Ramallah is in the West Bank, right at the northern edge of the Israeli-declared boundaries of greater Jerusalem. There are at least five military checkpoints which encompass in the city.
The Qalandia checkpoint connecting Ramallah with Jerusalem and the Surda checkpoint connecting Ramallah with many villages, including Bir Zeit and the university, are the largest and busiest ones. The Palestinian people living in Ramallah must have an Israeli-issued permit to leave through a checkpoint, and most people do not have such a permit. There are many restrictions imposed that make permits very difficult to obtain.
As many have said, “Ramallah is like a big jail.” By this they mean that their life is circumscribed by the town’s borders that are guarded by Israeli soldiers, military vehicles and equipment and fences. At times the borders are sealed completely, by orders of the Israeli military, allowing no entrance or exit.
A curfew is enforced from time to time–total closure of the town–when people are forbidden by the Israeli soldiers to leave their homes. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hope long ago decided to hold worship services regardless of a curfew. People leave their homes to sing, pray, hear God’s Word and partake of the Sacraments in the church.
The ongoing illegal Israeli occupation remains a central reality affecting daily life for the church. The ever- and yet never-changing political realities like movement restrictions and ever-growing settlements inhibit Palestinians from living normal lives. With the increasing isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, the Qalandia checkpoint has become more like an international border through which only the most privileged Palestinians can pass through – and then only on foot with proper permits.