by Lucretia Reflection,
Yesterday I had to take some things to be mailed at the post office in Jerusalem and had conservatively estimated 4 hours for the trip. Oops, silly me !
When I first came to Palestine a year ago, the trip from Ramallah to Jerusalem took about 20 minutes. Fast forward one year of additional checkpoints and Israeli paranoia and you have a trip that most people expect to take an hour.
Being somewhat uninformed about my status as new Israeli citizen living in the West Bank and confusion about what nationality I should present myself as at which checkpoint, (it’s illegal for me to be in certain places in the West Bank including Ramallah) I showed the soldiers at Qalandia checkpoint my Israeli ID instead of my American passport. Instead of giving it back and waving me through, they took off with it and told me to get out of the car. I followed a soldier around asking for my ID back. She spoke to me in Hebrew despite my telling her I don’t speak Hebrew. Another soldier asked me what I was doing in Ramallah.
“Just visiting friends,” I replied.
“You live in Jerusalem ?” the soldier asked.
“Yes,” I lied.
Thinking I was probably about to be arrested, for being Israeli and being in a prohibited area, I started making phone calls.
“Turn your phone off and give me the battery !” the soldier barked at me.
“Um, no,” I replied.
“ARE YOU SAYING NO TO ME ?” The soldier screamed.
(silly soldier, I may be a new Israeli citizen but I’ve had enough dealings with your people to know what your intimidation tactics are.)
“Yes, I am telling you no. If you want my phone or battery, you’ll have to call the police.” I replied.
“Ok we will call the police and they will arrest you.”
(now it’s time for my all time favorite line)
“Ok, arrest me, I like being arrested !”
“How long have you been in Israel ?” the soldier asked
(well I haven’t really been in Israel, I’ve been in Palestine but we’ll save that debate for some other day)
“It’s none of your business,” I told the soldier.
After being detained for about 10 minutes, a soldier gave me my ID back and sent me on my way.
(my favorite line works every time !)
After passing through Qalandia checkpoint, there were an additional two flying checkpoints we had to go through. A flying checkpoint is a temporary checkpoint, arbitrarily set up by the IOF in random places.
At the first flying checkpoint, the soldier came into the bus and visually checked everyone’s ID. At the second one, the soldier collected everyone’s ID and manually checked them by calling the ID numbers into the DCO (the District Coordination Office – the Civil Administration wing of the Israeli military in the West Bank). This is to check and see if anyone is ‘wanted’. This took about 20 minutes.
I was dozing in and out of sleep when the soldier came back onto the bus to return the IDs. A Palestinian woman sitting next to me asked me “Where are you from, Canada ?”
“No, the US.” I replied.
“Well now you get to see a small example of the suffering we face in Palestine.” She told me with a sad smile.
(if you only knew, heh..)
As a result of the flying checkpoints, I arrived in Jerusalem 10 minutes after the post office closed and an hour and a half after I’d gotten on the bus in Ramallah. Rather than go back and face the same thing the next day, I decided to stay the night in Jerusalem and go to the post office the following morning.
I visited my friend Yuval and his girlfriend Yael in west Jerusalem where he gave me a quick refresher course on what my rights are as an Israeli in terms of dealing with soldiers. Then I went to the Ethiopean restaurtant on Jaffa road near the Old City where an Israeli guy began chatting me up.
“Where do you live ?” he asked.
“In Ramallah. ” I answered.
(look of shock) “Aren’t you scared ?” he said, laughing.
(Compared to Hebron, the last place I lived, Ramallah ain’t no thang ! There are no soldiers in Ramallah except for when they invade, there are no settlers either. I walk around late at night
alone and have never had a problem. Somehow I always manage to be in Hebron every time there is a clash between Hamas and Fateh or when the IOF has invaded Ramallah. But this answer is far too long for this situation.)
“No, what’s there to be scared of ?” I asked.
He shrugged and then told his friend I live in Ramallah and they both had a chuckle.
The restaurant owner said “She comes all the way from Ramallah just to eat here !”
The next day I went to the post office and returned to Ramallah at about noon. So that was a long trip to the post office..
I’m eligible for free Hebrew classes in Jerusalem, but living in Ramallah I know I will frequently be late if I don’t budget an hour and a half for the car ride. This doesn’t even include the time it
takes to walk from my house to the cars or the walk to the school in Jerusalem. So I guess I’ll just focus on getting better at Arabic for now.