Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Please Be Patient

As I got out of the service to Qalandiya, a stocky man with a shorn head walked up beside me. "You speak pretty good English." he quipped. I had been on the phone with a friend of mine, while in the service headed to Qalandiya, discussing a meeting that we were to have this evening.

"I'm from the States." I told him. "Me too" he countered. "But I live here in Ramallah with my wife." I'm from Chicago." His accent was unmistakable of that of a true Chicagoan from: "Around the way." as he put it.

We walked along and spoke about the current situation.

Before when I lived in Palestine, the wall was partially built near the refugee camp called, Qalandiya. The sparse checkpoint that I once knew, just as in Bethlehem, was now replaced with a sophisticated terminal.

"They can call it whatever the hell they want, it's still oppressive and humiliating." he said gesturing with his hand at all the construction that surrounded us.

Bulldozers, dump trucks and bangers, worked at a frenetic pace to finish the task of creating "Nice" little cantons. Armed private security, border police and the army all guarded those that worked the machinery.

"You know," he said, "The Israelis are really something. They say that they want peace. They say that they want a partner for peace. But how do you expect to have a partner when you treat us like this?!"

"If one Israeli dies by Palestinian hands, the whole World knows about it. But if 50 Palestinians die, you don't hear a peep."

"Really, anything they say we can't believe it's just too fucked up!"

As I moved on with him we began approaching the Qalandiya checkpoint (Oh, I'm sorry Terminal.)Getting into Qalandiya, as was the case with Bethlehem, was no problem. However, getting out was another issue. I looked over to my right and saw a small but cramped gathering of men all trying to vie for a spot to be the next one in line to go through the controlled turn-stiles. The men were all crammed close, shoving, pushing and swearing at one another at who was supposed to be next when the red light flashed green above the turn-stile. A small yellow sign read: "Please proceed one at a time through the gate. Please be patient."

After we passed through the terminal area and were on the Qalandiya side, I glanced over to see various murals painted on the wall that encased the camp. As I began snapping some pictures a soldier in one of the sniper towers began shouting at me to stop taking pictures. I ignored him and kept shooting. He bellowed out in Hebrew and the gentleman that I was walking with chuckled as all this was happening. "See, you can't even take a photo in here and they say this is suppose to be our sovereign state." He continued, "Soon I'm going to get my wife out of here and go back to the States. At least it's better than here!"

We walked on then got into a service and headed for Ramallah. When we reached the town we got out and shook hands. "Thanks for being here for us and with us. We need good people like you." He said. I thanked him and got on my way.

As I was walking I thought about the sign overhead of the men trying to enter Israel; "Please proceed one at a time...Please be patient."

You've gotta love the irony in that.

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