Checkpoint delay kept me from getting to the bank on time

Because of a 30-minute wait in the broiling sun and baking heat today, I arrived less than five minutes too late to get to the bank — and it was Thursday, normally the last day of the working week here in Jerusalem, Israel.

Luckily, my bank — which is in East Jerusalem — will be open a few hours on Friday morning (because it will be closed on Sunday), unlike other Israeli-chartered banks.

But, that means I’ll have to line up again to go through the checkpoint tomorrow, too.

Ar-Ram checkpoint to leave Dahiet al-Bariid

One thing that really makes me mad is when people cut in line, because they think their time is more valuable than the others. What’s worse is that some people allow others to cut. I jumped out of the car once this week already to ask the driver in front of me why he let somebody cut ahead, when we had been waiting so long. “Because he asked”, the driver replied. I wonder what else he would allow, if only somebody just asked …

Here is the clean and well-kept (NOT) path for pedestrian passage through the checkpoint. Notice the commanding perch on the upper right.

Ar-Ram checkpoint - pedestrian access.

Now, after 30 minutes waiting, I am just one car from being checked!

Ar-Ram checkpoint - Exhibit A

The soldiers (apparently they’re actually Border Police) — and the private contractors (in navy-blue shirts and bulletproof vests, carrying big black automatic weapons) do a thorough job. They demand ID — and this checkpoint is particularly notorious for turning people back, because they are not on a specific (unspecified) “permitted” category. Then, they hold the drivers ID …

Holding the driver's id at the Ar-Ram checkpoint

…. as they make the driver get out to open the trunk, so that they can check his baby stroller and what-not. One time, a soldier held back my U.S. passport, and began to lecture me on how I should not be angry. “So, I should be happy?”, I asked. I had to insist many times to get the passport back, because he wanted to give me a lecture. Finally, someone told him to give me back my passport and let me pass. My passport is getting dog-eared, from having to take it out and put it back several times a day. Sometimes the soldiers stand there and finger slowly through every single page of my passport. And, my passport holder has finally broken under the strain, so my papers are spilling out in the bottom of my handbag — I have to find a new passport case, somewhere…

Checking the BAGGAGE at the Ar-Ram checkpoint leaving Dahiet al-Bariid 31 July 2008

This stressful (adrenalin rushes through the veins and the heart pounds), and humiliating routine is done with an attitude of suspicion and superiority — anyone and everyone passing through here is to be ordered around, and viewed as a threat. And remember, this is done with loaded guns all around…

A Palestinian neighbor told me how I should approach this situation: “When they rap on the hood and bark “BAGGAGE” at you, you should calmly get out and open the trunk, saying ‘bevakasha'”. When I recounted this to dear Eliane, we both rolled around laughing. But you don’t laugh when you’re on the spot.

Israeli friends say to me: “But you should be able to pass the checkpoint easily!”. Yes, maybe, at least in principle — but if there are ten or twenty or even more cars ahead of me in line, and each car taks about five minutes, you can do the math … a 30-minute passage is virtually lightning speed.

But, today I missed the bank. And tomorrow I’ll have to go through the checkpoint AGAIN…

2 thoughts on “Checkpoint delay kept me from getting to the bank on time”

  1. A few years back, a relative of a relative of mine was on his way to an East Jerusalem bank. He was a Palestinian with a blue (Jerusalem) hawiyya, and he needed to make an important transaction, but he was running a little late. It was almost closing time, so he began to hurry as he approached the bank entrance…. and the guard shot him, thinking someone rushing to the bank must be a terrorist. That’s it, the end of the story. He is dead because he was rushing to the bank.

    I just found your blog today, and it is very interesting. I will be adding it to my blog roll. I only live a few miles from you btw.

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