Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

Personal Story

Zaid Abu Dalu: “Closure Has Many Faces”


Zaid Abu Dalu, 28, a Palestinian graduate of Birzeit University who lives in Wadi al-Joz, inside the Israeli municipal boundaries and the Separation Wall, shares his lifetime of experience dealing with Israel’s closure of Jerusalem, which was imposed before he was born.

Zaid Abu Dalu,1 28, was born and raised in the Wadi al-Joz neighborhood of Jerusalem. We met with him in 2021 and asked him to share his experiences with closure.

Zaid recalls being aware of the use of closure as a political tool ever since he was eight years old. “I have many stories about closure, are you ready to listen?” Zaid laughed.

“All Palestinians, not only Jerusalemites, have been affected by the closure on Jerusalem. Closure has many faces; it is not only when Israeli soldiers close a neighborhood or a place such as Sheikh Jarrah or Damascus Gate and ban us from entering, as the whole world saw during the 2021 uprising this spring,” said Zaid.

“I have many stories about closure, are you ready to listen?”

Zaid Abu Dalu

The Temporary Becomes Permanent

Like many others, Zaid is terrified that closures that begin as temporary might be normalized forever. He regards the profiling of worshippers at the entrance to al-Aqsa Mosque as a form of closure. The Israeli police and military installed permanent checkpoints not only at the entrances of the Old City of Jerusalem but also at the gates of al-Aqsa compound. They profile all Palestinians who want to pass through.

“In the blink of an eye, they announce that only Palestinians older than 40 are allowed to enter al-Aqsa. This affects all Palestinians. The ID card color doesn’t matter,” said Zaid, referring to Israel’s system of color-coding ID cards depending on residence, with restrictions defined accordingly. “If a Palestinian woman from the West Bank who holds a green [Palestinian Authority] ID card manages to obtain a military permit to enter Jerusalem for a medical visit, she cannot continue on to al-Aqsa, because her permit only allows her to go to a specific hospital.”

Israel typically describes its restrictions as security related, an excuse Zaid referred to as “nonsense.”

Personal Story Sick While Blacklisted, and the Care You Need Is Found Only in Jerusalem

The closure of Jerusalem means severe hardships for those outside the city who seek care that is only available in it. Salma, a cancer patient, shares.

“In the blink of an eye, they announce that only Palestinians older than 40 are allowed to enter al-Aqsa.”

Zaid Abu Dalu

Technically Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship or permanent residency hold blue IDs. According to Israeli law, they have the legal right to access Jerusalem or al-Aqsa Mosque at any time (see Precarious Status). However, Israel imposes restrictions for “security reasons” to prevent them from accessing a location or facility inside Jerusalem. As for the Palestinians who hold PA (green) IDs, they need to apply for an entry permit to access Jerusalem, a cumbersome and often futile process.

Jerusalem has been off-limits to them since Israel began imposing a closure on Jerusalem in the early 1990s (see Jerusalem: A Closed City).2 To enter, they must apply for an entry permit and have a compelling reason for their request, one that falls in one of the 100+ categories set by the Israeli military. Permits are restricted to a specific facility or location. Israeli authorities can blacklist anyone at any time without revealing the reason (Blacklisting bans them from ever entering Jerusalem. See Banned from Entry and Banned from Entry: How Israel Blacklists Half a Million PA ID Holders, Blocking Them from Entering Jerusalem). During Ramadan 2021, Israel set up police checkpoints in the middle of the highways to prevent Palestinians from the 1948 areas of Israel who hold citizenship from entering Jerusalem.3 Zaid cites this as a recent example of how the closure restricts the movement of all Palestinians and targets all of them.

A Childhood Affected by Closure

In the early 2000s, Israel installed the Separation Wall, together with permanent checkpoints and structures (see The Separation Wall). Zaid was a child then, but he remembers the conversations in this family about this as though it were yesterday.

When Zaid was around 11 years old, his grandmother was living in al-Ram, a Palestinian neighborhood that was left outside the Jerusalem boundaries when they were expanded and redrawn in 1967 (see Where Is Jerusalem?).

One day, Zaid’s nuclear family (all of whom hold Israeli permanent-resident IDs) were visiting his grandmother. “We spent the whole day over at her house and left around 10:00 p.m.,” said Zaid. His father drove for about 10 minutes before he was stopped by the just-installed Beit Hanina military checkpoint. The family could not get home. Although he was young, Zaid remembers his father saying, “Now they want to implement curfews through new tactics.” The family had to go back to the grandmother’s house and spend the night there.

At that time, the Separation Wall was still under construction. Once the wall was completed, Beit Hanina checkpoint was removed; its function was now replaced by the wall.

Backgrounder Checkpoints, Part 1: Severing Jerusalem

An overview of the complex web of 18 military checkpoints around Jerusalem that control and constrain Palestinian access to the city

Zaid Abu Dalu stands in front of the Separation Wall

Zaid Abu Dalu stands in front of the Separation Wall


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

Zaid’s grandmother’s house in al-Ram was left outside the wall, on the “other” side; Wadi al-Joz, where Zaid’s family lived, was “inside.”

Unwilling to tolerate separation from her family and being forced to pass military checkpoints daily to reach the city, Zaid’s grandmother rented a small studio inside the wall, on the Jerusalem side, and abandoned her family home and beautiful garden.

Higher Education Impeded by Closure

Zaid has had to live with the implications of closure for years. “I passed checkpoints every day to get to Birzeit University.” Zaid holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media and a Master of Arts in Contemporary Arabic Studies, both from Birzeit University. The route between the university and his house is approximately 21 kilometers, a 40-minute drive.

Zaid recalls an evening lecture he wanted to attend in 2012. He left for Jerusalem with a classmate after sunset, around 5:00 p.m. It took them 25 minutes and two cab switches to get to the main street in Kufr ‘Aqab. Traffic was at a standstill, and the taxi did not move for more than an hour. People coming from the opposite direction told them that Qalandiya checkpoint was closed. The taxi driver and passengers agreed to return to Ramallah and wait for the soldiers to reopen the checkpoint.

Zaid had no place to go to. His classmate had relatives who lived in Ramallah, and she invited Zaid to join her. “I stayed at her relatives’ house until midnight,” said Zaid.

After Qalandiya checkpoint was reopened, they called a taxi to take them there, passed the checkpoint by foot, and called another taxi to pick them up on the other side. Palestinian public transportation does not operate late, nor can students afford additional transportation expenses. “But we had no choice,” said Zaid. To make matters worse, “I had to be at the university at 8:00 a.m. the next day, which meant leaving home at 5:00 a.m. after having arrived around 1:00 a.m.”

“I passed checkpoints every day to get to Birzeit University.”

Zaid Abu Dalu

Caprice and unpredictability result in inability to control one’s own time

Zaid talked about the impact of soldiers’ moods on Palestinian movement. He recalls being at Qalandiya checkpoint around 6:00 p.m. one day when “soldiers were in a bad mood, or playing games on their phones,” said Zaid. He waited for approximately two hours, during which the soldiers allowed fewer than five people to pass.

Zaid left the checkpoint, got in a taxi, and asked a driver to take him to Hizma checkpoint. The driver refused, and so did all the other taxi drivers waiting for fares outside Qalandiya checkpoint, because they had information that traffic was jammed; it would take them three hours to traverse a distance that usually takes 10 minutes.

Overall, Zaid concludes, “I think I waited for four hours.”

Humiliations that Jerusalem students routinely experience at checkpoints

Palestinian Jerusalemites who attend Birzeit University have additional hurdles to contend with. Because Birzeit is in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, they must cross Qalandiya checkpoint to get to their school. “All Palestinian males are stopped for interrogation at Qalandiya checkpoint; they are asked what they are studying, among other ‘security’ questions.”

On one trip, Zaid recalls, he handed his permanent-resident ID card to a soldier, who entered his ID number into a computer. This is a typical occurrence, but on this occasion his number was flagged, and he was directed to an interrogation room. Zaid explains: “Palestinians who pass the checkpoint on a regular basis who do not live in Kufr ‘Aqab are interrogated at the checkpoint and are required to explain and justify their regular movement,” explained Zaid.

Employment Prospects Terminated by Closure

Like many people around the world, Zaid lost his job because of the coronavirus pandemic. He finally found a job with a Palestinian delivery company. Goods ordered by Palestinian Jerusalemites from the West Bank are usually delivered by private cars; Zaid used his car. “Every time I left Jerusalem to go pick up the goods from the West Bank, I worried that it could be my last day at work.”

Palestinians who own small businesses in the West Bank are not allowed to sell their goods and products in Jerusalem unless they obtain a permit from the Israeli COGAT. These permits are expensive, and small business cannot afford them. For this reason, they try to use private cars to deliver products. But even then, it is risky. Palestinian Jerusalemite drivers sometimes pretend to be Israelis when passing checkpoints. They choose checkpoints that are also used by Israeli Jewish settlers; soldiers at these checkpoints tend to be more relaxed, and cars are generally not stopped.

When a car is stopped and the driver is found to be Palestinian, the soldiers usually search the car for “illegal” possessions. If the soldiers believe that this person has “illegal” possessions, they will send his car plate number to all the other checkpoints to make sure he will not be able to enter Jerusalem in the future.

Israeli soldiers check cars passing through Qalandiya checkpoint

Israeli soldiers check cars as they pass through Qalandiya checkpoint. Only Israeli (yellow)-plated cars are allowed to drive into Jerusalem; a driver with a West Bank (green) ID would need to apply for a permit from the COGAT. Only very few such permits are granted as the military quota for such cases is very small.


Mays Shkerat for Jerusalem Story

When a car is stopped and the driver is found to be Palestinian, the soldiers usually search the car for “illegal” possessions.

After nine months of working with this delivery company, Zaid’s car was stopped and searched at Hizma checkpoint. The soldier found the goods; he questioned Zaid and ordered him to reroute and go through Beituniya checkpoint instead, referring to it as the “economic border.” Beituniya checkpoint is used by the few Palestinian merchants who manage to obtain a permit to sell their products in Jerusalem or Israel.

Zaid knew that his car plate number would be flagged at all checkpoints and that he would be prevented from entering Jerusalem; on the other hand, if he could not find a way around the checkpoints and deliver the goods, he would lose his job.

Zaid decided to try another checkpoint. As expected, his car was stopped and the soldier told him, “We told you, you can’t pass.” Zaid tried four different checkpoints but was not allowed to pass through any of them.

Zaid did not give up. He called a friend, and they cooked up a story that they hoped might convince the soldiers to let him through. Once again, he went back to Hizma checkpoint. The car was stopped again, and the soldier who stopped it not only did not believe Zaid’s story, but threatened to call the tax authority and report that Zaid was working in the black market.

“I decided that I did not need more complications, and I certainly don’t want to pay fines,” Zaid said.

Unable to pass through the checkpoint after his car was flagged, he lost his job.

And Still, He Persists

Restrictions on movement lead to restrictions on almost every aspect of Palestinians’ lives—jobs, education, social, personal growth. Zaid talked about how many hours he wastes at checkpoints, how many times he was late for appointments, how many hours he spent driving around streets to avoid closed streets during Jewish holidays. “During Jewish holidays, they close all streets, intersections, and neighborhoods entrances. Most Palestinians stay home” (see Total Closure Days).

Zaid keeps looking for alternate routes: “I never stop trying to reach my destination.”



The research for this story was conducted in summer 2021.


From 1967 until 1990, Israel “gave” the residents of the West Bank including the Gaza Strip “permission” to move freely in Jerusalem according to what was called the "Open Bridges Policy.” However, in 1991, this “permission” was revoked (see Jerusalem: A Closed City).


On May 8, 2021, the Israeli police installed a police checkpoint on Road 1 and stopped Palestinian buses carrying hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel to prevent them from reaching Jerusalem. All the passengers got off the buses and continued on their way on foot. Palestinian Jerusalemites drove to the location to pick up the passengers. The glut of cars completely closed the main highway. After the police and Palestinians negotiated, the buses were permitted to pass and traffic flowed normally.

Load More Load Less