“The most dangerous thing is to integrate under occupation,” Mahmoud said to me while describing the Palestinian popular resistance in the Bethlehem area. He gave the example of not making trouble over long waits and harassment at Israeli military checkpoints, of which there are more than 100 permanent ones throughout the West Bank.
Mahmoud said that while these experiences are unusual for me, too many Palestinians have normalized them, but the reality is that after living here for five months, plenty of things that shouldn’t be normal have become normal to me. I admire my friend Jill’s constant awareness and anger that such things are repression and violations of humanity. One thing that’s become normal to me is the fact that it takes me over an hour to go visit her in Jerusalem, even though I can see the city from my apartment window in Ramallah. It takes that long because of the circuitous route of the road and the traffic jams and waiting at Qalandia checkpoint.
And for far too many Palestinians, the wait would be a small matter compared to the ability to visit the third holiest city in Islam. Israel prevents most Palestinians from entering, even though East Jerusalem was supposed to be the capital of the would-be Palestinian state under the peace process. As a friend of a friend put it yesterday, “For us, it’s easier to visit Cuba than Jerusalem.”