Friday Post:

July 18, 2009


Bilin-recovering from teargas

Bilin-recovering from teargas

Bilin-teargas clouds

Bilin-teargas clouds

the effects of the darban water
the effects of the darban water
Bilin-marching to the wall

Bilin-marching to the wall

:Israel’s measure s to prevent internationals from getting to


Foreigners in the West Bank can travel in and out to Israel fairly easily—except that you have to go through a really annoying checkpoint to get to Jerusalem from Ramallah called Qalandia.  When you go through this checkpoint you feel like you’re cattle being led to the slaughterhouse or something. 

Qalandia Checkpoint

Qalandia checkpoint

Qalandia checkpoint


Qalandia checkpoint

Qalandia checkpoint


The first part is a big open area and then there are these narrow cage-like, barred passageways (bars on either side and chainlink on top) you walk through single-file for like 25 meters.  Then you go through a turnstile and get to the second waiting area. 

Here there are around 6 gates to go through the checkpoint—but that’s just for show they only have one or two actually open.  So it takes FOREVER. 

At this point you chose which gate you want to go to if there is more than one, then you go through another turnstile that allows 3 people through at a time before the turnstile locks on you as you’re trying to get through.

Then you’re in the final area.  On the right is an x-ray machine to put your bags through, in the middle is a metal detector that you walk through before showing your ID or passport to the soldier through the window.  On the left is the office where there are usually 3 18 year old soldiers sitting around.

One is supposed to be watching the x-ray machine, but never is—one time I actually saw him playing a game on his cell phone instead of watching it (but the wall is for “security” right?? Wrong—its to make life as difficult as possible for Palestinians while gradually annexing more land illegally).  A second soldier is plucking her eyebrows.  And the third is sitting slouched way down in her chair hating life and screaming shrilly for no reason over the loudspeaker at the people going through.

So you put your stuff through the x-ray machine, walk through the metal detector, show your ID or passport and visa, and then go through another turnstile and see a sign that says something like “Have a safe and pleasant stay in Israel” ahahaha…then you go through the final turnstile and you’re officially in Israel.

Such a “professional and disciplined” army 

Last Thursday my friend Lazar and I were coming back from a film festival in Jerusalem and we were walking to Qalandia to go through to the West Bank (there’s no security on the way into the West Bank, you walk through one turnstile and there are no soldiers anywhere checking anything)…

So we’re about to walk through when we notice two things:

There is a soldier making out with a girl right outside the door to walk through the checkpoint.  Completely oblivious to everything around him.

  There is a little room with one-way glass window where a soldier is supposed to be watching the area in front of the checkpoint.  He is drunk…and as we approach he starts yelling something into the loudspeaker that sounds like “soooooo!”  So we look at him confused and he yells it again, this time drawing the word out for like 30 seconds and making a crackling sound with his voice.  We can’t see him through the glass. 

Then we both yell “So!” back at him.  Then he makes another strange noise over the loudspeaker and we imitate him.  Then he does it again…and we raise our hands in a questioning manner, and he finally speaks English and says GO  

Ha…so yeah, going between Israel and the West Bank is doable but annoying. 

The neccesity of lying to get into Israel so you can go to Palestine

When you first arrive you can’t tell the airport security/border security that you are going anywhere near the West Bank or even mention anything related to Palestine.

This is not being paranoid, this is a fact.  If they know that you are a “sympathizer” they will not allow you into Israel or they might give you a smaller visa (if you’re reallllllly lucky) like one week or one month instead of 3 months which you are supposed to get automatically. 

Because Israel controls all movement in and out of Palestine, you have to go through them first.  So when you get to the border or airport you have to play the “dumb tourist” visiting the Holy Land act.  Or you could come up with a more elaborate story but for the first couple visas that story will probably work. 

As long as you don’t have anything on you or in your luggage related to Arabic, Palestine, Islam, or anything remotely Arab/Middle Eastern—even music or books.

If they think you are going to do humanitarian work in the West Bank or Gaza they will deny you entry and maybe even ban you for life for “security reasons” and they don’t have to give you any other reason than that. 

That’s why more than half of international’s conversations here in Ramallah is about visas.  Haha…”When did you get your last visa?” “When do you have to go again?” “How long did they give you?” “What was your story?”  We’re all paranoid and stressed about the visa situation—but there’s nothing to be done about it.

Renewing the tourist visa every 3 months

I have to leave on Tuesday to renew my visa again—I asked everyone I knew and some I didn’t, ha, for advice on which border crossing is easiest, which to avoid, what to say, etc.. So I decided on Aqaba—way down in the southern tip of Israel because its mostly tourists that go through there, as opposed to the Allenby/King Husein Bridge that’s from the West Bank to Jordan—which is mostly for Palestinians and therefore has airport-type security.

So I’m going through Aqaba, haven’t figured out what I’m going to say to the border people yet…I think Ill play it by ear because if they aren’t really suspicious Ill just leave it at “I’m a tourist here to see the Holy Land”.  If they make problems I might break out the “I have an Israeli boyfriend story” which seems to work pretty well according to some friends of mine.


News from Palestine this week

Anyways…some small pieces of news from this week.  Israeli warships have been firing on the Gaza coast…a lot of times they fire at fishermen to intimidate them into not fishing. They are allowed to go out a few miles, half of what they used to be allowed to fish in. 

But the Israelis are too paranoid to be comfortable with any boats leaving Gaza, even if they’re just fisherman.  They have blown up boats and killed fishermen before—then they say the boat opened fire on them first, when there were no weapons whatsoever on the boat.  Hmm…

Settlers have been pretty active lately too—burning Palestinian fields and land around Hebron and Nablus and just being generally insane. 

I heard that Israel was sending some ships towards Iran…maybe to attack their nuclear facilities.  Which makes me think that the theory that Israel would try to make a trade—U.S. support for Israel attacking Iran in exchange for Israel allowing a Palestinian state to be created might be true.  Because the U.S. hasn’t tried to stop them like they did before.

There is also something else interesting that I heard about the UN.  They are trying to pass a measure where they will just unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state even if Palestine and Israel can’t get their act together and negotiate for one.  They will set up a timetable for this, and if no decision has been made by Israel and Palestine the UN will make the decision for them—they will establish borders, security, capitals, and settlements. 

That would be good because I don’t think Israel and Palestine will ever agree about anything.  The only problem is the UN security council has to pass this and the U.S. has the power to veto anything it wants…so if Israel throws a fit then the U.S. will stop it. 


Hmm…Bilín yesterday was pretty interesting.  There were buses full of internationals that came.  Mostly Italian and French—I don’t know which organizations they were from but the demonstration was huge.  They also had a marching band lead the march to the wall which was cool.

When we got to the wall, we saw the white truck, which is the one that sprays the “darban” or bad smell water on us.  I don’t know if I told you what it was made of but its a special Israeli concoction of cow intestines, sewage, sulfur and other noxious chemicals specially designed to make you puke when you smell it.

So they sprayed that on the people in the front, and unfortunately the wind was pretty strong so they figured out that they could spray it straight up in the air and it would blow on everyone. Ha.  So I almost puked, and a lot of people in the front puked from the smell—its really terrible, I much prefer the teargas cannon to even catching a whiff of this stuff. 

It was funny because some of the villagers wore plastic suits with hoods and goggles and everything so they could be in the front even when they were spraying that stuff.  But afterwards the suits smelled really bad and you could smell them from a ways away.  My friend Lazar got just a little on his fingers and he really smelled bad! So there were lots and lots of showers afterwards in Bilin.

Other than the darban, they shot lots of teargas but not the cannon.  They tried another new weapon which is like a huge teargas bomb that they throw over the wall in a bag.  Unfortunately for the soldiers, the one who was supposed to throw it over hit the fence with it instead so it exploded on their side!

Hahaha….and it was really strange though because it was a huge cloud of gas and I couldn’t tell what it was or where it came from from where I was standing—could have been white phosphorous for all I know hahaha.

Anyways, no injuries except for the teargas—which was REALLY strong this week, and puking from the darban.

They IDF has still been raiding Bilin almost nightly, they have arrested over 20 people so far, mostly young boys.  And they have 150 ‘wanted’ people in Bilin, some of them 10 years old, so I don’t see the arrests and raids stopping any time soon.





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