Tasting life under occupation

An Episcopal priest from Illinois writes about his experience visiting, and trying to get out of, the occupied West Bank. Robert Cotton Fite describes what it was like to stand in line for hours only to be denied entry and then finally to be let in with the help of a sympathetic Israeli.

Waiting in line at a West Bank border checkpoint, intimidated by the prisonlike atmosphere and frustrated by the Israeli soldier denying me passage back into Israel, I got my first real taste of what it’s like most days for thousands of Palestinians. There I was, having just enjoyed visits to several Palestinian towns, looking very much the harmless, middle-class American tourist, with what I was sure were the right stamps in my passport, being told I could not re-enter Israel nor continue my trip to Nazareth.

I gave the young soldier my best surely-you-don’t-mean-me look. Then, a polite request to “please call a superior officer.” All to no avail. I would have to return to “wherever I came from.”


On this trip I was trying to understand a life under occupation.

For a caretaker at a Jerusalem nursing home, it meant that a daily trip that should take half an hour instead takes two to three hours. For a Palestinian father of five, a Jewish holiday meant “closure” of the border and the threat of a lost job when he could not get to Jerusalem for work. For a man in his 60s from Zababdeh whose identity papers would not allow him to travel to Ramallah for the heart surgery he needed, occupation meant “borrowing” his cousin’s identity papers to gain passage through a crucial checkpoint.

Read: Robert Cotton Fite: A glimpse at a life in line: For Palestinians, a tense daily grind.

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