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At Israeli Checkpoint, Tear Gas And Ice Cream A Way Of Life

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At Israeli Checkpoint, Tear Gas And Ice Cream A Way Of Life

International

At Israeli Checkpoint, Tear Gas And Ice Cream A Way Of Life

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Tear gas and ice cream cones don't usually go together. But NPR's Emily Harris met a man who dodges rocks and tear gas at an Israeli military checkpoint between the West Bank and Jerusalem to provide a little sweet relief.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: The sun isn't up yet at the Qalandia checkpoint.

(SOUNDBITE OF TURNSTILE TURNING)

HARRIS: Palestinians who have permission to leave the West Bank for work or school cross a parking lot, push through one metal turnstile in the checkpoint building and line up to wait at the next. Israeli soldiers behind windows let a few people through at a time.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

HARRIS: Next, there's the metal detector, the window to show ID and give an electronic fingerprint, then two more turnstiles. Construction worker Mahmood Abayesh does this six days a week.

MAHMOOD ABAYESH: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: I hate this, he says. The worst part is when they close the checkpoint. And I have to wait an hour or two just to get in line. Leaving the West Bank in the morning can be onerous. Coming home can be dangerous.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)

HARRIS: Like other checkpoints around the West Bank, this is a known confrontation spot. Palestinians throw rocks, sometimes firebombs.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: Israeli soldiers have a range of weapons. Tear gas is often the first they use.

So, we're at the Qalandia checkpoint crossing into the West Bank. The air is stinging with tear gas. I don't know how much they've released today but my throat is burning.

Trying to leave one of these confrontations, I drove right behind Israeli soldiers shooting tear gas. I could have reached out touched them if I'd been on the passenger side.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORNS)

HARRIS: A rock just landed one car in front of me and then a few pebbles. Palestinians on their way home from work just keep on going.

MOUSER DAOOD: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: If I'm in a car, I wait until they let us through, says Mouser Daood. But if it's open, I go. I want to get home.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)

HARRIS: Another day, trying to get through another confrontation, I drove right next to young men breaking chunks of concrete into pieces small enough to throw. That is when I saw the ice cream man.

AHMED FAYAD: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: Ice cream, ice cream, he yelled, walking through cars with a Styrofoam cooler strapped to his shoulder. It was hot. Traffic was completely jammed. Ice cream sounded good. I rolled down my window to get some but I got a mouthful of tear gas instead. Later, I learned the ice cream guy's name is Ahmed Fayad. He's had this job for two years and though he tries to move away from the worst confrontations, he does keep selling through rocks and tear gas.

FAYAD: (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: I think people go on with their work because everybody realizes the tear gas, the stone throwing, the confrontations, are useless, he says. Our life needs more concrete measures.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)

HARRIS: Emily Harris, NPR News.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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