After a 12-hour flight, I reached Jordan, Rama Hotel, and left at 5am the second morning in order to have enough time to go through El Hussein Bridge to Beit-Hanina, where MEND is. In order for one to be able to pass the bridge he/she has to go through Jordanian, and Israeli restrictions. When I reached the Israeli side, an Israeli soldier asked for my ID and ordered me to sit until they check my ID and status.
This could take hours. I waited for about two hours; still that was not the end of the story. “Your ID…” another soldier asked. I had to wait for three more hours of checking all my suitcases, as if I had hidden bombs in the sleeves of my shirt or the bottom of my dress. Eight hours on the bridge was just the beginning of hassle and humiliation. The next step was to pass all the checkpoints from Jericho, where the bridge is, to Beit-Hanina.
Life here is broken into pieces, and access is an end in itself. IDs mean everything – quite simply: who goes and who doesn’t. Under the system here, West Bank residents cannot enter Jerusalem without a Jerusalem identity card or special approval by the Israeli military. Crossing can take minutes, or hours.
Israeli soldiers in full combat gear scan each vehicle as it approaches. They ask for identification, and for the IDs of passengers. They may search the vehicle, open bags, look under seats and in trunks. Other soldiers stand back with their weapons ready.
Israeli checkpoints are restricting the lives and movement of Palestinians in the region. Some are nearly permanent – huge blocks of concrete and coiled concertina wire. Others are fluid – two or three soldiers standing in the road checking identification. They are, in either case, a tool used by the Israeli Defense Forces to enforce the occupation, fragmenting and blockading the Palestinian territories. Most of the checkpoints are not necessary.
If they precluded suicide bombs, I would be the first to advocate them, but they do not. In fact, suicide bombs have increased since the existence of checkpoints. In addition, at times, Israeli soldiers would not allow people to pass through the main roads, but would let them climb mountains and rocks to pass through.
Checkpoints are not the solution to the fear and insecurity felt by the people of Israel. The solution must stem from non-violence that upholds the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to live inside of secure borders.
The frustration of living such a life is what drives me to be more involved in NGO’s that help train people in non-violent means. This is the reason why I am at MEND. Middle East Non-violence and Democracy focuses on a holistic approach to non-violent action and the spread of democratic values on a local, national and regional level. Besides, it aims at strengthening the Palestinian society through supporting minority and underprivileged groups such as women and children.
My first day at work, I met with Lucy, executive director, and her assistant Hitham. Hitham briefed me on MEND, its main goals, activities, and projects. Then I met with each staff member individually. My main goal of meeting with them individually was to introduce my project, and to see how they can contribute to projects I wanted to implement.
On my second day, I read more of MEND’s publications and schoolbooks. After that, I called head coordinators of MEND’s offices in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Tulkram. I explained the purpose of the newsletter I am establishing, and tried to find a person from these offices, who will report to me every 12 days about activities they have.
My plan is to establish the first newsletter by mid of next week. I am also planning to organize a meeting for organizations in the area that are of similar goals. I have previous contacts with UNICEF, International Solidarity Movement, Seeds of Peace, and Non-violent Communication Movement in Bethlehem. The main aim of establishing such a meeting is to develop and improve coordination between such organizations.
Third/Fourth day, Brenda, a social physiologist from Holland, trained all staff members on communication and organizational skills. The training was for two days 9-4. It helped staff members, including myself, to know each other’s concerns and interests. We are hoping that the training would help staff members to be more organized and professional.
Posted By Bushra Mukbil (Palestine)
Posted May 28th, 2004