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...
Deir Sharaf, Eliyahu Crossing, Habla, Jayyus, Te'enim Crossing, Mon 21.5.12, Morning
The new checkpoint Deir Sharaf, west of Nablus and just below (south) of Shave Shomron settlement, a kilometer from the village of Deir Sharaf, began operation in March 2009 when Beit Iba closed. Permission to cross the Deir Sharaf checkpoint into Nablus or, via Route 60, towards Jenin, is given to Palestinians, but not to Israelis. Differing from the crossing points into Qalqiliya and Tulkarm, Palestinian Israelis are allowed to cross the checkpoint only on Saturdays.
05:50 Eliyahu crossing
We see workers who have already gone through the checkpoint, sitting at the bus stop which is usually full of settlers, waiting for rides. At least 5 vehicles are being inspected at the vehicles inspection booth. About 30 Palestinians are waiting in the pedestrian line.
06:05 Agricultural crossing at north Jayyus
The crossing opened at about 05:30, by now there are few people. A tractor goes by with a cart in which there are 2 youths and 2 adult women and a lot of cartons. The policewoman looks over the cartons and talks with the women while the men show their documents and then the women.
A private car with 2 adults arrives, is quickly checked and goes through.
A horse and cart, also with a lot of empty cartons, arrives with 2 men.
A worker, on foot, hurries to get through and, at the last moment, at 06:28, a tractor loaded with workers is inspected and goes through.
Even though we can't hear what is said, it seems that the soldiers know the people going through and their behavior is efficient. (Of course, only those with permits ever come and we can't see all the farmers who, for whatever reason, did not receive permits to work their land.)
06:30 The gate closes and we leave. Return to the Eliyahu crossing.
06:54 Eliyahu crossing, in the direction of Israel.
We undergo a thorough inspection, including documents, opening car doors and the baggage and consultation with the man in charge.. While we are waiting, we see the bus for children coming from the direction of Qalqilya, still without the children, going through a thorough inspection and, behind it, a long line of vehicles waiting for inspection. On the dirt road leading to the Bedouin "village", Arav a Ramadin, the children of the village are waiting for the bus which is stuck at the checkpoint.
5 workers are waiting next to the turnstile, others inside the inspection booth. We see at least 30 workers waiting. We didn't see workers outside, who had already gone through. A van from a nursery waits on our side to go into Habla.
07:15 The first workers come through, after 10 minutes. The bus which collected the children arrives and the driver says he spent 15 minutes at the checkpoint. Also on the previous day he had to pass several times, since the bigger children had exams at different hours and they didn't allow them through without him. The Habla checkpoint was closed, of course, and he had to travel around the outside, by way of Qalqilya.
07:25 The second group of workers exits, complaining about the slowness of the inspection. The nursery driver, who wanted to cross into Habla with his van, got through 20 minutes later (and had already been waiting when we arrived). Reserve soldiers, who are there for only 2 days, want to talk with us. When we mention that the insepctions are taking a long time today, they agree with us that we are more expert then they are in the issues of checkpoints...A taxi passes from Habla. It seems that the inspection is quicker and groups go through in about 3 minutes. But still the line doesn't get shorter, because people keep arriving.
07:50 We leave.
08:00 Eliyahu crossing
We don't see workers at the entrance, but there are about 5 vehicles at the inspection booth.
We travel to Dir Sharaf to meet a Palestinian so he can sign some document sent by Sylvia. On the way, we saw people reaping in the fields with hand sickles, a very pastoral sight. We also saw "modern" scarecrows - blue nylon bags waving in the wind and supposedly chasing away the birds. The man we met to sign the papers invited us to the country club of Shchem, "Club el Medina", next to the Dir Sharaf crossroad. It has been closed since the beginning of the second Intifada (10 yrs ago), until about 2 yrs ago, after they took away the checkpoint at Beit Iba, and it is now undergoing restoration. The place is very beautiful, with a swimming pool and an area for performances.
We contiued to Dir Sharaf and visited an acquaintance who owns a bakery and grocery. We hope things will continue this way...On the road at the crossroads of Dir Sharaf a lot of construction is going on but, according to him, they are not repairing the road but are laying sewage pipes to the entrance of Beit Lid. In the valley there, they are building a sewage waste plant. Maybe afterward they will also repair the road, but this requires a lot of money and the PA doesn't have it.
09:25 On the way back, there was a military jeep at Dir Sharaf crossroad, the first one we saw today (other than those at the checkpoints). Next to the entrance to Beit Lid there was a new big cow shed. We returned by way of the Te'enim checkpoint (Jabara), with flags waving but no inspections. We saw no sign of work on the fence which was supposed to be moved.