Yesterday I was finally able to go see a couple of my friends in the West Bank. I hope to convey the feelings it created in me. This might get long but please read.
I wish everyone could experience going through a checkpoint. Until you do, I just don't think there is any way to really understand what it is like.
First of all, it is illegal (hello!) for them to even build the West Bank wall in the first place. It really is a crime against humanity. I am baffled by the very idea - even more so now.
Going into the West Bank they don't stop you at all. You just drive right through. And the city of Ramallah is a beautiful place. I fell in love with it from the very first moment. It may not be beautiful in the way you might think, but it IS beautiful. I loved the Souq, or open air market. It was full of the most beautiful produce you've ever seen. Sweet old women sell handmaid Arab dresses with beautiful colors and designs. And the bread! Oh the bread! It is a carb-lover's paradise. If you have never had fresh pita straight from the oven, you haven't lived.
I have two friends that live in Ramallah. Natalie is a Ph.D student doing research there. She has spent time over here, off and on, for the last 14 years. She was our tour-guide, and a good one at that. After walking around the city for a while, she took us to see our friend Carolyn that I mentioned here. She is an American that married a Palestinian almost 25 years ago. She has recently been unable to come to church because of the wall and its checkpoints. Grrr.
She was a wondeful host. She lives in this magical Arab house that's over 100 years old. It has lots of character and is very eclectic. Loved it. We had a wonderful lunch, served on beautiful dishes, and laughed until our sides hurt.
Then it was time for our journey back. Jerusalem and Ramallah are only about 6 miles apart. But it took us over an hour to get home. The checkpoint alone took us about 40 minutes. Can you imagine it taking you an hour to go 6 miles? You might as well be in L.A. traffic at rush hour. At least that way the wait isn't due to racial discrimination.
When you arrive at the wall, they make everyone get off of the bus. You then walk across a big parking lot to get to the checkpoint. After taking a few steps into what would be compared to a narrow cattle chute with barred walls about 8 feet high, I turned to one of my friends I was traveling with and asked, "Are we cows?" because that's exactly what it feels like. Then we waited, and waited, and waited in the blazing heat for no apparent reason. I'm guessing the 18 year old soldiers inside were taking a break, while keeping working men and women from getting home to their families. We wanted to take pictures of it all, but we were scared to do so. SCARED TO TAKE PICTURES. If you have never felt that way, consider yourself lucky. It's a horrible feeling.
Finally the big rotating gate (like what you walk through when leaving an amusement park) unlocks and they let about 4 people through at a time. But you better be fast through that gate because if they lock it again while you're in the middle of it, you are stuck until the next four people are allowed through. You then put all of your belongings onto a conveyor belt, then step to the side and show your passport/visa or other permitting papers to the 18 year old kids behind a window. Then you hope that they will motion for you to move along (like you're a child) and that they don't take you to the side to interrogate you, or even strip-search you.
Then you step up to the next rotating gate and wait for them to unlock it. Again, you hope it's unlocked long enough for you to make it through. They will not notice that you are essentially locked into a cage not much bigger than your body.
Can you tell I think it's disgusting?
After all of that we went back out the other side to get back on our bus, but it had left us because "we" had taken so long. We tried to get on another, but were soon kicked off. But the next bus worked out thankfully and we were on our way. It was the longest 6 miles I have ever traveled.
Many people have to do this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Even worse, many people are not even allowed to go through at all.