Skies of Apartheid

The apartheid wall cuts deep into Palestinian territories.

By Jana Aljamal

The soft summer wind screamed “homeland.” The smell of freshly watered soil screamed “homeland.” The faded sound of the neighbor’s donkey braying screamed “homeland.” 

No moment is more precious than that when I looked to my left side to see my father filled with joy in the driver’s seat, and then looked to my right to see the mountainous and pristine nature of Jerusalem. 

If you look hard enough, across the mountain, you can spot a golden dome flickering like glitter as the sun rays hit its surface. That, my friend, is the Dome of the Rock Mosque. It might seem so close, but believe me, it is as far as one can imagine. 

I stuck my head out of the car window to take a glimpse of a mise-en-scène that is forbidden to my kind. The wind carried my hair in front of eyes and distorted my vision. Yet, every time I was able to get a glance from between my hair strands, my heart pumped blood into my veins a little harder. 

Right in that euphoric moment, my father grabbed my shoulder to pull me back in my seat. I bumped my head on the way in, and just like that, he had just ruined my romanticized vision of Jerusalem. 

Before I looked at the road ahead of us, I turned to my father, devastated: 

“Why would you do that? You hurt me!” 

He smirked and sarcastically said: 

“I should have left you outside and let the sniper hunt you.” 

Confused by my father’s remarks, I looked ahead to experience, firsthand, humanity’s worst crimes. I found myself free yet imprisoned. I found myself breathing yet suffocating. I found myself liberated yet humiliated. 

The immense apartheid wall reminded me of the confinements and restrictions we face daily in our occupied land. We were driving next to a walled-off settlement at the same time. In a small tower at the end of both walls stood a sniper with a Tavor X95 rifle cocked and ready to fire-off at any moment. 

It was not the sniper nor the Tavor that shook me to my core; it was the vast concrete structure. It transformed the movie-perfect scene of Jerusalem’s mountains into a dystopian reality. 

The structure was very high and kept drawing towards us, suffocating us minute by minute. Although it might have taken us only a couple of minutes, the road seemed unending to me. I thought I might have developed vertigo; the separation wall kept growing higher and the roads kept stretching further. 

The summer breeze disappeared, and all I could smell was the cheap asphalt and the sewage that was dumped on the street. All my romantic notions of Jerusalem were gone at a snap of a finger. 

To ease my tension, my father pointed upwards and said: 

“Look at how beautiful the sky is today.”

I took a glance to see the only thing that this apartheid wall cannot take away from me, the blue skies of Jerusalem.

Jana Aljamal is a journalism and INS student