by: R. Kafri
Here, there was no quiet lazy summer breeze teasing your face. There was nothing but people and the stifling heat. I have dreaded passing through the Qalandia checkpoint. I thought it would kill me to see what everyone has described as chicken cages. Yet here I was, standing in line surrounded by so many hoping to cross into Jerusalem. Almost everyone in line was on their way to pray. They stood patiently in this fly infested place, and slowly one by one walked into the cages designed to make even the most vicious of animals feel helpless. We all passed a locked revolving door. How can a revolving door be locked? Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of having a door that spins? After we were buzzed through the revolving door, we passed through a metal detector that shrieked every time. I was personally convinced that it is designed to sounds its alarm even if you were totally naked! But everyone around me waited patiently, deeply convicted, truly believing that a prayer in Jerusalem might just save their soul, or give them strength and patience to survive this country and this world. It may just help them get by in this senseless time. Nothing makes sense anymore, even Mother Nature seems troubled these days, how else can you explain the extra hot summers, the mudslides, and floods? She is pissed! And as far as I can tell, we, humans have angered her royally. Anyway, I digress; Mother Nature’s wrath is hardly what is crossing my mind while I am crossing the revolving door threshold. I looked around at old, young, men, women and children all pushing forward. Is it faith? Is it conviction? Or is it perseverance that causes them to stand on a hot Friday morning waiting for a seventeen year old’s push of a button to catch a glimpse of their beloved Jerusalem. They inch slowly one by one into the city hoping that their prayers will be answered this time that their son will come home, their daughter will get married, their job will get better, and this checkpoint will one day disappear.
Fridays are lazy, it’s the day families reconnect, lovers meet secretly away from the rush of week days, and friends lounge sluggishly in each other’s apartment too tired to do anything, yet too lonely to go home. Fridays carry the promise of a gathering, a luncheon or an argeeleh on the terrace. They are beautifully slow, but not here. Here Fridays are of resilience and determination. They are a joyous reminder that we are still here. Sixty-two years of shock and awe has not erased us from existence. Sure we may have lost more land, and yes there are many moments of weakness, but we are still here. Walls, check points, death, and arrests have not stopped us from coming back every Friday to stand in line. So listen up my “imposed neighbor;” you erect a wall and we will climb over it. You post a checkpoint, not only will we stand in line, but we will turn it into a sale point of water, coffee, tea, kites, snacks. You separate, brutalize, demolish, confiscate, hand cuff and arrest; we build, develop, heal and hope. You look back into history; we look forward to the future. You isolate our cities, we choose to work in one and live in another only to travel every day between both. We are here, our Fridays are here and so are our Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and every day of the week. We are NOT going anywhere; you can beat us, bruise us, and break our bones, but you will NEVER break our spirit!
I stood humbled by everyone around me, bowed my head and took a few more steps into the cage. I lazily made my way from Ramallah to Jerusalem for the first time in fifteen years….