Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Beit Furik, Awarta
A bus from the west is being checked, behind it there are 12 vehicles waiting in the queue.
The roadblock is empty. Later in the shift a few people arrive now and then. The humanitarian lane is open.
Translation: Suzanne O.
Background: during the whole week the IDF has been very active searching for wanted men. The activity takes place in the refugee camp ‘El Ayin - Beit Alma' located west of Nablus. According to reports in the media leaders of the Az-a-Din el Kassam battalions have been caught.
Yesterday - Saturday, tens of wanted men were arrested in Huwwara.
A jeep is parked at the side of the road and two soldiers with weapons at the ready stand near the entrance to the village.
Ariel Junction - there is an unusual number of police and army cars on both sides of the road.
Za'atra Junction (Tapuach)
There are eight cars from the west, from the direction of Huwwara the traffic flows.
There are a lot of children, of all ages, on the main road of Huwwara on their way to school on this pleasant morning.
There are only a few cars in the car park. At the roadblock there are a small number of people. According to the soldiers they have no special orders today: everyone crosses relatively easily; documents are barely inspected. Cars cross relatively quickly; from time to time the soldier looks at the list in his hand and checks a bit more.
8:30 a.m. We left the roadblock. The traffic is still light. The back to back position is open. There are quite a few lorries from the direction of Nablus.
DCO Nablus - the DCO is not open yet. There are eight people waiting. Ra'ad is back and he is the head of the DCO again.
A man from Loven, the village near Za'atra Junction, tells us that on Thursday and Saturday it was very tough. According to him huge numbers were at the roadblocks on those day, festival days.
In the cell: a man of about 40, from the Alma refugee camp, has been there since 7:30 a.m. He says he has no idea why he was arrested, told us that he has been working for 19 years in the industrial area of Barkan, that he has a permit and this is the first time he has been detained. His documents and his telephone have been taken away to be inspected. A soldier comes, instructs me to leave immediately, and says that I am not permitted under any circumstances to stand there. I asked why the man was arrested. The answer: "We need him!"
There are very few people by the turnstile and they cross relatively quickly. The usual picture: people cross the first check point, a soldier in the cubicle checks documents, then they go through the turnstile. Owners of large bags, parcels etc., go out of the roadblock position, in the direction of the x-ray machine which is parked in the open near the roadblock. They then return to the roadblock position, cross through the electronic gate, again they go through the turnstile and out to the car park to find a taxi to their destination. Here we see the familiar, and embarrassing, scene of men adjusting their clothing after the string of inspections, tucking their shirts into their trousers, doing up their belts. One after another they come out and do the same thing. A female soldier and a dog from the dog-handling unit in the area are doing various exercises. There is a fluent Arabic speaking soldier at the roadblock.
In the roadblock, at the exit position a woman stands by the cell, trying to communicate with the man inside who turns out to be her husband. Someone at the roadblock told her that her husband has been arrested. She came after she had sent all six of her children to their educational establishments. She stands stubbornly; trying to find out why and for what reason her husband has been arrested. With restrained assertiveness she wards off the attempts by the soldiers to get her to go home. She is determined to stay until her husband is released. The DCO officer arrives, talks, and asks questions. He too tries to get her to go home. After about half an hour she too goes in the cell for a physical inspection by a female soldier. Her documents and telephone are taken for inspection. For the moment she too waits and is unable to go home even if she decides to do so. We try to find out how long all this will take and are told that it could take a very long time. The reason: they live in Beit Alma, El Ayin where the army activities took place. We can only imagine what they have been through during the week. Even the DCO officer blurted out: "They have had a tough week", and in the same breath added proudly that during the operations the IDF was careful to behave exceptionally humanely, they supplied food, drink and first aid during all the days of the operation. The officer's eyes could not even see what a hallucination it was and how schizophrenic and crazy the situation is.
At the same time I perceive an argument from a raised voice: "But I haven't done anything". It is young man of about 30, tall and stocky, at the entrance to the inspection lane. Because of our enforced distance and the difficulty in seeing and hearing what is going on across the labyrinth of the turnstiles, I only heard the words said in anger and with raised voices. The young man is sent immediately to the cell and joins the man from Beit Alma.
After about half an hour he is released and on his way out he utters a curse and a promise that he will return and kill everyone here. The DCO representative hears it, calls him and demands that he return to the cell. The young man who was in shock tried to soften the judgement. It didn't work and the officer ruled: "Not less than four hours!"
A young Palestinian girl dressed traditionally, the owner of a blue I.D. card, leaves Nablus and is interrogated at length by two soldiers, her document is checked again and again, when all her details had been taken down including telephone numbers of her relatives in Nablus and in Israel and are passed to the Shabak, she is released. As she left we asked what it was all about and she told us she is married to an Israeli Arab and lives in Haifa. Her parents live in Nablus. She misses them and tries to visit them as often as possible. At these times, during festivals, she misses them all the more.
Za'atra Junction (Tapuach)
There are no cars.
The house opposite Marda (according to the soldiers it is abandoned and now belongs to the Shimshon unit).
Four soldiers with weapons at the ready observe the village of Marda through binoculars. We stopped, asked whom the house belongs to and what they are doing there. They answered that stones are being thrown on the route. Micky F., who phoned us up, gave us to understand that there had been a ‘grass widow' operation by the IDF in the village.
On the way back, at the end of the shift, on Road 5 it was hard not to think of what we had left behind. About the twisted nature of this nightmarish situation; the settlements, the settlers who are on every hill but who are almost completely absent from any conversation, from any kind of report, written or photographed, either by others or by us. The occurrences take place far away down below: at the roadblock; between the soldiers; the Palestinians; the police, the white line and us. Far away over the secure gates of the colonies, only the signposts to the right and the left directing people to the settlements spread around high up above all the Palestinian settlements denote the twistedness. Here and there we see gestures at the roadblock, mainly before festivals, all kinds of gifts, baskets of gifts sent by the settlers. And the yellow flags that the ‘blue and white' women leave at the roadblock.
Here I want to remind us of the ‘obvious'. Road 5, a central road, crosses the country from west to east and leads us directly, without hold ups, far away from the green line. Deep into the territories. With no external hint or sign to show that we have crossed the border, that we have crossed from Israeli territory to Palestinian territory. The general feeling is ‘it all belongs to us'. There is no sign to show that we have crossed from Israeli sovereignty to army sovereignty. From a place with relatively clear laws to a place with orders and laws which are changeable, are not written and are very, very nebulous. No sign which declares: this is where the rule of the army begins.
We, of course, know. However, what does the ordinary traveller understand or know of the end of this road? What is a student of architecture at Ariel College, who wants to register, told? He is told to take Road 5 and drive straight to Ariel. He drives as he is instructed. He does not wonder: is this ours or not. He drives, arrives, a matter of 25 minutes maximum. He will hardly even notice the mosques' minarets in the villages. The scenery is familiar, red roofs, well tended gardens, flowering roundabouts surrounded by lawns, large industrial areas, lovely scenery. Everything looks good. The signposts for Ariel appear relatively early, Ramat HaSharon, Petach Tikva, Ariel, a routine journey.
I thought about it a lot when I thought of the man detained at Huwwara, who works in Barkan. About the young woman who moved her address to Haifa but misses her family in Nablus. About the woman who was trying to get her husband back home but was arrested herself. About the man who blurted out a curse and was required to retrace his steps back into the cell when he was already making his way out. About the house seized in Marda and which has now been annexed by the Shimshon Unit. About the ‘grass widow' operation. About Road 5, empty most of the days, while all the villages around are trapped under it. About the orders to ‘close or open' the territories depending on Israeli festivals. And above all about the vitality, about the bustle of life as it continues despite the difficulties. It is Ramadan, people are dressed in their best clothes, greeting each other with festival greetings. They are happy to meet acquaintances crossing the roadblocks, asking about others, ignoring the violent scenes around them. Ignoring the fences, the concrete, the soldiers and the weapons. They are simply trying to live, in spite of all the surprises and the obstacles in their way.
It is simply unbelievable.
Translation: Nina S.
7.30 Zaatara-Tapuach junction
Calm, no lines, no limits of passage. Helen was here since 6 am and reports it was like that all the time, so we continued to Huwwara.
Calm, a short line of pedestrians, 2 active CPs, sometimes only one.
Passage for cars west of the checking cubicle has been closed by barbed wire, so there is only one line for active use.
A dog trainer, with her dog, are present. While checking cars the driver and the passengers are requested to stand far away, it takes about 10 minutes. Cars that are not checked by the dog pass at about 3 minutes per car. The line is not long. Between one check and the next the soldiers take time to chat. A family of a woman, who seemed to be suffering pain and is on her way to hospital, was permitted to cross the CP on foot on the road, so she can get to the cab at the other end faster and will have a shorter way to walk.
8.20 A detainee is sent to the detention cubicle. We did not succeed to find out what the reason was for his detention. By the time we returned from Beit Furik (10.15) he had been released.
9.30 Beit Furik
Calm activity, the cab drivers say the CP was opened at 5 am and closes at midnight (in honor of Ramadan?) but no Nablus citizens may cross to visit their families in Beit Furik, in spite of the holidays.
No change, a new detainee - has Gaza ID. They are waiting for instructions. Another one was detained while we were there, he has an Israeli ID. The girl soldier is checking his telethon for his calls and asks questions about his family and friends, His answers are evasive and do not satisfy the army. They decide to call the police.
At Yitzhar there were no manned CPs
11.00 Zaatra -Tapuach junction
Quite, no lines.
On Route 446 parallel to Zaatra Checkpoint and close to the settlements of Alei Zahav and Peduel. Prevents Palestinians from travelling southward.
Junction of Routes 60 and 5 (Trans Samaria Highway), east of Tapuach settlement. This checkpoint is the borderline between north and central West Bank set by the IDF according to the quarantine policy functioning since December 2005.
Translation: Suzanne O.
We expected some ‘action' today - settlers had pledged a huge foray into Chomesh. On the news this morning it was reported that because of the readiness of the army they were postponing the event. In spite of this, apparently this was a cause for unnecessary tension. On the Ariel road west (towards Israel) - just after the crossing to the border - there is a temporary roadblock on the road. Hundreds of cars (belonging to settlers) are held up. This is indeed a rare sight. In contrast Tapuach Junction is quiet. There are no cars held up in either direction. Posters are stuck up on the concrete blocks calling for an incursion into Chomesh today, Tuesday.
As soon as we arrive it becomes obvious that the crossing is blocked in all directions. The soldiers explain to us that there is an ‘explosive device procedure'. There is a suspect car. They point it out: a blue Fiat is parked by the checkpoint at the exit from Nablus. All the Palestinians are moved away. Us too. The soldiers also move away from the centre of the roadblock.
The wait continues. The number of Palestinians rises from moment to moment. Hundreds of people are waiting already. The soldiers tell us: they are waiting for the robot. We try to explain this to the people who crowd around us. It appears that no one believes it. They say "Dahwin" (show off). There is nothing. We, however, think that the soldiers really think that they have found something and they really don't want anyone to get hurt. But no one is convinced by what we say. Everyone who speaks to us - and all the Hebrew speakers take the opportunity to pass the time in heart to heart talks with us commenting philosophically on the general situation - they don't trust the soldiers. They are sure it is some kind of exercise to abuse them.
The crowds grow ever larger. The old, the disabled, women with children in their arms; everyone stands around in the burning sun.
We try to speak to A., the roadblock and to Z., the DCO officer who has arrived. They reply to us politely: they are doing their utmost. We wonder about the efficiency of the I.D.F. Does it really take such a long time for the robot to come???
The robot arrives. Someone (we did not see who) moves the suspect car away a bit, away from the junction. Suddenly the crossing is open. (First of all the question must be asked - why did they not do that earlier???)
There is a mad rush of the young to the turnstile and the rest of the crowd jostles after them. Between the fences leading to the turnstile there is a terrible crush. Hundreds of people run towards the cars, wanting to cross. The soldiers restrain them and order them to get into a queue for the turnstile.
The situation is now such: to get the hundreds, possibly over a thousand, people waiting through the turnstile could take many hours. In the crush, the tension and the heat, the elderly, women and children, the sick; it looks like madness to us. No one is inspecting all these people anyway, so what for? Why shouldn't they all cross via the road and have done with it?
We try to speak to the commander. He insists, "If we allow it we will lose control". We shout, trying to influence him again. The DCO person says to us: let me talk to him.
After a few minutes they announce that the elderly and women with children can cross via the road. Afterwards anyone, men and youngsters, start to cross too. Within about ten minutes the great crowd has crossed. Meanwhile a ‘controlled explosion' is heard from the direction of the suspect car. There was nothing there. Two older, frightened businessmen who were in the car explain to us that it is a hire car and that they tried to convince everyone that there was nothing in it, and they don't understand what it was that raised the soldiers' suspicions anyway. They too are released finally but they are sent back to Nablus. They have no exit permit with a car.
We remain quite stunned and upset by the whole event. Is it possible that all this was only a matter of obtuseness and even stupidity? Was there really no intention to show something to somebody? What is this small-minded syndrome? Even if the commander was convinced that he had to put the ‘explosive procedure' into force - what stopped him from allowing the crowds through by the road after the event? Did he not understand the potential of the anger, bitterness and humiliation that was created there? In the tension created could there not easily have been a violent incident which could have ended in disaster?
On the way back, at Jit Junction, military and police roadblocks await the settlers who might reach Chomesh. However, happily, we don't see any sign of them. They will surely turn up when the army is not ready for them.
Translation: Suzanne O.
There are seven vehicles from the west to the east and thirty from the direction of Huwwara.
There is no roadblock at Yitzhar Junction.
There is no queue of vehicles. There are about seven people at the roadblock and another few pedestrians who are making their way there.
Quiet, no queue at entrance to village, There are about 8 lorries at the exit.
The roadblock commander, T., comes over to us and asks us to leave the roadblock. In fact we are only permitted to stand at the edge of the roadblock, by the taxi car park, but he ‘has our interests at heart’ and is ready to allow us to stand in the shade of the lock-up. When we protested and told him the story of the white line, which in any case is shifted from time to time so that we are further and further away from the roadblock, it is our line and it is our right to stand on it, he contacted the Battalion C.O. who confirmed that we are to remain in the area at the edge of the car park. The army also has an explanation of our expulsion: “The roadblock must be sterile.” (We, apparently, contaminate it.) In addition T., demanded that we do not speak to the soldiers and, when necessary, speak only to him.
A Canadian woman from the ISM organisation approaches us, she has heard about us, and admires our activities. She helps out in a kindergarten in Nablus.
There is a long queue into Nablus. About 50 people are crowded around the turnstile into the town. The turnstile holds them up. What is the turnstile for? We ask T., this question. He explains that it is one way only and does not permit anyone to exit from Nablus. When we raise the possibility that, if someone wants to, they can sneak in through the area beside the turnstile he answers: anyone doing so can expect, according to army orders, to be shot.
There are about 15 – 20 in the queue to leave Nablus.
The x-ray machine is in place.
A young woman, with a baby in a buggy, who is on her way to Nablus approaches the soldiers and requests permission to cross on the east side of the roadblock. T., and another soldier know a bit of Arabic, but not enough to understand her, and she asks and pleads for quite a time, until it turns out that she cannot get the buggy through the turnstile. She is permitted to cross by the side of the roadblock.
A woman with a small child who has an injured hand also asks if she can cross without going through the turnstile. By the time we found a translator who could understand what she wants the queue at the turnstile had lessened and the Palestinian translator advised her to go back and cross via the turnstile.
A South African from a World Church Organisation waits for some colleagues who are due to get here. They are going to Kafer Yanun where they will stay for a few weeks. Later the rest of the group arrives and they praise our work for the Palestinians.
A young man is put in the cell and released within a few minutes.
9:00 a.m. approximately
A Military Policewoman checks a pregnant woman in the inspection booth for two minutes and she then leaves.
A man from Beit Fuqa approaches us; his son is a student in Nablus and crosses the roadblock daily on his way to his studies. Yesterday his I.D. card was mislaid at the roadblock. He has a permit from the DCO which states that ‘his document was lost by soldiers at the roadblock’. The roadblock commander does not deny this. The father has come to find out whether, meanwhile, the document has been found. It has not been found and he is concerned that his son will suffer hardships on his way to his studies even though he has the above permit as well as a photocopy of his I.D. card. T., advises him to go to the DCO again to apply for a new I.D. card and assures him that with the permit his son will have no problem crossing the roadblock. What is going on here: the soldiers lost the document and the father has to run around to get a new one. Will the army reimburse him for the cost of a new document?
We leave the roadblock.
There are no vehicles at the roadblock.