I once drove through the Ar-Ram checkpoint with two flat tires, just praying that the soldiers wouldn’t be more difficult than usual, so I could get to a garage to put in enough air to get to a place where I could have the tire repaired.
That time, my tires were probably deliberately punctured in the war being waged by my neighbors over parking spaces.
Hair-raising as that was, it was nothing compared to suddenly having a flat tire at Qalandia checkpoint last Sunday afternoon, in the peak heat of the day, as traffic trying to get out of Ramallah began to get out of control, and a collective electric road rage took over. Nobody was in a mood to help, needless to say. And the traffic pressure was increasing, and the heat was unbearable, and then the wilder drivers began driving on the other side of the road, and on the space on the side of the other side of the road, where I had pulled over to get out of the way and to try to think what to do next. They kicked up more dust, the hot wind was blowing, and they drove directly toward me in a stupid game of chicken, trying to bully me to get out of their way (they were really not where they were supposed to be, but that didn’t matter at all to them). They didn’t even think that I might have been there because I had a totally collapsed tire. No, for them, I was there just to be annoying and to bother them by getting in their way. It was, to be perfectly honest, scary. And hot.
The traffic gets out of control at Qalandia for one simple reason — too much traffic is funneled through a too-narrow space, and there is no traffic control allowed by the Israeli military near the checkpoint. So, it becomes a laboratory of the law of the jungle, where the strongest rule. And a multi-hour gridlock ensues.
I was trying to think what to do next. Then, I called Ibrahim, who I had just seen at his worksite, and who had big responsibilities. But he said without hesitation: “I am coming”, and he came right away, with his assistant, and they saved me, really saved me, an act of kindness and sympathetic solidarity for which I am extremely grateful. And all the time, as Ibrahim and his assistant were changing my tire, they were being greeted and exchanging greetings with friends slowly passing by in the gridlocked traffic, in the hot sun as the wind blew up gusts of sand, just outside Qalandia checkpoint. Then got back into their car and drove back to ar-Ram, merging easily back into the slow flow, headed back to the soccer/football stadium that is really just on the other side of The Wall from where I live, but so far away. Yet, coming back around from Jerusalem I can see the bright lights of the stadium lighting up the skyline. And, sitting here at my computer, I can hear the cheers and shouting and singing, whenever there is a soccer match on the other side of The Wall.