Occupation Traffic: The Road from Ramallah to Abu Dis


Before you sleep, you make a little time calculation using the time your class begins, the 45 minutes it takes to get there and the one-hour you give yourself just-in-case there is occupation traffic. You jump in one of the orange Fords, along with six other passengers, after putting up a fight against other students who are either running late or worried that their own time calculations have failed them.

As you exit Ramallah and say goodbye to it’s fake polished features, you enter Qalandia or what is now referred to as area C. You can spot area C from a distance; garbage containers on fire triggering a blur in the sky, the old grey haired guy who waves with his hands everywhere in hopes of organizing traffic, and Jerusalemite cars that are stacked in a long line waiting for their turn to open their trunks at the checkpoint.

Fifteen minutes of area C is enough to bring your spirits down and you feel like you consumed all the negativity in that small chaotic space. The Ford driver has his seatbelt buckled behind his back and, at a certain point, he leans underneath it and asks everyone to put their seat belts on as well. This is the first sign that you are  approaching an Israeli controlled areas. The following sign appears as you notice the Israeli flag flying on top of the checkpoint booth. Pay attention to these signs for they help you avoid puking as the Ford tries to avoid the bumpy, shaky road furnished next to the checkpoint.

Then, you merge with the rest of the traffic. And you drive next to the cars of settlers that are usually in vans, carrying the children and wife in the back while a big bearded man who sits in the front gives you dirty looks and drives off.

You get to see Jerusalem for two minutes until the wall blocks the view. The Ford stops to turn left away from Jerusalem and it’s accompanied with agony. He turns on the radio and the news bulletins are on. The Ford driver looks at you and says, “no one wants to hear that shit, laa? I have enough misery in my life”

You part your lips to give him a smile as he changes the radio station and you both sit there listening to Nancy Ajram’s new song.

Before you reach the traffic lights, the driver slows down, aware that he will soon be approaching a parked Israeli police car. It’s always there. You see two policemen walking towards a car that they just stopped. He’s Arab, of course.

You park and wait for the traffic lights to go green. The green light appears and you suddenly feel like you both own the road as the driver begins to race the other cars in a hurry. It takes you five minutes to reach the two-way road that either leads to the settlement or area B. You enter area B and take out your wallets to pay. You are both greeted with another traffic jam and a sign that says, “Lets help make Abu Dis a cleaner place”

-Nour Hamayel

Nour Hamayel is a Palestinian living in Ramallah. She is an undergraduate student majoring in Literature at Al-Quds Bard Honors college.


  1. Sue Wood says:

    Thanks Nour for this well-written account of everyday life for Ramallah students trying to reach their university. Perhaps when you’ve finished your studies we’ll see you in London volunteering for CADFA? The more people like you come to Sue from London

  2. Sue Wood says:

    The more people like you come to London, the more people will become aware of the realities of life in occupied Palestine. Sue

  3. Well said
    Its 100% true 🙂

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