By Frank Barat – Jerusalem
-5.30am, Beit Sahour (suburb of Bethlehem): Departure from accommodation.
Need to take taxi to Gilo Checkpoint (to go to Jerusalem). A lot of taxis go past me. They are all full.
-5.50: find taxi. Sharing with 8 other Palestinians.
-6.00: Arrive at checkpoint. Vision of horror. Between 200 and 400 Palestinians (Men, women and children) are queueing outside the checkpoint. Loads of noise, screaming, shoving and pushing. Gilo checkpoint is one of the worse. Convoluted, long, it seems without end. You first have to walk up for about 200 yards through a long narrow and fenced corridor, then walk down for about 100 yards then up again for 50 yards. You then turn left, and walk for a few extra yards, get to big grey building and finally reach a desk where behind a glassed window seats an 18 years old kid. Not any kid of course. An IDF (Israeli Defence Force) 18 years old kid.
Looking at all those men, women and kids queueing, walking at around 5 yards/min only to get under this fence, stacked like cattle, I feel sick. Really sick. Powerless, ashamed, disgusted.
-6.15: Still have not moved. I decide to leave the checkpoint. I Get into another taxi which takes me to a bus station. Need to get on Bus 21 to Beit Jala (another suburb of Bethlehem) where I should be able to go through another checkpoint faster, the taxi driver tells me.
-6.30: Get on bus 21. Packed.
-6.45: Get to checkpoint. No one is allowed to go through this one walking. A lot less people. Cars seems to go through fast. Relief. Bus advances slowly and stops. 2 sixteen years old looking IDF soldiers stand there. There are wearing make up, jewellery and Armani sunglasses. They will not look out of place in a London nightclub. Apart from the khaki uniform and the Machine gun.
Everyone gets off the bus. They rudely ask for everyone’s passports or ID cards. They only look at mine for a second and let me get back on the bus.
It’s different for the Palestinians. The 2 girls collect all their ID cards and then leave and get into a small office. In the meantime, Israelis cars go through without even stopping using the lane next to us. Not stopping. Not even looking.
-7.15: The 2 girls come back. They give the Palestinians their ID cards back. Apparently they have a problem with one 50 years old looking man and his 8 years old looking boy. From what I understand, the man has a good ID and can go through but not his kid. The man argues but the young girl does not care and treats him like half a human being. She does not even bother looking at him. It’s humiliating. For the man, for the Palestinians on the bus, for me and even more for his kid.
-7.25: Some Palestinians on the bus argue with the 2 girls. They get nervous.
-7.30: The bus leaves. The man and his kid are standing on the side of the road. They will not leave Bethlehem today.
Distance between Accommodation and other side of Checkpoint: 3 kilometers
Time needed: 2 hours
Some Palestinians are still queueing outside Gilo checkpoint. It will take them even longer to go through. If they do.
This is Palestine.
– Frank Barat is a member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign London (www.palestinecampaign.org) and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition UK (www.icahd.org). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.