We leave the checkpoint behind us, and I’m still hot-eared with frustration and anger at the experience. I imagine the rage that cattle-chute creates in people who must shuffle through it every day.
Back into Israel, to hustle onto a bus in Jerusalem. It’s packed with soldiers of all colours, grey blue green, and once again I’m struck at how young they are: the girl getting on in behind me must only just be 18. The pieces of this broken picture are held together by these children. It is they who sit at the checkpoints, and patrol the neighbourhoods, and man the watchtowers.
Into the desert, and the bus barrels down gullies to the Dead Sea- a perfectly flat dish of brine between countries. We skirt it for an hour and then turn towards Egypt, driving through a land of redrock protrusions. Dust-devils dance in place here and there, and the sky is blue unbroken.
My mind is full of Palestine. Billy talks to a girl behind me, asking Army questions. A blonde, female soldier sleeps in the aisle, her shirt unbuttoned at the neck. Her head is propped on a rucksack and her gun rests across her body. It jiggles gently with the movement of the bus. Her friends cluster together towards the front, their guns swinging as they laugh. It takes a minute to work out what they’re doing.
They’re playing Slapsies.