Since 2001 we have observed dozens of army checkpoints on paved and unpaved roads in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley and along the Separation Fence; Civil Administration offices which grant permits to Palestinians; and military courts trying Palestinian prisoners. We stand at the checkpoints observing the behavior of soldiers and Palestinians without interfering, intervening only when soldiers behave offensively to Palestinians. Then we try to speak to the soldiers themselves or telephone...
Hebron, Sansana (Meitar Crossing), South Hebron Hills, Tue 20.3.12, Morning
On the Green Line and serves as a crossing point between Israel and Palestine. It is administered by the Terminal Authority of the Ministry of Defence.
Meitar Sansana Checkpoint
the last workers are crossing and a Red Cross bus awaits the families of prisoners who will cross after 7:00 a.m.
As usual, one army hummer thunders its way in the direction of Beersheva.
7:45 Hebron slumbers in its usual paralysis. At the Pharmacy Checkpoint two friendly Border Policement welcome us with smiles, there are no passers by and only one man crosses without obstruction. We head for the Tarpat checkpoint and here too all is quiet. We plan a stroll up the worshippers alley (now open only to those authorised) but our plan is foiled by the sight of an enormous garbage truck stranded like a beached whale, and just as smelly, at the top of the steep rise where the road splits left (!) to Jewish Tel Romeida and right to the Palestinian side and H1. The picture is worth a thousand words .
Gathered at this site of action are a group of TIPH observers who are actually friendly (one of them recognizes us from our presentation last week) and fills us in on the incident. Two soldiers stand at the crossroads and my coleagues have asked me to say that they were very nice. And indeed they had the shiny faces and polished boots of youngsters on their first day at school and were extremely forthcoming. However I would have found them nicer had they refused to serve in the occupied (annexed) territories altogther and particularly in Hebron.
Be that as it may, they told us that the truck had Palestinian licence plates and was therefore barred from travelling on that road, reserved for Jews. (TIPH asserted that the grabage trucks regularly travelled on that street). Not only that, they insisted that when the DCO finally gave them instructions as to how to proceed, that truck was not moving one centimetre up the street but would have to reverse itself all the way down, so there! The lads then asked us when Nakba day fell and if it was March 30. We explained to them about Land Day and they seemed a bit anxious about the possibility of demonstrations in Hebron in solidarity with Palestinians within Israel. One of them told us he came from Bat Yam and had a lot of Arab friends and certainly didn't want to be on duty in Hebron as he leapt with alacrity across the road to check the briefcase of a young man heading downhill. He also gave a through frisking to another man (this one had terminal five-o'clock shadow, at 8:30 am) and explained that although he was headed for the Palestinian side of the neighbourhood he might have been able to sneak into the settlement round the back of the houses. Indeed, this is so and anyone wishing to infiltrate the settlers' houses can do so with relative ease since everything is terribly close together and the paths and alley ways infinite. However, do not worry, the army, and the settlers, are alert and ever on the watch. The soldiers asserted with vigour that they were charged with arresting any law-breaker, Jewish, Palestinian or whoever no discrimination They even agreed to our pleas to permit the truck, when it was finally released, to do a horse-shoe turn at the crossroads rather than reversing down the dangerous hill.
As we all waited, the unfortunate sanitation workers crouched on the pavement, the telephones to the DCO never stopped ringing, the Hebron Municipality rang its workers and the soldiers and we too tried our sources: all to no avail.
Settlers emerged and drove down unchecked. The TIPH observes warned us against one Marianne who is allegedly super-agressive and even worse than Anat Cohen. AlgotherTIPH observers suffer from both the settlers and the Palestinians and their cars have plastic windows and screens on their headlights against stone-throwing. Brave people. A settler stops his car to speak to the soldiers and then stops again to photograph us. As usual we smile sweetly llke film stars or the Queen and even blow kisses.
Finally, redemption arrives and the truck is actually permitted to continue on its errand of salvation, or at least garbage disposal. We wait to see it depart in peace and then we too make our way back through the silent, tense city. On Shuhada Street we see a 'presence patrol' of soldiers but they are not threatening and look more like a school outing that has lost its way.
We head back across the Rubicon of normailty (?) Netanya to Jersualem and Irris, M and I to Beersheva.
Happy is the nation then sends its sons on such important missions. Really normal...