As we walked away from Claire’s, we all stood under the shadow of the wall and read the stories posted on the Wall Museum. These spread along the concrete and the only place we could stand and read them was on a narrow busy road with a blind bend. Not for the first or last time this week did we stare imminent death in the face. On the other side of this 30 foot wall was Rachel’s Tomb, revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews. Once a stone’s throw away from Claire’s place, now an attraction that would take too long to visit. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time either as it would have been a long trip to get around the wall and get to visit it. It felt weird hearing vehicles on the other side, almost like there should have been silence.
The road opened out as we reached the end of it. On one side of the road were restaurants and shops, hoping for a bit of passing trade. The supermarket did a fair bit of business from us as the heat had gotten to us all, we were flagging. One by one we came back out into the sunshine with cans of cold fizzy pop, water and snacks to keep us going. On the other side of the road were vacant villas, a mere hint to the opulence of former times in the area. These buildings would have been prime rental accomodation had they been situated in Spain or Portugal, or maybe Tel Aviv, but here they were neglected through lack of business.One was for rent. Wistfully we stood and came up with what we would do with it if we had the money. Behind these lovely buildings stood fields of Olive trees, earmarked for destruction from Israel. They were encased behind barbed wire…I tried to hope it was to try and keep the army out.
Behind this orchard of trees snaked the wall, this blot on the landscape which separated families, communities, farmers from their livestock and crops and now countries. Whereas once a cousin may have crossed the road to visit their other cousins, they may now have to travel for almost a day to reach them…if they have the right permit of course to allow them to travel. this wall is supposed to follow the Green Line…a line drawn in pen on a map during the 1949 Armistice agreements.
This was the crossing into Jerusalem. As there was a bloody great wall separating the two states, we had to walk over it through the checkpoints the Palestinians have to go through. Some have to begin queueing here at 4am to get to work in Jerusalem that morning. It can take hours.
It was not too busy as we entered. We walked up a steep, narrow, metal encased walkway.
Obviously inside I couldn’t/didn’t take any photographs. We were herded like cattle through to where we had to queue and snake as the wall had done back and forth, all kept very close together, all in stifling heat. We never saw anyone in authority, just voices that were shouting out commands from a speaker system somewhere near the corrigated iron roof. Eventually we came to a full turnstile. This let a few people through then would all of a sudden be locked whilst someone was inside it and could neither move forward or back until whoever was in control released the catch and allowed it to swing around and release the Palestinian inside to allow him to move forward to be scanned. It was only as we reached the end of this process that we saw a ‘uniform’ who was near the exit, checking permits. Even if you have the correct permit to be able to travel between the two cities, it is not a certainty that you will be allowed through, if you aren’t, you will have to turn back and repeat the entire process to return to where you came from. We showed our passports and were waved through to enter what is Jerusalem and officially Israel. This area was scruffy. There was an old faded street sign pointing towards Rachel’s tomb. Why bother making this as snazzy as everything else in Israel? It is only the Palestinians who would see this sign…them and the foreigners such as ourselves who came to experience the hardships the people face day in day out. Our crossing over this checkpoint took about an hour. A lot shorter than it can be at peak times, but a hell of a lot longer than it would have been, just crossing a road!