The fear the general had talked about was a shackle for every
Israeli, hanging round their future. It put a block on life. Life continued,
but with the drag of anxiety. And then thered be a heartstopping
boom across the valleys and the fear flooded back and took
over as you tallied where everyone was. Family first: kids, husband.
Then friends. Colleagues. After that you give yourself the all-clear
and push back the fear and out into the normal again. You feel bad
being callous, but you have to carry on, as normal. Everyone does.
How different everything had been when wed arrived in Israel:
the hope, the landscape, and the future. I had been changed by
living here, stuck between the two communities, Israeli and
Palestinian, moving from one to the other, hearing from each side
about fear and hate and rage, facing the same things but as an
outsider, and finding myself torn between the two.
The day before seeing General Gilad I was in the Occupied
Territories.* Perhaps that was where the tire had acquired its puncture,
not as I drove eastward on the new broad settler roads on the
long detour around the new Security Barrier, but on the rough
roads for Palestinian traffic as I looped back again to reach al-Quds
University in Abu Dis, a suburb on the edge of Jerusalem. I was
there to meet a German friend, Daniel, and wait for him to finish
giving his lecture on graphic design before we headed off to
Hebron. To the east of al-Quds lies the Judean desert, to the north
and west the city of Jerusalem. Not far south, along the line of
hills, is Bethlehem, with the city of Hebron beyond.
One ofDaniels Palestinian university friends, also waiting to see
him, came up and said hello. Ghassan and I sat on a low stone wall
in the spring sun under the olive trees of the campus grounds. Beyond
us, on the sports fields, construction workers and cranes were slotting
together towering slabs of concrete to form another wall, the wall.
The rest of Abu Dis, and Jerusalem, lay on the other side.
We looked across the valley at the winding wall, and at the
new Israeli settlements going up amid the remaining Palestinian
areas, and at the roads linking the settlements that are not for use
by Palestinians. We must go the long way round, said Ghassan,
if we are allowed to move at all.
Ghassan was born in Jerusalem, not far from where we were
sitting, at the hospital where I had worked, but the Israeli authorities
classify him as a Palestinian from the territories, a West
Banker, and therefore a Palestinian not entitled to live in
Jerusalem. His wife, who is also Palestinian, and who, like Ghassan,
works at al-Quds University, is defined as a Jerusalem resident.
The Israeli law does not allow us to live together, Ghassan
explained.* They used to live as a couple, breaking Israels rules, in
their home in the Jerusalem suburb of Ras al-Amud, but now there
is the Wall physically dividing them. Ghassan has to live with relatives
on the West Bank side of the Wall, in Abu Dis.
Its the control thats the worst. Israel controls every aspect of
my life: where I can and cannot go, when, whether or not I can
get to work, what roads I can use, even whether or not I can leave
my house. They will not let me build on the land that remains to
methe settlers have taken the rest. With their wall and their
permits they want to cut me off from my family, my friends, and
my city. And my wife.
Can you go to Jerusalem to visit her?
He frowned at the question but said very slowly: They wont let
any Palestinians into the Holy City without a permit. Ghassan was
formal, somber. Part of his voice had anger in it, but he held it in a dark
place and what I heard was sorrow. And you can only have a permit,
in theory, if you are over 29 and are married and have children.
And youre not? He didnt look very old. His black hair was
cut short and square, his clothes were pressed and neat, his shoes
polished, with a tidemark of todays dust about the toes.
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