The Gate of Mercy?

By Tamar Fleishman

An hour and twenty minutes is a lot of time when you are at the checkpoint and you advance only by twenty meters, given that it’s not even the rush hour and most people are heading towards Palestine and not out of it.

After years of experience you know better than to wonder about that which is beyond you and which you will never understand. Only the soldier in the glassed post, who was driven out of his bubble by boredom, tried to explain: "It’s in accordance to the orders… yes, the checkpoint commanders can see through their plasma screens everything that is going on both inside and outside… it’s probably because the computers crashed…" The soldier also showed some compassion for the parents of an ill baby who kept coughing and suffocating from the cough, they were on their way to get treatment in a hospital and when hearing their cry he opened the bullet proofed window, clenched the fingers of his right hand together and signaled them: just a moment…

The concerned parents stood in front of the post trying to shield their son from the Qalandiya chill and waiting for the "Gate of Mercy" to open. From time to time the distressed father would shout out to the soldier, and he would display once again the same signal with his hand, as if to say: patience.

– Palestinians have Patience in Abundance. Life they scarcely have.

Only after half an hour the gate opened for them, but not before an officer made sure that the infant and his parents were "Kosher" and presented no danger to the safety of the Israeli state.

– "In spite of it all I was lucky":

The "in spite of it all" which A. mentioned, is his daily queuing up in the lines of Qalandiya, when finishing his day at work in Ramallah and returning to his home in East Jerusalem a journey that takes three hours.

The "in spite of it all" is also the constant threat, expressed or hidden, each time when A. has to renew his permit to stay in Israel under family reunification (-such a long name for such a malevolent procedure) and when A recites before the person who will verdict whether he will receive the rod or grace: "I’m clean…", he is told that according to the computer, as a child he threw a stone. The throwing of the stone stands for the original sin that is always before him. And once, due to his infant crime he was denied the permit and only a lawyer could annul this harsh sentence, for that time.

The "in spite of it all" is also the pain A. feels for his son who is bullied by Jewish children at his tennis lesions, because: "He is an Arab".

But mostly, the "in spite of it all" is the uncertainty and the fragility what the future holds for A. and his family. 

And A told: "in spite of it all I was lucky, since four years ago they discovered I had cancer in my stomach, because I have a permit, I got treatment at Augusta Victoria and not at the West Bank".

– A Kid’s Toys:

"What have you got there?" the tens of people cramped at the metal bars heard the soldier say.
"A kid’s toys", replied the interrogated person.

While grasping his son by his hand the man stood at the bullet proofed window, behind which sat the interrogator.

"Then open it so I can see!" said the soldier.

The man let go of his six year old son and the content of the bags was taken out according to her orders. There were neatly folded clothes as well as some toys in plastic wrappings.

"Spread it all over the floor!" screamed the soldier.

One by one the clothes and toys were placed on the filthy floor

The child, of whom the father let go, cramped himself to the wall, embraced a plastic rifle and looked straight into the eyes of his humiliated father.

– His time- Her time:

"I’ve been standing here for an hour…" complained a young man who reached the soldier’s window, and she put forth before him a speech of reproof that was heard from one side of the checkpoint to the other: "You’ve been standing here for an hour? Really??? Do you know how long I’ve been here? Take a guess! Come on, guess! – Throw a number!- Got nothing to say! Then I’ll tell you, I’ve been here for twelve hours! every day, every day, twelve hours! It’s a little more than an hour, isn’t it? Then that’s it, no more complaints from you!"

The young man picked his belongings from the convey belt and made himself scares as the soldier finally said: "I need to pee!"

(Translated by Ruth Fleishman)

(About the photo: The photo attached was taken through a glass window and it creates the illusion that the people are human-shadows. When i visit Qalandiya checkpoint, I always think that perhaps this is how the soldiers, seated  behind bullet proof glasses, perceive the Palestinians walking in front of them, as shadows and not real human beings. RF)

– As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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