Returning to the Scene of the Grime

As soon as we turned onto the road into Jenin, my stomach turned. My head knew that everything would be fine; but memories linger and tend to overrule common sense. The crossing at the Green Line near the village of Jalame held some intense emotional resonance apparently.

We had spent three and a half years in the area during the second Intifada. So crossing this checkpoint was always an unpredictable, and sometimes harrowing, enterprise. We almost always prevailed and were able to cross in whatever direction we wanted to go - almost. But negotiating with fully-armed soldiers pointing M-16s at you with tanks rumbling by isn't exactly a stroll in the holy land. No wonder those nerves came screaming back.

Right before we left, the Barrier had started going up - a good quarter of a mile inside the Green Line. Since then, the area has been transformed into an industrial crossing. I hardly recognized it when we arrived this time, having just recently been open to non-industrial traffic. The guns and bulletproof vests were still in evidence, but unlike my previous experiences, there was no one in military fatigues. We passed in a matter of minutes with nothing more than a cursory glance at passports.

Coming back through promised to before complicated, as we would be crossing back into Israel. We were sidelined over to an area where German Shepherds were eagerly searching cars in front of us for explosives. They took the guide, driver, me, and one other off the bus. I figured we'd be questioned separately about our whereabouts. Instead, we were guided into a room which acted much like an airport security check: emptying of pockets, running all of that through an x-ray machine, and walking through a metal detector. Our "interrogation" consisted of a young Israeli woman who asked us a lot of superficial questions so that she could "practice her English." And then we were off.

It's hard to explain, because in many ways, things feel so much better and quieter. Especially in the Northernmost West Bank, where there no settlements to speak of, life is certainly much less stressful than it was. But life still feels like it's on hold, waiting for political settlements to be enacted. And in that way, things haven't changed at all. The powers that be still can't seem to muster any kind of moral vision to get past these blockades and find a way across.

One thing has changed for sure; my shoes certainly stay cleaner at the crossing these days.