Even when the Israeli army closes the roads, it is not humanly possible to stay home for long periods of time without having the need to get out. It is almost impossible to live without the city. Even if it means walking through checkpoints with soldiers shooting at you or above your head, people need to move around and are risking their lives every day to do simple things in life that others across the world take for granted. It is an absolute torture to be cut off from all community services including schools, hospitals, and banks.
Even when the Israeli army closes the roads, it is not humanly possible to stay home for long periods of time without having the need to get out. It is almost impossible to live without the city. Even if it means walking through checkpoints with soldiers shooting at you or above your head, people need to move around and are risking their lives every day to do simple things in life that others across the world take for granted. It is an absolute torture to be cut off from all community services including schools, hospitals, and banks. On a regular Thursday morning and another school day, things are not so regular going to school from the village to the city. As Ramallah is declared a military zone for the one hundredth time, Dr. Grace, a business professor at Birzeit University felt obligated to teach her classes at the university and get her two girls to St. Joseph’s School in Ramallah as part of the usual daily routine. Never did she image that the Israeli soldiers would shoot at a mother and two little girls clearly dressed in catholic school uniforms.
“Luba (her 6th grade daughter) had an exam and I made them walk almost two kilometers before reaching the second point where we have to take a taxi and walk more and they were sweating because it was hot so early in the morning. I saw many people putting handkerchiefs on their mouths and they warned us to go back because the soldiers where throwing gas bombs to stop people from going to work and school. But I felt frustrated that I had made the girls get up and dressed and we had already walked so much, it was better to continue and try to make it to school. I hate for them to miss school. We didn’t imagine that they will shoot at children and women,” says Dr. Grace. “It’s becoming so dangerous just to go to school. I can’t believe we have reached this level, it’s really dangerous to move around, she explains.
Dr. Grace remembers after she began walking the checkpoint, an armored jeep quickly pulled up close to them and five soldiers jumped out pointing their guns directly at them and shouting something in Hebrew. The soldiers started shooting at them. She says: “I remember hearing at least seven shots. We felt we are in danger but if we go back it is still dangerous, they are shooting and if we go forward, the danger is still there but forward was better because I saw a large wheat field so I started screaming for the girls to drop to the ground and hide between the wheat. We began to crawl and we hurt ourselves among the thorns. My feet are still blue and bruised from the ground. The only thing that kept going through my mind is that one of them will be shot in front of me and it would be my fault for making them wake up and go to school. They have began to hate school because of the terrible way to school…because of the terrible roads to school, although they are straight “A” students and they love their teachers and their friends but they hate the way to school. It has seriously become dangerous to go to school these days.”
There was a young man in front of Dr. Grace and he broke his arm as he fell to the ground so he needed transportation to the hospital. She remembers the girls’ faces being pale and yellow. They were terrorized. She crawled for many minutes while the soldiers continue to shoot at them. When she finally got in a taxi to make it into the city she could hardly breath from fear. Someone in the taxi had ventalin due to their asthma condition so they gave her some of this medicine to help her breath. “For the first time in my life I felt I was risking their lives to make them go to school…. I should have not insisted on crossing the checkpoint but they do this to us everyday, we can’t go anywhere. The roads are always closed and people need to get to school and work,” says Dr. Grace who stayed trembling several hours following the shooting.
Other people need to get to the bank like Rawand, an excellent teacher at the Birzeit Latin Patariachate School who needs to travel from Birzeit to Ramallah not only to finish her graduate classes for a master’s degree in education but to also make deposits in the bank for the school. After having walked down the mountainside at the checkpoint as the only way to pass, she suddenly heard shooting from the valley below and the bullet from the M-16 rifle passed from the right to the left in front of her eyes, only a hair away from her forehead. She was walking with a young man named George and another student at Birzeit University and as they dropped down to the ground, George scrapped his hand on the rocks with severe bleeding. They had nowhere to hide and Rawand thought that George was shot when she saw the blood, but they were very lucky to make into Ramallah alive. “I could not take a breath, we were scared because there was no place to hide, no big rocks, no trees or anything to go behind, just open space, I was scared they shot George. I looked down and saw his hand full of blood but it was not from the bullets, it was a wound from the ground and falling and sliding in a hard way. There was no telephone, there was no ambulance if we needed one, all the taxis just drove away fast when they heard the shooting and they left many people behind. I had scheduled to quickly get to the bank and return to school to finish calculating the grades with the other teachers but I left the school at 11 am and now it’s 4 pm and I don’t know how I am getting back to Birzeit since they are shooting at the checkpoint. There is another longer way back but we must walk for two hours to use that road,” Rawand said in Arabic. And sure enough that very evening after seeing Rawand at the old education office in Ramallah it took her many hours to return home safe.
I suggested it is not a good idea crossing these checkpoints because they are becoming more and more dangerous. She responded by saying: “It is always curfew, we can’t get anything done, we must use the city, we must finish our work, we need the city, now the soldiers started to know all the side roads and they find us. God willing this will finish, it must finish.”
The daily shooting at the checkpoints and speaking to people immediately after they have been terrorized by gunfire just makes me feel like running away. But a wise seventh grade student in the Aboud Latin School certainly does not think like me, Bnan Khalaf writes: “We are staying on our land Palestine to learn and struggle against the occupation until we get our freedom and independence. Everyday they kill children, men, women, arrest people and put them in prison. But we are very determined to liberate our country…The Israelis have the weapons, but we will win the battle at the end because we have the will…Israel seized this land by force…I want the Israelis to get our of my country and give the refugees their right of return to their homeland. I’d like to ask you all to pray with me for peace in the Holy Land.”