I naively thought that once I'd been through one big checkpoint, I'd be able to face any of the others. I was a little surprised that going through Gilo checkpoint just outside Bethlehem actually affected me more strongly than going through Qalandiya 2 days earlier. This checkpoint is famous for a massive "Peace be with you" sign once you pass through, put there by the Ministry of Tourism.
The atmosphere was very tense. This was partly due to some protest singing which I won't go into here, but it meant that the group I was with were very concerned for the safety of the Palestinians in our group and for the other innocent people who happened to be going through at the same time. Compared to Qalandiya, there were far fewer people - it was around 5pm and I suppose it wasn't 'rush hour' yet.
Whilst soldiers stood on railings and walkways above me, I stood in line closing my eyes to the scenes around me and trying to pray, but I found it so hard. We got to the other side comparitively quickly, partly thanks to a new window opening up just for us internationals - which many of the group shunned. Waiting, opposite the final windows, I sat and tried to see where God was in all of this. When I'd tried to pray, I couldn't feel any sense of his presence, I was overwhelmed by this sense of hopelessness, futility and aggression. (Not my aggression, but that of the soldiers who have so much authority in their hands.)
Waiting for the others to come through I prayed again. This time I could see more clearly that we were the presence of God in that place - people like us who wanted to see the truth for themselves. That he was there in the people monitoring the checkpoints. The people who patiently wait, day after day to get through. In the grafitti on the walls outside.
It's not hopeless and he is there.
This video was made by an EA last year and shows the route through the checkpoint. I still can't watch it without being moved to tears.