A sense of normalcy

Susan Brannon

Israel’s reoccupation, the lack of movement and being locked up inside of your own home without the knowledge of knowing how long has become normal. This is the sad thing. For those who live on just the ‘other side’ of a check point in an area that is not under curfew are the lucky in ones since they are not being treated like caged animals. At the Biet Hannana checkpoint on the road from Jerusalem to Ramallah, most of the residents have to wait up to 3.5 hours to cross over either to get to work or back to their homes.

It is a paradox standing in line at the que at the checkpoint. People are joking and talking with each other attempting to pass the time and make the best of the situation. I, on the other hand start to fume after 45 minutes with the lack of movement in the line. The sun is beating down on my head, I am getting thirsty but do not want to drink anything for fear of having to go to the bathroom. I get restless and irritable. Normally, I do not have to go through a checkpoint; I live on the Jerusalem side of the checkpoints. I am very lucky.

Everyone has to approach the soldiers one by one and waits for him to ask questions and check the ID’s. It is my turn; I approach the soldier that is holding his gun with his finger on the trigger. I wonder, if he sneezes, will he blow his toe off? What if he turns around real quick and accidentally moves his finger, I observe the possible situation and imagine where the gun barrel will be pointing. The soldier smiles at me as I approach while yelling something in Hebrew to one of his colleagues waving his hand for me to approach. He asks me the typical checkpoint questions of, ‘Where are you from?’ then, ‘Where are you going?’ while he looks at my passport. He tells me that I can go ahead with a flick of his wrist and says, ‘Have a nice day!’ as I walk away. I respond with a grumble that is barely audible under my breath.

Now the West Bank is once again under incursion, Peres said that it may last for a few months this time. We fall back to our usual stance of calling those who are ‘inside’ to see how they are doing and to offer support in any way that we know how. We stand at the water cooler in the office and discuss the probable starvation that may occur for the inhabitants inside and what can we do to assist. Our conversations are not ‘normal’ conversations of who has the best sale or how good the lasted movie is. It spins around, lack of movement, body parts, arrests, bombings and other typical occupational topics. This has become the norm. For 22 months, Sharon has slowly desensitized the local and International population with his actions.

President Bush once told Sharon to withdraw its forces ‘immediately’. With the reply from Sharon, ‘We will not take orders.’ Mr. Bush now calls for ‘new leaders before the United States will support a Palestinian State.’ Arafat was elected by the Palestinian people, who is Mr. Bush to say who should be their leader? Bush further says, ‘The United States, along with the European Union and Arab states, will work with Palestinian leaders to create a new constitutional framework and a working democracy for the Palestinian people.’ Mr. Bush encourages the Palestine people to ‘embrace democracy, confront corruption and firmly reject terror’ and they can ‘count on the American support for the creation of a provisional state of Palestine.’ The long awaited speech from the President of the United States, gave distant hope to the Palestinian people, he did not address a solution for the refugee problem or the removal of the Israeli settlements.

Meanwhile, Nablus is under massive military attack for the fourth time in three months. The soldiers have invaded the city and the suburbs. It is under a 24 hour curfew, holding 150,000 residents inside of their homes. The streets are once again vandalized and the infrastructure damaged. Medical teams are prevented to move freely and the personnel are harassed. Ramallah is undergoing the same situation with Arafat’s compound once again under siege. A helicopter fired missiles killing 6 people in Gaza and today fired on the crowd during the funeral wounding three boys and two adults. The usual, instances are occurring in Bethlehem while Israel calls up an estimated 2,000 more reservists to help with the West Bank incursions.

NGO’s and other agencies are fighting for a way to assist with the needs during the incursions while 30 more Internationals were deported from Israel yesterday. They were all Italian peace activists. This action fuels the concern regarding the disasters planned against the Palestinians during this incursion. Yet, we watch those we know and care about walk towards the checkpoint and wonder if they will be able to come back tomorrow for work as we attempt to continue with our daily routine striving to bring a sense of normalcy into our lives.