Today, we are going to Nazareth, on the other side of the wall, with my friend Numan. It’s a big day, well, most of all for him; he has been trying to get a permit to go and spend a day there, just one, for two years.
To get there, we have to take a shared taxi to Jenin, from where we’ll have to cross the checkpoint that’s at the border between Israël and the occupied Palestinian territories. Without him, I may have been able to go through by car but every Palestinian citizen has to do that on foot.
Maybe it is because someone has already described it to me that way, but when I go out of the vehicle, the infrastructure I discover reminds me right away of something disturbingly ironic in this situation, that I’ll avoid mentioning here, because I could hurt some feelings.
We go through massive metal barriers, then corridors that lead us to a waiting room, in a very grim atmosphere. I don’t understand this place. I feel like I have done something wrong and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s this constant dichotomy, the political tag I’m wearing only for being here; by coming to Palestine, I’ve chosen sides. There’s no possible in-between, no grey zone. If people knew that I lived in Nablus, for them, I would therefore be one of the “bad guys”(and this would apply in the other way round too). I am the only westerner, and I am a bit scared of being questioned, I’m already inventing myself a story to tell them so that they would leave me alone. It’s weird, to have to lie to not be considered as a terrorist.
The waiting begins. I don’t know why all of these people are waiting, nobody is moving, it’s not even like there’s a queue. I’m told that it amuses them to make everybody wait for several hours for no apparent reason. During the two or three hours that we spend there, we see a few people try to go further and get forced back; some are asked to go home. To pay 100 shekels and wait for months to get a one day permit, for nothing. Injustice, daily.
Finally, things start moving, we hear something in hebrew in the microphone. We go through a few other barriers and corridors, we get searched. When we have to show our identity papers, I am horrified: the women who works there yells instructions to each person, without any respect whatsoever. She speaks to them like dogs. I can read the superiority she thinks she has on these people in her eyes, and that makes my blood boil, I want to make a scandal, to shout to her in return that a bit of sympathy and respect wouldn’t kill anybody, that she doesn’t need to scream like that.
But I don’t want to risk losing my precious visa, so when my turn comes, I show her my passport silently. She is visibly very surprised to see me here, gives me a very dark look and says something I don’t understand. I don’t have time to ask her to repeat herself that she’s yelling again, at me this time. I understand that I have to pull myself aside, she doesn’t want to let me pass like everybody else. My friend is already on the other side, and my heart starts racing: “what if they keep me here?” I still feel like I’m doing something wrong, but shit, I haven’t done anything. I have to resign to watch this horrible person treat everybody like animals for a good twenty minutes. I look up and see a gun pointed at me. Always charming, these soldiers.
Finally, when everybody has gone through, they notice me again. I’m upset, but I force myself to smile so that things run smoothly. The woman calls out her colleagues, and they all start inspecting every single plage of my passeport, then fixing me, and talking to each other. I don’t know why they don’t want to let me go, I think they feel obliged to mark the occasion. They must find that funny, too. A man comes to me, asks me where I’m from. “Switzerland? Why would you want to come to this shit hole?” “-This shit hole has so far welcomed me far better than any of you have”, I want to answer. But I don’t, and I shrug my shoulders instead. After another few minutes, finally, he tells the woman to let me pass. She accepts unwillingly.
So I get out, to my great relief. I’m on the other side. I don’t feel very good, this place has marked me, and I feel sad. I join Numan who was waiting for me all of this time and we quickly leave the place.
Our stay in Nazareth will end up being amazing, it is a beautiful city and full of history. We join some of Numan’s friends that show us around, they welcome us warmly.
This liberty has an expiratory date, and so the time has already come to go back to the West Bank. The way back is a lot easier: no one asks us for anything. The difference of treatment between both directions surprises me a lot. I am nevertheless not enchanted to go back to this strange place and would like to take photos of it, to show the world what no one ever sees, but of course, I can’t. Just after jumping into a taxi that’s waiting for us, I do try to take out my camera discretly, without real success; the driver sees me and tells me off. “You want to get us killed? They would shoot at us if they saw you.” Ouch, I need to stop underestimating the danger. All of that, and I wasn’t even able to take a decent picture.
Before heading back to Nablus, we explore briefly the town of Jenin.