Sunday, February 4, 2007

Palestine Shifting Beneath My Feet

The constant construction and destruction is overwhelming. This is my sixth trip to Palestine and I still cannot prepare myself for the differences in landscape and roadways each visit.


I have been traveling around quite a bit the last few days, each time learning anew how to get from one place to another.


Yesterday morning I made my way from Ibdaa Center to East Jerusalem. With the construction of the Wall in Al-Khadr village (next to Dheisheh refugee camp), the route for getting to Jerusalem and Hebron has moved. Jerusalem is north of Bethlehem and Dheisheh but the new route for public transportation is to go south on the Jerusalem-Hebron road. At the end of Al-Khadr village there is a roadblock where you get out of the service (shared taxi) and cross on foot to catch a bus to Jerusalem. As we drove north on a road originally built to connect illegal Israeli settlements to Jerusalem, we passed four caterpillars preparing - no ravaging - patches of land for the Wall. I looked out the window as we passed the place where I used to catch buses to Jerusalem and saw an Israeli military jeep amidst piles of dirt.


The checkpoint on this mostly settler road used to be just two lanes and a small shack for the soldiers to stand but it has rapidly grown to more lanes and a more substantial structure is clearly coming. All over the West Bank, the occupation's checkpoints are becoming larger and more permanent, furthering scarring the land.


As usual, when our Palestinian bus on its way to East Jerusalem approached the checkpoint we were motioned to pull over and told to get off the bus. One by one, an Israeli soldier checked our IDs and had us get back on the bus. But the last two people, a mother and her adult son were sent back. Though they had official "permission" to enter Jerusalem for a visit to the doctor, the soldiers sent them back saying no one with a West Bank ID (an ID card issued by the Israeli occupation issued at age 14 that distinguishes Palestinians living in Jerusalem from those in the West Bank from those living in Israel proper) is allowed through this checkpoint, with or without permission.


After a stop in Jerusalem I went to Ramallah to meet one of the students who was awarded an Elly Jaensch Memorial Scholarship through MECA this year. Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah has been once again renovated and enlarged. I don't even understand where people and cars go in and come out. I guess I'm lucky that I don't have to be that well acquainted with the monstrosity.


We drove through beautiful countryside northwest of Ramallah. The gentle terraced hills with olive trees painted a romantic picture of Palestinian village life until the rural hills turned into urban sprawl housing illegal Israeli settlers. Every time I began to enjoy the view, it was interupted again by another rapidly expanding settlement. They have grown to take more and more land, creeping along the hilltops. On the road to Hebron and Al-Fawwar camp this morning I noticed the same thing. Efrat settlement (commonly called The Snake) has eaten up more Palestinian farmland. And Har Homa, on a hilltop between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, has started moving down the hill. What once was a green, open space in the Bethelehem district is now entirely covered in new suburban style houses and apartment complexes, leaving no trees and none of the natural beauty.


The process of erasure began in 1948 with planting trees to cover the homes and villages that Palestinians were driven from. And it continues today with the construction of settlements, checkpoints, settler roads and the Wall on the ruins of more homes, orchards, and historic roads.

4 comments:

nora bf said...

jos,
you always paint a moving and disturbing portrait of the shifting, horrific reality there. i miss you here and i miss you in palestine. keep writing -- you're fantastic.

love
nor

Anya said...

Thank you for writing, Jo. It means so much to me to read your words. I too can't wait to see the digital stories. I love you.

love you,
Anya

Anya said...

Thank you for writing, Jo. It means so much to me to read your words. I too can't wait to see the digital stories. I love you.

love you,
Anya

Ben said...

josie, these are some powerful paragraphs. thank you.