With The Palestine Papers on my mind, I start my journey “home” from “work” in al-Ram, on the other side of the separation wall. I climb on the Palestinian taxi and we drive along the road lined with grim realities on both side; to the left massive concrete blocks and agonizing graffiti block our view, on the right ghostly shops ravaged by the separation wall’s presence stand counting the days.
Qalandia checkpoint—I get off the bus, press past children selling black market goods for a quarter or two, squeeze between the metal human corrals and gates built by Jews, x-ray myself and my bags with Tel Aviv technology and prove that I’m a “legal” human being to teenagers with M16s.
Once validated, I escape to the safety of a Palestinian bus with Israeli license plates. I pay my ticket fare to the “Arab-Israeli” driver, slip on my headphones and try to disappear into Fairuz. We start making our way towards Jerusalem, past the same concrete blocks that cast shadows on the other side–on this side the wall is empty and silent. Passengers divert their gaze as we make our way past the Israeli checkpoint guarding the illegal Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, the new light rail cutting through occupied East Jerusalem, the demolished Shephard Hotel in Sheik Jarrah… until we reach Damascus gate.
Now at the junction, waiting for a green light at the cross walk where settlers and Palestinians freeze, up the hill across the former green line, huffing and puffing I make it to the Israeli Interrogation Center a block from my house. I pull out the keys to my tiny apartment on Yaffa Street kiss them unconsciously and drag them across the iron prison fence. Past the coffee shop packed with American-Jews drinking cocoa, into the alley lined with Jerusalem’s best bars and up the stairs to apartment 18.
Here, the road “home” is never easy.