Yesterday, we decided we wanted to go to Nablus. Simple enough, right? Not in the occupied West Bank. But thanks to my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Katie’s knowledge of the Muslim commentators of Aristotle, we were golden. Let me explain.
We started off the day leaving Beit Sahour at 7am with our driver, but as soon as we got to the first checkpoint outside of Bethlehem, we realized they were not letting anyone from Bethlehem leave. No reason; there was nothing that happened in Bethlehem the previous night to warrant any kind of action like this – they just didn’t want people leaving Bethlehem. This happened all day, because when we came home at 6pm the same night, they still weren’t letting anyone from Bethlehem pass the checkpoint.
After about two hours, we arrived at the Hawara checkpoint to get into Nablus. When we called our contact in Nablus, he suggested that our group split up into two groups to get through the checkpoint. He told the first group to say they were going in to do some medical research and the second group to say they were doing research on education and going to An-Najah National University. Now, many people have different opinions on the ethics of getting through checkpoints and dealing with the Israeli army. I’m of the opinion that you simply say what you think you need to say to get through. So, the first group of 3 people left, and they were going to use the “medical” story. Katie and I waited about 5 minutes and then proceeded to the checkpoint, and as soon as we got close, a guard pointed over to the right (where a guard was talking with our first group) and said “Over there…go over there.” So, we went over and pretended not to know the first group. As I walked up to the guard, he looked at me and said, “Let me guess. You are a tourist and you want to go see Nablus…” I said, “Yes, but we are going to the University to do some research” and then Katie chimed in with some talk about Aristotle. He didn’t look impressed, and asked if I had a cell phone, to which I replied “Yes” but I really shouldn’t have because sometimes they take cell phones, and sometimes they make you call people (our other group had to call the General in charge of that checkpoint to get permission, but he kept saying “No.”).
It was at this point of the morning when I realized something: “I really need to go to the bathroom.” Those of you who have been readers of my blog for awhile, may know that I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (thanks dad) – but whatever, you just deal with it. But at this moment, right when we were talking to the soldiers, I realized that I really needed to go. So I asked the soldier, “Hey man – I’m sorry but I REALLY have to go to the bathroom, is there one here I can use?” And he pointed me in the direction of the bathroom and so Katie and I walked over there. On the way, I casually asked another guard “Is this the way to the bathroom” and he said “Yes” and started walking with us, asking us where we were from, etc. As I squatted in the Israeli checkpoint bathroom, Katie started wooing the soldier with her knowledge of Aristotle when he started asking why we were trying to get into Nablus. As soon as I walked out of the bathroom, Katie said, “Okay, he said to just walk this way,” the soldier waved us through, and we walked right through the checkpoint.
Just like that.
Our other group got denied into Nablus the first time, and after debating paying close to 200 shekels to try to go to another checkpoint, they decided to just try walking back up and pull the “Hey, you let them through, what about us?” routine – but as they approached the checkpoint, they realized that there were no soldiers looking at that moment, and they were all busy, so they just started to slowly walk through the checkpoint next to where the cars were coming through – just like that. They walked right through the checkpoint. But they wouldn’t have known that they could have gotten through if we hadn’t gotten through.
So, when it all comes down to it, we have my IBS and Katie’s knowledge of Aristotle to thank for an amazing day in Nablus. (More on Nablus to come tomorrow)