Sunday, July 13, 2008

Crossing the border into the West Bank

Bethlehem. What to say about Bethlehem?

It took us six hours to cross the border. Six hours. Because we told them -- the guards behind their glass walls -- that we wanted to see Bethlehem.

There was no bathroom at the checkpoint. Hundreds of Palestinians, waiting in long lines, and no bathroom. Crying babies. Crying mothers. Crying children -- too old to use diapers, too young to understand.

Israel is one of the most advanced nations in the world. It's wealthy. It's efficient. And yet, it took the soldiers hours to process a single family. After each individual was questioned, and prodded, and finally given the okay, the guards would take a break, and leave the others waiting.

A man in the line next to ours asked: Do you see? This is what we go through. Every day. Because we are Palestinian.

It was hard not to get angry. Not for myself. After all, this is not my life. I am not trapped in this hell of lines and questions and guards. I will spend my few days in their country, and then I will leave. But angry for the people around me. For the pointless chaos, and hassle, and tears. For the degradation of begging your enemy for the dignity of a toilet.

The woman behind us -- with her blue Chicago Cubs baseball hat, and crying baby girl -- was American. Palestinian-American, but still American. But they do not care here. It is not the color of your passport that concerns them, but the color of your blood. The ethnicity you can't hide.

I want to yell at the guards who come near us. Want to slap their faces. Want to shake them out of their complicity. Don't you see? -- I want to yell -- don't you see they're human?

But so are the soldiers. With their young-scared-children faces. With their strawberry colored hair and new uniforms.

It's our first day, one girl says, shaking her head apologetically. She looks so lost. I want to tell her it's alright. That I understand she can't help us. But I don't. Because won't that be aiding and abetting the enemy?

So I say nothing. Show my stony-faced disapproval.

And so doing, separate my humanity just a little more from hers. Add to the war of "us" versus "them." Of dehumanization and separation. Of walls and glass prisons.

I fail to extend love. I fail to be Christ.

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