Two taxi rides gave a small glimpse into some of the daily realities of Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents — ordinary people forced to live in unordinary circumstances.
“These houses were once neighbors,” says Naseem, a Palestinian taxi driver, as we drive through the neighborhood of Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem. He points to the separation wall to our right, jammed between homes that were mere meters away from each other. “These people are even from the same families. Now they have to walk or drive around the wall and through a checkpoint, just so they can visit one another.”
Naseem, who is in his early 50’s, speaks with a soft voice and a relaxed demeanor as he drives me from Jerusalem’s central bus station to Ramallah. I would normally use the regular public buses, but an attack on Qalandiya checkpoint just a few days before has me wary of running into trouble or going through more tedious security checks.
I give Naseem the name of the street where my meeting was located, but he has never heard of it. I call my colleague in Ramallah to ask for directions, she tells us the hotel nearest to the building. “Ah of course!” laughs Naseem. Palestinians generally don’t navigate their towns by street names (if they had any); instead we ask for the closest neighborhoods, landmarks, or family homes. “These street names in Ramallah are all new,” he says. “They name them after this country or that donor or that historical person. I don’t know if anyone even uses them to get around.”
Naseem lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and six children. His family is poor, and with a high rent and daily expenses, he says it is hard to make ends meet. He doesn’t mind his job – “I like having a simple life,” he says – so long as he can support his kids and help them enter higher professions. His eldest daughter just began her pharmacy studies at university.
I ask Naseem how life has been for him in the city during the past few months. Since October, Jerusalem has been the epicenter of violence both from Palestinian knife and car attacks against Israelis, and from the Israeli security forces’ crackdowns and closures on Palestinian residents and neighborhoods. Naseem gives me the same answer I always hear from Palestinians in the city: “Hiya se’ib (it’s...Read More