Rammalah and Qalandia

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Rammalah and a poster of Resistance leader, Marwan Barghouti

In relative terms, Ramallah seemed modern and progressive. Busy and vibrant and full of commerce. The Palestinian National Authority is based here, women seem to interact more freely, most, not wearing ha jibs, drinking coffee and smoking shishas in modern restaurants and cafes. Shops and home showrooms here sell expensive items – fitted kitchens, furniture, electronic equipment etc etc. As well as that here’s paintball, bowling, galleries and we visited an arts and crafts fair which featured Murad and his friend Fayez. They were talking about their farms and selling produce. I used this oppurtunity to jump on a bus 15 mins down the road to Qalandia. There, is another refugee camp and one of the biggest checkpoints in the West Bank. Qalandia really needs its own section here. Most people who pass through here are residents or visitors of East Jerusalem. Access isnt granted for anyone though. The only people who get through here are people with permits to work or visit. Both are hard to get. Being caught without either equals jail and a large fine. As with a lot of checkpoints and settlement access points, theres lots of Palestinians trying to sell things. Traffic moves at a snails pace, so theres plenty of time to be offered quilts, balloons, flowers, drinks and windscreen cleaning services. Id seen pictures of this place before but its different up close. Its the picture of distopia. Bleak, grey, imposing and grief stricken. The wall is plastered with art and messages from Palestinians and international activists. People pass through and transfer onto different buses with their heads down. Its the closest thing to what I imagine an old concentration camp looking like. That may be a cliche and even insensitive to say but its impossible to describe without drawing the comparison.

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