What it feels like to be Palestinian – Fun time at Qalandiya checkpoint.
Last Friday, I took the bus as usual to go back to Jerusalem from Ramallah. As it was Friday, I had to get off the bus at the checkpoint and walk, because there were no buses going directly from Ramallah to Jerusalem. That means I had to walk through the terminal.
When I got inside and saw that there were not many people, I was quite happy: sometimes when there are thirty people or so, it can take two hours. Anyway, I walked through and got to the security check. I ringed as I went under the metal detector. So I went back and through again without my belt. It ringed again. So I took my shoes off and walked through again. It didn’t ring, thank God the soldiers stopped thinking I was an armed terrorist. I showed my passport and this 18 or 19 year old soldier asked for my visa, which I showed. He looked at it, frowned, and mumbled in Hebrew to his colleague. She shrugged her shoulders, and the soldier told me “I can’t let you through with this visa. It’s from Arava, you need to go through Arava checkpoint”. I tried to explain to him that Arava is not a checkpoint, it’s the border down South between Israel and Jordan, and I also told him that I had already been through Qalandiya with this visa, but he kept repeating like a robot “I can’t let you through, go through another checkpoint”.
I gave up, put my shoes back on and went to the car park to take a taxi enabling me to go through another checkpoint, which costs 10 times the price of a regular Ramallah-Jerusalem bus ride.
When I told that story to a friend of mine in the evening, he said there had been many clashes at the Qalandia refugee camp, nearby the checkpoint, and the checkpoint had been closed in the afternoon. The next day, when I went back to Ramallah and crossed the checkpoint again, there was a big fire and black smoke coming from burning tires. Never ending story.