03:55 We arrive before the gates open
Annaline notices new work on a sewer and a security fence. Solid structures intended to last a long time.
04:02 The gate opened on time, more or less. The women’s gate opened at the same time and closed at 04:09 after all the women on the separate line had entered. Women who arrived late had to join the regular line.
The ecumenicals reportthat there are again holes in the corridor fences, on both sides, at two places. We heard again, from one of the guards, the story of how they repair the fence and the Palestinians come with professional tools and make holes to go through. The new holes will be repaired soon…
On our way to the exit Israel guards approach us requesting we notify them when we arrive, before we go to the separation fence on the Palestinian side. That’s a new request. They say the army has the fence under observation to prevent it from being breached and it disturbs them when we move around the area…
At the exit gate, the flow of people exiting is interrupted from time to time. Occasionally the gate stops turning for about thirty seconds. When it’s open about thirty people per minute go through. And as expected when the corridor fences have been breached – people report an uproar on the line, say that two Palestinian Authority ambulances were called to collect persons who’d been trampled. One man tells us he fell down and would have been trampled to death had not his two friends pulled him free.
A man comes out, extremely upset, saying that one of the staff accused him of talking on a cell phone (is that forbidden?), and when he said he hadn’t – he was removed from the line and made to stand off to the side and threatened he’d be handcuffed if he didn’t behave properly (an example, says Annaline, of the saying in Proverbs 30:22, “when a servant shall reign…”). He told us he had to stand there 45 minutes until he was allowed to continue along his Via Dolorosa to the exit.
05:20 We left.
On her way home, Annaline stopped at the Eyal checkpoint and counted six Afikim company buses waiting to take Palestinians to various destinations (some minivans also). Why aren’t there similar buses at the Efrayim gate?
Regarding health insurance for Palestinian workers in Israel: they pay Bituach Leumi, which in Israel provides accident insurance and makes them eligible for health insurance in a Palestinian HMO. When the Palestinian Authority has no money – they can’t obtain medications, even though they’re insured…
Translating: Ruth Fleishman
The Image of the reality at Qalandiya:
Burning tires were rolled towards the checkpoint, stones were thrown, soldiers responded by opening fire.
The gas fumes mixed in the black smoke the rose from the tires, and the combination of the two created a thick cloud that hovered over the grounds.
The protesting teenagers had the advantage for hight- most of them stood at the top of the hill that rises by the separation wall and a few of them came out from the allies of the refugee camp.
The soldiers' bodies were burdened with heavy weaponry and protective equipment. This made them run awkwardly and caused them to fall when trying to catch one of the stone throwers.
Frustrated the armed soldiers crossed the main road, using their vehicles as firing positions. From time to time they hunted down one the teenagers that stood across from them, they invaded with their hands and eyes into their privet sphere and checked them out with the GSS. Why?- Why not?
And during the whole time a police photographer was there.
Such bad fate will fall on the doors of the homes of the teenagers that had been immortalized with his camera, such bad fate will fall on their mothers and such bad fate will fall on them during their years of adulthood.
"They are heroes" a young man standing near me said as he pointed at the fighters on the hill, but he wouldn't join the ones he admired.
And in the meanwhile at the checkpoint arrived an ambulance with a baby in it that was to be hospitalized at Mukased hospital.
And during the entire afternoon Muhamed, a smart and serious boy was there, he observed it all and photographed it all mindfully.
Standing by and with Muhamed was a real pleasure to me.
We went to Azzun this week as well, at the request of the municipal council members. Five people awaited us, including the council head and the manager (whom we’d met last week), a representative of B’Tselem whose job is field research and two young men who were there to recount what occurred.
The situation in Azzun has become even worse during the past week. The checkpoint at the entrance to the village has been closed because, it’s claimed, residents have been throwing stones at vehicles driving on Highway 55. The checkpoint is guarded by three jeeps; the village has been declared a “closed military area.” Residents had taken advantage of a gap in the trees near the checkpoint through which small private cars began going out of the village. The army, determined to prevent people from leaving, hurried to close the gap with five concrete barriers and stationed soldiers there to block infiltration. Car keys were confiscated from drivers who tried to sneak through and not returned until the following day. Now the only route in and out of the village is the road through Izbet Tabib. That road lengthens the trip to Nablus considerably. But that road is also blocked intermittently by Border Police jeeps. Trucks, mostly carrying building material, are prevented from entering the village, delaying construction projects. Students and people who work in Nablus, Tulkarem or Ramallah must pay much more for transportation than they would for normal bus and taxi service to their destination. This additional cost is very burdensome for the impoverished residents, as Sa’adi, the representative of B’Tselem, tells us – he has a son who’s a student.
The Palestinian police are stationed in the village to prevent harassment. But their authority is limited. They’re permitted to be present only within the village itself, and only during the day, and are forbidden to intervene on the residents’ behalf. So all they’re really doing is showing up.
The economic condition of the village is very poor. People are losing their land because they haven’t money to hire lawyers. (Yesh Din is unable to deal with all the cases, which is why the villages have hired an attorney, a settler from Kedumim who’s become rich; we referred to her in the previous report). Much of the residents’ meager income goes to pay fines which can be as high at NIS 1000 to release a child who’s been caught on the street, and NIS 5000 or more to release youths who were arrested. To this should be added hundreds of people blacklisted by the Shabak who aren’t allowed to work in Israel. The result – poverty.
We go to see the checkpoint and the nearby gap and meet three pleasant soldiers from the Kfir brigade who are guarding it. They say the village is being punished because of stone throwing. Did they themselves see stones thrown? No. But that’s what they heard. Do they know that settlers enter the village and attack residents? They haven’t heard about that. They say, “We’re instructed by the brigade not to harm the population. Maybe the Border Police are the guilty ones…”
We leave the village by the long route which, for a change, is open.
For an hour and a half, during the busiest time, the 'Azzun' Atma checkpoint was closed because of the soldiers’ whims.
06:05 'Azzun 'Atma checkpoint
About 90 people wait in a longer line than usual at this hour. The checkpoint commander immediately wants to move us back, but only symbolically. He must demonstrate who’s in charge, and continues doing so later.
The line begins about a meter behind the checkpoint gate; only two at a time are permitted to advance and stand ready to continue toward the inspection point. But, like all lines, it slowly moves closer to the gate, which is an obvious indicator of how far they can go, unlike the imaginary line farther from the gate at which they were supposed to stand because of the soldiers’ whims.
06:20. Nobody goes through! The soldiers close the gate. That’s it! It’s time to teach the Palestinians a lesson.
The Palestinians stubbornly remain standing at the gate. The truth is that it’s very difficult to push back a line of nearly 100 people. And meanwhile more join the motionless line.
The checkpoint commander arrives a few minutes later (he’d been hunting people who were sneaking through holes in the fence – there were more than a few). Now, as at the Habla checkpoint last week, the army begins “educating” the Palestinians. We telephoned the DCO – they said they’d take care of it.
Meanwhile, the soldiers leave the (closed) gate and wander around the checkpoint, chatting. The tension rises among those waiting behind the fence; a few soldiers return to argue with the Palestinians but the situation doesn’t change and nothing happens.
Another call to the DCO doesn’t bring any result. We’re told, “the Palestinians aren’t obeying the soldiers.”
Nevertheless, army personnel arrive, mutter to us “It’ll be ok…”, wander around the checkpoint and… leave, and nothing happens.
Children arrive on their way to school, wait to cross to 'Azzun 'Atma from the “Israeli” side. After a while the soldier with the key to the vehicle gate is located and the children go through.
The checkpoint commander went hunting again, returning with a man who’d gone through a hole in the fence because he had to get to work. His ID was confiscated; he was sent back to the 'Azzun' Atma side.
07:05 The gate opens, two people cross, the gate closes again, two more cross and again the gate closes. At 07:10 the gate closes and doesn’t reopen. We phone A., the DCO commander, who promises to take care of it.
A boy comes riding a bicycle. The soldier who’s supposed to open the gate isn’t there and it takes a while until he appears to let the boy cross to school.
07:30 We contacted Chana B. All this time, the soldiers are wandering around the checkpoint, joking, having a good time, while a mass of people beyond the gate are anxious not to lose a day of work. But no one cares.
07:50 People are getting angry, yelling at the soldiers – the situation is pretty frightening.
08:00 Reinforcements arrive; the soldiers go to the line and try to restore order. Now they open the gate and begin letting people through four at a time, closing the gate after them until their inspection is complete.
A., from the DCO, called us twice to find out what was going on. The first time was after he’d been told that everything was alright, but it wasn’t. The second time there had, in fact, been a change, and people began crossing.
08:25 Habla checkpoint. The gate is still open (it’s supposed to close at 08:15); some cars, a cart and people are still going through, until no one remains and the soldiers close the crossing.
08:40 Eliyahu gate. Everything as usual; no line of people crossing on foot.
We gave a man documents to sign for submission to the court so he could be removed from the Shabak’s blacklist. Then we went home exhausted, sad and angry.
09:30 We entered through the Eliyahu Gate. Four Palestinian Police jeeps were standing at the road leading to Isbet Tabib. A short while later they passed us going in the direction of Nablus.
The main entrance to Azzun is closed with an iron gate and cement blocks. We were told that it had been closed for 4 days because the army claimed that there had been stone throwing at that point along the road. A car coming out of Azzun was going around the gate on a muddy path.
Huwwara checkpoint was empty and there was no sign of soldiers in that area.
At the Beit Furik checkpoint there was an army jeep but no one stopped a Palestinian taxi that went into Nablus
At the entrance to Itamar there was an army hummer. A little farther we saw another hummer and an army jeep, but we didn't see any unusual action.
We drove through Awarta and saw lots of children playing in the streets and the yards. We were told that there is a teachers' strike and the schools are closed because the teachers haven't been paid. That is because Israel is holding up payment of the tax money which is collected for the Palestinian Authority. Nice punishment. For what?
11:30 As we left through the Shomron Gate the guard asked Nadim his name. When Nadim answered the guard demanded to see all of our identity cards. Yes, we are all Israelis.
Translating: Ruth Fleishman
1. The checkpoint is closed
2. Today is Family Day
The right traffic lane at the vehicle checkpoint was closed to buses and from the entrance came three armed soldiers. With a rifle on the shoulder and a grenade in the hand they slowly walked, looking for kids who were throwing or planning to throw stone.
"Earlier there were about three kids that threw stones", people said.
But by then these children were not to be seen and no stones were being thrown. And in spit it, the passage remained closed and the soldiers kept walking back and forth for about half an hour. And the number of bus lanes was reduced, traffic became heavy and the usual traffic jam grew long and thick.
The fact that the closing of the lane before hundreds of people is nothing short of collective punishment, which is illegal, didn't bother any of the checkpoint commanders or the any of the men in uniforms who received reinforcement from police and BP forces.
While talking with some friends about the faith of Ahmed, the Falafel salesman whose trial is to commence in a couple of days, I was told that he was being accused of throwing stones, but that the date of event was not the day of his arrest. "The army tricked Ahmed", one person said and another added: "They can do anything, because this is occupation". I concurred. "Until you've lived for five days in the refugee camp, you can't understand what 'occupation' means", said H.
He is right.
Until you've lived for five days in the refugee camp, you can't understand what 'occupation' means. It's been five years since I've been to the other side of the wall.
14:20 – Etzion DCL
Despite the stormy weather, seven cars waited at the parking lot. Inside the hall there were a few youngsters who were asked in by the Sha"bak. A soldier announced that today's distribution of magnetic cards will end at 14:00. The sign on site reads that the DCL is open until 16:00, and the answer to the question why they stop at 14:00 was: "The soldiers have to rest".
We've asked the humanitarian center to place a complaint for discontinuing distribution of cards at 14:00.
We were approached by that young fellow who said that he was taken out of his house at 2:00 AM and was held in detention for 3 days. He complained of hunger. After him more people came out of the building after receiving passage permits to Jerusalem for Christmas. Apparently the soldier who took care of them did not need a rest.
Translating: Ruth Fleishman
The Day of Rage
A tide of fury and rage has been sweeping Qalandiya during the past weeks. This week, since the start of the war in Gaza the fury and the army's response had escalated- plenty of shooting, stone throwing, gas, detainees and even one "Grass Widow" had been implemented on the top of the corner building, from where the soldier snipe at the children and guide the other shooters. They are there from the morning until the night, soiling what isn't theirs, or as a friend said to me: "on the roof they do what is usually done in the toilet".
And an old wrinkled woman coming out of the alleys of the refugee camp approached me and told me of the children that had been arrested. I asked: "are they your children?"- "All of the children are mine" she said and asked why I, the Jew, hadn't told the soldiers that what they were doing was forbidden. A young man standing nearby replied:"she did, she yelled at them and they shoved her with force and yelled back at her to shut up"- "Then she should bring her friends from Israel, they should come here and see what they are doing to us", she said and walked away.
After walking a few meters she turned as though she recalled something she had to add, she came back and once again approached me and said: "tell all your friends to come here…", I promised that I would do so. Here I am, telling you.
The entrance to Ar-Ram was blocked and soldiers with drawn rifles were preventing the entrance and exit.
On the opposite side of Jaba checkpoint an officer was training three soldiers and a dog, using the car of a young Palestinian man who was chosen randomly. On the other side of the checkpoint the usual arbitrary routine involving the detaining Palestinians was taking place.
Armed, shielded and threatening, the soldiers stood at the entrance to the village Hizme among others, they stood near a military vehicle at the center of the square in front of the checkpoint leading to the exit from the occupied territories.
Translator: Charles K.
Seventeen women from the village gather in a room of the club along with three women from IWPS [International Women’s Peace Service] and ten member of Machsom Watch. The reason for the demonstration: three days ago two houses were demolished and 25 people injured.
H. joins us; the bulldozers had demolished his uncle’s house. For 25 years the family had saved to fulfill their dream and build a home. It took them three years to construct a building containing two apartments, a total of 300 square meters. After they’d received a demolition order they contacted an attorney’s office in Ramallah to appeal. While they waited for the court hearing that was supposed to take place that morning the bulldozers arrived without warning.
Soldiers arrived at 09:00, but the military man in charge of the “operation” did nothing until 13:00. He didn’t want to demolish a home in which 13 people were living. And then a representative of the Civil Administration arrived and without delay gave the demolition order.
The village, located in Area C, has 8,500 dunums and 4,000 inhabitants, but they’re only allowed to build on 400 dunums – because of an arbitrary decision by the sovereign.
A conversation with A., who talks to us while sitting in his car and tells his story: During a demonstration on 15.3.01, in which Israeli organizations also participated, a dum-dum bullet fired by an IDF soldier injured his shoulder and spine, and since then he’s been paralyzed. He was treated in Jordan and in England, but apparently his condition will not improve.
Despite his situation, he believes in non-violent protest, doesn’t hate Jews, hopes to live calmly and peacefully with Jews, Christians and Moslems. He believes Palestinians are entitled to the same treatment as Israelis, that one law applies to them both. He can’t understand how the same bulldozer that erects settlements demolishes their homes.
Translating: Ruth Fleishman
It was announced on the noon news flashes that security forces had caught a terrorist at Qalandiya checkpoint. It was said that the man had tried to pass eight pipe bombs in his bag. It was reported that the terrorist had been taken for questioning, that the bombs were dismantled and that the checkpoint was closed.
The report was suspicious, why would a person who didn't suffer from mental illness or that hadn't been sent by the system to check the alertness of the soldiers, try to pass not one bomb, not two bombs, but eight (!) bombs, when every reasonable person knows that even coins in a man's pocket, earrings on a woman, nails in a laborer's shoes or belt buckles are detected by the sensitive machine and cause it to beep.
I don't know whether it happened or not, I only know that closing the checkpoint and preventing people from passing for three hours is collective punishment which is prohibited by the international law. I also know that under the occupation the time of millions of Palestinians is expropriated from them and the obligation to give an explanation and to apologize falls on no one and on no authority, and neither is anyone held accountable for it.
And regardless of this, or rather in clear relation to it all, on the other side of the checkpoint, the Palestinian side, the war of teenagers against soldiers was in its midst, a war of stones against rifles. Over there the battle persists to exist without being reported on or publicized.
Over there the teenagers continue to attack the checkpoint and the soldiers that come out towards them with grenades and rifles, they aren't deterred and don't stop in face of the shooting and the gas.
It is evident that the Palestinian teenagers determine the intensity of the flames and the location of the battlefield, while the soldiers, who in spite of their being keen to fight, are restricted by orders. Unlike in the past, the soldiers were the ones to respond and not those to initiate.
Atfirst the teenagers arrived from the hill towards which the wall ascends, they created a shaky barricade from a wooden board, behind which they found shelter and over which they threw stones and different kinds of bottles at the soldier. The soldiers got out of the checkpoint complex, crept along the wall and under the cover of gunshots and gas fumes they advanced, they moved the barrier and aimed at the teenagers. The battle continued until the soldiers' commander arrived, an officer at the rank of second lieutenant who received notice through the radio and withdrew his men. The teenagers, drunk on their momentary victory, tailed those retreating and attacked. The soldiers, as though their pride suffered a blow, headed forward again and fired with more rage and force. And the teenagers opened additional fronts at which the soldiers' fire was aimed as well. The soldiers didn't take under consideration all those many people who were forced to cross the main road while tearing, chocking and having trouble breathing. And when a young woman who was caught at the front line with her baby as she was shading his face with a blanket, complained to the officer about the damage that the fire was causing her infant, he waved his hand at her and shouted with frustration: "you don't want us to shoot?- tell them (the teenagers) not to throw stones…".
And so in continual and interval pulses, the young Palestinians attacked and stopped, and then they attacked again and stopped for a few minutes, after which they attacked again.
When the day ended and darkness fell, the teenagers had yet to tire and things still had not settled. The army forces were replaced, new soldiers took to the posts, only the teenagers were the same ones, they attacked with determination, passion and rage, and the battle went on into the night.
It seemed that politicians of both sides are making an effort to keep the quiet, to reduce the amount of arrests and the amount of prisoners, at least until the elections in the USA, at least until the UN assembly discussed the Palestinians' requested to upgrade Palestine's status into a non-member state with recognized borders.
In spite it all, for the meanwhile, at least at Qalandiya, those fighting in the streets are the ones who have the final word.
And I personally had a moment of satisfaction during one of the breaks, when two students from the university of Bir Zeit conversed with me, and Taher, the one amongst the two who spoke English, asked who I was and what and why was I there, and I told them, and they asked that I take their photo with the soldiers behind them and upload the picture to my Facebook account, so I did. And then, Taher handed me a medallion on a string of the map of Palestine that his friend took of his chest and said: "it is a gift, Abdullah wants you to have it!"
Touched and flattered I accepted the gift.