Bethlehem checkpoint and barrier

The first time I walked through the Bethlehem checkpoint felt like an emotional kick in the stomach. The way in is a very long and slightly curved tunnel made of metal bars. Then, a series of turnstiles and rooms which all have a cold, metal, fluorescent feel, in which peoples’ IDs are checked. Suitcases and bags are put through a metal detector like in an airport. When I offered my passport to the guard, she told me with a very irritated tone of voice that I had no visa. I thought back to my passage through customs at Ben Gurion and remembered that I had been given a slip of paper with a rubber stamp on it which I gave to the customs officer when I left, and that it looked different from all the other slips of paper in the officer’s hand. I told the checkpoint guard that story, hoping it would explain why I had no visa. Maybe they had given it to me separately only to take it away immediately afterwards? She continued to try and argue with me, with gestures of anger and impatience, as if to say, “What am I to do with you?” but then just waved me through.
Later, when I was relating the story to some friends, I thought to open my passport, and there, clear as day, was my visa. The whole uncomfortable scene had been useless, and probably purposefully fabricated. The exchange was Kafkaesque; a subtle sense of surreality and instability pervaded my whole trip, as aspects of daily life that I take for granted at home proved to be unnecessarily complicated and arbitrary.
Here is a quote from Hollow Land, Eyal Weizman’s book about the architecture of occupation: “Chaos has its peculiar structural advantages. It supports one of Israel’s foremost strategies of obfuscation: the promotion of complexity – geographical, legal, or linguistic.”

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