“Mummy, do you
know how much I love you?”
"Mummy, do you know
how much I love you? As big as America
!" This is what Luai told me as
soon as I met him in Nablus. I said
to myself that even my four year old
child knows the power of the United
This happened last
Wednesday. I was informed at noon that
I had a one-day permit to go to the West
Bank and that another permit would be
issued to me the next day to return to
Gaza. I decided to take a risk
and leave in order to meet my family and
bring Luai back with me to Gaza.
I arrived at the Erez
crossing point at 2.15 P.M. and was in
Ramallah at 5.15 P.M. I left
Ramallah for Nablus with my husband at
6.15 P.M. Before the Intifada this
trip took only 45 minutes.
On the way to Nablus,
near the Shilo settlement, we were
stopped by "flying checkpoints", the
expression used for moveable, non-fixed
checkpoints. We stayed there for
only 40 minutes. Yes, it was a short
delay. There had been a car
accident near this checkpoint and
injured Israelis in the cars as a
result. This road is used by
both Palestinians and Israelis.
When an Israeli car approaches a
checkpoint it usually has priority to
pass. The road was a narrow,
two-way road and the Israeli cars
approached the checkpoint, leaving us
and closing the other side of the road.
It meant that the Israeli citizens were
now in danger because they were side by
side with the Palestinian cars. An
ambulance also came to the checkpoint so
the soldiers had to let the crowds of
Palestinian cars pass quickly in order
to allow the Israeli cars to pass
quickly, too. Their time is
valuable, of course, and their security
is also important! This is why we
spent only 40 minutes at this
We arrived at Hawara
checkpoint at 7.45 P.M., which is the
southern entrance to the city of Nablus.
Of course, we had to get out of the car
and walk for about 800 metres from where
the cars stop to the car station on the
other side of the checkpoint. Entering
was easy. There was no personal
search or checking of IDs. When we
arrived on the other side of the
checkpoint we found that there were
hundreds of people waiting for their
turn to leave Nablus. When we asked them
when they had arrived at the checkpoint
they told us they had come at 12 noon.
"The checkpoint is closed for the
people leaving Nablus" a man answered.
"It seems that it's a rehearsal for the
days of Ramadan.” he added.
I was happy that I
could arrive in Nablus and meet my
family, especially my son and my
The next day I was
told that my permit was issued and that
I should proceed to Ramallah to collect
it and return to Gaza. I arrived
at the Hawara checkpoint at 12 noon with
my son and my husband. We had to take a
car because of the luggage, which was
very heavy. We could not carry it
when we were walking through the
checkpoint because of the narrowness of
the pedestrian section.
There were 12 cars waiting before us.
Every half an hour a car left the
checkpoint. The excuse of the Israeli
soldiers was that the X-ray machine to
examine luggage was not working and they
had to search all of the cars manually.
In the pedestrian section hundreds of
people were waiting to get out of Nablus
and the movement was very slow, as well.
Of course, men and women are separated –
one queue for women and another for men.
My child had been
trying to sleep for three hours and he
could not because like all children he
sleeps only when the car is in motion.
I read three stories for Luai while we
were waiting, Cinderella, Snow White and
Sleeping Beauty. Nevertheless, he
could not sleep and was nagging
constantly, asking me, “Why aren’t we
moving? Why does the Israeli army
hate us?” I could not give him a
At 3 P.M. the
women’s queue was very short so Adi told
me that it would be quicker for me to
walk with Luai and take a service taxi
from the other side. This is what
we did and Adi stayed, waiting with the
car. For the first time in my
life I felt so happy that we have such
customs and that the Israelis respect
them. (Usually, when I enter any
public place in Gaza and see the
separate queues, I use the men’s queue
because I disagree with the principle.
But this time I didn’t even argue with
Adi. I obeyed him, went to the
women’s queue and in 10 minutes I was
I proceeded to the
car stop station and took a service taxi
with some others, leaving at 3.15 P.M.
Two minutes later we arrived at a
"flying checkpoint". I felt like crying.
I left my husband at the Hawara
checkpoint in order to arrive in
Ramallah earlier and not to have Luai
suffer a lot. Now we would have to
wait another few hours. This is a
But lucky us!
The driver decided not to go through
this checkpoint and he drove via an
agricultural road nearby. The Israelis
could easily see us. They knew
that some cars were going that way but
they did nothing to stop them. So what
is the reason for this checkpoint? It's
not for security but for inhuman,
At this time I also
learned that my permit to Gaza had not
been issued and that I would have to
apply for another and this would be
issued the next day.
I arrived in Ramallah
at 5 P.M. and Adi at 6.30 P.M. We were
all exhausted and went to rest early,
knowing that my permit had been issued
and that I could go tomorrow to Beit El
(an Israeli military base near Ramallah)
to pick it up at 10 a.m.
The next morning I
went to collect my permit and was told
that it had been announced that there
would be a closure in the territories
because of the Jewish New Year.
So I went back home, prepared for a long
closure, thinking that I would be
obliged to take leave from my work
because of this, and I began to plan the
next few days in Ramallah. At 11
a.m. I was informed that my permit had
been issued and that I should go to Beit
El to collect it. This time it
was ready and I could take it with me.
The validity was for only one day,
ending at 7 P.M.
I left Ramallah at 12
noon with a friend's family. It was
Friday so the city was empty and we
arrived at Kalandia checkpoint at 12.15.
Here, we also had to leave our car and
walk through the checkpoint. When we
arrived, there was only one man waiting
for the soldiers to let him in.
The checkpoint was empty because a
closure had been announced the night
before. After we passed
through the rotating doors (the Arabic
name for this word is “Hallabat” –
milking doors – used for the farm cows
to be milked one by one) the soldier
behind the window told us that there was
a closure and that we were not allowed
to go through. We tried to explain
to him that my permit had been issued
half an hour before, during the closure,
and that my friends had a Gazan ID card,
which allowed them to return HOME.
He didn't even want to listen or look at
the permit. He was allowing only people
with Jerusalem IDs to pass through.
is almost like an international border,
with X-ray machines and soldiers behind
We decided to call
the information number that I had on my
permit and told them the whole story.
The soldier on the other side of the
line told me to wait a little bit until
he told the soldiers on the checkpoint
to let me in. We learned that the man
we found waiting in front of us had not
been allowed to enter and was waiting
for the officer responsible for the
checkpoint to discuss the issue with
him. The man's family, wife and children
passed the checkpoint by car and they
were waiting for him outside. They have
Jerusalem IDs. The father has a
family reunification permit for one
year, which allows him to stay in
Jerusalem with his family until his ID
is issued. Still the soldier behind the
window did not want to allow him in.
While we were waiting
another woman came with three children,
one girl around three, and two boys, 11
and 12 years of age. The soldier allowed
the mother and the girl in but he told
her that the boys should return home.
The woman was very strong. She started
shouting and screaming at the soldier,
telling him that she has a Jerusalem ID
and that the three are her children and
she showed him their birth certificates
through the bulletproof window, stating
that he was obliged to let them through.
No way! He was so stubborn that he
sent her back. At this point I was
told by mobile that I could go in and
the soldier behind the window told me to
go through the rotating door. When
I passed it with Luai, the soldier
changed his mind and started to shout
again, “Gaza no. Go back!”
He was talking on the phone in his
office and then shouted again "Wait, put
your ID and permit on the window," and
he checked it and allowed me to go
through. When I started telling him
about my friends he said "Gaza no, it's
So after a
thirty-minute wait, I went outside the
checkpoint to the car and waited for my
friends. They also called the number on
their permit and discovered that they
needed co-ordination from the Erez
crossing point to the Beit El office,
which would call the soldier at Kalandia
to allow them to leave. This took
us another hour of waiting. During this
Luai was describing everything to the
driver while we were waiting in the car.
After one hour my friends joined us, we
went to Erez and then into Gaza.
I learned from my
friend that the woman with the three
children waited until the shift of the
stupid and stubborn soldier finished and
the new ones allowed her in. The
other man was still waiting for the
officer to come and study his case.
So, going to the West
Bank and moving from city to another
means that there is no time for anything
but to cross the checkpoints. I
didn't even feel the joy of meeting Luai
and Adi. The time that I didn't spend on
the checkpoint I spent making calls to
guarantee my permit to go back home.
Still, I am very lucky to be able to
obtain a permit in spite of all the
I thought that the
suffering in Gaza was the worst but
after this trip to the West Bank I think
everywhere in Palestine there is
suffering and that it is very hard to
I really don't know
how we are able to produce anything in
our lives when there is no value given
to the time needed to do anything.
We are losing land, it's true, but this
might be returned one day. At
least, we still believe so and are
struggling to achieve that.
But how can we
retrieve all the time that we have lost
in our lives because of the occupiers
who do not consider us human beings?
Lama Hourani, Gaza