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Jericho – The barrier keeper

2010 septembre 13
Barrier in Jericho

Isn't it adorable ? This is my barrier, close to Jericho, next to Allenby Bridge

Once upon a time, there was a barrier. In Jericho, Palestine. A lot in fact. But one is special.

I leaved Tel Aviv out of money. Just what requested to pay the checkout of Israel. It was a Friday, Shabbat’s day. I have read that border was open till 3 pm, I was there at 2 & a half. It was closed since thirty minutes.

And so here I am, in the middle of a desert, alone on this day off, with no idea where to go, where to sleep… Jericho is just a 5km’s walk, but in the Palestinian side, and hotels look expensive. First of all I need to cross the checkpoint. The gate is close. No incoming sound. “Hello? Hey? Somebody to heeeeeelp me?”. No answer. But next to the no man’s land is an open field: ‘300 yards to go’ and I’ll be in the Arabic side. And so do I.

Checkpoint between Jericho and Allenby s Bridge

Overview from my "room". The Israeli's checkpoint.

As happy as I was not to take a bullet to infringe this 43 years old quarantine, I was still wondering what to do next. I founded a road, which brings me back to the Israeli checkpoint, but on the West Bank* side. Which brings me to a barrier in fact. My barrier.

It is a tiny barrier, especially looking to the impressive checkpoint just next to it –2 watch towers, high walls and barbed wire-. My steel barrier is less than 2m high, on her lovely little wheels, and, when the night come, it close a little and quiet countryside’s road.

A 55 y.o. man spend is day in the shade of the barrier. Keeping it. Watching carefully it won’t run away. You’ll never be careful enough with those little barriers. His only task is to open it at 8am, and to close it around 11pm. It’s not paid a lot, but you must admit that it’s just the cooler job you’ll ever seen.

The barrier keeper invites me for tea. He speaks a bit of English, cause, when he was student, he worked during summers in one of the 6 or 7 hotels of Jericho. Today, only two hotels left. He is diabetic. He doesn’t play well to chess. He only got two children, cause he get married late, he needed to earn enough money first. So he spent twenty years next to Jerusalem, doing chitty jobs. He succeed to get his engineer degree. Never used it.

He doesn’t know well why the barrier is here, or he doesn’t want to tell me. What’s the point?, it’s just a barrier. In Palestine, it grows like mushrooms or palm trees grows in other countries. One day, you wake up, and it’s just there, that’s all. An other barrier.

Behind my barrier

If you guess why this road need a barrier, just send me an email please.

The barrier keeper rents me his little hut. 5 m², a few light, a few water. One of the wall touch the Israeli checkpoint. 20 shekels, half the price of any dirty dormitory. Deal. I spend the very evening in Jericho, and surprise!, there’s not as many walls as you imagine in the city. Opposite, Christians and Muslims seems quite happy together. Even if my keeper tells me they doesn’t mix. No need of a stone wall for this.

Back to my barrier with falafels, the place became suddenly busy after sunset. Kids on bicycles asking for cigarettes, or trying to sell me hashish. Old guys taking tea and sharing with me how they are living.

I slept on an uncomfortable steel bench. All the night long, cars and motos came to my barrier. My  barrier is closed. But there is no lock. Palestinian people live since long time with barriers, they know how to cohabit. Just don’t forget to close it again after you crossed.

When I wake up, Israeli’s snipers where back to their watch towers. The barrier keeper finally refused me to pay. Friends don’t pay…

This morning, he opened his barrier again, while the checkpoint remains closed for cars and buses.

*Cisjordanie en français. C’est assez moche, West Bank, comme appellation nan ?

3 Responses leave one →
  1. mark s permalink
    septembre 14, 2010

    dang! the misadventure! you really got it sweet! and yes, how true, that barriers pop up there like mushrooms and palm trees. oh man, i’m home and you’re making me away-sick. girlfriend back in two weeks, then finally sparks will fly. i have some photos to send you, of you. also some scripts. i’ll reading every word on your little-big adventure, ok? even if that means keying them into google translator. manlove! x

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