|From Checkpoint between Bethelehem and Jerusalem, Palestine Territories|
Even when there were not many people in line, crossing the checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, it was not a pleasant experience for me. As a foreigner, I knew I would get through with no problems but it was always stressful. The checkpoint is a militarized version of security at airports. Besides placing bags on the tarmac, taking shoes and belts off, and going through metal detectors, there were military personnel with machine guns walking over our heads. We could see them and they could see us. The beep of metal detectors constantly went off, and the revolving doors that lead us to the window where documents were checked, shut unexpectedly as we tried to enter. Only a few people are allowed in at a time and the military personal control the opening and closing of the doors. Voices in Hebrew came out of strident microphones, apparently giving instructions when order in the line was threatened. It sounded exactly like a Nazi scream in a concentration camp. I pondered at the reversal of roles, at human nature...
Palestinians are required to show not only their identification and permission letters to go into Jerusalem, but also have to place their entire hand on a finger print device. An Israeli guard, usually in their early 20's, checks documentations placed against the bullet proof window. They take their time, regardless of the size of the line, waiving people through with a bored face when they feel satisfied with the documentation presented. There is usually only two windows opened at rush time, and one off peak.
The requirements for Palestinians to get permission to go to Jerusalem are strict. Usually, people have to be older than 30 years, married with children, and posses a certification of employment from an Israeli company, or proof of a doctors appointment. They also have to “be clean” in the Israeli computer, which means never been involved in politics, not a small requirement, considering 60 years of occupation. Married people and family members who live on the opposite side of the wall get sporadic permissions to visit each other.
As it turned out, I made to my appointment at the Aida Refugee Camp. When military personnel trying to organize the lines saw me among a mass of male workers, they waved for me to get ahead of the line. I had my mobile phone in my hand as I was trying to call my roommate Emilia to tell her that I would be late. The workers with tired faces and callous hands made way for me to walk through them to the beginning of the line. I still don't know the reason of this special treatment, weather it was because I am a woman, foreigner or because of the mobile phone in my hand ready to make a call.