The Two Sides of Qalandia Checkpoint Part 9: Damascus Gate

When I was eight years old, the time my family and I could come and go to Jerusalem with our U.S. citizenship privilege, there used to be baby chicks on the right corner on our way through Damascus Gate. I vaguely remember the man that sold them, but I remember he had a head full of black hair with white hair beginning to come through with the box that displayed the chicks in front of him. The chicks were colored in blue, pink, and a lighter yellow. My paternal grandmother and mother would promise my brother and I that we would get two chicks once we went around the old city.

Now that I look back at this, and in the past few weeks journeying through Jerusalem, I think that when I reach Damascus Gate, that is when I truly feel I have reached Jerusalem. When I was a kid, seeing the chicks on the right side corner made me, a child with an unspoken fear of being lost, feel safe.

Surely enough, my brother and I would come back home with at least two colored chicks. We would show them to everyone that cares and doesn’t care to see, play with them, and what happens after that to them is past me. This time around, though, the chicks aren’t there anymore. On the right corner of the gate is a man selling a few masabih and another boy selling socks. On the left, there are elderly women selling zucchini and grape leaves.

It is mind blowing to even begin to comprehend the years that passed with this gate and all these walls standing tall as they stand today. Who built it all? How long did it take? There are even little arrow holes where at one point in time, bows and arrows were used, Robin Hood style. Generations and generations pass by and through these gates and walls. It is incredibly unbelievable. Even standing from atop, how the city was occupied over centuries by different people only to finally end up in the hands of a heinous occupation, is incredibly unbelievable. How I got on the top and saw the Dome of the Rock shine and how some old houses have tiny domes as a roofs is incredibly unbelievable.

As I entered through the gate today, a father and two young boys holding his hand were behind me. I heard the father say, “Are you guys excited to see the Dome of the Rock?”
The eldest of the boys replied, “Yes, Baba, but once we’re done I want…”
We went our separate ways.

I thought back to when my brother and I would wait until we went back for the colored chicks, but these boys weren’t asking for chicks because there are none. My younger siblings won’t ever know those chicks on the right side corner. They’ll see the IOF soldiers that stand where they stood years ago. They’ll walk through the same gate. They’ll even probably feel the same feeling of safety seeing the gate, and they’ll definitely take the famous picture in front of the gate that everyone has to take once they get to Jerusalem. Damascus Gate will probably even be their “go-to” gate.

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