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After waiting for an inordinate amount of time in a queue of vehicles waiting to get into Jerusalem, we arrived at the wall and were let out so we could join the queue of people waiting to get “processed” and let into Israel again. Before we went in, we decided to take a look at the graffiti-covered West Bank side of the wall.

There are many Israelis and visitors here who call it the “security fence,” which is faulty for a couple of reasons. It is a concrete wall on par with the Berlin wall, with much more sophisticated Israeli guard towers, and a whole lot of barbed wire on and around it. This “fence” also has the odd tendency to cut off Palestinian communities from each other by “accidentally” being constructed within the West Bank proper. The wall also means that there are closely guarded entrances and exits between the West Bank and Israel, and those are less than friendly or enjoyable places. Supporters of the wall will explain earnestly that it has kept Israelis safer, which although possibly true for the first 2 years, Shin Bet (the Israeli internal intelligence service) has reported that the decrease in attacks is due to other factors. The former defense minister, Moshe Arens, argues that the decrease in terrorist attacks stems from the IDF’s entry into the regions of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank as it would otherwise be called). Again, people are more than welcome to their opinions on anything and everything, but be sure to read the last section of this post, when I describe the “processing” experience.

We walked a little way along the wall and photographed a bunch of the artwork/graffiti, and enjoyed the sunset. Well, enjoyed it as much as was possible being stuck next to/behind a 25-foot tall concrete barrier with barbed wire at the top. Not a pleasant sight, but the reality of this situation. Hopefully, this physical wall that encourages psychological barriers between the two sides will someday fall peacefully. I am not holding my breath waiting for that eventuality, however.

Onto describing the “processing” experience. We entered a warehouse of sorts, where in typical Middle Eastern fashion there was a cone-shaped mass of people – the people closest to the entrance were the most narrow, and then everyone else jumped into the mass of people behind them. There were two very narrow corridors of metal fences, with metal fence ceilings atop them. To get inside the corridor (as one of them was closed when we got there), one had to go through a security turnstile (meaning it only ratcheted one direction, only allowing people in). That meant that once you were in the line, you were stuck as such. Then, you slowly inched your way forward as the second security turnstile unlocked every so often… that’s right, that means that 3 minutes out of every 1 were spent locked into a caged receptacle, essentially in prison. I dread to think of the absolute panic and stampede that would ensure in the case of a fire….

Getting through the very draconian first corridor, we found ourselves confronted by the next environment in this Orwellian maze. Directly in front of us and slightly above, a bank of 5 CCTV security cameras watched our every move. In front of us, 4 portals (for lack of a better term) were our choices, and we got to play Israeli Roulette on which portal would be the quickest/most free of problems to get through. After examining them, and seeing that the farthest one down (call it #4) was seemingly leaning towards at least verbal outbursts if not possible violence (the crowd over there seemed unwilling to wait any longer, understandably… this humiliating process takes a very long time to get through). We decided to try our luck with Portal #1, which as per usual was again a mass of humanity trying to get through without any semblance of the familiar Western 1) I arrive first so therefore 2) I get in line and will get through sooner. No sir. This was the Push-Your-Way-Through 2009 Championships, where the winners got to leave a claustrophobic area and then… get stuck inside security turnstile number 3. As a matter of fact, both Scott and then subsequently I got stuck in the tight enclosed space, each of us with a random Palestinian woman to whom we each apologized profusely. Given the reality of the situation (they had been pressed forward by the crowd just as much as we had), we simply bided our time and stepped through into what a room patterned on a tank mixed with a security checkpoint at an international airport. The IDF soldiers sat behind 1/2-inch thick bullet proof glass and 3/4-inch steel armor plating, and rudely demanded the passport of everyone who went through. In addition, they had a hyper-sensitive metal detector and x-ray conveyor belt for possessions to be searched. I got through after being treated like a criminal… again while having done nothing wrong… again.

The elderly Palestinian woman behind me was not so lucky. She was having difficulties walking, and painfully stepped towards the heavily armored pod the IDF sat within with her purse forgotten around her arms. That scum who called himself an “officer” in the IDF proceeded to start SCREAMING at this poor old woman, who looked around in bewilderment, as she didn’t understand what the problem was and seemed to think that someone else was trying to do something. The verbal abuse of this woman continued, until the IDF officer realized that screaming and shouting is **GASP** disconcerting, and tried pointing to her purse and asking her to put it through the x-ray machine. She complied painfully, hobbling back over to set her purse down, and then back to begin a second argument over her ID card. Heaven seems to forbid that people in the IDF treat people like human beings, I am sorry to report.

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