Well, amazingly I managed to make it across the border without too many problems. The Allenby/King Hussein Bridge was the most crowded I have ever seen. It was like a can of sardines. Of course, there were many Palestinians crossing the border but also tourist groups of Koreans and South Africans in large numbers and random other people like me. It was so crowded that I even ran into two friends at the border, one reporter from the Jordan Times and another friend from Beit Hanina. Certainly seeing friendly faces made the trip much more tolerable, but I think the crowds also facilitated my crossing. The Shabak (Israeli security) guy who usually takes me through my body and luggage check was even willing to only check one of my suitcases thoroughly because they were so swamped that day. But it still took 7 hours to cross between the two bridges.
I had been told by my Israeli lawyer that there was a new law that Israel passed making all of the West Bank and Ghaza a “closed military zone” thereby keeping internationals from coming into Palestine so I was a bit worried, but apparently that didn’t go into effect until July 1st (coincidence that it coincided with ISM’s Freedom Summer campaign?), so perhaps leaving one day earlier helped as well. Things here in Deheishe have been relatively calm, but my one trip out of her to Ramallah and then Al Quds was not quite so calm. One thing that has changed is that the Qalandia checkpoint seems to be shut down a few short months after creating a enormous international-style border crossing installation. I can now take a service directly from Beit Lahem to Ramallah and on the way there we were only stopped at the Abu Dies container checkpoint. But the kept us for one hour because the soldier there seemed like he was in the mood to hassle the service driver who was obviously a religious Muslim. He also questioned me about what my religion was, though I told him it is none of his business (he’s not allowed to ask such questions, though that obviously didn’t stop him). On my way home I went to Al Quds to run a few errands and in that direction from Ramallah–which amazingly, too, it only took one service directly–there were many flying checkpoints in between Ramallah and Beit Lahem on both sides of Al Quds. Long, long lines of traffic waiting, especially the services. Perhaps this is at least, in part, because
Israel now makes Palestinians travel almost 2 hours out of their way to go to/from Al Quds and Beit Lahem. They have to go all the way north to Qalandia and then come back down south to go to Al Quds, if they have permission to go. Of course, there is always the Beit Jala way to avoid the international-border installation at the Beit Lahem checkpoint, but I noticed they are building a new such crossing on this other side of the Beit Lahem area which suggests that soon Beit Lahem will be completely closed off from Al Quds.
I am still trying to get settled, but I began teaching two English classes at the Ibdaa Cultural Center. One is a TOEFL class and the other a regular English class. I created a website for my students, actually a blog because my web design software isn’t working, so that they can practice their English. I am still building links for reading and listening websites, but I plan to put up articles every day to help build vocabulary in areas that are more unfamiliar to EFL (English as a Foreign Langauge) students.
Living in the Beit Lahem area it’s hard to imagine what’s happening so close by in Ghaza, but of course it’s always on my mind. Since I’ve been getting settled I haven’t had enough time to follow the news closely, other than what’s on TV, but in my catching up I found a few useful analyses of the collective punishment Israel is forcing in Ghaza: