The Notorious Khalil Checkpoint
We approached the Israeli military checkpoint at 1 pm in the afternoon after an afternoon of learning about apartheid policies and dictates in Al-Khalil (Hebron).
We saw the marketplaces that had been shuttered due to settlement expansion including the Gold Market of Khalil which was welded shut because the Israeli settlers above wanted to build a basketball court for their children. We were told about the shop owners who have been offered millions of dollars to leave their shops and continue to stand firm.
The Israeli soldiers manning the military checkpoint in front of the Ibrahimi Mosque tried to tell us that it could be dangerous for Jewish members of our delegation to enter the marketplace and mosque. So we simply said we were a group of Muslims and Christians.
When leaving the marketplace, we were stopped at another checkpoint manned by barely twenty year old Israeli soldiers. They let us through one by one but threatened our tour guide, saying that if there were any Jews with us he would be in trouble. Again the privilege of our American passports was not lost on us as we wouldn’t be in any trouble but our tour guide would be.
Finally we had to drive through an Israeli settlement to exit the city further entrenching the idea of how run down Al-Khalil is compared to the green grass and new buildings of the illegal settlement. We approached the checkpoint and an African Israeli security contractor approached the bus. But he was ordered by an Israeli soldier to back away as she ordered our Palestinian driver to go to secondary screening.
When our driver and tour guide returned from secondary screening a security guard boarded the bus. He asked several times: "are you sure they are all Americans?" He went through the first few passports not pausing when he reached my passport he stopped, looked at my face looked back at the passport and started making a call. He then announced the whole group would have to get off the bus with all of their belongings and passports to be searched.
The whole group went through a metal detector and put their belongings through a checkpoint. A momentary panic came over those who recalled that they purchased a lot of Palestinian paraphernalia in Khalil our tour guide told us all to remain calm and simply put our things through the X-ray.
Next to us a young Palestinian man was having his car thoroughly searched including with bomb sniffing dogs.
30 mins later the ordeal was over and ironically one of the soldiers told one of our delegates enjoy your trip in Israel like we had ever left!