Qalandia – you have to see it to believe it…

…but you still won’t really feel the oppressive heat pounding down under the sun’s rays …

Machsom Watch  [Checkpoint Watch] – a group of Israeli women against the occupation and for human rights, who monitor the situation at Israeli military checkpoints and Israeli military courts in the occupied Palestinian West Bank – have put together this extraordinary video of Palestinian women in an extreme situation, who are being treated as… well, not quite as human beings.

One of the videos they have posted on their site shows the situation in the women’s line — the women’s line: yes, women and men are separated by the Israeli forces even before going into the Checkpoint area — at the disgraceful Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah on a Friday in Ramadan last year, September 2009.

In Ramadan, adults fast — and abstain even from water — from two hours before dawn until sunset.

These women are trying to get from their homes all over the central and northern West Bank, into Jerusalem, to pray at the third holiest site in Islam, which is Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem.

During Ramadan, the Muslim faithful long to pray in Al-Aqsa.

This documentary is mesmerizing — and horrible to watch.

The crowding, pushing, shoving, and general pandemonium would have been completely unbearable by themselves. But it was also near 100 degrees in the blazing heat.

Because the women are wearing long and heavy clothing, as well as tight headcoverings, the intense heat at midday would be quite unbearable. And, they are fasting, so they will not drink water.

If it is possible to say one part was worse than another, the worst part was at the end, when the women who could not get through Qalandia Checkpoint lined up to pray in the little shade there was, created by The Wall… facing Jerusalem, right up against The Wall.

It’s on the Machsom Watch website, here — scroll down the page to the report dated 17/09/2009.

But, when I tried to watch this video on Youtube, here, to get the correct code to embed it on this page, I found this warning, instead: “This video or group may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube’s user community“…

A Machsom Watch video.
Filmed by Hadass Shuve and Merav Amir.
Edited by Hadass Shuve.
Translation from Arabic by Hasan Masri.

Ramadan arrests

Via Ma’an News Agency, we learn that “[Palestinian Authority] Police in Jenin detained three residents accused of ‘violating the sanctity of Ramadan’ by eating in the street Thursday. The three were detained and taken for interrogation before prosecution, police said … Six people were detained for smoking during the day in Salfit in August”.

This Ma’an News item (which notes that “fasting is rarely enforced by the police”) is published here.

4th Friday in Ramadan 2010

This is the fourth — but perhaps not last — Friday in Ramadan.

UPDATE TWO: AFP reported that Israeli police put the number of worshippers [at what AFP called the heavily-guarded Al-Aqsa mosque] at 160,000 to 170,000, while Muslim authorities said it exceeded 200,000. In his Friday sermon Sheikh Yusef Abu Sneineh criticised the relaunch on Thursday of Middle East peace talks in Washington, saying ‘these negotiations are a joke’. He went on to accuse Israel of seeking normalisation with the Arab and Muslim world while ‘continuing its colonisation’ of the occupied West Bank through the building of Jewish settlements … Israel limited access to the compound to men over the age of 50, women over the age of 40 and children, and only granted visiting permits to a limited number of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank”. This report is posted here.

Next Friday will probably be the first day of the three-day post-Ramadan Muslim holiday, or Eid (often translated  as “feast”).   But, if the new crescent moon is not spotted by experts in Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or somewhere nearby, then it will be the fifth Friday in Ramadan 2010…

But, Israeli military permits to allow West Bank Palestinians to go to pray — as they most fervently wish — at the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem (a big exception to the general ban on entry of West Bank Palestinians, except those with work permits, or other categories of exception,  during the rest of the year)  are given only for four Fridays in Ramadan…

A photo essay published by Ma’an News Agency showing the conditions of passage for Palestinian worshippers with special prayer permits during one of the Fridays in Ramadan has been published here.

UPDATE THREE: Ma’an has just published another photo essay from today’s conditions of passage for Palestinian worshippers at the main Bethlehem checkpoint, here. The accompanying text reported that “Checkpoints around the West Bank were again overwhelmed, with tens of thousands of men and women lining up from the early hours of the morning, waiting to access Jerusalem”. Yes, “the checkpoints were again overwhelmed” — and the people were totally stressed.

But, today, this is it — the annual opening of the gate to the general Palestinian public (though, it must be said, only for those who fulfill whatever the latest specified criteria might be, such as married men over a certain age, whether 45 or 50, and for women over a certain age, like 35 and married, e.g.) — for this year.

But, it was no longer a surprise that, at 07:30 this morning (an hour and a half after Qalandia opened for passage of Palestinian worshippers, specified humanitarian cases, and workers), an SMS came announcing tighter special restrictions for entry into the Old City today [probably due to the attacks for the past three nights on cars in which Israeli settlers were driving in the West Bank].

Every year for the past five years or so that The Wall and associated checkpoint restrictions have been an enormous obstacle to Palestinian passage, the last Friday in Ramadan has always been the most difficult and restrictive.

Last year, for example, the Israeli military cancelled overnight permits they had issued weeks before. When Palestinians arrived, some unaware of the decision, some saw their permits pocketed, or torn into pieces in front of their faces, by Israeli Border Police.

UPDATE: The Israeli military has just apparently decided to extend the prayer permits it issued for today to have validity also on Sunday, which will be Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power, a specially holy day that occurs at some point during the last ten days of Ramadan).

UPDATE ADD: However, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem has issued a Warden Message informing recipients that “Due to heightened tensions and increased security presence after the August 31 and September 1 attacks in the West Bank, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem has prohibited all Consulate personnel from personal travel to the West Bank, including along routes 1 and 90 and on the Allenby Bridge, Saturday-Monday, September 4-6, 2010. Due to the large crowds expected in the Old City, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem is also prohibiting Consulate staff from visiting the Old City Sunday-Monday September 5-6, 2010”.

Laylat al-Qadr was mentioned a number of times in the Friday prayer sermon given by the PA (Palestinian Authority) Minister of Awqaf, Mahmoud al-Habbash, broadcast on Palestininian TV. This week, Palestine TV showed the Friday prayer and sermon that was held in a mosque in Ramallah. Unlike others who have been shown giving a Friday prayer sermon on Palestine TV, Habbash spoke without prepared notes. His sermon, however, was particularly tied into recent news events, including the talks held in Washington over the past two days. “President Obama talked only about Israeli security”, Habbash complained.
He also seemed to be urging Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to take up an offer made a couple of months ago by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu — who offered to come even to Ramallah for talks. After this, there were hints in the Israeli media that military restrictions on Israeli travel into the West Bank — even to Areas A, supposedly under total PA security control — might be lifted [though the attacks, by as-yet-unidentified assailants, on cars driven by Israeli settlers in the West Bank over the last three nights might, or might not, modify this leaked proposal].

In any case, Habbash seemed to be saying that Abbas should insist, and shoulid issue his own invitation, and should open the way, for a visit to the West Bank by Netanyahu — so that Netanyahu can see for himself the conditions of occupation under which Palestinians are living.

The worst, most awful show on Palestinian TV

The worst and most excruciatingly awful show on Palestinian TV is a wierd, arrogant, and embarassing nightly half-hour which has now become a part of the Ramadan post-Iftar must-watch family programming that airs every evening after the day’s fast is broken, the table has been cleared, and the formerly drooping audience its not quite yet adjusted to having some food and water in their systems.

It is called “The Cedar and the Olive Tree”.

Palestinian journalist Maher ash-Shalabi, who all winter wore a suit and a tie and held hour-long interviews with Palestinian political and “intellectual” types (a while ago, he worked for MBC), is now roaming the narrow streets of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon in a short-sleeved shirt and khaki chino trousers, holding a microphone with a clean new cover embellished with the new Palestinian TV logo (one letter is graphically transformed into the shape of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, with a crescent moon on top). He walks up to men sitting on plastic chairs in alleyways, or to middle-aged women walking with with headscarves and long coats in the dusty streets (younger women, also wearing headscarves and long coats, answer the doors of their family apartments).

The journalist, an apparition from Ramallah, de facto capital city of the occupied West Bank and seat of government for the Palestinian Authority (though word must have gotten around fairly quickly that he was around), always starts by asking his interlocutors where they are from.

Most of those asked reply immediately with the names of small villages near cities like Acca or Ramla, or even from places in the West Bank. Some few are of Lebanese origin.

He then asks: “How many people are at home”? The replies indicate large families — and suggest suffering. (“There are nine people at home, nine now, but there were eleven before. [Two — the lady’s husband, and one of her sons, for example — are “martyrs”, meaning were killed in conflict.]

Does anyone in the household work? “No”, is often the reply.

Then, he asks them questions like: “Can you name five cities in Palestine?” (Just over 50% of those asked can manage to do this by themselves.) In every episode, he also asks, several times: “What is the capital of Palestine”? (The correct answer is: Al-Quds, sometimes pronounced Al-Kudus, meaning Jerusalem.)

If those being questioned manage to answer correctly, the journalist then hands over a crisp $100 (one hundred dollar) bill! $100! Sometimes, apparently just when he feels like it, or when the story he has just been told is particularly moving, he hands over two of these bills!

His attitude is patently patronizing — he is distributing largess from the donor-supported Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, to the poor Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. [They are definitely poor — a bill was passed in the Lebanese Parliament only last week, that finally allowed Palestinian refugees who have in Lebanon for over 30 years or more to be able to seek work, although they have no residency status and no official papers.]

The money comes from the Palestine Investment Fund [!].

Tonight’s episode was filmed in Beddawi refugee camp. One lady said she was from “Bared” — and the journalist quickly asks her if she was from Nahr al-Bared, which was in part destroyed during a Lebanese Army assault several years ago on militants who were said to be part of a group called “Fatah al-Islam”, which the Palestinian representative in Lebanon quickly denounced. That lady said that she and her large family were still being sheltered in a garage. “What can we do?”, she asked plaintively.

She was the only one who told the journalist that she didn’t want the money he was distributing. She just wanted Palestine said, in an even tone. [But, exhibiting a practical streak nonetheless, she kept the $100 bill she had been handed…]

In the unsuccessful Camp David negotiations hosted by the U.S. then-President Bill Clinton in July 2000, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat reportedly asked Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak to agree that the Palestinian refugees living without papers in poor conditions in Lebanon (about 175,000 of them, it was estimated) should be the ones whose situation would be addressed first.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon were always vulnerable, but their situation became extraordinarily delicate in the late summer of 1982, after Israel’s then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon pushed quickly up through the south of the country and then surrounded and laid siege to the Lebanese capital, Beirut, in what he said was an effort to kill — or to expel — the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership that had regrouped there, and formed what was called a “state within a state”, following their flight from Jordan in 1970 during clashes with the Jordanian Army over raids to “liberate” Palestine by armed struggle.

Once thousands of PLO fighters were shipped out of Beirut “under a UN umbrella” into a 12-year long exile, mainly in remote desert location around the Arab world, Lebanese Christian militiamen carried out a horrific massacre of unprotected Palestinian refugees left behind, in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in southern Beirut, while Ariel Sharon’s troops were very nearby.

None of those being interviewed on this special Palestinian TV program seem to have any words to say about those days, or about those responsible…

Nor do they complain about the lese-majeste with which they are handed $100 dollar bills by an employee of the Palestinian Authority’s official Palestinian Television, funded by an organization of elite businessmen (hand-picked by the leadership) who have little or no accountability either to the Palestinian Authority itself, or to the public, for what they decide to do with the money generated by some of the holdings that late Palestinian leader, and his then-economic adviser, were obliged to set up to comply with donor requirements for greater financial transparency and accountability…

It must be mentioned that a certain number of this program’s viewers are staunch defenders — they say they get so little information otherwise about the Palestinians in diaspora in Arab countries…and besides, they say, the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon need the money…

Today, the journalist mentioned — twice, as if it were a promotional commercial — that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has just recently decreed that any Palestinian refugee in Lebanon who has just completed secondary school may apply to the Presidency for funding for university studies, either in Lebanon, or abroad…

The journalist also instructed his cameraman to linger on the tangle of electrical wires running along the narrow alleyways of Beddawi and branching off into individual homes along the way — to illustrate the difficulty of life for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, as if the same difficulties don’t exist in refugee camps in the West Bank, or even in neighborhoods of Ramallah, or in East Jerusalem…

Qalandia on the first Friday of Ramadan (2010)

Since The Wall became a massive presence in the Palestinian West Bank a few years ago, and since Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah (and the rest of the central and northern West Bank) grew to large proportions, it has become a major center of human activity on Fridays during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast for more than half of each day (from two hours before dawn until after sunset, when it is no longer possible to distinguish between a white and a black thread).

Each year, the arrangements have been different. There has been some effort at “improvement” from the Israeli side — and the results illustrate how difficult it is to improve anything through military regulation of human behavior.

For, how can you “improve” measures designed to restrict Palestinians from going to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque on the esplanade known as Haram ash-Sharif in the Old City of East Jerusalem?

Continue reading Qalandia on the first Friday of Ramadan (2010)

The Fourth Friday in Ramadan at Qalandia checkpoint: Segur (CLOSED) + Machsom Watch Report on the Third Friday

On Thursday, the IDF announced a “total closure” of the West Bank until “after” (whatever that means) the Jewish New Year holiday of Rosh Hashona.

On Friday, the fourth and last Friday of the sacred month of Ramadan, there were relatively few Palestinians at the main Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem — but there were still thousands.

And many of them were people with permits to go to Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, where nearly every Palestinian Muslim longs to be, as much as possible, during Ramadan. Many of these people came, with their permits, from far reaches in the northern West Bank, from Nablus, and Jenin, as well as from Tulkarem and elsewhere — only to find that their permits were no longer valid.

They were not told why.

One of the veteran observers from Machsom Watch (Checkpoint Watch, an organization of Israeli women who monitor the abuses at the checkpoints) explained that all the permits were cancelled when IDF the closure order was given on Thursday.

But the soldiers didn’t even bother to say this. All they said was SEGUR — “closed”, as in “completely closed”.

Continue reading The Fourth Friday in Ramadan at Qalandia checkpoint: Segur (CLOSED) + Machsom Watch Report on the Third Friday

Palestinian Police deploy up to Qalandia checkpoint for first Friday in Ramadan

For the first time in years, or perhaps ever, Palestinian traffic policemen were allowed to deploy up to the concrete barriers at the entry to the main Qalandia checkpoint today,
which Israeli officials refer to as a “border crossing”, on the road between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

It was a real departure on the first Friday in Ramadan 2009, as thousands of Palestinian men and women and children endured heat and serial military checks in order to be able to go to pray during this special month at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem.

(The lunar calendar used by Muslims means that the month of Ramadan starts about 11 days earlier every year. Roughly every 36 years, Ramadan rotates through the hottest and longest days of summer.)

One sunny Palestinian traffic policeman helping pedestrians cross through the constant flow of cars and vans said that the deployment had been done in coordination with the Israeli military, and that for now the Palestinian deployment would be just for Fridays during Ramadan, at least for now. “We hope we can come every Friday, and then every day, and that we can also go into Jerusalem to pray”. He said that he is now 34 years old, and according to current Israeli policy, he will not be free to pray in Jerusalem for another 16 years. He said he came from the Old City of Nablus, and that he was one of between 20-24 Palestinian traffic policemen selected for the special task. “Ukhti” (My sister), he called to beckon one woman to cross the street.

“We are here”, he explained, “but without guns”. However, he said, they did not really need guns, because “many people tell us it’s a great day, and it’s good, that they finally see us on the street here. Some drivers even stopped in surprise”, he reported.

Another Palestinian traffic policeman said that there were about 15 Palestinian policemen on duty at Qalandia. Palestinian security cars were lined up and parked just at the entrance into the Qalandia perimeter — an extremely rare sight.

Precisely because there has been no civilian traffic control allowed anywhere near the Israeli military, Qalandia checkpoint has, until now, been the the site of frequent traffic snarls and intimidating traffic congestion where cars have to fight to advance every single centimeter.
The aggressive young beggars that operate in the areas where cars waiting to pass through Qalandia add another layer of misery and stress for the trapped motorists.

For the four Fridays in Ramadan, vehicular traffic has been banned from just after midnight until 3 pm in the afternoon.

Palestinian mini-vans and buses were surprisingly organized, and dispatchers with neon-green vests and megaphones urged the stream of Palestinians onto transport into Jerusalem. The prayer-goers would face at least one other military check at Damascus Gate in the Old City Wall. It was later reported that five Palestinians were arrested, a few for “carrying knives” and one for being from Gaza but not having a permit.

This year, like last year, only men over 50 years old, and only women over 45 years old, are eligible for entry into Jerusalem for the Friday prayers during Ramadan, a holy month which commemorates the revelation of the Qur’an. For the entire month of Ramadan, adults fast completely (and do not even drink water) from two hours before sunrise until sundown. The idea is to give the body a rest, and to develop solidarity with the poor who are often not able to eat and drink as they need.

Men between 45 and 50 may apply for special permits issued for the four Fridays in Ramadan, and women between 30 and 45 were also eligible to apply — but UN officials said that all the Palestinians all had to be married to qualify for the special permits. Apparently, children under 12 could accompany their parents.

Despite the noticeably better Israeli organization implemented by the Israeli military authorities at Qalandia, there were far fewer Palestinians trying to pass through Qalandia today than during the first Friday of Ramadan last year. “Where are the thousands of Palestinians who cannot get into Jerusalem and who ususally come to protest?”, asked one woman from the Israeli organization Machsom Watch. One Palestinian policeman said that it was only the first Friday of Ramadan, and predicted that the numbers would increase in the coming weeks. However, a UN official noted that the fourth Friday of Ramadan this year coincides with a major Jewish holiday, and predicted that Palestinian traffic into Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank would be reduced to a trickle.

According to a tally from the observers with the Ecumenical Accompaniers program (EAPPI) of the World Council of Churches, just over 16,000 Palestinians passed through Qalandia going into Jerusalem between 0600 and 1130 in the morning.  Last year, EAPPI said that 36,000 Palestinians passed through Qalandia in more-or-less the same time period, between 0600 and 1200.

Israeli officials later reported that 90,000 Muslims were at the Friday prayers (the exact same figure as last year) up on the Haram as-Sharif plateau on which Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are both built. Palestinians from East Jerusalem, who are legal residents of Israel, and Israel’s own Arab/Palestinian citizens had free access to Al-Aqsa. (The Haram as-Sharif plateau has a reported capacity of 300,000).

Night of Power – Laylat al-Qadr 2008

Laylat al-Qadr at Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem

The crowds at Al-Aqsa Mosque - Laylat al-Qadr 2008

Crowd control at Al-Aqsa Mosque - Laylat al-Qadr 2008

A friend, who took these pictures, wrote me that “I can estimate more than 500,000 [people — possibly a record] were there tonight, from all over the country, even from Jordan. Everybody was extremely happy to be there, people would share the checkpoint experience but overall are happy to make it to the mosque. Many teams were on the floor to help people reach the different facilities and separate men and women, other teams were deployed to give medical assistance. One man from the Old City was giving free “Hamra and Baida” (in English red and white) a famous desert from Jerusalem. The Old City streets were busy and overloaded with people, till after midnight…

NOW, how did these people get there? There were flying checkpoints all over East Jerusalem.
People who arrived in East Jerusalem cars parked wherever they could – and even where they couldn’t.
It is a mystery where all these people, who willingly underwent great stress and hardship, some coming from the far reaches of the West Bank and passing through serial checkpoints, were able even to go to the bathroom, or to wash afterwards before prayers — facilities were severely limited, or lacking.

People got through on good will, and by spiritual uplift.

And those who came from the West Bank through the infamous Qalandia “border crossing” checkpoint, well, they went through a lot, and that’s a huge understatement.

Here are photos courtesy of Tamar Fleishman of Machsom Watch, who observed the passage of Palestinians through Qalandia. She told me that “The control was very strict, and it was very tense, very tense, but it didn’t come to shooting or stones. Instead, the army every time just took the young men to the military vehicles inside the checkpoint, and they just disappeared. That’s what happened to the shebab“, she said. She added that “it was very sad to see all those people coming such long distances, from Jenin, and everywhere, and then some being turned away…it was very ugly the way they were treated, like cattle, having to pass through one point for checking to another”.

Women lined up at Qalandia to cross to Jerusalem for Laylat al-Qadr 2008

Man blindfolded and being detained in sterile zone at Qalandia - Laylat al-Qadr 2008

Young man blindfolded and being detained at Qalandia on the last Friday in Ramadan 2008

Blindfolded and detained young man being led away - to where - on last Friday in Ramadan 2008

James Weatherill of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that it had been very crowded — the most crowded Friday of Ramadan to date. “The IDF did take our recommendation to open up a humanitarian lane”, he said, “but they didn’t manage it well. At one point, they were letting only those with Jerusalem ID use the humanitarian lane, but we managed to get it back. We had 15 volunteers from the Palestinian Medical Relief Society helping us. However, we would often have to wade into the crush of the crowd when we saw people having trouble, to pick them out and help them get through to the humanitarian lane”. The humanitarian cases were defined as anybody having any difficulty walking, or blind, or with heart conditions (documented), or over the age of 70.

Third Friday in Ramadan – no disturbances

Mercifully, there were reportedly no “disturbances” on the third Friday in Ramadan, as some 150,000 (according to the Jerusalem Post) to 200,000 souls (according to Ma’an News Agency) managed to make their way to Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem for prayers. They came from East Jerusalem itself, from the Arab communities in Israel (particularly in the north), and — with great and greater degrees of hardship — from the West Bank

However, there were many more who did not make it. Dozens prayed on the asphalt at the outside of the Israeli military perimeter established around the entrance from the Ramallah side to the major Qalandia crossing from the West Bank to Jerusalem. A heavy-set Israeli Border Policeman in riot gear stood on a large concrete block directly in front of the prayer leader, frontally facing the bowing worshippers in a domineering posture

One eyewitness said that the Haram As-Sharif mosque esplanade was “really loaded, but could take another 200’000”.

According to this eyewitness, the Border Police in the Old City of East Jerusalem were on good behavior, and the public transportation was better organized.

It was also cooler – a definite hint of autumn in the air.

Israeli Border Police in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque on the third Friday in Ramadan

Prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque on the third Friday in Ramadan

Crowds on third Friday in Ramadan

No tear gas fired at Qalandia checkpoint on the second Friday in Ramadan

There were eight Israeli snipers aiming the barrels of their weapons at the crowd trying to enter the major Qalandia “border crossing” between Ramallah and Jerusalem on the second Friday in Ramadan in order to perform Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. And there were more Palestinians hoping to get through than on the previous Friday.

A small group of those denied passage simply put their prayer rugs down, or pieces of cardboard, or newspaper, and prayed on the spot — men ahead, women behind.

But — for the first time in years — no stone was thrown by the frustrated crowd, and no tear gas or rubber bullets or stun grenades were fired by the Israeli forces.

One suggestion made by observers last week — that signs be posted at the entrance to explain procedures to the crowd — was actually implemented. Signs saying “Men only” and “Women only”, and explaining this years rules about age and permits, were posted at the concrete barrier where Israeli forces were doing a first screening of the anxious faithful who wanted badly to be allowed to go to pray.

Still, it was dramatic and difficult.

Palestinians yearning to get through Qalandia checkpoint to pray at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem

People had gone through a lot to get to Qalandia then crumpled when they thought they were being denied entrance.

Abandoned shoes — even an intact pair of children’s shoes — littered the “sterile zone” where the Palestinans had to pass to get to the full Qalandia inspection zone, as if a human or natural catastrophe had just happened.

A crowd of Palestinians trying to get into Qalandia checkpoint for admission to Jerusalem for Friday prayers.

The sun was hot, and there were no comforts for those passing to pray.

A Palestinian crosses the sterile zone to get to Qalandia checkpoint prior to passage to Jerusalem for Friday prayers.

The checkpoint controls can be called chilling, claustrophobic — and everything about them is humiliating.

A Palestinian woman passing through Qalandia checkpoint controls

A man led the prayer who was denied passage at the other end of the “sterile zone”. I saw him turned away, roughly, at the other end of the “sterile zone” when I arrived at Qalandia. “Yellah! Yellah!”, the Israeli soldiers shouted, waving their hands and dismissing like children, or even like stray dogs, a small group of men in robes who wanted to go to pray in Jerusalem.

After the prayer, the man said he had come from Nablus, in the northern West Bank. He spoke English, and said his name was Nadir. He said he didn’t have a permit, and was just a few months younger than 50 years old, the age at which men could pass without a permit. He said he believed the Israelis wanted to cut the Palestinians’ ties to Al-Aqsa. “They say they are the ones killed”, he concluded, “but they turn the truth [around]”.

A child waits while Palestinians pray at Qalandia because they were not allowed to get to Jerusalem.

An Israeli soldier said that it was hard for him, too, to see women and children standing at the police barriers in such conditions. “I’d rather be at home”, he said wearily.

Israeli forces deployed outside of Qalandia checkpoint sterile zone

With special thanks to Tamar Fleishman of Machsom Watch — who was also pushed around by an Israeli soldier at Qalandia today — for these photos.