Dress shoes do not wear well in the West Bank, especially during the rainy season. Tuesday morning, I was headed to Ramallah from Jerusalem and traffic came to a standstill, so we set off on foot through a trash-strewn patch of mud. Just as I had stomped out clods of mud, I negotiated the Qalandia crossing, which is an obstacle course of mud puddles, sidewalk vendors and beggars. Israel does not allow busses and service taxis to pass through Qalandia, so every day thousands of Palestinians cross on foot. Women’s heels and men’s dress shoes often emerge daubed in mud, sometimes pant legs are splattered.
But where the crossing lacks in comfort, it makes up for in security: a long passageway is encased in high wire fencing and coils of razor wire, monitored by Israeli soldiers wearing bullet proof vests, Kevlar helmets and carrying standard-issue M16s, sometimes aiming them at the travelers as they hand over their passports to be checked.