey
- Drive distance: 90 km
- Drive time: 90 min max – directly in one car.
- Cost: 15 shekels by bus or 20 to 25 shekels by car (service)
On the 23rd of April 2006 and for more than five months
- Drive distance: more than 300 km
- Drive time + walking + waiting at checkpoints: 5 hrs, 30 min
- Cost: 65 Shekels
Because of the Israeli policies of closure and checkpoints and the fact that I am a Palestinian from Tulkarm (in the north of the West Bank).
I left my home at 8:30 am and walked to the bus station. There were no buses, and no direct cars so I had to take the sevice to Innap checkpoint (15 km east). Before we reached it, we were stopped by a flying checkpoint after 5 km. We waited about 15 min in a long line of cars before our driver decided to go back and take another road, going around the checkpoint. This added another 15 min as we had to go 200m east around the check point and continue to Innap (the main checkpoint). We reached Innap and waited there about 15 min when the soldier came and told our driver that it was forbidden for anyone to pass today. So the he had to use another road to drive around . We reached a road-block just 1 km east of the checkpoint. The cost had increased from 5 to 10 shekels by then.
The end of the first part.
When we reached the road-block we had to walk about 200 m to cross it. We started waiting for a car to take us to Ramallah. When one arrived the driver was asking for 50 shekels each which is too much – it’s normally 20 or 30 maximum. After 10 minutes, I took a taxi with four others to a village called Funkuk, halfway to Ramallah. This cost 10 shekels each. From there, a taxi driver offered to take us to Borgeen road block for another 10 shekels. We agreed to this but after driving for about 20 minutes we were stopped by another flying checkpoint near Haris. The soldiers prevented us from passing, so the driver took us back to Funduk. He offered another choice – to try another long road through different villages. Along the way we had to get out of the car several times because the parallel road we were taking to avoid the road-blocks was so rough. After driving more than an hour we reached the Borgeen road block – it cost 20 shekels to get there.
The end of the second step.
After we passed the road blocks, we felt like we were about to reach Ramallah, taking one last service. However, the drivers said not it would not be that simple. The soldiers at Attara checkpoint near Bir Zeit were apparently not allowing people from the north of the West Bank to get into Ramallah.
However, at the road-block before Attara, we would be able to pass and then get another car to Ramallah. What should we do? We agreed to this plan and drove (10 shekels each) to Attara checkpoint which we reached after 45 minutes, passing through some villages that I’ve never been though before. Instead of a car waiting on the other side of the road block there was a Border Police jeep which stopped anyone from being near by. We stayed there about 30 minutes, trying to pass though the main checkpoint, at first with a taxi and then by trying to speak to the commander. We tried to point out to him that we were all over forty years of age. After a long time he said “sorry. You can go and try to get in through Qalandya”. When we asked about going that way we discovered that it would cost 20 shekels more.
The end of the third part.
Eventually, we decided not to go that way but also not to go back since by this point we were less than 4 km from Ber Zeit [which is just north of Ramallah]. Instead, we decided to get past by walking. This meant we had to go over the mountain – but we would have to pass away from the checkpoint so that the soldiers at the military tower couldn’t see us. So after we had walked about 3 km, we finally reached Ber Zeit town, from which we caught a car for only 4 shekels each.
We finally reached Ramallah at 2:30 pm, tired and hungry, but happy.
The end of the fourth step.
The ministry of education was closed, where I needed to go to sign a paper for my sister. I missed it for today. I also missed the training of new ISMers, so I decided to go to my nephew’s house to have a rest for a while, but because I was so tired I slept for about 2 hours.
The day is over.
I spent the next day doing some work till 6.00pm before I went back to the car station to leave for Tulkarm. After 15 minutes the car filled up and we drove directly to Tulkarm. On the way we passed through the roads that were forbidden for us to pass on the way to Ramallah. Not one check-point stopped us! One of the men in the car said “it is very easy to get into the prison”.
This situation has lasted for over five moths for Tulkarm and Jenin residents – it is a collective punishment. The Israeli government claims this is for security reasons.