A better world is possible



Under construction


We enter Ramallah via Jerusalem, the holy city of sacred narrow streets through which more blood than rain has flowed for thousands of years now. A labyrinth of wrath and faith.

We have crossed the main checkpoint into Ramallah without a hitch, not even having to show our passports. Because our Arab taxi driver is of Israeli nationality and that is the magic pass: Palestine is his.

On the other side, however, a long line of cars wait their turn with stoic uncertainty. Some will eventually cross the Calandia border while others will have to turn back.

So we have crossed into Palestine without delay, not realising we were entering the biggest jail in the world: an open air prison covering some 1,200 square kilometres. All of Palestine is strangled by this wall which has fractured the territory into four parts: the Southern West Bank, the Northern West Bank, Jericho and Gaza, two islands floating in a sea of barbed wire, and the Holy City itself, Jerusalem, off limits to an overwhelming majority of Palestinians although it is part of their destiny.

In spite of everything, on the sides of the roads, next to the concrete blocks and the electrified fences, the delicate flowers of the almond trees form the fragile metaphor of a Palestinian spring which never seems to arrive.

Abdellatif Mohammed – PARC Programme and Project Director (Palace Hotel, Ramallah, Palestine)

A great deal of the cultivated land has ended up on the other side of the wall, so the farmers.... cannot... visit, cannot cross to the other side and cultivate their land.

Adnan Al-Ayoubi – judicial interpreter (Marnilu Audiovisuales, Madrid, Spain)

A very high wall which separates Palestinians from Palestinians. It doesn’t separate Palestinians from Israelis so it isn’t there for security, but it’s there to take away more and more land from the Palestinian West Bank, and this is something that anyone can check on their own, any investigator or observer that visits the Palestinian territories. It’s a wall that separates Palestinian from Palestinian. A security issue? Not at all!

Voice over

We head to the valley of Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, the miraculous breadbasket of Palestine. It is here that the NGO CERAI is implementing its development cooperation project with PARC. Israeli settlements sprinkle the mountain slopes. 400,000 colonists live in the Palestinian territories. And the key to this seemingly senseless state of affairs is more strategic and coveted than oil. We are talking about water, the vital natural resource for the development of both nations.

Abdellatif Mohammed

Here the rural areas suffer from a lack of water. Water which is essential for life, which is essential for the development of agriculture. It’s a big problem. Because the Palestinians control... less than 23%, between 17 and 23%, depending on the year. If the rains have been abundant, we can dispose of up to 23% of our renewable hydraulic resources. But when the season is dry, the priority is for the Israelis and the West Bank Jewish settlers. In this case, Palestinians can only consume 17% of their own renewable resource, and the rest is used by the Israelis.

Voice over

PARC is a Palestinian non-governmental organisation, fully dedicated to rural development and it is also, in spite of itself, an organisation of humanitarian aide. When there is a curfew in the cities, or when the economic blockades reach their most brutal consequences in Gaza, where 80% of the population now live below the poverty line at less than one dollar a day, PARC distributes agricultural produce in the urban centres where most Palestinians live. Many mouths to feed, indeed.

Abdellatif Mohammed

The project is going to improve food security for families and also the social importance of women, because women are going to be helped to produce... their own food, food for their families, so the social status of women is going to be improved.

Tamam Musa – CERAI project beneficiary (Family farm, Der Ghazaleh, Palestine)

The project helps us with the water problem. God willing, all this area will be farmed, cultivated by my family and for my family... And we will sell the surplus produced. As you can see, there’s a little greenhouse. It costs quite a bit to keep it running. This project is going to bring a network of water to the area, and it will provide us with self sufficiency in food production. And what we have left over, we’ll sell at the local markets.

Najla ‘a Salamy – Women’s Association President (Family farm, Der Ghazaleh, Palestine)

We want to have a future, and God willing, a prosperous future for my children. That they can study whatever they want. Whoever wants to be a lawyer or an engineer, whatever. That’s what I’m hoping for. Also, that when my children are older there is no longer any occupation, that they can move around freely. That there be no obstacles, or military controls. We want quality education, universities of our own that are here. We don’t want to have to send our children away.

Teresa Aranguren – Journalist and writer (Semana Negra Conference, Gijón, Spain)

Let’s say that... when people start coming out of their houses after 3 weeks of round the clock curfew, where they could hear the screams of the wounded bleeding to death in the streets, without being able to help them, because anyone who leaned out a window or tried to leave their homes were shot at... And while the Israeli excavators were demolishing, day and night, the houses in the refugee camps, they knew there were people under the rubble.

Voice over

Before leaving the area, we go through what was once the Jenin refugee camp, a reservoir of terrorists according to the Israelis. During the military offensive of 2002 it became a cemetery of rubble and mourning.

Teresa Aranguren

What the Arab women was telling us as she offered our group of Europeans a bottle of water, was: “I am the owner of the house, I am your hostess. I am an Arab woman. And we can’t allow that a group of strangers who came to see me... that I can’t offer them anything to drink! And this was in the middle of one of the most terrible moments that I’ve seen the Palestinian people experience. Total desolation, total destruction, and the woman’s gesture of standing tall and saying “Here I am. Don’t destroy me. I am the hostess.”

Voice over

We expected to find a monument to desolation but the refugee camp has emerged from its ashes as a modern neighbourhood recently rebuilt with funds from Dubai. The capacity of Palestinians to cope with adversity seems infinite.

It was sunset when we left Jenin. A few kilometres from the city the Annaba military checkpoint causes an enormous backup of traffic. It is one of the strictest control points of the West Bank. Getting out of Jenine is no easy task. It is not difficult to imagine that the frustration and humiliation that the Palestinians endure, day after day, can lead to bloody outbursts at any time; that a driver who undergoes such pressure every day can lose his cool and attack a military checkpoint.

Abdellatif Mohammed

In the Palestinian territory of the West Bank there are more than 550 military checkpoints which prevent normal mobility. And there are many, many unemployed.

Voice over

I didn’t see the moon in Ramallah

It is buried in La Mukata

Along with the sacred corpse

Of the Palestinian Authority

Now useless in this

Valley of tears

In the crypt of the Prophet

Two statues with machine guns

Guard the silence of the flowers

And in the cavern of the sky

They beg the shrouded moon

To return from the depths,

The dark is so cold,

And the veils of the widows freeze,

There is so much to illuminate in Palestine.

Adnan Al-Ayoubi

Yasar Arafat knew the Israeli leaders very well, and during his siege in Ramala, there’s a phrase he repeated in Arab. Now I knew Yasir Arafat, I used to translate for him, I knew how he thought, and when he said something from the heart, I knew when he was saying it. When he said “They don’t want peace, they don’t want peace”, he was speaking from years and years of experience, and he knew that the Israeli leaders didn’t want real peace.

Voice over

From the Mount of Temptation of Jericho, one can see the moving beauty of the Jordan Valley, a journey to the origins of memory with biblical melodies heard in the background. From the oasis comes the perfume of the Queen of Sheba, softening the deserts of King Solomon. Verses from the Song of Songs bask the afternoon in the ancient palm groves and a soft line of blue mist profiles the horizon. It is the Dead Sea, buried at 400 metres below sea level. The waters upon which floated the fishermen of souls is off limits to the Palestinians.

There’s a tourist complex on the shores of the dead waters. It is an Israeli business. Unbelievably there’s a swan in the bay. It may be made of plastic, an imitation of life in these dead waters, but the white swan elegantly approaches the camera. This swan is Nassar, two solitary and strange beings, far from the virtual reality provided by this setting.

Nassar Hamdan – French teacher (Hotel Palace, Ramala, Palestine)

There are many families that are suffering. There are some 12 to 13 thousand prisoners. You can imagine their families, their parents, their children. Yes, life is very difficult. In my own family, my mother has been imprisoned for the last 5 years...

Voice over

Nassar has one of the saddest expressions I have ever come across. A deep expression of anxiety runs through his silences. Five years ago, when his mother went to visit her aunt in a small village near Nablus, the Israeli army raided the home and detained a cousin of hers for pro-Hamas militancy. Along with him, the Israelis detained several family members, including Nassar’s mother. She’s been imprisoned for five years now, with no judicial rights. Like her, some 13 to 14 000 Palestinians watch their hope wilt away in the dark Israeli prisons covered by the military justice system. Nassar’s mother barely knows her seven year old son who can only visit her once every six months in a 45 minute emotional marathon which takes place behind thick pannels of glass. The child does not know the smell or touch of his mother.

Nassar Hamdan

Imagine the situation: you haven’t got a job. You have finished your studies and you can’t find a job. You’ve got a lot of brothers and sisters. And maybe your mother or your father is in prison. You haven’t got anything. That’s not a life... People... in that type of situation... they turn to extremes... either through religion, or through drugs... to be extreme, religiously or through drugs... Yes... There are people who believe in that.

I had a friend who blew himself up. He’s a martyr. He’ll go directly to heaven.

Voice over

Friday is the holy day for Muslims. With hardly any traffic of vehicles or people, the empty streets exhibit a grey and silent lethargy. And it is then that you notice the facades of the buildings illustrating the Palestinian tragedy and its dead. The posters of the faces of the martyrs, intact or in shreds, cover the walls and the billboards of the city. They are images which stun and which send shivers down your back, the cold terror which accompanies violence. Portraits of youth who are going to embrace death, as in a wedding picture, and who are in fact already dead. They cover these walls of grey and ash.

Nassar Hamdan

We don’t have an effective way of fighting the occupation. We haven’t got any planes, or helicopters, or weapons. We haven’t got anything. We’ve only got our soul.

Teresa Aranguren

The strongest and most persistent message that we have sent from our civilised Europe, or from, the other... I don’t even want to mention the United States in this... is the message of barbarity. We arrive there, and we’ve been doing this since the nineteen twenties, arriving with tanks and with bombings. This is our image over there and our reality over there.

Voice over

We tend to think this is a conflict with no end in sight, but arriving in Palestine you find a vibrant land with an educated and cosmopolitan population where life flows with its peculiar harmony.

Abdellatif Mohammed

The Palestinian people are very educated and they have a lot of energy. The roots of poverty in Palestine are political.

Adnan Al-Ayoubi

When I left Palestine in the 1970’s, I left to continue my studies because it was impossible for us to continue our university studies in Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation. The Israelis had a strategy to empty the Palestinian territories of its youth.

Nassar Hamdan

When I started my studies, the third intifada started, and it was a very, very difficult situation. You could move around freely, checkpoints were set up everywhere. It was a very difficult situation which has continued over the last 7, 8 years until now. It’s very hard.

Voice over

In the centre of Ramallah, in the mornings, the streets are a feast for the senses, the hustle and bustle of people coming and going from markets, doing the daily shopping. The fruit in Palestine is beautiful, the jewels of the Jordan Valley, bursting with the intensity of colour and the sensuality of shape. We could see how in their fields and in their greenhouses, Palestinian farmers cultivate them with pride. It is their treasure.

Abdellatif Mohammed

International cooperation gives hope to the Palestinian people. Palestinians are not alone. They have not been forgotten. And this gives us hope for the future. I think this is the most important thing.

Voice over

“Tic-toc, tic-toc” and life goes by... maybe this is where hope can be found. Nothing has stopped in Palestine and the afternoon passes quietly in the Arab Café in Ramallah where men drink coffee and play cards. The thick  and sweet smoke from the tobacco pipes wrap the apparent tranquility of a sacred Friday afternoon, but the strange feeling that a single lit match could send us all flying permeates the air. The Palestinians live with such tension every day.

Adnan Al-Ayoubi

The young people who are doing their military service are told: keep the checkpoint closed for four hours, then open it for five minutes and close it down again. It’s a way to humiliate, because you can’t say that a pregnant woman threatens Israeli security, or that an elderly person over 80 years old is a threat to Israeli security, or an 8 year old boy is a threat to Israeli security. You know over 100,000 Palestinians have been murdered in the last decade and there isn’t a single Israeli being prosecuted by the Israeli judicial system. This is incredible, especially since the majority of Palestinian victims are civilians.

Voice over

The only scenery in Calandia is the endless concrete wall which can invade your sight wherever you look.  Between the monolithic watch towers is the border crossing, a labyrinth of blue fencing, barbed wire, revolving blue pipe doors, scanners and security cameras.

And on the other side this Alcatraz doesn’t just disappear, this is what the Israelis are also condemned to live with. We took one of the small coaches which take the Palestinians to the Arab part of Jerusalem. They say that construction of the wall has stopped, but that’s not true. We saw how excavators have dug into the areas where Arab communities are found. The foundations for the wall that will divide the city into neighbourhoods of hate have already been poured.

Adnan Al-Ayoubi

We are a very strong people and all we want is to live in peace, together with the occupier. I mean, there are no more generous people than the Palestinians, who live, who want to live with their tormentors, who pardon him, who excuse him, but who just want to be left alone. Let’s live in peace. But they, or most of them and their leaders, they don’t want peace.

Voice over

Old Jerusalem is one of those mythological places which digs deep to leave its print on memory. We cross through the legendary wall at the door of Jaffa. It was like entering the bottomless depths of the well of history. We followed the secular sandal footprints of the Franciscan through the narrow lanes of the Christian neighbourhood. The Patriarch of Jerusalem was to celebrate a Roman Mass in this the Holy Sepulchre, the most ancient of Christian holy sites of pilgrimage. To enter this sacred site is to experience the accumulation of two thousand years of faith, of pilgrimage. Seeing the pilgrims in tears, praying to the slab of stone where the body of Jesus was prepared for burial, it is impossible not to feel the legends take on life. This intense and emotional expression of faith spreads throughout Jerusalem, the city with the world’s most sacred monotheistic sites.

In front of the “Western Wall”, the Jews also express their faith with fervent devotion. Facing what they believe to be the last remnants of the Temple of Solomon, they pray for God to return to Israel, for all Jewish exiles to come back to Israel, for the Temple to be rebuilt and for a new era to announce the coming of a Jewish messiah. Hebrews have prayed to this wall for the past two thousand years. These sacred stones are witness to a promise made by God, where there will always be part of this Temple standing as a symbol of his perpetual alliance with the Jewish people.

And we still had to visit the legendary sites of Islam, but we were prevented from doing so. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, East Jerusalem and access to the Dome of the Mount are locked tight. Machine guns in hand, the Israeli soldiers seal shut all access to the Arab quarter. There’s a curfew for Muslims in the Holy City.

It was on the Temple Mount where the third intifada began. The door to Paradise must have been shut that day, as shut they are today, all access to the Arab part of old Jerusalem.

Adnan Al-Ayoubi

The Israeli powers use all means, they follow a systematic strategy which they apply day after day to destroy the Palestinian people, even to commit genocide. They want hegemony, a military domination, and they won’t be able to live that way. Sadly, the Israelis have condemned the Palestinians to death, to occupation, to curfews, to hunger, to prisons, to persecution, but they too have condemned themselves.

Voice over

We say goodbye to Jerusalem from the Mount of the Olives. The place where Jesus felt the fear of his mortality is today an immense cemetery where tombstones etched in Hebrew cover the hill. The city put on its most languid image at dusk, giving us a moving and unforgettable image of Jerusalem. The image of a dream of harmony which one day can overcome that of the wall which strangles Palestine and hopes for peace.


Check Point