This is Part Two of a 4-part series which documents the recent first-hand experiences of American Amanda Blain inhabiting the West Bank of Palestine, Jerusalem, Israel, and The Dead Sea area of the Middle East.
The driver of my taxi slowed to a stop as we reached the edges of East Jerusalem at Checkpoint 300, which divides Israel and Palestine. In a March 2019 Al Jazeera Media report, the checkpoint was cited as “the worst in the West Bank,” by EAPPI (an organization that monitors Israel’s checkpoints).
The article, entitled “Israel’s Checkpoint 300: Suffocation and broken ribs at rush hour” (www.aljazeera.com), tells stories of death, danger, and terror at the checkpoint.
I had not read that article at the time of my arrival to the Middle East in December. Thankfully - for if I had, some scary preconceptions would have convinced me to stay out of Palestine. Instead, a sense of purpose guided me as I exited the taxi. I took a deep breath and assessed the situation.
Flashbacks of repetitive terrorist reports in the media flooded my consciousness, and these words I had heard so many times echoed in my mind: “Arabs hate Americans. They are bred to hate...”
As a petite woman who often travels alone, I am naturally wary of strange men. Just a few years ago, an American aggressor on the streets of Nevada gave me a concussion. From 2013 to 2014, I lived in rural Africa, where I obeyed a strict sundown curfew enforced by the U.S. Peace Corps, “for my safety as a woman.” While I try to let my heart lead me through life, I do so with awareness that we live in a capricious world.
Before making my move through Checkpoint 300 I noticed my heart rate increase. I stood still, slowed my breath, and connected with the feeling of the earth beneath my feet.