Anna in Palestine] Inside the Terminals: A Personal Story
From: firstname.lastname@example.org on behalf of travelinganna (email@example.com)
Sent: Saturday, November 15, 2008 1:25:56 AM
As I prepare to return to the Middle East, I wanted to send you 4
chapters that I never sent out. This is the first. Some of you may
recognize it from a similar story published in the Link.
It’s perhaps the most personal piece I’ve ever written. I hope you’ll
find it compelling.
Held at Einab Junction: Inside Israel’s New Terminals
When I first the West Bank in 2003, checkpoints were controlled by
young Israeli soldiers, nervously clutching their weapons and yelling
at Palestinians to stay in line. When I returned in 2005, I found many
checkpoints replaced by metal turnstiles into which Palestinians were
herded to wait for soldiers to push a button, letting them through one
by one or sometimes not at all. Each year I return, the method of
control over Palestinian movement is further institutionalized, most
recently Israeli terminal-style buildings, entirely separating
soldiers from the Palestinians whose movement they are controlling.
I first encountered one of these terminals after visiting a women’s
cooperative in Tulkarem to purchase embroidery to send home. Because
there are no reliable postal services in the West Bank, and because I
did not want to risk the products being damaged or confiscated by
Israeli airport security if I transported them in my luggage, I knew I
would have to send them to the US from a post office in Israel. I had
traveled from Tulkarem to Tel Aviv once in the past by taking a shared
taxi to the nearby Einab junction, where I had walked from the
Palestinian road to the Israeli one and caught transport into Israel.
This second time, I was traveling with my backpack and six plastic
bags full of embroidery, and I assumed the trip would be as
straightforward as it had been in the past. When I arrived at Einab
junction, I found a large new building, fortified by several layers of
metal fences, walls, and gates. The first layer reminded me of rural
parts of the Wall–wire fence reinforced with electric sensory wire and
razor wire with a heavy iron gate. The gate was open but nobody was on
the other side. I walked through and came to two large iron turnstiles
surrounded by a wall of iron bars. The turnstiles were locked.
Frustrated, I put down my six bags to rest for a moment. Maybe someone
would come back? I waited, but still there was nobody.
I called out. “Hello? Anybody there?”
“Please wait a moment,” a staticky voice above me blared. I looked up
to find a speaker attached to the turnstile.
I didn’t have much choice but to wait.
Whoever was operating the turnstiles didn’t seem to be in much of a
hurry, so I took out my camera.
“Excuse me!” the voice snapped.
“Yes,” I answered as I took my first photo.
“Please put your camera away immediately!”
“Please let me in immediately,” I answered.
“I said to wait,” said the voice, and I answered, “And I am waiting.”
The light above the turnstile turned from red to green and I put away
my camera and picked up my bags to walk through. It was difficult
squeezing into the tight rotating cage with all my bags, and by the
time I’d made it to the other side, I was hot and cranky.
In front of me was a metal detector surrounded by iron bars. I began
to walk through but the voice called out from another speaker above:
I continued through the metal detector and groaned, “What?!” into the
air, wondering where he was watching me from.
“Go back and put down your bags.”
I went back through the metal detector and set down my six bags, which
were feeling heavier by the minute. I took the opportunity to take
another picture. The soldier didn’t bother protesting this time, but
ordered me to walk through the metal detector again.
I tried to pick up my bags again but he ordered, “No, without your
bags.” I walked through. Nothing happened.
“Now, go back.”
I closed my eyes with a sigh, walked back, picked up my six bags, and
walked through again before he could give me the order to do so.
Somehow this seemed so much worse than the turnstiles and metal
detectors I had seen at Huwwara checkpoint. At least there you could
see the people humiliating you. Or maybe it was more upsetting because
I wasn’t used to being the one humiliated.
Beyond the metal detector was another set of turnstiles, locked again.
I took a deep breath and stared at the red light, hoping to see it
turn green rather than let the guard hear my voice crack if I spoke.
Thankfully, the turnstile buzzed and I squeezed through to reach the
building itself. That was the end of the pre-screening. Now it was
time for the real screening.
The inside of the bui