To grasp the complexities of daily life in the occupied West Bank, one needs to look no further than the routine of Joseph Handal, a resident of Bethlehem. Handal's day begins at the crack of dawn, at 4:30 a.m., to be precise.
His destination is a Franciscan church in the Old City of Jerusalem, just a few miles away. Under normal circumstances, this journey should be a brief 25-minute drive. However, living in the West Bank means grappling with a harsh reality where nothing is straightforward.
Handal's commute is a gamble, hinged on the unpredictability of bus services and the operational status of Israeli checkpoints. "We wait for the bus and see if it comes. If it doesn’t come, the checkpoint is closed. Right now, it’s closed.
But it may open later. Or maybe it won’t,” he explained to CNN, highlighting the uncertainty that clouds his daily commute.
Navigating a Maze of Restrictions
As a Palestinian living in the West Bank, Handal requires a permit to enter Jerusalem.
Despite possessing one, his ability to reach work is contingent on navigating at least two Israeli checkpoints. This process, he reveals, has transformed into a veritable nightmare, especially since the escalation of tensions in the region.
The trigger for the heightened security measures was an attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, which resulted in significant casualties and kidnappings. This incident prompted Israel to intensify its control over the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank.
These measures include stringent restrictions at roadblocks and checkpoints, often leading to unpredictable closures. CNN's request for comment from Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) about the increased restrictions went unanswered.
Meanwhile, residents like Handal and human rights organizations report an increase in the frequency and duration of checkpoint closures since the October incident.
The Unpredictability of Daily Life
The ramifications of these closures extend beyond mere inconvenience.
They inject a profound sense of uncertainty into the lives of West Bank residents. Mohammad Jamil, an Arabic teacher from a village near Hebron, poignantly encapsulates this sentiment: “It puts you in a position where you can’t even tell someone ‘I’ll meet you tomorrow,’ because you don’t know what’s going to happen”.
This constant state of unpredictability not only disrupts work and personal life but also serves as a daily reminder of the complexities and challenges faced by those living under occupation in the West Bank.