According to international treaties West Jerusalem is Israeli and East Jerusalem is Palestinian. In reality, there is no border for Israeli citizens between West and East Jerusalem. For Palestinians it is altogether different. Most of them have not citizenship whatsoever; they may have a Palestinian passport but if they want to use it to travel to Israel or abroad, they need a special permission from the Israeli authorities, and these may grant it or not, arbitrarily. They also have to ask for a special permission to travel to East Jerusalem, the part of Jerusalem that the international community in their treaties granted to a future state of Palestine. When the Israeli authorities give this permission, it needs to be renewed periodically if the Palestinian person in question wants to travel to Jerusalem again after the permission expires.

So it is a commonly accepted knowledge among Palestinians and Jews that Jerusalem is in Israel, not Palestine. This is contrary to UN resolutions and further agreements, but the rules and the practice imposed by Israel have very much established as much.

To most Palestinian people, permission to go to Jerusalem is simply never granted. Since some of the people who will give us a talk about Palestine fall in this group, international visitors who want to receive this talk need to go out of Jerusalem to receive it.

So we take a bus-taxi that will take us to Ramallah. The trip would normally take less than an hour in one of these taxis, but there is a checkpoint roughly in the middle of the journey and this delays it for as long as the soldiers please.

There is a checkpoint as you enter Bethlehem in the South, and this one, in Qalandia, as you travel to Ramallah in the north. There might be more but I know these two in the immediacies of Jerusalem.

The taxi-bus is like the one it took from the airport, only that one had an Israeli number plate, this one has a Palestinian one. The Palestinian number plates have black characters on a white background or white ones on a green background. Latin numbers occupy most of the plate, and on the right, there is a small space for a Latin ā€œPā€ and also for an Arabic letter. Israeli number plates are identical to those of the European Union. They can only be told apart looking closely. They have an Israeli flag instead of a EU flag on the left of the number, and in the place for the member state initial there is “IL”. The rest is the same.

As we approach the checkpoint at Qalandia in this taxi I see the Apartheid Wall for the first time. It really is horrible. The wall we can see from this taxi is not as high as I had imagined, probably “only” 5 or 6 meters.

Still, the worse thing I get is the sensation of destruction around it. It looks as if the road is still being built. I later find out that in fact they are ‘destroying’ the road. After about five minutes of seeing rubbish on one side of the road and the wall on the other, the road goes away from the wall. A few yards more as we continue travelling, on our left, on the other direction, I see a kind of police control where each car is stopped for a two or three seconds and then let go. Those cars seem to have been allowed to go through this checkpoint. They seem newer and cleaner than this taxi or any other Palestinian vehicle I have seen so far. Some one points out that all of those cars that are allowed to go through have Israeli number plates. There is no vehicle with a ā€œPā€ on the number plate allowed through the checkpoint.

I get the explanation that people with an Israeli ‘pass’ can go through the control with no problem, but people without that pass (specially Palestinians, but also including foreigners and any one without that special pass) can not pass through this control by car.

Palestinian cars are not allowed to pass through Qalandia. Which I imagine it means, that if a Palestinian wants to run away from the apartheid that has been imposed in Jerusalem by Israel, taking their car or furniture with them is absolutely out of the question.

There is only one way for a Palestinian to get through the checkpoint: get on a taxi, leave it at one end of the checkpoint, then get another taxi at the other end.

So our taxi stops before the checkpoint for pedestrians and we are told this is the last stop. We gather our belongings and we start walking, first among the other taxis that have had to stop and let go their passengers, then on a muddy path. To my left, while I walk on mud, is the road that no one can use except Israeli cars. To my right, next to me, is a tall fence. At the other side of the fence there is a perfectly paved road with modern buildings and car parks, patrolled by armed soldiers that look at us with indifference, while we struggle with the mud, trying not to get our feet too buried in it while we walk.

There are also soldiers on this side of the fence; they are everywhere and checking out everyone. I look around me and one soldier grabs my attention. He is pushing a Palestinian-looking boy against the fence. He beats him several times and then he leaves him alone. Just like when I spotted the boy with the strange machine gun near Damascus Gate, time seems to have slowed down, my heart paralysed while my legs continue walking without me commanding them, but my eyes fixed on the soldier and the boy. When the soldier stops beating the boy, he just walks away. My eyes continue fixed on the boy. He does not seem wounded, he just looks around and does not say anything, does not complain. I continue walking and finally look around. No one else seems to have noticed the small event.

We arrive at some revolving gates made of iron bars, three sets of them. There is only space for one person at a time. One person and a small ruck sack. Anything else needs to be thrown over the gate and then gathered from the ground on the other site. We’re lucky we are travelling together and can catch each other’s sacks. I wonder what do people do when they need to carry large things, when they need to move houses… Carrying furniture in these conditions is just out of the question.

We arrive at a small esplanade where there are a lot of taxis waiting for people who have gone through the checkpoint. So, we have gone through. We have not been checked, nor has our luggage been searched. I guess whatever goes into Palestinian territory is none of the soldiers’ business, and the sole purpose of the checkpoint exercise has been to delay every single person’s journey by at least half an hour, unless of course a soldier starts to beat you.

All the taxi men call us to attract our attention. I get conscious that what attracts them is not our pretty faces, but our foreigners appearance – which for them means lots of money; as one of my companions puts it, we are “walking money” for them.

Within days I will help with the olive harvest. Every one says that it is very nice, for the activity in itself and because the mere international presence makes it possible for families to harvest their olives, because without this presence the pressure and harassment from the military and the settlers make the task impossible.