Usage as resistanceannelys
Floris van Driel (NL, Sandberg Instituut Master student in Design) participated in the 2016 create-shop, and wrote a recap of two weeks in Ramallah.
— WHO LET THEM HONKS OUT? —
Let me tell you about my trip to Ramallah.
I traveled to Brussels airport from Amsterdam where I got checked by very cranky police men, who probably aren’t really afraid of a terror attack but just painstakingly doing whatever it is that they have been told to do. In this case I had to empty my very inventively packed backpack. This process repeated itself a couple of times, as might be normal at airports.
After a four hour flight I arrive in Tel-Aviv where a couple of things get my attention particularly. Most prominently is the sheer massive architecture of power that is the airport. The reception hall is surrounded by glass like a panopticon that allows you to look over everyone in the departure hall – like a guard. There is a massive wall that feels very imposing when you walk past it, but then there are these quite silly looking little cubicles that then apparently represent ‘The Border’. I lie about the fact that the workshop I participate takes place in Tel Aviv and not Ramallah, and with relative ease the cranky police officer lets me go trough.The Palestinian taxi driver that holds a plate with my name, drives me to Ramallah. We pass by several checkpoints and I’m shocked by the controlled infrastructure.
The next day in Ramallah seemed the complete opposite. People were walking all over the roads, with cars not being able to get through. People were criss-crossing each other, zig-zagging between cars trying to make their way to wherever it is they wanted to go. However no one seemed to mind and this is ‘just the way things are’ here — at least I suppose. Things just seemed to function well this way. You must understand that for me as a person living in Amsterdam, where everybody literally freaks out if pedestrians start walking on the street that is meant for cars, this was quite a sight to behold. Especially in contrast to what I encountered in and around the airports.
So after a couple of days, well no, more after a few hours, I started doing the same; at first a little hesitant, with my neurotic Dutch fear of actually getting hit by a car still very much in the back of my brain. Soon I felt that everything – from the non-stop honking of a horn to whole families crossing in between cars – is a form of community. Sometimes it even seemed that drivers would honk their horn just not to be quiet, and let people know that he was here at this moment, driving this car in Ramallah. This idea of expression of being here, notifying your existence, seemed a crucial one throughout the places we visited in the Westbank.
Fast forward two weeks later when we’re planning to go back to Amsterdam. We’re supposed to be picked up by a Palestinian cab driver from Jerusalem who will take us to the Tel-Aviv airport. However, this turns out to be easier said then done. It is just a couple of days before a big holiday and everyone is out and visiting or receiving family, or doing the holiday shopping. Bakery’s are packed with huge amounts of sweets filled with dates, chocolate and figs. It’s taking us forever to get past the large amounts of people walking in the streets, not to mention the insane amount of cars that are trying to find their way through the narrow streets of Ramallah. For the amount of traffic, Ramallah’s streets are really small, in stark contrast when we finally arrive to the Israeli roads. From a fluid system to a rigid one. There are no potholes in the road, no honking of horns, no dirty cars and no people walking onto the streets. It feels like any Western European city. Only the palm trees proof otherwise.
At the airport there was a shuttle that was supposed to take us from terminal 3 to terminal 1, where very thorough security checks were done. But because it was Sabbath the shuttle only ran once an hour. We asked a couple of cab drivers instead, but no one seemed to care. After a lot of nagging, convincing and a fair amount of luck we found one driver who was willing to take us to the other terminal. We ended up getting a lot of hassle by the security control because we arrived so late.
So you may wonder at this point. Ok, this was a nice little story about differences in infrastructure, and if you thought so let me be the first to say: “Thanks”. But for me this illustrates a point. Something which became abundantly clear over my past two weeks in the West-Bank, is that even though there is a lack of possibilities to move around freely, the way Palestinians use their roads can be seen as a counter reaction to the lack of movement. With pedestrians being able to walk straight over the same roundabout where cars drive in the opposite directions simply because it is shorter to get there, all the while the a-rythmic song car horns honking all over the city blows loud and clear. Dealing with all the checkpoints every day, having to answer the same question time after time, or just plainly being confronted with a wall right where someone has decided your movement ends. Choosing to oppose this rigidity with a seemingly ultra chaotic and complex beehive-like behavior, I read it as a way to resist all the limitations of movement. To ignore the sidewalks for walking and seeing the cars accepting this, can also show that there is an acceptance between both.