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In Photos: Crossing Qalandia on the second Friday of Ramadan

on 16 Comments
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Palestinians crossing through the womens’ checkpoint at Qalandia to reach Jerusaelm, 19 July 2013. (Photo: Allison Deger)

To arrive on time it’s best not to sleep at all. Every Friday during Ramadan, Israel allows Palestinian children, elderly and women to cross Qalandia, the barrier between the West Bank and Jerusalem. The place is full of motion. People shuffling in one direction, past the mini checkpoints erected about 200 meters from the main metal bar, barbed wire, two turn-stop checkpoint.

With the influx of travelers, leaving the West Bank can eat the morning away. So the crowds start arriving, by foot from the hills of nearby Qalandia refugee camp, by bus, by car and by taxi as early as 4 am. By sunrise the stream of foot passengers (the checkpoint is closed to cars on Fridays for Ramadan) is steady, holding strong throughout the rest of the day.

Once past the ID checks, Palestinians hop in vehicles and are carted to the Damascus Gate where they blend into the streets. Then hoof it to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Soaker hoses, like the kind used for gardens, strung from rooftops mist water on everything from the waste up. Foreheads are cooled.

For many Ramadan is their only time visiting Jerusalem. The faces of elation on some children seem to scream, “I’m here! I’m here!” From Hebron to Jerusalem, from Nablus to Jerusalem—the ordinarily unimaginable jaunt across the separation wall happens. A group of girls sit in a park joking with one and another. They didn’t come to Jerusalem to pray, they came to play hooky from the occupation.

Yet the trip is not without watchful eyes. Israeli border police survey the Old City, and regularly stop the returning buses to the West Bank, detaining those whose paper work is deemed unacceptable. Detained, detained, always a possibility.

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Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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16 Responses

  1. Alex Kane
    Alex Kane
    July 21, 2013, 3:00 pm

    Amazing, and haunting, photos–particularly of the Palestinian child glancing up at an Israeli soldier.

  2. Pamela Olson
    Pamela Olson
    July 21, 2013, 3:39 pm

    If this isn’t apartheid (or worse), I’m a three-legged monkey.

  3. jon s
    jon s
    July 22, 2013, 1:32 am

    Excellent photos. This year the atmosphere is relatively relaxed, as can be seen in most of the pictures. Note, photo #6 from the top, with the Palestinian amd Israeli security men (and the Red Crescent volunteers, with nothing to do, in the background) with Arafat in the background.

    • talknic
      July 22, 2013, 3:44 am

      jon s

      “This year the atmosphere is relatively relaxed, as can be seen in most of the pictures. “

      Ah yes, so relaxed… Israeli goons everywhere with guns controlling non-Jews attempting to get from one part of their own territory to another part of their own territory

      “Note, photo #6 from the top, with the Palestinian amd Israeli security men (and the Red Crescent volunteers, with nothing to do, in the background) with Arafat in the background.”

      What is one supposed to note about it? That non-Jews attempting to get from one part of their own territory to another part of their own territory are forced to get approval from an Israeli goon with a gun?

  4. Djinn
    July 22, 2013, 4:21 am

    I see photos of people being forced to line up for hours and gain permission from gun toting goons in order to access land that is legally theirs.

    That you find it relaxing is quite telling. You have normalized the occupation so much that as long as there is no overt violence you do not see the vile Apartheid in front of your eyes.

  5. jon s
    jon s
    July 22, 2013, 6:05 am

    I’m not normalizing anything, I would like nothing better than to see those checkpoints disappear. As long as they exist, it’s good to see the relaxed holiday atmosphere. Would you prefer violence and bloodshed?
    As to getting from one part of their territory (West Bank) to another part of their territory (East Jerusalem) -that’s may be so, but only part of the story: once they are in East Jerusalem they can move freely to West Jerusalem and the rest of Israel itself. That access could be used by potential terrorists.
    Looking again at photo #6 : the Palestinian security guy appears to be explaining something to the Israeli, probably something about the woman and kid at the right.
    There is no hint of tension between them, no finger-on-the trigger, just two guys trying to work out a problem, doing their jobs. In the background, under the mural of a young Arafat on the wall, the Red Crescent youths stand around with their arms crossed. We see them in some of the other photos, assisting wheelchair-bound women.
    It’s truly a remarkable series of pictures.

  6. Allison Deger
    Allison Deger
    July 22, 2013, 6:42 am

    Jon S: The question is raised, once inside can Palestinians move easily to West Jerusalem and the rest of the city? I think not. Regularly there is a large police presence in Jerusalem, during Ramadan it is increased. Take a bus from East Jerusalem to somewhere else, border police check IDs. Try to get into the Central Bus Station, there’s a checkpoint.

    Basically, if you speak Arabic and only Arabic, you’re not getting so far inside of Israel. Remember when then borders were breached during the nakba demonstrations a few years ago? It took about a week before everyone that crossed was sent back. And people know this, and fear this. Society will detect you. And if you’re caught, first offense three months hard time. But if there is a legal misdeed from the past, you can languish for three years in prison. The risks are so high, people self-police.

    • tree
      July 22, 2013, 12:44 pm

      Thanks, Allison, for that clarification.

    • yrn
      July 24, 2013, 4:33 am


      Your information is completely false.
      As a reporter who is in the area, if you “I think not” check before you give false information .
      There are thousands of Palestinians travelling all over Israel those days.

  7. mcohen
    July 22, 2013, 7:45 am

    hey allisons got a holyland panorama

    without sounding too ….whole-range-phobic-it all looks good-well almost

    the moslem ladies all look good -nothing shabby here-well dressed,rosy cheeks

    the Israeli soldiers look clean shaven and heroic in there uniforms-rifles ready-2 magazines taped together I noticed

    everyone has there journey-some to the dome,some to the wall-but where are the Christians -how come we never see lines of Christians -not those in rome but the ordinary people like your neighbour —–just wondering

    anyway it looks good because the excitement is there -people have there own routes to G-d,the ancient streets have a history that touches everyone

    well the square concrete blocks stand out the most for me personally-the Diceman would be disappointed-no numbers

  8. dimadok
    July 22, 2013, 9:11 am

    There are hundreds and thousands of Palestinian visitors at Tel Aviv beaches, Haifa and Akko. They could go wherever they wish to, provided that they return upon the expiration of their entry permits.

  9. giladg
    July 24, 2013, 12:59 am

    Allison, why are you still in the region? Why aren’t you getting back to to your wonderful life in the US?
    And whilst you talking about access to Jerusalem, why don’t you talk about what will occur if and once an agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians resulting in two states? Arabs in Israel and/or Arabs in the West Bank will not be able to move freely between the entities. What do you expect will happen? What will you say then? Exactly, nothing.

  10. yrn
    July 24, 2013, 4:31 am


    My Comment regarding what you said was canceled.
    Guess your passed the gatekeeper……..
    Allison see’s what she knows the readers here want to read.

  11. aiman
    July 24, 2013, 5:02 am

    Is Alicia Keys going to read this? Is this better than the situation in Florida? Update on Keys: despite lecturing everyone on the “universal” healing of music and playing in Israel, Keys has lent her name to boycotting Florida.

  12. giladg
    July 25, 2013, 1:53 am

    Allison, someone told me the other day that Palestinians in the West Bank have running water in their taps once every five days. Why don’t you tell us the truth about this, for the majority of those in this area?

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