If the Qalandia checkpoint was placed on a map (and I’m sure it is on those maps for toursits roaming the refugee camps of the West Bank or those maps portraying the violations of the right to move due to the occupation), it should be placed as a blot of gray. That is precisely what it is. A blot of gray.
The Qalandia checkpoint was one of the first heinous actions of the occupation I was introduced to. The blocks of gray wall next to the gray watchtower have been etched in my mind for the longest time, as it has been engraved and will continue to be engraved for years to come in the minds of Palestinians.
On approaching the Qalandia checkpoint, one can see the graffiti on the walls and Marwan al-Barghouti drawn, his eyes watching us from afar until we pass him. The watchtower next to it is half burnt due to the clashes that go on there. The traffic sometimes flows smoothly in the morning. However, by around 1:00 P.M., things get busy and everyone is going back home or wherever they intend to go by crossing/passing the checkpoint.
For the people that don’t have a Jerusalem ID card (the blue one), they need to exit the bus a little past Marwan al-Barghouti’s drawing and go through what I call the “birdcage.”
The birdcage is also gray…gray bars and barbed wire everywhere. You stay there and wait until it is your turn. Then, you pass more metal bars and wait in line. There are about five check-in sections, and you can be waiting there in line for as long as one can imagine. You still may be yelled at to go home or yelled at because the line has closed so one has to go start over with the waiting.
Security cameras are everywhere. A few verses of the Quran are taped on the metal bars. Some people even write things like “Palestine: dead or free!” You have to show the soldier a few identification cards/papers/etc. and still has to get their fingerprint taken. Then, you pass on to the other side at their request.
This morning, my friends and I waited for about 10 minutes and when it came for my turn to enter to the “check-in” counter, the female IOF soldier yelled through the mic “Go to one or two! ONE OR TWO! ONE OR TWO!” With that, everyone cursed under their breaths – some even loudly – as we shuffled our way to the other check-in counters. Another wait. It should be noted that today, the wait was a bit longer than usual due to the incident that occurred yesterday (see previous post).
The Qalandia checkpoint, one of the largest checkpoints present today, is one of the Israeli occupation’s most gruesome actions, violations for the right to movement of the Palestinians, and a method of collective punishment. The blot of gray stands. It marks its presence while Palestinians move past it, cross through it, and curse the world because of it…and other matters.