Posts Tagged ‘checkpoint’

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Family Trip: 4 Countries in 10 Days

June 23, 2010

The trip started with me going to Jerusalem to pick up my parents and sister, Teri, by the Damascus gate after they flew into Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv. I was sooo excited to see them! We went straight to Ramallah because they had a lot of bags. I showed them my apartment then we went to Pronto -an italian restuarant in Ramallah- and they met some of my friends.

The next day I had my appointment at the Ministry of Interior -also known as hell on earth-. I had a letter from PMRS Jerusalem counterpart, MRS, saying I was a research volunteer there and they should give me a work/volunteer visa for 6 mos. The lady I got was a total bitch, typical Israeli, and yelled at my family for standing to close to us as I was explaining everything. Ughh…Anyways, I was missing a crucial document that I didnt know I needed so I escaped from her and made a new appointment, which is a de facto visa extension…so I have a new appointment on the 6th of July–which will hopefully help me get back in the country when my sister and I cross Taba border on the 2oth.

Then we had lunch in West Jerusalem and headed back to have dinner with Jaber and his family in Bilin. Jabers mom made a huge pot of stuffed grapeleaves, kussa -stuffed squash or something similar, chicken, and soup. We were all too full to move by the end of the dinner but it was amaaaazing food. My family loved Jabers family and we all had a great evening as Israeli apache helicopters flew by doing some sort of military practice in the area, hahaha.

The next day we did the Old City in Jerusalem. We started at the Austrian Hospice, a really nice old mansion where pilgrims can stay and tourists are allowed to go up on the roof for a great view of the Old City. Then we walked around and saw Al Aqsa/Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchar. Afterwards we went to Gethesemene and the Mt of Olives before going home to Ramallah.

In the morning, we drove to Jericho and saw the Monastery there, then tried to go to Bethlehem, but the soldiers at the notorious -container- checkpoint wouldnt let us through -because of our yellow plated car-. Meanwhile, yellow plated cars are driving in and out of this checkpoint. So I argued with the soldiers for a while but in the end they wouldnt let us through, of course without giving any kind of logical explanation.

So I had to drive all the way back through Izarriya and Abu Dees basically to Ramallah to go through Jerusalem. Of course, the traffic in Jerusalem was terrible and we ended up driving in circles for a while trying to figure out how to get to Bethlehem. I tried to drive through the Silwan neighborhood -one of the Palestinian neighborhoods facing evictions- and after a while we stopped to ask someone who looked like Jesus ironically, where Bethlehem was, and he showed us the -way-…hahaha.

So finally we were on the road to Bethlehem, went through that checkpoint for the first time–realllllly really strict checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem where you have to get out of the car and do the spin move, open the trunk, etc…so that was interesting. Went to the Church of the Nativity there then did some souvenier shopping and had some icecream.

I was planning to take my family to see Hebron and the crazy settlers but because of the soldiers at the container checkpoint we didnt have enough time to get to Hebron. We went back to Ramallah and some friends of mine, Wajdi, Frida, and roommates made Mansaf for me and my family. So we had a nice big meal, some wine and good conversation before going to bed.

The next day we started our Northern Israel roadtrip. We took Frida with us and drove out the Nilin checkpoint and up to Megiddo -Armageddon-. Saw the ruins and had a lovely time there, haha. Then we drove on to Lake Tiberious and had lunch on the sea. Drove past the Mt of Beautitudes, then up to the Lebanese border, then over to the Golan.

We stopped at Lake Ram, this really beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. Then went to Majdal Shams– a druze village in the Golan. We stopped there and walked around and did some shopping and had coffee. Saw the -Shouting Hill- where Syrian druze living on the Israeli side can shout to their families on the Syrian side since they cant ever meet in person. So terrible…

We drove on the dark and curvy Golan roads surrounded by signs saying -Danger Landmines- back to Tiberius. It was such a dark road…but luckily an ambulance turned in front of me and I followed him all the way back to lighted streets. My parents said it was another -angel type character- like the Jesus guy from Silwan. Haha…we had all been in the car for too long by that point!

We made it back to Nazareth in time for bed. Got up in the morning and did some sightseeing, saw the Church of the Annunciation and the Old Market. Then we drove up to Akko and had lunch on the sea. We went swimming for a while, watched the Arab guys jump off the high crusader walls into the sea.

Then we drove to Haifa and saw the Bahai gardens and the amazing almost 36o view of the ocean from the top. Next we drove back to Tel Aviv and had coffee and lunch on the ocean front.

We drove back through the Nilin checkpoint and stopped by the wall in Bilin where the demos take place so my parents could see where it happens since we got to Bilin after dark the last time we were there. While we were looking around we noticed that lots of the olive tree fields were black from being set on fire by the teargas canisters earlier that day during the demo.

We saw on olive tree on fire and my dad and sister tried to go put it out but it was hours too late and we decided to go before people thought we were settlers setting more trees on fire, hahaha. So we drove out of the village and got stuck in a huge traffic jam where a wedding was taking place and a car had stalled on the one lane road. It took like 3o minutes to get through–we were planning to visit Al Amari refugee camp in Ramallah and see some of my friends there but by the time we got back it was too late.

The next day was Saturday, and I freaked out because I planned the trip so intricately that everything had to go according to schedule or else the whole thing would be messed up. I forgot about Shabbat!!!! So the rental car agencies in Jerusalem were closed–and the car I planned to get to drive to Eilat that day so we could get across the border that night into Jordan was unavailable. And of course, no busses were running.

So after a while I figured we could take an evening bus to Eilat, stay there for the night and go across to Aqaba early in the morning instead. So we took the 5 hr bus to Eilat, which was surprisingly pleasant since it was still technically shabbat when we left at 5 it was half empty and very quiet. We saw the MacDonalds in the middle of the Negev desert and took pictures : P

Found a hotel in Eilat and went to sleep. The next morning we crossed the border to Aqaba–the soldier was about to stamp my passport but then something came up on her computer and she read for like 5 minutes with a serious expression on her face. She asked me some questions about what I was doing in -Israel- and I went with the story about MRS in Jerusalem I told the Ministry of Interior and showed her my application for a visa and everything and she stamped my exit visa. Im not sure how its gonna go when I try to get back in…but I expect theyll at least give me a transit visa to take my sister to the airport. Inshallah.

Then we checked into our hotel and left our bags there. Then we rented a car and went to Petra. Walked around there for a few hours, met some bedouin guys who still live in caves there–street one, cave two- hahaha…then we drove to Wadi Rum. We wanted to go have a bedouin dinner in a camp there in the desert but took the wrong road that ended in the sand…so we found some bedouins who took us in a jeep to their camp 12 km in the desert and watched the sunset.

Then cooked dinner over the fire and watched the amazing stars there for a while. We got back to Aqaba that night and went to sleep….then we took a ferry across to Nuweiba. The guys on the ferry recognized me from last time when they took me up to the bridge and showed me how to drive the boat..haha. So they took me and my family to the -VIP- section and took us up to the bridge to see the captain for a few minutes.

Hahaha, it was fun. Then we got to Nuweiba and Sababa and are now relaaaaaxing finally.

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Israeli Soldiers Push Man Off 3rd Floor Balcony

March 18, 2010

Yesterday, there were big clashes at Qalandia checkpoint and the refugee camp. There were hundreds of kids out there protesting the recent Israeli actions regarding Al Aqsa mosque. 

There is a widespread fear that the escalating Israeli invasions of the Al Aqsa compound and the opening of a new synagogue (Hurva) which represents the national-political Jewish movement’s goal of reclaiming Jerusalem (and Al Aqsa) for their eternal capital. There was also supposed to be an ultra-orthodox Israeli march around Al Aqsa where they put the cornerstone down for the third temple–symbolizing the end of Al Aqsa and the beginning of the end times.

The Israeli soldiers respond to the stones with rubber coated steel bullets, live ammunition, and teargas canisters shot at head level.

The soldiers take positions on top of some apartment buildings in the refugee camp to shoot at the kids below. Yesterday, the soldiers invaded a home on the third floor of the building and started beating 25 year old Abdullah Lafee.

After they beat him to the point where his face was cut and bleeding, they pushed him off of the balcony–on the third floor. But they weren’t finished yet.

The soldiers went down to where he fell and continued beating him there. He is still alive and in the hospital recovering.

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At Atara checkpoint, between Birzeit and Ramallah, there was a demonstration where a soldier was injured by a stone. The soldiers ended up shooting more than 20 Palestinians rubber coated steel bullets–including one in the head–a serious injury.

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East Jerusalem Clashes Spread to West Bank…Gaza Protests in Solidarity

March 17, 2010

I went to Jerusalem yesterday morning. Mustafa Barghouthi, my boss, was giving a press conference outside the Damascus Gate (the main gate leading to the Muslim quarter of the Old City). We got to Qalandia checkpoint and watched the demonstration there for a little bit. There were about a hundred Palestinian boys in the streets throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers who were stationed by the wall and in the streets of Qalandia refugee camp. I got a little taste of teargas and we went to the checkpoint…

There was only one lane open for walking through and no car lanes open. The soldiers were being extra annoying…we got through and waited on the other side for a service to the Old City. As we drove through Shuafat refugee camp, I didn’t see any protests but I heard that further inside the camp the Palestinians were throwing stones and setting up road blocks to keep out the Israelis.

All around East Jerusalem, in Abu Dees University, Eisawiyyah, and Shuafat camp there were demonstrations against the perceived threat to Al Aqsa.

Basically, there are a LOT of rumors going around about what might happen to the Al Aqsa Mosque–which is the third holiest site in Islam, and also happens to be located on the exact spot where the first two Jewish temples were built. The Jewish people believe that the Messiah won’t come until they build the third temple. That would mean they have to destroy the Al Aqsa mosque first, because the temple has to be built on the same foundations as the first two temples.

This is why Muslims were worried that this plan might be progressing:

1) the opening of the Hurva synagogue in the Jewish quarter of the Old City–this synagogue symbolizes the return of the Jewish people to their land–which could mean Israel, the Old City, or the temple mount. There was also a Rabbinical prediction from a couple hundred years ago that the Hurva synagogue would be destroyed and rebuilt three times, and on the third time they rebuilt it the next day construction would start on the third temple.

To the Palestinians, construction on the third temple means the destruction of Al Aqsa.

2) The ultra-orthodox Jewish people planned a march around the Temple Mount which would end with them placing the cornerstone of the new temple–fortunately the Israeli police forced them to at least delay the march.

3) The new settlement plans for East Jerusalem only strengthen the opinion of many Palestinians that Israel is trying to Judaize Jerusalem so they can have it as their “undivided, eternal capital”.

So this is why so many protests happened over East Jerusalem and West Bank…………so many political things have happened against the Palestinians and no real threat of third intifada occurred, but this is religious. And it seems like that is more of a threat to the Palestinians than loss of land.

Anyways, more people than every before were talking politics, listening to the radio, watching the news, and protesting across East Jerusalem and the West Bank. So Israeli deployed 3000 police and military around the Old City and the PA put special forces on every corner.

The PA is ACTIVELY PREVENTING the Palestinians from expressing their anger and frustration against Israel, occupation, and the threat to the holy sites. There won’t be an intifada while the PA is around, acting as Israel’s enforcers.

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Weekly Report….

March 1, 2010

This week there was a lot of trouble in Hebron–a city in southern West Bank. Hebron is notorious for having crazy and aggressive Israeli settlers, even the Israeli soldiers hate being there to protect the settlers because they are provoking the Palestinians all the time. I read in an article that a soldier stationed in Hebron said that it was the place they send soldiers to punish them.

The settlers have been becoming more and more of a presence in the old market place in the middle of Hebron because of the Ibrihimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs–to Jews the tombs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob along with their wives are burried there. For Muslims it is a mosque built by Abraham and his and Sarah’s tombs. It is holy for both religions.

The settlers have been slowly taking over the market place because that’s where the Ibrihimi mosque is located. So an area that was almost 100% Palestinian and an important economic center for Hebron has been almost entirely shut down by the settlers. They have taken over the upstairs apartments of the stores in the market, along with whole areas of the center (H2) around the market.

The settlers throw garbage, stones, glass, sewage water and other things on the Palestinian stores, homes, and people below. They have forced many stores to shut down. The Israeli army, who is required to be there to protect the settlers from themselves, has set up checkpoints within the market, so walking from one store to another you have to go through a checkpoint where the soldiers almost always mess with the Palestinians–many times making them wait 30 minutes while they “check” the IDs.

Meanwhile, you walk through alleyways with chainlink fence hung above to protect the shoppers and Palestinian shopowners from getting hit with debris thrown down by the settlers.

Now, they have taken the judaization of the area around the mosque to a new level. The Israeli government has declared that site, along with Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem to be National Israeli Heritage Sites. Both sites are ouside of “Israel”, they are in the West Bank in the middle of Palestinian towns. Israel seems to be claiming the sites. It will probably make it more difficult that ever for Palestinians to gain access to these sites now, which are holy to them too. The Israeli government will say they want to do “renovations” on the sites, then deny access to everyone while they’re repairing things, everyone except the settlers.

And the government’s timing on this was impeccable as usual. It is simultaneously the annviersary of the Intifada, the Prophet’s birthday, and the anniversary of the Goldstein massacre of Palestinians while they were praying in the Ibrihimi mosque. About 50 people were killed and 100 wounded in this joint operation between Israeli settlers and the IDF. In the following days about 20 more Palestinians were killed when clashes erupted around the West Bank.

After the declaration of the mosque as an Israeli Heritage Site, the Israeli government was just waiting for the Palestininas to react. There were some clashes between the Palestinian youth and the Israeli police/settlers. Teargas, soundbombs, rubber bullets…A couple dozen injured.

My roommate Lazar went down there for a couple days to take photos and he told me that the Palestinian Authority was working with the Israeli police/IDF to control the Palestinian youth. The PA and the IDF…working together against Palestinians protesting a new aspect of the occupation. Its completely ridiculous–and its the guys who the US have been helping to train in Jericho and Jordan.

The clashes ended up slowing down despite Haniyeh (Hamas) calling for a new Inifada. I think thats what Israel wanted anyways, a lot of my friends agree with that too. Israel is getting so much pressure from the international community to restart the peace process that they are looking for any excuse to say “We dont have a partner for peace”–even while the PA is working with them to punish their own people.

Luckily, the Palestinians are either too tired from the still fresh memory of the last intifada or just being patient until they can actually stand a chance in an Intifada.

Just another proof that the Israeli government is trying to provoke the Palestinians into reacting in an Intifada, as soon as the Hebron mess calmed down, the Israeli settlers and police in Jerusalem stormed Al Aqsa mosque (the third holiest site in Islam). They clashed with Palestinians inside and more of the youth that came to throw stones after they invaded the mosque.

Anyways, the situation is getting tense because of all the Israeli provocations but so far the Palestinian people seem to be staying as calm as possible. An Intifada would be the worst thing for them right now, and Israel knows that. Soon, hopefully, the world will put enough pressure on Israel to continue negotiations, final status negotiations.

The EU is working on an initiative to support Palestine in declaring statehood. Israel came back at them saying if the Palestinians declare a state then they won’t have to negotiate anymore so that couldn’t work for anyone. But obviously, declaring a state doesn’t make the Israeli soldiers, checkpoints, and settlements disappear. It doesnt bring back the refugees either. So there will have to be negotiations, it will just prevent Israel from occupying more of Palestine as they pretend to negotiate.

Hopefully this initiative will work…

The protests this week were pretty much washed out by the weather, I didn’t go because of the hail and rain. But there were still small groups of demonstrators at Bil’in, Ni’lin, Nabe Saleh, Al Masara, and Sheikh Jarrah.

The protests were focused on the Israeli takeover of the holy sites in Hebron and Bethlehem. The injuries were mostly gas inhalation, except in Nabe Saleh where a boy was hit in the head with a rubber bullet. I dont know exactly what his condition is, but if it was the rubber coated steel bullets–which is what the IDF almost exclusively uses now as “rubber bullets” then he should be in pretty bad shape.

In Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem protestors dressed up in Purim costumes to demonstrate against the house demolitions.

My roommates and friends and I also went out to celebrate Purim. We went to Jerusalem on Saturday night with wigs and checked out a few parties. The weather was pretty bad so there werent hundreds of people out in the street like last year but it was still fun.

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How to Create a Terrorist

November 5, 2009

Lazar Simeonov: How to Create a Terrorist…

Going from Ramallah to Jerusalem by bus should only take about twenty minutes, but since Israel constructed the separation wall it usually takes up to one hour.

In addition to the wall one has to negotiate Kalandia checkpoint, a hi-tech airport/border security style military facility. Everyone has to disembark from the bus, pass through the checkpoint and, assuming that everything went as planned, get back on the bus on the other side of the wall and continue on their journey to Jerusalem.

The last Sunday of October 2009 it took me and a friend who was accompanying me more than three hours because of a dramatic incident that is going to change one girl’s life forever.

After getting out of the bus, we arrived at the checkpoint’s entrance and went through a narrow, barred passageway that could be the entrance to hell. Then we passed through the first turnstile under the watch of a bored looking Israeli security guard and several sophisticated video cameras, and entered the heart of the checkpoint, it’s security area—where you are trapped until the Israeli soldiers allow you to exit.

To do so, you have to proceed through several steps. The first is going through one of the six lanes, where you have to pass through a second turnstile before arriving at the lane’s “checking area”. There you have to put all your belongings through an x-ray machine, walk through a metal detector, present an identity document to a teenage Israeli soldier sitting in the lane’s control room behind bullet-proof glass.

Of course, you can only pass if you have a foreign passport with a valid Israeli visa, an Israeli passport, a “Palestinian Blue ID” (for Palestinians who live inside the current borders of Israel but not in Jerusalem) or a “Palestinian Jerusalem ID” (for Palestinians who live in Jerusalem).

This means that the vast majority of Palestinians living in the West Bank, who hold a “Green ID”, are not allowed to cross the checkpoint and go to Jerusalem. However, even if you have all the needed documents and everything goes right until that point, you are still at the whim of whichever young, generally female, soldier who is present in the control room that day.

If she denies you because she just had a fight with her boyfriend on the phone or for any other arbitrary reason, you must turn around and do the “walk of shame” through the turnstile that you just came from.

The time it will take only depends on the mood of the security guard who has to unlock the turnstile so that you can take it in the opposite direction—I’ve seen people waiting there for more than ten minutes while the security guard was having a snack or playing a game on his mobile phone.

After this, you’ll end back where you came from, i.e. on the Palestinian side of the separation wall. On the other hand, if you are allowed to pass the “checking area”, you still need to go through two more turnstiles before finally reaching the exit of the checkpoint.

My friend and I had made it to the step where we had to wait in the lane that should have brought us, with a bit of patience, to the other side. That day, as is the case most of the time, only two out of six lanes were open—that of course makes the waiting time even longer. We had been waiting there for a few minutes when a Palestinian girl (Sumud Karajeh, 21 year old, from the Saffa village and student at the Al-Quds Open University) put her shoulder bag through the x-ray machine and showed the soldier her identity card.

The soldier said something in Hebrew, which the girl couldn’t speak, over the loud speaker, in a shrill, irritating and robotic voice. The girl, confused, answered something in Arabic, which the soldier couldn’t speak either.

After what seemed like five minutes of this improbable dialog they somehow managed to communicate and the girl understood that the soldier wanted her to put the shoulder bag through the x-ray machine again. So she did it two more times while being continuously verbally affronted by the soldier over the loud speaker.

After that, the soldier started yelling at the girl, who still couldn’t understand Hebrew. So not knowing what she was supposed to do she started to get really uncomfortable and nervous.

At this point, a Palestinian man who had just arrived at the lane said that he also spoke Hebrew and that he could translate. The soldier let him through the second turnstile, they talked for a minute and he said to the girl that she had to put her bag through the x-ray machine one more time.

After another passage of the bag through the x-ray machine, the soldier ordered the girl to empty it out in front of the window so that she could check what was inside. So, the girl, irritated and stressed, took out each object she had in her bag, including several school books and notebooks, showed them to the soldier and put them on the ground.

The soldier still wasn’t satisfied and asked the girl to take out the lining of her purse. The man who was translating did it and found something that looked like a swiss knife stuck in the bottom of the lining. That was it, the reason why all this had happened was a simple swiss army knife—similar to ones that can be bought in hundreds of shops across Jerusalem.

At that point the Palestinian girl became really angry because of this young soldier humiliating her for more than fifteen minutes in front of all the people waiting in the lane just for having a swiss knife in her bag. And then, three strong, intimidating looking Israeli soldiers wearing bulletproof vests and carrying assault rifles entered the security area and surrounded the girl.

Now she looked really scared. One soldier x-rayed the bag again and started going through it, item by item, while another passed the swiss-knife through the x-ray machine.

The few foreigners waiting in the line with all the Palestinians couldn’t believe what they were seeing. A German man and I said that we almost always carry a swiss knife on us and that it had never been a problem at a checkpoint so far, while the Palestinians weren’t surprised and said that such things happened to them all the time.

Suddenly, and to us without apparent reason, the soldiers tackled the girl, threw her on the ground, beat her and put handcuffs around her wrists while she was screaming “Allahu Akbar!”—a phrase that is sometimes used by suicide bombers before blowing themselves up.

We had no idea what happened, but in response to this phrase everybody in the lane, except for a man and his child, panicked thinking she might have a bomb on her and ran as far away as they could. This wasn’t as far as most people would have felt comfortable with because everybody was trapped in the security area of the checkpoint.

More soldiers arrived and one started violently pushing, almost beating, the man who had remained with his child in the lane—for no reason, he was just standing there with his back against the wall and arms around his child’s shoulders.

The soldiers then said that the checkpoint was closed and that we had to go back to the Palestinian side of the separation wall through the turnstiles we came from. They also told people not to take photos and tried to grab every digital camera they could see—I fortunately managed to exit the checkpoint before they were able to take mine.

Later in the day we discovered that, according to the Israeli army, the girl had stabbed one of the soldiers in the abdomen, moderately wounding him.

When looking on my laptop at the photos I took during the incident I noticed that, in some of them, one of the three soldiers that surrounded the girl was laying on the ground and something that looks like an opened swiss knife was at the feet of the Palestinian girl… it seems to confirm the official version.

This dramatic incident could have been avoided very easily because the Palestinian girl, a university student and not a terrorist like she was called by some Israeli media in their articles, had no plan to stab an Israeli soldier when she arrived at the checkpoint.

But everything she went through during those thirty minutes in the security area; the confusion, the humiliation, the anger and finally the fear, made her lose her mind and do something horrible that she will now regret and pay for for the rest of her life…

This is just one example of what the Israeli occupation means for the Palestinians and how it affects their everyday lives. Of course that the girl did something crazy and wrong, but how can you expect people to act in a normal way when you continually put them in abnormal situations and treat them like savage animals?

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2 Palestinians Killed by Israeli Police on Suspicion of Driving Stolen Cars:

October 31, 2009

 In the past two weeks, the Israeli police and military have killed two young Palestinian men on suspicion of driving stolen Israeli cars.

 Because cars, like everything else in Palestine, are hard to get and are double taxed (Israeli taxes plus Palestinian taxes) there has been a rise in the theft of Israeli cars.  After they are stolen, they are brought to the West Bank and sold.  The Palestinian Authority, which is under a great deal of pressure from the Israeli government on this subject, has been active in obtaining these stolen Israeli cars as they enter the West Bank and even after they have been sold to other people.

 About a week ago, a 23 year old Palestinian man was re-entering the West Bank at the checkpoint near Ni’lin in a stolen Israeli car.  It’s not clear whether he stole the car or bought it from someone else who did.

 As he crossed the checkpoint, the Israeli military opened fire on the car, suspecting it was stolen. The man was killed—for driving a stolen car.

 Last Wednesday, another incident occurred.  A 21 year old Palestinian man (from East Jerusalem) was driving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  The police saw the car and suspected it was stolen, so they pursued him on the highway.

 Most likely fearing at least a heavy beating, if not jail or death, the boy continued driving and it turned into a high speed chase. During the chase, his car flipped and he was killed at the scene.

 Since when did stealing a car (if they even did…) earn you a death sentence?  Only in Israel…

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The Craziest Day Ever….

October 26, 2009

I had the CRAZIEST day yesterday….

Part One: Qalandia Checkpoint

So my roommate Lazar and me are going to Jerusalem to Al Aqsa mosque in the old city because there were clashes all day long between Palestinians and Settlers/Israeli police. The settlers were trying to set Al Aqsa on fire, and the Imam of the mosque used the loud speaker to call all the Muslims to defend the mosque. Then the police cut the electricity to the mosque.

INSIDE the mosque, the Israeli police/military were shooting teargas and sound bombs and the Palestinians blockaded themselves inside the mosque. There were several injured, and the Israeli police beat and arrested several journalists. Afterwards, there were clashes all around Old City between kids throwing stones and Israeli police/military/special forces…..so we wanted to go and document what was happening.

We get to Qalandia, and we’re already pretty late so we’re in a hurry. We get through the narrow, barred passageway, through the first turnstyle, then we get to the lanes where the 18 year old girl soldiers check our passports/IDs. Out of 6 lanes, of course only 2 are open. So we choose the far one….and wait.

Then a Palestinian girl who looks about my age, in a hijab, goes through and puts her purse through the xray machine, walks through the metal detector, and shows her ID to the soldier behind the bullet proof glass. The soldier is screaming at her in a high, shrill voice over the loud speaker in Hebrew–which the girl can’t understand. Finally, after like 15 minutes of just screaming at this poor girl, a man from the line yells to the soldier that he can speak Hebrew and he will translate.

So the soldier lets him through the turnstyle. He goes up and tells the girl the soldier wants her to put her purse through the xray machine again….so she does. And goes back to the soldier who yells at her to xray it again. So she xrays her bag again…then picks it up on the other side and looks at the soldier.

The soldier yells something else in Hebrew, and the man translating says she wants the girl to empty out her bag in front of the window….so she takes out each object she has in her purse, one by one, throws it on the ground, then picks them all up one by one, showing each one to the soldier. The soldier is still not satisfied. She screams to the girl to take out the lining of her purse. So the man translates and pulls the lining inside out so the soldier and see…and there is a swiss knife in the bottom of the lining.

The soldiers starts screaming at this girl, the man says ” ‘adee” (normal)…and the girl looks confused and pissed off by this point. The soldier is screaming at her for having this swiss knife in her bag and not showing it to her….Lazar, standing next to me says he has a swiss knife in his bag, and another internaitonal girl in line says she has one too. “Whats the problem?”

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All of a sudden theres three gorilla sized Israeli soldiers surrounding this girl. The man translating disappears. And the gorillas tell the girl to go to the xray machine and x-ray the bag and the knife again. When the come out on the other side, the gorillas start going through her stuff piece by piece again. Its been a half and hour since this whole scene started. Lazar tries to go take pictures and the soldiers look at him menacingly so he stops.

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Then, all of a sudden, the three gorillas tackle this girl and start beating her and shes screaming. Everyone starts to move back in case they accidently shoot in our direction. Then the girl starts shouting “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!!!” (This is the phrase suicide bombers shout before they blow themselves up…)

So all the Palestinians around me are running to the furthest corner of this cage we are trapped in with this girl who might have a bomb….so me and the 5 other internationals who were already edging our way out because of the guns shoot to the furthest corner we can get too….and there is just one man standing in the lane with a small child. From where I am, I can hear the soldier beating the girl and her yelling and crying.

Then more soldiers rush in from every direction. And some of them start beating the man with the small child who was just standing there. Then a lot of the Palestinians go back into the lane to try to defend this guy and his child. Then the soldiers start pushing and beating the people back away from this area. We all huddle in another corner because we’re still trapped in this part of the checkpoint.

All the internaitonals and some Israeli peace activists who happened to be there start taking pictures of what is happening. Then the soldiers start pushing the people with cameras and threaten to beat or arrest them and try to break their cameras. So we all go back to the corner again, and finally, they unlock the turnstyles and we go back out to the Ramallah side of the checkpoint. From there, I can still see the soldiers beating the man with the small child. I cant see or hear the girl anymore. Then they take the man and the child through to a small room and we dont see them again either……..

After all of this, we waited for like 20 minutes to see what was going to happen. (By the way….the official Israeli statement about the incident that we heard later said that the girl stabbed one of the Israeli soldiers with her swiss knife–“seriously injuring him”. We did not hear anyone yell–like they had been stabbed. We did not see any medics or ambulance come either. )

Later, when we looked at Lazar’s pictures, we saw one where one of the gorillas raised his gun over his head and was about to hit the girl with it, in the background, one soldier is falling backwards and the swiss knife is on the ground….with the “bottle opener” out…not a knife….so I dont know for sure if she stabbed him or not. But if she did I dont think she planned too….she was going through the checkpoint with a guy–maybe her friend, brother, or husband and they were talking through the bars as the soldier was messing with her, and he was trying to keep her calm.

But I think half an hour of this 18 year old bitch soldier screaming at her in a language she can’t understand, messing with her and making her nervous, then having three gorillas with guns pointed at her made her crazy–if she did try to stab this guy, he had on a bullet proof vest and Im sure she couldnt have done much damage with a tiny swiss knife.)

Part Two: Old City, Jerusalem

So after waiting to see if anything else happened at Qalandia, we decided to head on to Jerusalem. Obviously, they had closed down Qalandia after this “terrorist attack” so we got on a bus with some of the other Palestinians from the checkpoint and went through a different checkpoint called Hizma which is half an hour out of our way. We get through that checkpoint and make it to the Old City.

We were trying to find an open entrance to Al Aqsa mosque so that we could see if there was any people still barricaded inside the mosque. Every entrance we tried, the big door was closed and locked (the door to the compound/plaza around the mosque) and in front of that was an Israeli police barricade with soldiers in front. Finally we go to an overlook of the Western Wall where we can see the mosque (since its right beside it) and we can see Israeli special forces climbing on roofs around the mosque.

So we decide to go back and try the one, final entrance we hadnt tried before. When we get over there, its dark by now, and we’re walking down one of the alleyways (the old city is all winding, narrow, alleyways) and we pass a big group of French tourists. As we pass they’re talking in French, and Lazar says the guy said “The soldier said we will be OK if we run through it!” So Lazar and I are like, “Run through what?”

And we keep going up the street until we see a crowd of people in this intersection. Ahead of us across the intersection are Palestinians hiding behind a wall and peaking their heads out every once in a while down the alley. On the right side of the intersection, there is a group of Israeli soldiers in full riot gear with full length shields, in formation like a phalanx or the Roman legions or something like that. Since the road is narrow, they are standing like 5 across and 5 deep, just waiting like that in front of this entrance to Al Aqsa.

Down the alley they are facing, the one that the Palestinians across the intersection keep looking down, about 100 meters away are some shadowy figures of Palestinian kids and teenagers, and they are throwing stones and anything else they can find towards the soldiers. But they are really far away so a stone only makes it to this intersection about once every 5 mintues. The soldiers, behind their riot gear, look very VERY scared. Of kids with stones, 100 meters away. The Palestinians standing around with us are just kind of joking and laughing about it.

We decide to find a better spot to take pictures and to try to get closer to the shabaab (kids) throwing stones down the alley. So Lazar goes around and finds a park area that overlooks the street, just about right in the middle of the whole scene. To out left is a small staircase where Israeli special forces are waiting to run out and go get the kids. They also look very scared. As we’re waiting and taking pictures, three small Palestinian kids join us and Im showing them how to take pictures on my camera when the soldiers to our left run out into the alleyway.

Then they form the phalanx again, and have the shields in the front line of their group and they stop right below us, in formaition. Now the kids down the alley have a closer target and they start throwing stones again. The phalanx moves back a few feet. Then another stone rolls up to them, and they move back a few more feet. The kids tell me , “Hum zay bissat! zay bissat!” (They are like cats) haha the kids were making fun of them for being scared of some kids with stones while these are special forces soldiers in full riot gear with full length shields. Yeah….they should have been really scared.

So they back up all the way to the intersection we were at before and we thought they were going to keep retreating, when suddenly they all run down the alleyway towards the kids with stones. Lazar jumps down into the street and follows taking pictures. The three kids with us follow him, so I follow them and we’re all running down this narrow alleyway with the special forces ahead of us, beating the kids who were throwing stones and a huge brawl there.

Within a few minutes, the street is quiet and the special forces have disappeared to some new dark corner to lurk in….and behind us are the other group of soldiers by the entrance to Al Aqsa, who could shoot teargas or rubber bullets at us at any time, the three kids are still with me, and Lazar has gone forward. Ahead of us, in the shadows, are the figure of three people in masks, plainclothes, and with big guns. On the ground is a Palestinian boy around 15 year old. We think the guys are Palestinian since they’re wearing masks and no uniforms, anyways, I stop with the kids far from this.

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And Lazar goes forward….as he gets closer with his camera, one man in a mask points his gun at Lazar and yells at him to go. So Lazar ducks down a side alleyway and I follow with the children. We hide out there for a minute, then something falls beside me from the roof–its a big metal sheet, then rocks and glass is falling. And we look up to the roof and its a guy in a mask. We think he is Arab and the kids shout up in Arabic, “We’re Arabs! We’re with you! Stop throwing stones at us!” But he keeps throwing stuff at us so we run up the alley way.

We get up the alleyway then try to find a way back down to the street. We find another side street that leads to the street all of this was happening on and we peak our heads out to see whats going on. Down to the right, the first phalanx of Israeli soldiers is still standing there waiting. Down to the left, where the masked men and Palestinian boys were there is no one.

One of the kids with us goes out into the alley and throws a small stone towards the soldiers, but it doesn even make it half way to them. Suddenly, they shoot something at this kid and he runs back to us crying. Hes like 8 years old. I thought maybe they shot him with something because he was holding on to his leg but I didnt see anything and he said he was ok…so we moved back up this side street, trying to find a way out of this mess.

Ahead of us, in this dark alleyway, we see a bright flashlight pointed at us and dark shadowy figures behind it. We dont know what to do. We can’t go back into the street because they will shoot at us, theres guys on the roofs in masks throwing stuff down onto us in the other direction, and up the street is a very scary group of people, standing there silently behind this flashlight. With no other option, and with these three kids, we start slowly walking towards this flashlight.

Its silent, they dont yell or say anything to us, just move the flashlight slowly up and down. So Lazar walks first, slowly and with his hands up in the air, saying “Press!” I follow with the kids and we all have our hands up in the air. As we get closer to the light I can tell its the special forces group, lurking in a new alley. And they dont say anything to us as we pass or even look at us. Then , when we get past them, they charge down the alley way and into the street below. If we had been like 10 seconds later we would have turned up the alley right as they charged. It was really, really scary.

After that we decide, enough is enough, and we try to find our way back to the first intersection….the kids go back to their houses and we make it back to the entrance to Al Aqsa. The soldiers are gone. And everything is quiet. We go back down the street to the spot where the kids were throwing stones from earlier and theres some medics and other Palesitnian men standing around there.

We ask them what happened and they said, “There were just some young kids here, throwing stones down the street. Then they sent in all these soldiers and mustaghribeen (?spelling) which are plainclothes Israeli soldiers –the guys we saw wiht the masks– and they beat up the kids and arrested 3 or 4 of them. Later when we were walking around and talking to people, we met this Palestinian couple.

The man said he was inside the mosque that morning when all of the clashes were happening and the Israelis blockaded them inside. He said they beat a lot of Palestinian journalists, kids, and shot a few people with rubber bullets and wouldnt let the paramedics inside to help them.

Anyways….they expect more problems today because the Israeli settlers keep invading the mosque and trying to set it on fire. So Palestinians go to do a sit in at the mosque to protect it. Then the Israeli police/military escorts the settlers (or “tourists” as the Israeli report says) into the mosque so they can destroy it. Then the Palestinians come out to defend it and there are clashes. Thats pretty much how it works. If the Israelis and settlers would just stay out of Al Aqsa there would be no problems around the Old City. But they keep pushing it.

So yeah, crazy day in Palestine. Lazar is making a photostory about the Old City and making an eye witness article with some pictures about the girl at Qalandia….so make sure to look for them on Palestine Monitor (palestinemonitor.org)