This morning was one of those mornings when you look out the window and think – wow, this is going to be a lovely day. The sky was clear, the sun was shining – yeah, it would be a bit fresh, but it looked lovely. Then you step outside, and get slammed back against your front door by a strong gust of wind that feels like it came straight from the arctic to you. Yep, it was one of those winter days.
I was heading to Jerusalem, so I toddled on up to the checkpoint at about 10am. 10am is well after the peak rush of the morning when everyone is trying to get to work. Yet, as I started walking up the cage I noticed a queue ahead of me, at the first gate to even enter the terminal. I thought this was strange for this time of day. I mean, it was only about 10 people ahead of me, but still – normally by this time you should be able to at least walk in to the terminal without a queue.
It was absolutely freezing. We were of course queued in the shade of the separation wall, and that blasting icy wind was blowing steadily. Pretty quickly, the queue started to build up behind me. People were getting pretty antsy waiting in the cold.
For whatever reason, there was a mother who had made it through the turnstile, but her early teenage son was stuck back in queue with us. She was trying to talk to the soldier in the booth to get her to open the turnstile to at least let her son through. Only problem being, she only spoke Arabic, and the soldier only spoke Hebrew. Then a voice came from the queue behind – a guy who could speak Hebrew. So we made way for him so he could translate.
The soldier (a young female) was saying that she had orders from her superior further along in the checkpoint not to let anyone in at the moment because there were already too many people inside the checkpoint. She seemed pretty stressed by this whole situation.
Then a young couple squeezed up front, the husband holding a carefully wrapped bundle – their one month old – carefully in his arms. Please, please, they were begging the soldier – please let us through so we can take the baby inside – please – the cold, our baby, it is not good.
And at this point I think the soldier was doing all she could not to burst into tears, and I think we could all see it. It was one of those moments when you realise that none of the players in the situation want to be there.
In the end we got in, and it turned out the ‘too many people’ already in the checkpoint were two buses of schoolchildren on their way to an excursion in Jerusalem. The soldiers in the terminal only had 1 of the 4 possible metal detectors open, and 2 of the 4 possible ID booths open. So, really if they were concerned about too many people being in the terminal at once they could’ve tried to process them quicker.
But you know, the soldier’s behaviour is not really the point. The point is that the checkpoint shouldn’t be there in the first place. Even if every soldier on duty performed his or her duty perfectly and everything ran smoothly, the checkpoint shouldn’t be there. The checkpoints, and the whole system of occupation, is dehumanising and diminishing to everyone caught up in it. Standing in the freezing cold queue this morning and watching that young soldier who was in completely over her head reminded me – this system of occupation is messing with everyone who’s caught in it.
Story used with permission, from Bek’s blog, 8/1/12. For more see http://drbekbek.wordpress.com