I made it back home to Nablus today, through the Sheikh Hussein Bridge. This bridge is much quieter than Malak Hussein in the south as it is mostly for tourists. I was pleasantly surprised that most of my traveling companions today were not tourists, however. Most of them were Palestinians from 1948. Many of them were from Akka. I had a lovely chat with one woman who was 1 1/2 years old during an nakba. This woman, as well as the others I spoke with, were all very happy about the resistance emerging in 1948 Palestine. They spoke with joy when they talked about finally taking to the streets after decades of oppression they experience ever day, oppression that is rarely represented as it is not as visible as that in the West Bank and Gaza. It’s not something you can capture with a camera.
Everyone else made it through the bridge very quickly, but I was left by myself–not a pleasant or safe feeling. They wanted to look through all of my luggage. Normally this would not have been a tremendous ordeal, but today my mousse decided to explode in my suitcase and even though it was wrapped in a plastic bag, it drenched all of my books. So I had to spend time wiping them off. Already the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) were harassing me about my books. They wanted to know why I needed so many books, what these books were for, why I was reading such books (I had Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, Jonathan Cook, Ali Abunimah, Moutafa Bayoumi, Angela Davis, and Randall Robinson books in that bag). It must be difficult for Israelis to imagine someone having books given that they are clearly extraordinarily stupid. I’ll give another example of their stupidity: when I finally got to the booth where one gets a visa I was asked more questions, this time about what I am doing in “Israel” and if I have ever been to any Arab countries. And then she named them: Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. Of course, I said no, and she stamped my passport. But then I said: “Iran is not an Arab country.” And she said, “well in Israel it is.” I said, no Iranians don’t speak Arabic, they speak Farsi. They are Persian, not Arab.” She looked very confused. Maybe she’s also American.
I left the bridge and looked for my ride, but because the questioning and searching took so long he left. I found another driver, but it took me a while to find one who was Palestinian. I did, and he too is from Akka. The Israeli colonist taxi drivers couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t get in their cars. We drove through Bisan again and I got another shot (see photo above) of a Palestinian home now occupied by Israeli Jews as no Palestinians live there. They are among the 7.2 million Palestinian refugees forcibly removed from their homes in 1948. They live in refugee camps. They are waiting for their right to return. We drove through the “border” checkpoint, otherwise known as the 1967 Green Line (photo above), and then met up with my second driver from Nablus who was waiting for me. He was waiting beside a Palestinian cucumber farm and both drivers walked over and picked a few cucumbers for us to eat. I’ve never had such delicious or such fresh cucumbers in my life (see photos).
We got in the car and started driving towards Nablus and I managed to get a shot this time of one of the illegal Israeli settler farms with barbed wire. This is in sharp contrast to the open, free farms owned by Palestinians. Of course all the farms are technically owned by Palestinians, but the illegal Israeli settlers need the barbed wire because their farms and land is stolen.
We arrived at the first main checkpoint on the way to Nablus, which is called Hamra Checkpoint. It was quiet, given that it is Friday, and apparently it was lunch time as the ITF were busy eating instead of coming over to check our IDs and let us pass. They finally came over and the soldier turned out to be American. When he saw my passport he said it is forbidden for me to pass. I told him I live in Nablus and that this is the way for me to go home. I showed him my university ID card, too, and he took my papers to call the commander. After making us wait he said no, too. I asked this American Israeli soldier how he would like it if he was told he could not go home. He got very angry and made us leave. But really: do you know how infuriating it is to have a soldier who is obviously American telling me I can’t go home? I have been asked to come here by Palestinians. He is here in the role of thief and murderer and keeping people, mostly Palestinians, from moving freely in their own land. The injustice of this enraged me. But what is worse is that he gave me a reason why he couldn’t let me enter. He said, “we can’t guarantee your safety if you enter.” Oh really? Why might that be? Might that be because ITF like him enter in a murderous rage killing and kidnapping Palestinians in Nablus every night? I told him that if my safety is at risk he and his ilk are the only reasons.
We had to then drive the long way around to Huwara checkpoint–the southern entrance point of Nablus (we were at the northern point). We drove through yet another checkpoint at the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Efraim. Here too seemed to be the lunch break though it was another 30 minutes later. So all the Palestinian cars had to wait. When we drove up, the ITF picked up his gun, aimed it at us, and then held it there with his finger on the trigger until we pulled up. Here I got more questioning from yet another American Israeli soldier: “why do you want to go to Nablus?” “why would you want to live in Nablus of all places?” Asinine questions, which I would have liked to answer: because I like living in a city where in my normal daytime activities I don’t have to see a single Israeli.
We drove around the mountains and cut back up to Huwara checkpoint and just as we pulled up something was going down, but I’m not sure what. The checkpoint was closed. Soldiers were running around everywhere. It must not have been something too major, though, because about 30 minutes later it reopened. It’s amazing that I managed to get across the bridge, but was not able to get through a checkpoint to take me to my house in the simplest, most direct way. Instead, I spent an extra two hours in the car, and an extra 100 shekels driving around because an American Jew gets to decide who gets to go to a Palestinian city. This is one of the infuriating aspects of living in Palestine. This is one of the reasons that I don’t like leaving Nablus very much so as to avoid these situations. Of course, in the end this was really just an annoyance for me; had I been Palestinian all of this would have been far worse and is far worse every single day.