Skip to main content

These are images Americans rarely see, images that express what a working life under occupation looks like – images contrasting our SUV-congested commutes with the cattle-herding backlogs Palestinians navigate to work every day.  

Images like the ones that follow are important because they reveal starkly just one of many reasons why the status quo in Israel and Palestine must change. They are important because they express a truth in visceral terms, in terms that impacts the brain's emotional core, where the capacity for language does not reside, but where our decisions are made. And they are important because they cast our own experiences in an entirely new light.

This diary has been inspired by Porter Speakman, Jr.'s recent photo essay in +972 Magazine, from which one of the following images comes.

The commentary is my own.

(Update: so sorry for pulling this while it was on the Rec. list. A Kossack pointed out that one of my images did not have a fair use copyright. The diary is now back up with a suitable replacement and a check to make sure all other pictures are in order.)

Background on this diary's formation: yesterday, as I drove with my wife and girls, beginning a holiday trip along the East Coast, we encountered late-afternoon rush hour congestion near New York City. Stuck in traffic, the girls hungry, the parents tired, we complained. We complained about our delay. We complained about all the pollution being generated, we being just as guilty as everyone else. And we complained, or wondered, rather, about how people could live like this, stuck in cars on the highway, horns blaring. So oppressive.

Then, last night, upon reaching our destination, listening to a news broadcast warning U.S. citizens about travel delays, about the hardships July 4 revelers might face, I read Porter Speakman, Jr.'s recent photo essay, and I knew one thing: this should be shared. Particularly now. As many Kossacks travel, get stuck in traffic, get lost in our narrow, congested travails on the road.

PHOTO #1: The photo below is from Porter Speakman, Jr. (who is the producer/director of the documentary "With God on Our Side") which was taken at the Bethlehem checkpoint going into Jerusalem.

Porter Speakman, Jr. 3

This is what rush hour looks like for Palestinians at dawn, many of whom begin lining up around 3 a.m. for a checkpoint that opens around 5 a.m. But some line up even earlier. I once met a Palestinian taxi driver working in East Jerusalem who told me that he would get to this checkpoint at one in the morning and sleep at the head of the line against the steel fence so as to be in Israel in time to pick up Jewish and Palestinian Israelis for their rush hour commutes.

For many Palestinians trying to get into Israel for work, this is what rush hour looks like. It consists of standing in line, often for hours, as Israeli security personnel check residency papers, work permits and medical documents (for those who need a hospital in Israel proper).

There are no HOV lanes.

No air-conditioned commutes with NPR playing softly.

No mass transit – no trains or buses or cabs to hop into that take you, door-to-door, to your destination.

And there are no rest stops or gas station bathrooms. Instead, there are holding pens, often packed tightly. And if you need to use the restroom, you must do as the men in this picture are doing: you must find a space, climb out of line and relieve yourself, then hope to be allowed back in by your fellow "commuters."

Photo #2: This picture, taken by michalska1, is from the inside of the checkpoint:

Checkpoint Bethlehem - 7

Photo #3: this picture was taken by "delayed gratification," and shows the formation of the Bethlehem checkpoint line along the security wall:

Bethlehem Checkpoint

The scenery is not a cityscape. Or a retention wall. Rather, it is the barrier separating family from family, family from friends, the barrier separating Bethlehem from points west, where these men and women are trying to commute to work. Upon the wall is one of many iconic pieces of graffiti that spans this stretch: the dotted lines of a coupon cutout, the scissors open, playfully saying, Cut here.

Photo #4: This photo, taken by tsweden, shows the reverse commute in Bethlehem:

Palestinians return from Jerusalem to Bethlehem

Upon returning home after work, Palestinians must repeat the procedure, lining up and waiting to cross back into Bethlehem, to return home. The process is not as laborious as the waiting going into Israel, but it can still mean standing, after a long day of what was most likely manual labor, for an hour or more.

Photo #5: Here, taken by jonas_k, is perhaps the image that remains as one of the most influential and inspiring for me. It is not of a checkpoint, but of what I consider to be Banksy's most iconic image sketched in the West Bank, not far from Bethlehem:

3rd intifada with flowers?

This image speaks to many things for me, but I'll leave it to stand on its own, and for it to speak for itself.

May there be resolution to this conflict, and the establishment of two states for two peoples, such that both Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims and Christians and all peoples living in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel can live in peace and security.

So that rush hour in the region will never look like this again.

Author's Note: I want to state here that, as a Jew who has been victimized by Palestinian terror, I understand intimately the security needs of Israel, and the motivations that are behind the security wall and these difficult checkpoints.

This diary is not an attack of Israeli security.

Instead, it is a statement, in images, of how things cannot continue this way, for both sides. For this is not true security for anyone.

Originally posted to David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) on Sat Jul 02, 2011 at 07:55 PM PDT.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site