Arriving in Jordan felt like heaven after being trapped in Idaho for the past few months. I immediately met up with friends for real shwarma (not the kind people seem to sell as shwarma in Amrika when it’s actually gyro) and knafe (ok, not Nabulsi knafe, but that will come, insha’allah). It felt amazing to be around people speaking Arabic and discussing politics without having to explain everything. So comforting and reassuring.
I woke up early to go to the bridge, though the service stand had moved to a new bus station in Amman. The people leaving from Jordan to Palestine were an odd crew today. The bus was mostly American and European tourists who were strangely clueless. It’s the first time I’ve been among a group of people under the impression that they were on their way to “Israel.” And once you cross the bridge, I suppose, who would blame them? It is slithering with Hebrew writing and Israeli flags dominate all buildings. Not one Palestinian flag. And, of course, there are the Israeli border police, security, soldiers.
The bridge from Jordan was rather quiet today so it made my 5 hour search process take a little less time than normal (i.e., no extra waiting). But I still had to have a strip search and it seems that my bra was problematic as they had to take it away from me and do a special x-ray screening of it. Every little paper (yes, even my student papers I’ve been grading) was tested as was each shampoo, cream, soap. Even the Zapatista coffee I brought as gifts had to be opened and checked. When I finally got my visa to enter the Israeli security person asked me “where are you going in Israel.” I told her that I’m going to Palestine, not Israel. She got extremely angry with me and responded by asking me again; when she received the same reply she called her commander over and she asked me, “where are you going today” to which I stated, Beit Lahem, Palestine. And with that I got on yet another bus to Al Quds (Jerusalem) and then another one to Beit Lahem.
The checkpoints have become more institutionalized as I drove from the border to Deheishe refugee camp. Car checkpoints that were always there have roofs and are installed so as to make it look more permanent in the same way the foot checkpoints are. I was told that like the Americans, Israelis now are hiring private security firms (i.e., Blackwater sorts or companies) to work the checkpoints. Inside the Beit Lahem checkpoint they have installed new modes of fascist “security” checks such as making everyone put their hand on a machine that must use some sort of fingerprinting technology to monitor who goes in and out—this in addition to all the cameras, x-ray scans, and identity card computer checking they do. And on the apartheid wall that surrounds Beit Lahem in a prison there is a new mural (this one done by the Israelis I’m sure) which is another “let’s welcome all the tourists into the holy land” sort of mural as it, too, rests near a sniper tower on the 25 foot apartheid wall.
All of this trip today was colored by thoughts swirling about in my head in response to Idaho’s local Zionist rabbi who wrote an op-ed the day I left in the Idaho Statesman newspaper. Conveniently the link has been broken on the website so I will attach a pdf file of it here for people who want to read it. In a nutshell he is resorting to the same old tactics of bait and switch: people are FINALLY starting to speak out against Israel and Zionism and so he must silence them by calling them all anti-Semites. According to him we are living in a world that is becoming increasingly “Judeophobic” because people make “libelous” claims about Israel being an apartheid state. I wrote a reply so insha’allah it will be printed in the newspaper; either way I’ll post it here.
Too much to say, too tired to say more. So will continue bokra, insha’allah.