Saturday, October 30, 2010

At 5:45 a.m., on October 25th, we walked out the door to go to Zaytoun, a pedestrian checkpoint located east of the Old City of Jerusalem. At the checkpoint we count the number of men, women and children who pass through the checkpoint. Because Zaytoun is a pedestrian checkpoint, no cars drive through, everyone who lives on the east side of the Wall gets dropped off and then they walk through the checkpoint to the other side. Why the Wall is here, in this particular place, is not germane to the story, but I will note that it was built more than 3 ½ miles beyond the internationally recognized border of Israel.

Laborers, teachers, school children, professionals, everyone who lives on the east side of the Wall, must pass through the checkpoint to get to their jobs or schools. When we arrive at Zaytoun, we cross to the east side of the wall so that we stand on the same side of the checkpoint as the Palestinians who must cross through the checkpoint. This is what Zaytoun looks like from where we stand:

As checkpoints go, Zaytoun is a one of the better ones – if you can ever describe any checkpoint as one of the “better ones.” Zaytoun is fairly new, it’s not dirty, it’s not dark, it doesn’t have the same smell of desperation and despair that is prevalent at Qalandiya –a story for several other entries.

On this particular day, the sun is shining brightly, there were four I.D. Booths open, and there were no lines at the turnstiles. As the Palestinians approached the checkpoint we were greeted in Arabic and English, with nods, smiles and lots of giggles and grins by the students.

We had been there about an hour when a woman approached with her two little girls in their school uniforms - beautiful little girls, with large brown eyes, shy smiles, and carefully brushed hair. They were probably 5 or 6 years of age; they would be in Kindergarten or First grade in the United States. It made me think of walking my kids to the bus stop and waiting with them for the bus to arrive when they were that age.

As this woman approached with her two daughters, I assumed that she was going to go through the checkpoint with her two little girls, as many other parents had that morning, and accompany them to school. As a result, I didn’t watch as they approached the turnstile, but instead turned to continue counting people as they approached the checkpoint. When I turned back, this is what I saw:

Her little girls are just passing through the turnstiles. If you look very closely, you can just see the head of one of her daughters in front of the little boy in the blue shirt with the baseball cap on his head.

The mother could not cross with her little girls, because she does not have a permit that allows her to cross. She has to remain on the Palestinian side of the wall. Yet her concern as a mother, for the safety of her children, is evident in these pictures.

In this next picture, her daughters have moved through the turnstiles and are waiting at the ID booths to show their identity cards, which establish their right to cross, and pass through the metal detectors, which will allow them to go to school. If you look closely, you can see the mother on the left side of the picture, standing against a turnstile, which is not open today. She is watching to make certain, the best she can from where she has to stay, that her little girls get through the ID booth and metal detector with no problems.

This next picture shows the mother standing at the top of the entrance of the checkpoint, watching to see if her little girls safely get on the bus that will take them to school:

This is her life and the life of her children, day after day, week after week.

Remember, today was a day when the sun was shining. It wasn’t cold, it wasn’t raining. Remember that today there were no lines – some days there is only one ID Booth open. Some days no one passes through the turnstile for 30 minutes or more, with no explanation. Some days people are pulled to the side interrogated and searched, and not allowed to pass.

So today was a good day for this mother and her daughters.


  1. Wow that 's so heart breaking as a Christian, mother, grandmother, lover of children.

  2. Hey Donna, Thanks for the story and the pictures. Perhaps you should think about becoming a photo-journalist! I cannot imagine not being able to walk Nora to her bus and on top of that knowing she must go through more steps amid 'unfriendly' people where I could not be with her!