This morning started off a lot like most mornings. I rolled out of bed around 5:15, put a granola bar in my pocket, sleepily got into Abed’s taxi, and headed out to the gates. We arrived at the first gate quite early, so we found a spot around a fire with some local farmers and sipped on arabic coffee to keep ourselves warm.The soldiers arrived, opened up the gates and one by one the farmers passed.
The next gate we visited is in a village called Zeita, where typically only women and children cross to work on the land. Its become a favourite gate to visit amongst our team because the women there are so friendly. Again we arrived early, so we huddled around another fire with the women and waited for the soldiers to arrive.
Soon enough, three soldiers pulled up to the Zeita gate and began opening it up. At most agricultural gates there is one gate on the Israeli side that is actually attached to the rest of the separation barrier, then there is another gate on the Palestinian side, not connected to the separation barrier, but surrounded by heaps of barbed wire. Today, for whatever reason, the soldiers couldn’t get the second gate to open.
The soldiers each took turns coming to try their hand at opening the lock while all the women watched and waited. One woman offered some olive oil to the soldier so that he could oil the lock. He gave it a try, but no such luck. After a while, most people at the gate were laughing… soldiers, women and children alike. It was an absurd situation and everybody knew it.
The soldiers seemed to be at a loss for what to do next, but they didn’t want to leave the women and children waiting at the gate, so along with some of the local Palestinian men, they tried a few different ways of helping everyone to cross. Eventually one of the soldiers and one of the local men managed to crush down some of the barbed wire to the left of the gate, putting a board over top of it so that the women and children could cross. One soldier stood at the barbed wire, held women’s bags or buckets, and helped them to climb through.
Usually, taking photos at the gates you have to be quite subtle with your camera. If you get caught snapping photos by the wrong soldier, they will confiscate your camera and delete your pictures. Many of the photos featured in this blog so far were taken by a camera hidden half inside of someone’s pocket. Today, after all the women and boys had crossed, one of the soldiers told my team mate that we should take pictures of what happens at the gates and send them to the UN, adding that he doesn’t want to be at this gate any more than the women do.
I’ve been feeling a bit weighed down lately. Little things pile up and sometimes it’s hard to see what kind of solutions could ever emerge from this mess of a situation. Today alone we’ve heard of two people shot, several needing medical attention because of tear gas, the gates of the a nearby village were sealed off, and someone was attacked by a settler. There are many things about the occupation that are absurd, but there is no doubt in my mind that persistently compassionate people exist on both sides. This morning was a good reminder of that.