The Rosa Parks of Palestine: Here’s to the Human Spirit

A Palestinian woman at the Qalandiya military checkpoint. (Photo: Tamar Fleishman, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Tamar Fleishman

Every Friday, the story repeats itself at Qalandiya military checkpoint: the same characters, the same rules, the same scenario, the same ruthless domination, and the same Orwellian lingo. 

Only the small, personal, human details change. 

After decades of occupation, Palestinians lining up to cross the checkpoint, which separates Ramallah from East Jerusalem, are forced into submission, playing their tragic part in order for them to cross into their homes, hospitals, or schools. But on the second Friday of Ramadan, one old Palestinian woman defied the rules. 

She was dressed in white and was carrying a backpack. She had trouble walking, so she had to reach the Israeli inspection post using a wheelchair provided by the Red Crescent.  

Israeli soldiers checked her name on their computer and informed her that she was not authorized to reach Al-Aqsa mosque for prayers because a member of her extended family was included on a list of supposed ‘militants’. 

But the Palestinian woman did not give up. She got off the wheelchair, stood in front of the Israeli soldiers and refused to turn back. 

A group of armed Israeli soldiers came toward her and pushed her away with their bodies. Lacking the strength to push back, she sat down, resting her back against a wall. 

Israeli soldiers crowded around her, telling her that she must turn back. The old woman refused to even look at them. She simply remained in her place. 

As I watched her, I thought of Black civil rights heroine Rosa Parks, who, too, took a courageous stance in defiance of a racist system. It was a different time and place, but the story is essentially the same. 

Even when the body is old and tired, the human spirit can remain strong and, at times, is impossible to subdue. 

(Translated by Tal Haran. Edited by The Palestine Chronicle)

– As a member of Machsomwatch, Tamar Fleishman documents events at Israeli military checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Her reports, photos and videos can be found on the organization’s website: She is also a member of the ‘Coalition of Women for Peace’ and a volunteer in ‘Breaking the Silence’. Tamar Fleishman is The Palestine Chronicle correspondent at the Qalandiya checkpoint.


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