Editor crosses borders, checkpoints to Ramallah

It must have been over 100 degrees on the Saturday I set off for Palestine.

It had been four years since my last visit, and I was anxious. I have never taken that road alone without a close family member. My childhood memories from the numerous times my mother took me and my sisters there only reminded me of the many hours we spent on buses taking us from one checkpoint to the other.

I left home around 6 a.m. and by 7 I was at the border of Jordan and Palestine.  My mother insisted I go early so I wouldn’t be on the last bus out.

“It will be you and a thousand other travelers,” she told me anxiously. “If people fill the buses and you’re not on one of them, you’ll probably take the same taxi back here.”

Unfortunately, she was not mistaken. About a hundred other men, women and children had the same train of thought my mother had; they were all there early.

An hour and a half later, I was on the third bus transporting us toward the first Israeli checkpoint, only 15 minutes away.

After about three bus changes and five hours, I finally set foot on one of the oldest cities of the world, “Ariha,” also known as Jericho. I waited in line for the young blond Israeli soldier to check my ID and entrance permit.

“Do you have another passport?” she asked, smacking her gum in her mouth.

I just shook my head in negation. Past experiences taught me that fewer words mean less time.

An hour and a half and two security checkpoints finally carried me to the last checkpoint in Kalandia, where my aunt was waving from behind the wired exit. It was 3 p.m.

Downtown Ramallah is beautiful; the narrow streets are filled with the smell of eastern spices and fresh thyme. People are busy trying to make a living.

As I walked down the alleys and streets, a few shop keepers sitting outside their adjacent shops, smoking hookah, playing checkers and arguing about politics. One smiled at me and I smiled back, but I couldn’t ignore the solemn bitterness in his smile.

I visited my hometown, Nablus, and met its friendly people who treated me like their own home-grown daughter.

“You are Hiba, Abu Kamal’s granddaughter, right?” A strange woman asked as I walked down the street of my grandfather’s old house.  “Come have lunch with me and my family.”

In spite of the long trip, the checkpoints, the soldiers and the occupation, Palestine was not aggressive to me, but inviting and welcoming. I am already looking forward to the day I visit it again.



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