Monday, December 11, 2006

Checkpoint Aram

(picture of the old Aram checkpoint)

I'm sick of traffic.

Getting to Jerusalem every day is a challenge, and it's been getting worse with the ever-tightening walls and checkpoints being erected around it. Today was different, and I decided not to get stuck at the Chizmeh/Pisgat Zeev checkpoint traffic jam, but would take a new route (well, I used to go that way daily, before the "security" wall went up).

While regular Jewish civilian traffic made a lefthand turn at the Adam intersection on Route 60 (traffic circle), I continued straight.

Towards Jerusalem.
Towards the Ramah IDF base.
Towards the Jerusalem Airport.

And it's also towards Ramallah.

The way it used to be -- till a few months ago, you drove up to traffic circle, went 3/4 of the way around it, and continued on your way. To the right was Ramalla, and the IDF checkpoint that divided Ramalla from Jerusalem.

The Aram checkpoint.

Today it was different; I followed the signs "To Jerusalem" and arrived at a traffic circle, where to the right was Ramalla, and to the left...was the IDF checkpoint. I was now at the outskirts of Ramalla, and could have just driven in without a problem.

Well, I guess there would have a been a problem, since Jews aren't very welcome there.

Overlooking the traffic circle is an IDF concrete cylinder, with soldiers located at the top, protected with bullet-proof windows. I wonder how many suicide bombers stood at this very point, poised to cross out of Ramalla.

My car was out of place and curious Palestinians were staring at me.

Apparently, at that exact location a few weeks ago, a Jewish car was badly stoned by an Arab mob, and the IDF position overlooking the traffic circle did nothing. That car barely escaped...

So I'm stuck at this traffic circle, in traffic...Palestinian cars everywhere...and Arabs keep walking by, keep staring at me. Some start pointing to the checkpoint, and I nod at them.

Another points to me, and I notice that there's a lane blocked off with a chain. I nudge my car towards it, and a different Arab walks over and lowers the chain so I can drive through, avoiding all the other cars at the traffic circle. I arrive at the checkpoint, and the first gate goes up.

There are 2 lanes of traffic being checked, as the IDF soldiers check every single car and its occupants for weapons and bombs. I'm waiting in one of the lanes, with about 7 cars in front of me, when a green light goes on at the right-most lane. A soldier there waves at me, and I drive towards the empty lane.

As I pulled up to him, he smiled and said, "Boker Tov, Achi Hagibor" which means, "good morning, my brave brother." Apparently, only IDF jeeps go that way...and very few civilians.

He waved me right through, and I got to work, with hardly any traffic.

I haven't decided if I'm going to continue that route; I was actually in Ramalla...I used to drive through Ramalla all the time in the good old days before Oslo...before the checkpoints and the walls...before the suicide bombers.

Although I had my pistol with me, and was always no more than 20 feet from the watching eyes of IDF soldiers, I'm not sure if I'll do this tomorrow.

What surprises me is that I could have just made a right turn and driven straight into Ramalla.

What a weird way to start my day.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Olah Chadasha said...

Yes, isn't it funny how peaceful it used to be BEFORE the Peace Process started? The Palestinian towns used to be so peaceful. You could stop in Jericho for some Hummus on the way to J-town. So funny the way things go.

Anonymous said...


Of course, I guess I live in the "West Bank" too, so it's all a matter of perspective, or, as a stockbroker friend of mine put it, "risk/reward."

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Wasn't Oslo, etc., the response to an Intifaada?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Steg: Factually, the intifada was dead when Oslo started.

Cosmic X said...

Everyone knows that the Oslo Agreements brought us peace and prosperity. If it weren't for Yigal Amir and all of his knitted-kippah-wearing accomplices, Gaza would be the Paris of the Middle East.

< / stupid leftist mode>

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, 'boker tov, achi hagibor!'

Please, take care of youself.

Anonymous said...

By the way, Jameel, I have a post on the Baker report I hope all your readers will check out:

Annie said...

Oy. I'm not sure that I have your nerve.

Anonymous said...

If I hadn't met you myself, I'd say you're insane; now that I've met you, though, I don't know what to think, what with this latest development!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Eze Gibor


Lion of Zion said...

does your mother know you do this?

sobersubmrnr said...

Jameel, have you seen this?

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Okay, so the good times you're remembering were after the intifāḍä and before Oslo?

tafka PP said...

I wonder how many suicide bombers stood at this very point, poised to cross out of Ramalla.

Don't know, but you sure had a lot of help this morning from plenty of non-suicide bombers, wouldn't you agree?

For some months I've risen to the challenge you once set me and taken your "Life in the territories was better before Oslo" theory to a whole range of very diverse Palestinians, btw- it is mostly met with snorts and choice language: Although they hate the checkpoints, they don't actually connect them with "Oslo". (You can imagine what they do connect them with, I'm sure.)

Anyway- glad you're OK.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Ari: I sure hope not. Don't YOU go and tell her!

sobersubmrnr: Well, thats just great. Hizma is the way I DIDN'T go yesterday! (meaning, I avoided the rock throwing by going to the A-Ram checkpoint!)

Steg: Actually, till Oslo, I think those were the good old days. Yes, there was terrorism, but alot less, and less effective. There were less than 15 semi automatic weapons in the entire checkpoints, and much more positive interaction between all sides.

TafkaPP: I would be much happier without the walls and the checkpoints -- and the IDF should root out the terrorists with a free hand. It's unfortunate that your friends can't see that the checkpoints are directly connected to Oslo. Prior to Oslo, there were no checkpoints and the Green Line was history. Prior to Oslo, the streets of Ramalla, Beit Lechem and Kalkilya (and even Jenin) were full of Israelis all the time. Cars with license plates from Arab towns could be seen all over Israel. By importing thousands of terrorists from Tunis, and tens of thousands of weapons under Oslo, Israel brought this security catastrophe (and awful Hamastan regime) into our backyard. Perhaps once the Palestinians realize this (instead of snorting and using choice words) -- there will be SOME chance of any normalicy with them. Sticking their heads in the ground and saying the checkpoints have nothing to do with Olso is rather immature.

tafka PP said...

Well, that's your view, and they'd disagree with you and wouldn't consider themselves to be the ones with their heads in the ground. Further, most of the people I've spoken to over several months aren't actually "friends". They don't know I'm Jewish, and they don't know why I was asking. 'K?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

tafkapp: Didn't mean to imply that they were your friends if they aren't.

Im curious why they would disagree. Factually speaking, there didn't used to be roadblocks or walls...or suicide bomber mentality terrorism. All of this started in 1993.

There used to be Israelis (even settlers!) in the Arab towns all the time, buying stuff (and not harrassing anyone). This happened even during the first intifada (1987-1991)

Olah Chadasha said...

tafka, who were you talking to? Were you talking with kids of our generation, or with people who actually worked, lived, and remembered living pre-Oslo? All studies and statistical patterns show, outside of your or Jameel's anecdotal evidence, that those in their 30s, 40s, and beyond that actually experienced the full comprehension of pre-Oslo days say that it was the best time for the Palestinians in terms of employment, quality of life, and freedom. They did NOT have it that good under Egypt or Jordan. On top of that, they actually WISH that those days would be back.

So, again, who exactly were you talking to? How old are they? How many people did you actually talk to? These are extremely vital questions. Furthermore, just because THEY says that the check-points have nothing to do with Oslo doesn't make it so since all aspects of reality says that they are directly in correlation with each-other. The Oslo agreement turned out to be terrible for all parties involved, Palestinian and Israeli combined, and it brought anything but peace. Any argument to the contrary just doesn't jive with reality. Here's a hint, tafka, as to the reason for why Oslo directly correlate to the check-points, tell us how many terrorists attacks occurred in the years immediately following Oslo and all the years of "occupation" preceding it?

tafka PP said...

OC- I'm flattered, but I don't think I can be described as a "kid of our generation" by any stretch of the imagination!

Anyway. You live in French Hill, right? So instead of trying to pick holes in my argument and choosing which points are "vital" for your purposes, let me make a suggestion which might affect how you see "reality". Why don't you start learning some Arabic, go down to Issawiya or Shuafat and chat to some folks on the street? Or read their papers, watch their media? Or failing that, join one of the local Jewish-Arab groups in your area- on environmental issues, etc? Then maybe you'll hear a bit what Palestinians think and feel, as opposed to base your facts on what you've read, or what you'd prefer to think? Either way, I think that might bring you a little closer to the "reality" you seek, and you won't feel the need to challenge me or my sources.

Jameel- I brought up the financial considerations into all conversations: Some people (especially with family members in trade) definitely said they missed the days of 30 years ago when the Israelis used to come and buy. But they all hate the Checkpoints, and miss the days when there weren't any. However, the overriding commonality in all the conversations was that nothing was more exciting for them than when it looked like there was going to be a Palestinian State, and there'd be actual self-governance. And that was Oslo. Anyway, nobody, least of all me, is saying that checkpoints are a good thing. We all hate them. If you have any better ideas as to what to replace them with, I'd be interested to read them in a future post...

DTC said...

To quote Dr Seuss:

"Would you tell your mother what you did today?"

sigh...shomer pta'im hashem...

Let's be careful out there. (gratuitous Hill Street Blues quote of the day)

Anonymous said...

I love the part about Achi Hagibor..
Makes me miss and love EY so much..

KACH 613 said...

I saw this 2 months ago on the 60. SICK! How long was it like this for?

Anonymous said...

Be careful, you can be an eretz yisroel lover without taking extra risks.

Batya said...

Did you bensch gomel? Seudat Hodaya?

Gevalt! This is real aparthide, however you spell it.

Elster said...

Just saying hello because I have not commented for a while. so hi.

kasamba said...

Talk about the fork in the road!

YMedad said...

Some 15 years ago or so, we had to drive to Hebron for a brit and the person who gave me a tremp asked if I knew my way and I said yes. But I knew my way pre-first Intifada period. So, as we drove in I told to keep going straight but little did I know that they had rerouted the way and Jews had to go around downtown Hebron and approach the Bet Hadassah area from the south. But we went, thanks to my unerring sense and recall of direction, due south from the north ending up in the middle of the teeming market town city of unadulterated Ilsmaic fury, in a Jewish van, surrounded by 10,000 Arabs. And Chaim, the driver, kept saying, "ar you sure this is the way" and I said "yes, this is how I used to walk from the Memshal Building (Muqata for those in the know) to the Me'arah (the Cave). Well, since I am writing this in 2006, we survived but like Jameel, we finally came to an IDF raodblock where they were all looking the other way as no one was supposed to approach from our direction and they let us through. It was a great short-cut though.

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