Passing checkpoints at Passover

Posted on 18. april 2011

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It being Passover Sunday yesterday made me think it would be interesting to go to Jerusalem. So I met with a friend in Ramallah at 11.15 and arrived at the Qalandia checkpoint maybe 10-15 minutes later. It was a quiet day and we were only about 20 people on the bus.

But maybe because of it being Passover – or maybe just because – extra security was being enforced. So everyone had to get out of the bus and get into this cage-like facility where we stood in line waiting to be let through security.

Around me are older Palestinian women, teenage girls and quite a few tourists. I can truly see that we post a serious threat security.

Five to ten people are let through the gates. Then we wait. 10-15 minutes later five more are let through. And then we wait. 10-15 minutes pass and another group goes through. We can see into the security check and can’t tell why it is taking so long for people to get through.

It’s one of the first really hot days and I regret that I skipped lunch and didn’t bring water now that I don’t really know how long I’ll be stuck here.

Scattered around the checkpoint are soldiers walking, talking and laughing. There aren’t much traffic at the checkpoint this Sunday afternoon, but cars going through still have to wait for quite a while before being let through. And every trunk is opened and searched.

I have plenty of time to study the soldiers and it really strikes me how young they are – and so heavily armed.

After a little over an hour it’s my turn to walk through the metal detector and have my bag screened.

Three soldiers watch me from behind a glass window. Confused I look at them having no idea what to do. The soldier in the middle points to my passport and the window and I open my passport and place it on the window. The soldier points and gesticulates and I feel my pulse racing trying to figure out what he wants me to do.

I look down on my passport and sees it’s upside down. Overwhelmed by the ironic comic of the situation I let out a small laugh as I turn my passport.

The soldier (the 18-year old boy) looks at me for a second and then he also smiles.

He takes his eyes away from my passport which, I guess, means that I am free to take my bag and go.

We get on a new bus – no wonder the original bus didn’t wait for us – and head towards Jerusalem.

The less than 20 kilometers from Ramallah to Jerusalem took about two hours. And today was a slow day at the Qalandia checkpoint.

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