On the occasion of the first anniversary for our wedding, my wife Fida and I decided to save some money of our monthly budget and go to the same place we went to on our honey-moon.
The place where we went to last year was the Dead Sea, however, since there were many checkpoints this year we could not go and decided to spend the weekend in the Tourist Resort in Jericho, the oldest city in the world.
We were told that a bus from Beit Sahour leaves the town as early as 7:00 am direct to the resort, which was very encouraging for me because of two things; one is that I hate going through the Israeli checkpoints, and second is that Fida is five months pregnant and it is hot, so I thought this is a good opportunity.
The way to Jericho should not be longer than one hour with traffic. Unfortunately, we have to pass two checkpoints to reach Jericho. Amongst the talk on easing the passage of Palestinians on checkpoints, I thought this could take us one hour and half, which is ‘fine’.
We arrived at the first checkpoint, known as the container. This checkpoint is placed on the ‘alternative route’ Israel forced the Palestinians to use instead of using the road that goes through Jerusalem. This road does not match any standard of the safety measures of road building. It is very steep and curvy. One mistake could be disastrous. Many died on this route of car accidents.
The bus driver pulled off and opened the doors following the instructions of the soldiers there. We could feel the heat coming in instead of the cool air that came out of the air conditioner in the bus. Two soldiers came on the bus with their guns. There were not many people on the bus anyway, so it did not take them a long time to check the identity cards of the young single males on the bus and order them to leave the bus after the soldier confiscated their IDs.
He looked at me and my wife without saying a word turned around and waved for the driver to go on.
Avoiding other checkpoints, the bus driver, who drives this way on daily basis, took back narrow roads until we arrived at the main ‘settlement’ road of Ma’ale Adomim. The road there is wide, straight, well paved and organized.
Finally we arrived at the checkpoint placed on the entrance of Jericho. We waited half an hour in the bus in the queue of cars that did not exceed five cars.
‘Finally, it is our turn’, Fida said, who started to get tired of the trip. Again, the same story repeated; the soldiers coming on the bus with their M-16 automatic rifles, checking Identity cards and asking the passengers about their destination.
This time, the troop asked for our IDs and said, ‘Where are you going?’ To which I replied smiling, ‘Jericho, we are going to celebrate our first anniversary’ pointing at my wife.
I saw a smile on the soldier’s face, and he said, in Hebrew ‘Mazal; Tov’ which translates to ‘congratulations’. I thought this is it. However, the smile was not there any longer and he said, ‘But, I am sorry, I can not let you into Jericho’. I asked why, and the answer was that Jericho is a closed area, only Jericho residents are allowed in.
I tried to persuade him to let us through, but he insisted that we get off the bus. I told him, my wife is pregnant and it is hot, I can not go back now. He said, from her to Bethlehem it is 45 minutes no big deal. I told him, you think it is 45 minutes; it is already double the time so far.
I was hesitant to argue more and then get stuck on the checkpoint in the heat. So, we decided to leave the bus. The soldier ‘apologized’ again saying, ‘I am sorry, I follow the orders’ I said laughing, ‘I do not believe in orders’
As we were taking our bags from the bus, I asked the driver to give me his phone number. ‘Fida , who seemed upset said ‘let us go home.’ ‘No way I will allow them to disturb our anniversary,’ I replied.
I did not finish my words, as a taxi driver approached me saying, ‘They did not let you in, I will let drive you in’. I nodded OK.
We got into his van with other five guys who were not allowed to Jericho for the same reason, waiting for the car to be full. He drove in fields, lots of dust, we closed the windows to prevent the dust of coming into the car, but it was very hot in side, and the dust still coming in.
I felt the car was about to flip on one of its sides as he drove over a hill of sand. This ‘alternative dusty road took us around 20 minutes; in a time we could have done it in 2 minutes if we were allowed through the checkpoint.
The car dropped us in Jericho, I called the bus driver and we caught the bus straight to the resort at 10:00 am.
We started with a Dusty Wedding Anniversary. However, despite all this we decided to enjoy our time swimming and enjoying the sun in Jericho.
The next day, as the bus arrived in the afternoon, we were sitting on the terrace in the hotel was smoking the water pipe, looking the mountains of Amman that we are less than one hour away, but in fact need 9 hours to reach.
We took the bus and drove straight from the resort back to Beit Sahour and we did not have to leave the bus at all.
We had to do this trip once a year, but on the way back many workers caught our bus going back home from work. Those people have to do this trip some times everyday.
Many need to go to their schools. The four single young males, who were asked to leave the bus on the first checkpoint, were students going to their collage, and they would probably miss classes.
Now in Palestine, we, Palestinians, need alternative roads to the alternative routes that we have to reach our destination at a time any Israeli settler can drive through the West Bank, north to south, and west to east without having to get out of his car or stop anywhere, except for gas refill.
Justifications of security measures are nonsense. If they are seriously worried about security, they can search the bags, and make sure it is clear. However, the reason behind these kinds of acts is left for you to figure out. I do not think it is that hard.