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The Long Road to Bethlehem: Part two

In part one, Jewish journalist Mya Guarnieri concludes she can no longer live in Israel, that love cannot survive being separated by an eight-meter concrete wall. But navigating Palestinian society as a Jew and living with the haunting tribulations of the occupation isn’t any easier.

Mya
Guarnieri

Click here to read part one.

I was sold on the apartment. But my landlady wasn’t sold on me yet.

We went upstairs and sat in her salon. Once a porch, it had been closed in with glass windows and offered a view of the hills surrounding Bethlehem. It was one of the few vistas that wasn’t ruined by the occupation. There was no wall, no checkpoints, no military bases, no settlements.

As my landlady took her seat across from me, she handed me a small, wrapped hard candy. She apologized for not offering me coffee. I realized how much she needed to rent the first floor out.

“You aren’t the first to come see the place,” she began, adding that she’d turned the last applicant down because she suspected that he was a Jew. Under no circumstances would she rent to a Jew.

She looked at me, her gaze shifting from one of my eyes to the other, as though she was trying to read what was behind them. I understood that she was waiting for some sort of a reaction. I smiled.

“Happiness is more important than money,” she continued, explaining that it was important to her to find the right person for the apartment. The house was special to her—not only because she’d grown up in it but also because it had witnessed so much of Bethlehem’s history.

The cornerstone was laid in 1808 when someone built a tiny, stand-alone room next to the well. Several other one-room houses followed, making a half-moon around the well, creating an open-air courtyard. In the early 1900s, the cluster of rooms was turned into one large home. The courtyard was closed and the second story was built. New floors were laid with the hand-painted tiles common to the Levant—a reminder of the years when trains connected Beirut and Damascus to Jerusalem and Jaffa.

But those days didn’t last. The Middle East was carved up, including Palestine. During the Nakba, my landlady’s family left Jaffa empty-handed: her father lost his business; they lost their money, home, and belongings. Christians, they fled to Bethlehem where they had roots and family. A few years later, in the early 1950s, they moved into the first floor of this house, a once-wealthy family of seven crammed into two bedrooms.

But the place emptied as her brothers left to find work abroad—the West Bank’s economy wasn’t great and it only got worse under the occupation. Thanks in large part to the remittances her brothers sent back to Palestine, her family scraped together enough money to buy the whole house. Eventually, my landlady followed in the previous owners’ footsteps, moving upstairs and renting out the space beneath her. In the beginning, many of her tenants were students who came from other Palestinian cities and villages to attend Bethlehem University. But as the occupation deepened—a process that was facilitated by the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority—the economy all but ground to a halt and Palestinian tenants were increasingly unreliable.

During the hard days of the Second Intifada, when Bethlehem was under siege, the first floor was full of stranded students who couldn’t pay rent. After that, my landlady decided only to rent to ajanib, foreigners. She began to rattle off the list of recent tenants, telling me their names, their jobs, where they’d come from, and why they’d left Palestine. Most of her renters had had cushy NGO gigs. I didn’t tell my landlady that I wasn’t collecting a foreigner’s income; that my wage was set by the PA’s scale and that I was making the same as a Palestinian professor would. Another reason to leave Jerusalem—I couldn’t afford it on a West Bank salary.

An olive tree in front of the Israeli separation barrier in Bethlehem. (Activestills.org)

An olive tree in front of the Israeli separation barrier in Bethlehem. (Activestills.org)

“I must ask you,” she said. “What is your religion?”

“I don’t see how that’s really relevant.”

“What is your religion?” she insisted.

“I’m secular,” I said.

“Because, me, I’m Catholic.”

“That’s nice.”

“And I’m from Palestine,” she continued. “Where are you from?”

“America,” I said.

“No one’s really from America—” she began.

“—except the Native Americans,” I interrupted. “You know, the Indians.”

“But, clearly, you’re not Indian,” she smiled. “So where did your people come from?”

“My people?” Since I was young, I’d always answered such questions by saying “I’m Jewish.” Clearly, I couldn’t say that now. I unwrapped the candy, put it in my mouth, and smoothed the wrapper out on my knee. I imagined the square before me as a map; I mentally traced the circuitous route my Sephardic and Ashkenazi ancestors made.

I realized she was waiting for an answer. But all the countries my people had passed through seemed loaded. As I went through the list in my head, I became more and more convinced that naming any of them would reveal my Jewish background.

“My people—oh, you know, they’re from here and there. Everywhere, really. I’m very mixed.”

She glanced at the wrapper on my knee. I crumpled it up, used my fingers to push it into the palm of my hand.

“Part of my family came from Italy,” I said. “Guarnieri.” Though I was usually annoyed by it, in that moment I was glad for this remnant of my first marriage—an Italian last name. Different from the one my Italian ancestors on my mother’s side had carried, but Italian nonetheless.

“Now I have a question for you,” I said. “My husband will be spending part of the week with me. Is that okay?”

Some Palestinian landlords forbid female renters from having men over—it was best to check in advance. My partner and I had also decided to say that we were married as few people date openly in Palestine.

“Is he really your husband?” my landlady asked. “Or your boyfriend?”

“Well, we’re planning to get married,” I answered, mentally adding to the end of the sentence: if his family will approve.

“So he’s your boyfriend.”

“Yes,” I said, in Arabic.

“How many boyfriends do you have?”

Both the feminist and the old-fashioned lady who live uncomfortably together inside of me balked at the question. But I knew that I had to answer it. “Just one,” I said.

“Some of these foreign women have a different man coming over every day,” my landlady said, shaking her head. “I can’t have that here. The neighbors will talk. But if it’s just one boyfriend—and your relationship is serious—ahlan wa sahlan.”

Welcome. I’d passed the interview. The place was mine if I wanted it and provided I would stay for at least a year. Could I promise her that? How long had I been here? What was my visa situation?

I told my landlady that I’d just signed a two-year contract at the university and that I wasn’t too concerned about the bureaucratic issues.

“The Jews don’t like foreigners, you know. Four, five years and no more visa,” she wiped one palm with the other. “You’re done.”

I nodded.

“How long have you been in Palestine?”

“Over six years,” I answered, wishing I were a better liar, rushing to add that I’d been working as a journalist.

That seemed to satisfy her curiosity. But, in the months that followed, she would put things together. And later, during the 2014 war—after we’d lived in the same house for almost a year, after a visitor mistook us for mother and daughter, remarking on our similar features and frame and coloring, and after we’d felt our shared home shake when rockets hit the earth—my landlady would come into my apartment and ask: “You’re Jewish?”

***

My daily commute from Bethlehem to Abu Dis meant that I had to pass through a checkpoint referred to as “the container.” Deep in the West Bank, it is one of many internal checkpoints that divide one Palestinian area from another, contradicting the Israeli argument that the checkpoints are about security. They’re about crowd control and the container offers a prime example: it stands in the middle of the only road that links Ramallah to Bethlehem, or the center of the West Bank to the south. If the army closes the container—and it does on rare occasions, like during Israel’s 2012 attack on Gaza—it effectively cuts the West Bank into two, separating the south from the central West Bank.

Checkpoints also make the occupation more efficient. A relatively small number of soldiers can control a large population when that population is being slowed down, funneled through checkpoints, and surrounded momentarily by guns. Because once you’re through, you don’t forget about what’s behind you.

Israeli soldiers man an ‘internal checkpoint’ separating Palestinian cities, West Bank. (Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers man an ‘internal checkpoint’ separating Palestinian cities, West Bank. (Activestills.org)

You carry the images with you: the guns, the sight of the olive green uniforms, the sound of tires bouncing over spikes. They’re like the kind of spikes you find in a parking garage that you wouldn’t pay any mind to as you rolled over them but here, you feel them—ca-duk, ca-duk—the sharp sound of metal on metal, like a gun being cocked, like a lock being turned around you. From your seat you imagine their sharp metal teeth behind you and underneath you, and you know that there is no throwing the car into reverse and going back to that open stretch of road. You’re locked inside the checkpoint now and you’re surrounded.

You carry the images with you: the night you were in a service taxi and you saw a human being hogtied and blindfolded on the shoulder of a road, surrounded by soldiers, his car idling empty nearby, the driver’s door still open. The sounds of gasps rippling through the service taxi.

The checkpoint was so off-limits to Israelis that there wasn’t even a sign saying it was off-limits.

Even once you’ve passed, you feel like you’re always surrounded by guns and gasps. The sights and sounds might come back to you at any time, for no good reason. You could be having lunch with a colleague, you could be helping a student with the rough draft of her essay, you could even be laughing, and suddenly you hear the ca-duk, ca-duk of tires rolling over the spikes, you hear the gasps. You see arms stretched behind a back, hands bound, a blindfold.

No need to send more soldiers to the West Bank when they live deep in everyone’s subconscious.

***

I came to find internal checkpoints much more frightening than the one I’d passed when I lived in Jerusalem for another simple reason: in the West Bank, anything could happen. Anywhere. At any time. Especially at the checkpoints.

I knew this intellectually before I moved to Bethlehem. But I didn’t understand it fully—with my insides, in my heart and in my gut—until one hot afternoon at the tail end of summer.

I was headed to Ramallah to attend a former student’s wedding. I shouldn’t have been going. I’d been sick for over a week with a horrible stomach flu. I couldn’t keep anything in my system and had survived the past 10 days on little more than chicken broth, pita, and water. Eating sent my digestive system into spasms, causing excruciating pain. Drinking wasn’t much better.

I shouldn’t have been going, but this was no ordinary student. She was one of my smartest, most hardworking, and most moral. She was at once opinionated and open-minded. She was also unswerving in her faith, not in a dogmatic way but in a spiritual sense. Her total trust in God gave her the serenity and self-confidence of the enlightened.

Even though she was only 19 years old, I looked to this former student as a role model. When she hand-delivered an invitation to her wedding, I was so touched and honored to be invited that tears came to my eyes. I’d told her I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

She’d emailed in the days before the wedding to strategize about how to get her conservative family to allow my partner, Mohammad, to accompany me. It wasn’t acceptable to bring a boyfriend to the wedding. There was no dating in the West Bank. And she couldn’t tell them that we were married. She would have to say that we were engaged.

Is that okay? She wrote.

Mohammad and I decided it was.

I’m so happy you’ll be a part of my special day! She responded.

Sick or not, I intended to honor my word.

Already exhausted and dehydrated, I’d deliberately dehydrated myself a little more for the service ride to Ramallah. Otherwise, I ran the risk of having a bout of diarrhea on the way. I figured I’d catch up on my fluids once I got to the wedding, where there would also be a bathroom.

You carry the images with you — the night you saw a human being hogtied and blindfolded on the shoulder of the road.

It wasn’t appropriate to ride public transportation in an evening gown and high heels so I put my dress and shoes in a shopping bag and placed it by the front door. Despite my condition and the searing heat—the last gasp of summer—I dressed for the West Bank. Donning long sleeves and jeans, I headed to the bus station.

My head was already throbbing by the time the service taxi rounded the last curve above Wadi Nar and approached the container. Even though the soldiers usually waved the services through or ignored them altogether, I was nervous. If they checked IDs, I could be arrested. The container was so off-limits to Israelis—that is, Israelis other than the soldiers that manned the checkpoint—that there wasn’t even a sign saying that it was off-limits.

An arrest would threaten the life I’d built in the territories. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to make it to the wedding if I was detained.

A Palestinian service taxi passes through an Israeli army checkpoint in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

A Palestinian service taxi passes through an Israeli army checkpoint in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

But the soldiers didn’t even look when we entered the checkpoint. We rolled through the container. As the service taxi bounced over the second set of spikes, ca-duk, ca-duk, I relaxed—enough to realize that I’d left the bag with my dress and shoes by the front door.

I couldn’t go to the wedding dressed in jeans. But going back to Bethlehem meant that I would be late. And I was sick. I wasn’t sure my body could handle the additional time on the road. Meanwhile, the service taxi was moving, taking me further and further away from Bethlehem and my dress.

Unsure of what to do, I texted Mohammad who confirmed what I already knew—I had to go back for my clothes.

I cursed aloud then explained in Arabic, “I forgot something, my dress, at home. I have to go back to Bethlehem.”

The driver stuck his arm out the window and flagged down a van headed our way. It wasn’t a standard service taxi. It wasn’t yellow, with the registration and the driver’s information posted inside the vehicle but, rather, an old, unmarked white van, a gypsy cab. These are common in the territories, where there aren’t enough service taxis to provide for everyone’s transportation needs. The unregistered, uninsured vans are also a symptom of the West Bank’s depressed economy. The unemployment rate hovers around 20 percent; van drivers are trying to eke out a living.

Palestinian workers enter an unlicensed service taxi in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers enter an unlicensed service taxi in the West Bank. (Activestills.org)

I was in luck—the van was indeed headed to Bethlehem. I got out of the service taxi, the driver telling me “ma salaama,” go in peace, and boarded the van. It roared through the village with the windows down, music blasting. I was the only woman in the van and the men, who all seemed to know each other, made shouted conversation over the noise.

As we neared the container, the men stopped talking and the driver turned the music down. The van slowed. We were all silent, as though we were holding our breath. The tires rumbled over the first set of spikes. Ca-duk, ca-duk.

We were inside the checkpoint again, the same one I’d gone through just a few minutes earlier. But now we were being pulled over. How can this be? I wondered. I was just here and the soldiers weren’t checking anyone.

It was arbitrary. And that’s one of the most fearsome, unsettling aspects of the occupation—the arbitrariness of everything.

When the van stopped, a soldier opened the door and sized everyone up.

“Min wen?” From where? He asked the driver in Arabic.

“Abu Dis.”

“A wen?” To where?

“Bethlehem.”

The soldier asked, in Arabic, for IDs. I didn’t bother taking mine out—every other time soldiers had asked for IDs at the container, they’d only wanted the men’s. Sometimes they said “shebab” (young men) only; most of the time they didn’t bother to specify as it was understood that they weren’t concerned about the women. Sexism usually worked to my advantage at the checkpoints.

The man nearest the door collected the IDs from the other passengers and handed them over. The soldier flipped one open and then put it in the bottom of the pile. Again.

He was halfway through the stack when he said, in Hebrew, “You, too.”

“Me?” I asked, in English. I wasn’t playing dumb American—I didn’t know if the soldier was, indeed, talking to me. He hadn’t taken his eyes off the IDs.

“Ken,” yes, he said. Again, without looking up.

As I opened the front pocket of my black leather backpack, I noticed that my hands were shaking. Worried that this would make the soldier suspicious, I willed them still as I pulled my passport out and handed the document over.

He flipped to the page with my name and photo.

I prayed he wouldn’t look any further than that.

He didn’t. He closed the passport and returned it to me. I relaxed, thinking that I’d passed the test and that, when the soldier finished looking at the other IDs, he’d hand them back and we’d be on our way. Instead, he held the stack.

“Close your windows,” he said. He shut the door and walked away, towards the booth and the shade, where several other soldiers stood.

The driver rolled up his window and the passengers shut theirs, as well. I did, too. The sun beat down on the van. The air thickened around us, smothering me. I retched, my stomach clutching at nothing and bringing up nothing. The throbbing in my head intensified. I needed water, air, shade.

Years before, in Florida, I’d once had a heat stroke when I’d exercised too much during the wrong time of day and I was certain I would have one now if we didn’t move soon or at least roll down the windows. I realized that, if I did have a heat stroke, the soldiers were unlikely to call an ambulance. If they did, it would take a long time to get to the checkpoint and then to a hospital. And, in the meantime, I would still be in the heat.

The thought came to me: I could die here, in this van. I laughed aloud. The stupidity of it all—to be going anywhere in this state, with this flu, that I’d intentionally dehydrated myself even more, that I’d forgotten my dress, that I was in the middle of the West Bank at a checkpoint manned by soldiers of a country that didn’t exist 100 years ago. What a ridiculous way to go, I thought.

I laughed until I gagged and then I retched until there was bile in the back of my throat. I swallowed it back down. From the closed window, I could see a water cooler and plastic cups on the soldiers’ shaded benches. I got out of the van and asked, in English, if I could have some water.

“You can have a little if you have a cup,” the soldier said, in Hebrew.

“Of course I don’t have a cup,” I argued, switching to his language. “Please. I’m sick and I’m going to be very sick if I don’t drink something.”

“Find a cup,” he insisted.

“It’s not possible.” I stood there. Even if they wouldn’t give me water, at least out here I had air and could cool off a bit.

“Get into the van,” the soldier ordered me.

“But—”

He jerked his rifle towards the van. “Go!”

I went. I climbed in, closed the door. I sat and asked my companions, in Arabic, if anyone had a cup. No one did.

“I need to drink something. I’m sick and it’s very hot and my head hurts and I think I will die.” The sentence was overly dramatic because my vocabulary was limited—I didn’t know how to say “dehydrated” or “heat stroke” in Arabic. Still, the driver turned around and looked at me. How did I appear? Pale or flushed? Was my face sunken? The bags under my eyes black?

Whatever the driver saw, it was enough to make him get out of the van and argue with the soldier until he managed to secure me a cup of water. He got back into the service and handed it to me. I choked back tears as I thanked him and thanked him and thanked him. I sipped the cup of water slowly for fear that I would vomit if I drank too fast.

Forty-five excruciating minutes passed. A soldier approached the van. He opened the door and tossed the men’s IDs in. He didn’t say a word. None of us said a word. The driver started the engine and, as the van began to roll and we bounced over the next set of spikes, we all opened the windows.

And just like that, we were moving again, and I was gulping the air.

***

When we arrived in Bethlehem, I tried to pay the driver. He refused to take my money. He called me an “angel” and explained that he and the other men were certain that things would have been worse at the container if I hadn’t been with them. As though making us sit inside a closed van in the heat for an hour hadn’t been enough. As though exhausting us and stealing our time hadn’t been enough.

I tried to run home but couldn’t—my head hurt worse with every step. I moved as fast as I could while trying to keep my head as still as possible. I went inside, got sick in the bathroom, grabbed the bag, and headed back to the bus station where I boarded another Ramallah-bound service.

I looked for some sort of sign or evidence that we’d been there, that something horrible had just happened to us.

The container again. The soldiers didn’t even look at the service. I knew it was irrational, but I stared out the window at the spot where the van had just sat for nearly an hour, baking in the heat. I looked for some sort of sign or evidence that we’d been there, that we’d been held for no reason, that something horrible and inhumane had just happened to us.

But there was nothing. It was like we’d never been there. I realized that the people who had come through the container after we’d left would have no idea that we’d been forced, on a soldier’s whim, to sit in a van with the windows rolled up. All of the checkpoints, I realized, were littered with the invisible remnants of others’ stories.

Several months later, a Palestinian from Hebron—Anas al-Atrash—would be shot and killed at the container. In the days that followed, when I would go through the checkpoint, I would look for some sort of trace of the incident, a mark upon the land, some sort of change, a sign that the earth had absorbed a human being’s blood, that the occupation had taken another life. Right here.

But there was nothing. Just soldiers waving service taxis through, ignoring them altogether or stopping drivers and searching cars. Business as usual. Ca-duk, ca-duk.

***

Ramallah at last. I couldn’t feel my legs as I propelled myself toward Mohammad’s office, walking as fast I could without running. I felt weak, my body diminished, my head heavy and bobbing with each step. I gripped the shopping bag and focused on the way the paper felt in my hand and the crinkling sound it made when I moved my fingers. I didn’t hear the traffic or the vendors or the conversations on the street.

We were late to the wedding. I spent much of the reception in the bathroom, sick. But when it was time for all of the guests to put their gifts of gold jewelry on the bride and to pose with her and the groom for a picture, I pulled it together.

I didn’t have gold with me but, rather, cash. At every wedding I’d attended in Israel, there’d been envelopes and a box. I searched for one now and was surprised that couldn’t find it at this posh reception in one of Ramallah’s nicest hotels. I realized how out of place I was here in the West Bank. Sure, I might have Palestinian friends and a Palestinian boyfriend and a job at a Palestinian university. I might speak a little Arabic and soldiers might occasionally mistake me for an Arab at a checkpoint. But I would never be Palestinian and I would never really belong here.

We mounted the stairs to the small stage the bride and groom sat on. I leaned in toward the bride, handed her the rumbled wad of cash, and apologized for being so late. “I forgot my dress. And then there was a problem at the checkpoint,” I said.

She nodded.

I put my arm around her and whispered my love and congratulations. Mohammad stood next to the groom. We all smiled for the photographer.

As Mohammad and I got off the stage and took our seats at one of the round tables, I imagined what that photo would look like. I thought of how strange it would look next to an image of the van at the container, how strange that I could be suffocating and retching at a checkpoint one moment and then smiling at a wedding just hours later.

My life felt at once raw and real and removed from reality. My head swam as I tried to make sense of it all. I shouldn’t have touched Mohammad in public, but I took his hand and squeezed it to remind myself that this—us—was the biggest reason I was in the West Bank. And that our love couldn’t survive with a wall between us.

But could it survive like this?

Later my former student wrote to me: So, are you sure that you and Mohammad will get married? Because many men asked my family about you after the wedding…

[Top photo: A view of olive trees and a stone home near Bethlehem. By: Mariait/Shutterstock.com]

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      Lets see. Maya has no qualms about renting from a person who is racially prejudiced against and will not rent to Jews. Maya has no qualms about telling lies, many lies; tells several lies hiding her history and Jewishness in order to rent a room from a person who would be described as anti-Semitic.

      Then she has to lie to get her Palestinian boyfriend into a wedding of a 19 year old student.

      It is often said that an omission is like a lie. Mya mentions the death of a Palestinian, Anas al-Atrash, from Hebron at a checkpoint. What she omits about the death of Anas al-Atrash that he was killed trying to knife an IDF soldier. The IDF had stopped and searched a vehicle suspected of transporting drugs when another vehicle pulled up and a man jumped out with a knife and advanced on the IDF. He was shot and killed.

      In the days before Anas al-Atrash’s “martyrdom operation,” Allah-Trash posted numerous messages on Facebook suggesting he planned on killing himself. “We belong to God, and to him we shall return,” and “Certificates from secondary school and university, master’s, and doctorate… all will go down the drain on the first night in the tomb…”

      Mya did not mention these things.

      But Mya did say:

      “Later my former student wrote to me: So, are you sure that you and Mohammad will get married? Because many men asked my family about you after the wedding…”

      I wonder if Mya told the truth or lied again. For sure she would not have told those men she was Jewish or divorced.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Pedro X, when you rent in Tel Aviv or Haifa or Jerusalem do you interrogate your prospective landlord as to whether he would rent to an Arab person? And when he says no you refuse to rent from him? Your hypocrisy is limitless. The soldiers at the checkpoints, with far too much unsupervised arbitrary power over others handed to them, treat human beings with arbitrariness, contempt and with outright sadism that has nothing to do with security but with subjugation but that’s ok with you. And you presume to lecture Mya Guarnieri on racism and dishonesty?

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          If a landlord in French Hill or Haifa told me he would not rent to Druze, Christians, Bedouin or Arabs, I would not rent from him. Period.

          Mya was told by the Bethlehem landlady she had refused to rent her apartment to someone she suspected was a Jew and would under no circumstances rent to a Jew. Mya accepted this racism as acceptable to her and lied to deceive her landlady about her ethnic background. If this makes Mya look both racist and dishonest, it is because it is true.

          I wish that Israel did not need checkpoints to protect itself against unrelenting attempts to harm Israeli civilians and members of its police, security services and soldiers. I wish that Israel could hand over checkpoints to civilian operators so that young Israeli soldiers would not be faced with making decisions who to stop and search and who to let through with the waive of a hand. However, we can not expect civilian operators, older and well trained, to face gun attacks, suicide or pipe bombs carried by children, knife attacks and Molotov cocktails at any given moment.

          What might seem like an arbitrary stop to Mya, such as stopping an unregistered passenger van while letting properly registered taxis through quickly, might be the result of the van being unregistered or the soldiers having information to be watching out for such a van carrying militants, criminals or contraband.

          Dani Dayan, former head of the Yesha Council, made a bold proposal in 2014 which would lead to the dismantlement of checkpoints and roadblocks, the taking down of the wall and the complete opening of the Israeli labor market to Palestinians of all ages. His plan also called for the economic stimulus of the Palestinian economy. He called for an end to COGAT and its replacement with civil authorities. Until the checkpoints could be cancelled, Palestinians would deal with civil servants, older and trained to facilitate movement, not to retard it.

          The plan would be implemented in stages and each stage would be dependent on Palestinians stopping attacks, stopping incitement and glorification of terror and resuming normal relations with Israel, Israeli business and civilians.

          Unfortunately, Palestinians have not responded to his proposal. They would rather have dead Palestinians and checkpoints than trying to have peace on the ground.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Oh yes how “interesting.” Dayan is a “Jordan is Palestine” fanatic whose incoherent one state scheme is in reality meant to perpetuate the status quo indefinitely until the hoped for day when the Jordanian monarchy falls and Israel can then somehow transfer “responsibility but not sovereignty” of West Bank Palestinians to Jordan while retaining complete sovereignty over all the land west of the Jordan River, with the same Palestinians in it. A long cherished hard right fantasy. Those lucky Palestinians would get to vote for a government in Amman while Israel would still rule their lives and their land. This would be like the USA occupying northern Mexico and the Mexicans get to stay but their government is in Mexico City and is “responsible” for them (whatever that means–which is nothing) while the USA has total sovereignty over the land of northern Mexico. Yes it’s as gauzy and incoherent as it sounds. In other words Dayan as far as I can tell is an exceptionally deceptive (and he’s got a lot of competition) extremist masquerading as somebody more innovative and enlightened. It’s not population transfer its responsibility transfer and sovereignty retention, best of both worlds. In the end what Dani Dayan is after is a more subtle form of apartheid. And he’s not even religious. He’s just a nationalist who thinks because he’s Jewish he has a right to rule over another people. And in his case he can’t even claim religious messianic delusions, only pure ethnic-tribal-nationalist feeling and entitlement. And why tell me in 2015 should the world grant Dani Dayan and his minions some unique exemption from the otherwise accepted rules against modern day colonialism?

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Lightbown

            “What might seem like an arbitrary stop to Mya, such as stopping an unregistered passenger van while letting properly registered taxis through quickly, might be the result of the van being unregistered or the soldiers having information to be watching out for such a van carrying militants, criminals or contraband.”

            Never short of an excuse for Israeli bad behaviour. So why might they have ordered all the windows to be shut on a hot day? Why might the soldier have refused to give a sick woman some water to drink after she had been kept in a hot, stuffy, confined place on a hot day? Why have you not provided excuses for these inconvenient details?

            “Unfortunately, Palestinians have not responded to his proposal. They would rather have dead Palestinians and checkpoints than trying to have peace on the ground.”

            The plan needs to be adopted by the Israeli government before the Palestinians can respond. As usual you are blaming the wrong party.

            As for your concerns about Mya’s fibs, wouldn’t it be more appropropriate if you, the most consistent liar in these comments sections put your own house in order first?

            But tell us more about this principled refusal to rent from a landlord/lady that would not rent to Arabs ? (Incidentally Druze and Bedouin are Arabs, as are, I presume, the Christians you refer to.) I am genuinely intrigued by this statement.

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    2. Joel

      “I was sold on the apartment. But my landlady wasn’t sold on me yet”.

      Didn’t Mya tell us this landlady story once before?

      Was it so good that is bears repeating?

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      • Pedro X

        Yes she did. But she told a different story, omitting her landlady’s anti-Semitism and her denial of her Jewish identity.

        She also told another version of being checked at a checkpoint in the first rendition of the long story about the road to Bethlehem.

        Next time she will have another story or two how she came to rent an apartment or how she escaped detection at a checkpoint.

        Maybe she will throw in a reference or two to a cock crowing when she lies just to add a little Christian interest to the story.

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    3. Bruce Gould

      This morning in the New York Times there was an article titled: “Push For Buses on Sabbath Sets Off Debate in Israel”:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/26/world/middleeast/push-for-buses-on-sabbath-sets-off-debate-in-israel.html?_r=0

      There isn’t a single word on the opinions of the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian, nor is there mention of the fact that 25% of Israeli citizens aren’t Jewish. The Palestinians don’t really exist, you see.

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    4. Hannah G

      Great story, Mya. Keep up the good work. The behavior of the soldiers at the checkpoint: well, power corrupts. We Jews are no different. As many have observed, the occupation has a deeply corrupting influence on all of Israeli society and this process is actually accelerating now. It’s frightening to watch this now spinning into a no going back kind of situation.

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    5. “All of the checkpoints, I realized, were littered with the invisible remnants of others’ stories.”

      Well written, with several little gems like this one.

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    6. CDWard

      Israel:

      – is an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State”;

      – has been stealing, occupying and colonizing Palestinian land and
      oppressing, torturing and killing Palestinians for over 60 years;

      – refuses to honour its obligations under international law;

      – refuses to accept responsibility and accountability for its past and on-going (war) crimes; and

      – refuses to enter into sincere negotiations for a just and mutually-beneficial peace.

      See http://www.ifamericansknew.org and http://lawrenceofcyberia.blogs.com/photos/maps/landloss.html for more information.

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    7. Ab

      I understand your landlady’s unwilligness to rent to jews, although I disagree with that stance. The oppressed should not be required to like and accept their oppressors to not be called racists. Having said that, distinctions should be made. People like you are the cream of the crop of Israeli society, and they are a rarity nowadays. Those people are fighting against injustice every day at the risk of losing close relationships and being constantly harangued simply for advocating for equality. They also have the advantage of belonging to the “correct” ethnicity, which gives them the power to affect change from within. These are the people that we Palestinians should be working with, rather than rejecting them simply for being born into the group who happens to be oppressing us. You mention that your landlady eventually suspected you were Jewish. I am curious as to what happened next. I assume you are still living there? I hope that during the time she got to know you, she learned that there are good people on the other side too, and that they deserve to be treated with respect and equality.

      Your story is heartbreaking throughout. You are being a witness to how the occupation devastates lives while having to navigate and comply with the expectations of a very conservative society in which you feel you don’t belong. I hope you you can pull off that relationship with the man you love. Moving together to Canada or the US will definitely help, although it might not be easy for your boyfriend. Your story confirms to me the urgency to liberalize Palestinian (and Arab) societies. There are lots of secular progressive Palestinians in the diaspora but within Palestine it’s a different story. Fighting for progressive values in Palestine should happen at the same time as fighting against the occupation and for equality. The first one should not have to wait for the second to end before it starts.

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    8. Richard Lightbown

      This tragic tale of love in the time of the occupation is exquisitely written and describes a very honest, personal and human aspect of a great injustice. It is an important testimony. I hope Mya will sometime write the book that this deserves to be.

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    9. Sylvia Norah

      To be honest I didn’t read a single negative comment about Jews in this article 🙂
      If caring for the people around you and making the best of a situation means doing something anti-jewish, this would mean that the only way to be a self-respecting jew is to be unsympathetic, thoroughly-politicized and unkind, I am happy that most of the actual jews don’t qualify 😛

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    10. Jane

      Compelling and gripping writing. Find your story really interesting to read. thanks for telling it.

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    11. Leo

      A very moving story and paper.

      But what happened when the landlord came back to ask you again,
      “are you Jewish ?”

      PS: at the beginning, I felt annoyed that you lied to her. But while reading further, I thought that there may be times when you let the other discover whom you are without having to tell beforehand.

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