I had my first trip into the West Bank today. I accompanied another filmmaker who's here working on her own proof-of-concept for a documentary. East Jerusalem and the Old City still seem a bit surreal, but they're nothing compared to Ramallah and the area around the wall. It's almost beyond description.
Going through the checkpoint into the West Bank, it's hard not to make comparisons to the Berlin Wall, ironic as they may be. One side is pristine and devoid of any character, save for a strong presence of foreboding. The other side is littered with graffiti and ruble, alive and ever changing.
Ramallah is an extremely vibrant city. For what it's lacking in some basic services (like street sweeping) it makes up for it in variety and good natured people. We sat in a cafe overlooking the central square. Although my friend Julie was the only woman in the place, we were still treated very well. However, just across the street was a reminder of just how fast the mood can change. The Al Jazeera offices are located on the top floor of the building seen above. They were recently ransacked and overrun during a protest against the network's publishing of leaked documents that didn't reflect well on the Palestinian Authority.
The journey back to Jerusalem was less than fun. It's hard for me to imagine having to cross through the checkpoints everyday, but thousands do. It took well over an hour to stand and wait for a little green light to go on, just long enough for a few people to make it through a turnstile. The soldiers sit behind thick bulletproof glass as you place you bags on the X-ray and step through a metal detector. Only when your papers check out and your bags emerge are you allowed to proceed through to another set of turnstiles.
I don't look forward to doing through the process more to get my work done, but it's just a matter of life here.