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Checkpoint 300

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Checkpoint 300

When going from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, you will hop on Bus 21 and it will take you to a large building, through which you have to cross in order to get to the other side. The building is known as Checkpoint 300. Thousands of Palestinians go through it everyday, as they enter and leave Bethlehem. It is designed mostly for them, as well as the occasional tourists- we can cross into Bethlehem and leave it in a less chaotic way.


I chose to take the way that many Palestinians need to take. When entering the checkpoint, people go up a ramp, then step outside a gate, then re-enter it, then go up another ramp. The passageways are narrow, and above and around them are large, ugly, metal bars. They are herded along up the ramps. Today, there were hundreds of people; according to a Palestinian man who was with me, they numbered about one thousand. Many were coming from Jerusalem, as today was the fourth Friday of Ramadan and many were praying.


People were pressed tightly against each other, for any claustrophobe it would have been an unbearable situation. All the movement was in the hands of the police and soldiers, who would allow only two or three people in at a time. Men, women, the young, the infants, the elderly... all were squeezed together like cattle. We stood in this line for about two and a half hours. Fortunately it wasn't too hot.


The photos I took can hopefully show the overcrowding. What they can't communicate however are the sounds. Some children complaining quietly, then crying. Others being stoic and trying to make the best of it. Babies and infants crying and screaming, their parents unable to do anything to help. Some people snapping at others, losing their wits in the unbearable situation.

It is hard to describe the mass of flesh of human beings being pressed tightly against one another. Some tried to push their way through the crowd, and others almost fell down from the jostling, which could have had potentially dangerous consequences in the mass of people.


The soldiers and police at the end of the checkpoint were impatient with the people. One of them, a short guy with dark hair and a dark mustache, yelled constantly at the men in the line. He saw my camera out and screeched at me to put it away. I did so, not wanting to risk arrest or even worse, him taking out his frustration with me on the people trying to get through.


People were waving their papers. Some were allowed in, others waved away, and after waiting for three hours, had to push their way through the crowd, denied entry to the city. I heard that some people tried to enter Jerusalem illegally... to pray... and were now denied return to their city of birth. I saw a young woman leaving with tears in her eyes.


After some 2.5 hours of this, those of us who were fortunate enough to be allowed through sooner than the others- the guy who yelled at me demanded my passport and once he saw it, let me through right away- had to go up to a CT scanner, where we had to put our bags. Here is the unbelievable part... absolutely no one was guarding it. That's right. My backpack went through and I just took it. No one was checking and no one cared. It is almost as if control over the masses of people was the point. The exercise seems to have more to do with humiliation and power than security.


As I left the building, there was a bored female soldier taking Palestinians' papers and flipping through them, then wordlessly giving them back. The Palestinians had to place their thumbs on a scanner, something we did not have to do.


As terrible as crossing this checkpoint was today, it could have been far worse. It wasn't too hot, unlike some other days. And there were no fatal accidents.

In January of this year, at a similar checkpoint near Tulkarem, a 39 year old Palestinian worker about to enter israel to work, collapsed and was crushed to death in the mass of people.



No one died today at Checkpoint 300. However, the suffering and humiliation was very evident.


What I saw today at checkpoint 300 was nothing out of the ordinary, and the scene replays itself day after day all over occupied Palestine.

The politicians who invented this sick system and the soldiers and police who run may be doing everything possible to dehumanize the Palestinian people and make them feel humiliated and defeated, but they fail to realize one important thing- they also dehumanize themselves. Their cruelty and arrogance reflects on their moral failings, not that of their victims.

To read the article on the blog and see the accompanying pictures, please refer to:

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