Friday, August 18, 2006

From Bethlehem Around Jerusalem to Ramallah

Palestinains from the West Bank can't go to Jerusalem (at least 99.9% of them). You have to have a permit from Israel. So, what if Jerusalem is on the way to where you need to go? You have to go AROUND...

Many peple in Bethlehem need to go to Ramallah, and the cities are less than 20 miles apart, with Jerusalem sitting between. What I labeled on this map as "Normal Route" would probably take 30 minutes if the highways weren't blocked off by walls and checkpoints to keep Palestinians out of Jerusalem (needless to say Israeli settlers have free passage). So, what I called the "Apartheid Route" takes 1.5 hours on a good day, and is much longer (I don't know how far, probably double the length, and on very substandard backroads). The variability in time all depends on the checkpoints. There is no "typical wait at these checkpoints." A taxi driver who makes the run 2-3 times a day said "every day is different."

The most frustrating thing about the checkpoints, by the way, is the way the soldiers flaunt their arbitrary use of power. They let two or three taxis full of people go through without a check, then stop traffic, mill around for a while, take some ID's from the next taxi, wait 30 minutes, hand back the ID's, halfheartedly search bags in the trunk, let traffic go again, etc... all in the hot August sun. If the checkpoints were halfway serious, it might be easier to bear. But who am I to talk about frustration? I'm just a visitor here, I don't have appointments and a life to try to maintain in spite of the occupation. Mind you, I'm talking about the checkpoints within the West Bank, not between the West Bank and "Israel."

If you ask "why do Palestinians need to go to Jerusalem? That's in Israel!" Then you've unfortunately fallen victim to one of the many myths Israel has created through their conquest of historic Palestine. Jerusalem is full of Palestinians, and is the economic and political heart of the society.

Stop the Wall: Click here for a brief and pointed analysis of the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem

Btselem: Click here for a more academic analysis

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