Sunday, March 30, 2008

Maria Urkedal York writing from Nablus: Normality in the West Bank

Normality in the West Bank

Maria Urkedal York writing from Nablus, occupied West Bank
Live from Palestine, 27 March 2008

"A familiar scenario takes place in front of me. A little boy, no more than four years old, is laughing as he runs back and forth between the line of adults' feet, feet twice the size of his. Typically, with a combination of innocence and courage only found in children's eyes, he is testing how far he can go before his mother will call him back. The reason why this ordinary scene remains in my consciousness is that it is took place at Huwwara military checkpoint, one of the manned posts restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the West Bank town of Nablus. Although the boy is laughing, making some of us waiting in the line smile, he is also about to be checked by young armed soldiers before he is let out on the other side where dozens of yellow taxis are waiting to take people traveling from Nablus to Huwwara, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Qalandia, and the elsewhere in the West Bank.

"Unsettling combinations of familiarity and unfamiliarity seem to manifest themselves in every aspect of life here in the West Bank. Recalling the first time I passed through Huwwara checkpoint, I remember that my physical and psychological reaction revealed fear. As I and two colleagues moved slowly forward in the line of other women, children and elderly, the unbalanced and disturbing power relationship between us in the line and the soldiers was mercilessly perceptible. The young men and women, dressed in olive green uniforms, wearing helmets and carrying weapons, have the authority to deny anyone to pass. The people who live here in the West Bank have green permit cards that are checked by the soldiers.

"I remember that my heartbeat increased and I felt that I had done something wrong that was about to be exposed. One minute I felt cold, the next warm. I felt like shouting to the soldiers, "Can't you see what you are doing here?" but instead took some deep breaths while trying not to look at the people around me. I pretended that I could not feel the little boy squeezed between me and the elderly lady next to me. I smiled at the grimace my colleague made as she struggled not to be pushed off-balance by the woman. This was just a normal day. We were just going for a weekend trip to Ramallah, a trip which should take only about 40 minutes if there were no checkpoints. The sun was shining, everyone seemed to know what to do. I remember thinking, "what am I afraid of?" Now as I go though checkpoints, the initial fear I felt the first time has been transformed into a sense of injustice and frustration."

For the full article and a fine photo presentation, please go to:

Maria Urkedal York is from Norway and currently lives in Nablus where she works with the Right to Education Campaign at An-Najah University.

No comments: