Translator: Charles K.
In the announcement by the IDF spokesman on 25.4.12 regarding the imposition of a total closure on Judea and Samaria it was stated that “during the closure, passage would be permitted only for humanitarian cases, physicians and exceptions, subject to the approval of the Civil Administration.
The IDF will continue to protect citizens of the State of Israel while remaining considerate of the Palestinians’ day-to-day lives.” http://www.idf.il/1153-15747-HE/Dover.aspx
On Memorial Day afternoon we went to examine how the final sentence in the announcement is being implemented in practice.
Traffic jams on the roads west of the Green Line delayed us greatly so that we reached our first stop, the Habla checkpoint, at 14:10, when the soldiers were preparing to lock the gates. A soldier standing there kidded around, berating us for arriving late. They allowed a youth driving a donkey cart to cross to Habla. The gate on the side of the inspection room was already closed when a car with yellow license plates arrived. A guy with a bandaged leg got out, limping toward the gate, on his way home. But it seems that the bandage, so far as “the Palestinians’ day-to-day lives” are concerned, provides an opportunity for the bureaucracy of occupation to make its presence known, based as it is on mistrust and suspicion. “Do you have a permit to enter Israel?,” asks the MP, a soldier in the regular army. “No, he’s coming from here, from the plant nurseries,” the driver replies. “It’s closed. Take him to 109. Let him cross there.” “But his permit is from here.” “Closed. Anyway, he’s dissembling. He’s not injured.” “Happy holiday,” says the driver angrily and turns around. “How do you know he’s not injured?,” we ask. “We know,” the soldiers say, without explanation.
We drove on to Jayyous even though we knew the checkpoint there would be closed, to say hello to the villagers we know. N. and A. weren’t at the station. Youths who were there told us the army entered the village yesterday firing tear gas grenades. No one was arrested. While we stood there M. approached us. First he was suspicious, wondering what Israeli women were doing in the village, challenging us, asking why we don’t go to the Eyal checkpoint.
He rises at 3 AM to reach the checkpoint in order to get to work in the center of the country. That’s because the inspection process takes a very long time, sometimes you have to stand unclothed in the rooms, also in winter, when it’s very cold. Sometimes a woman in a long dress is made to go through the scanner multiple times. And when he gets to work the boss will humiliate him. For example, once he ordered the workers to “clean very well. This isn’t Qalqiliya”… And he gets NIS 180 for a workday lasting more than 10 hours. (!) Nor can he escape the occupation when he’s home; he’s gone out into his yard and been confronted by a soldier pointing a gun at him. “If a cat had passed by, I would have shot him,” said the soldier. But while he continued to describe the routine of life under occupation he still expressed a desire to live together, and also told us about good experiences with Israelis.
Is that what’s meant by “remaining considerate of the Palestinians’ day-to-day lives”? Harassment, intimidation, detention, humiliation…
The Falamya gate is open. At this hour of the afternoon a man riding a bicycle arrived from the Seam Zone. We watched for a few minutes, and left.
We drove via Al Funduq toward Jit junction. As we passed the turn to Imtin we saw that the road to Imtin was closed by an improvised roadblock, a military vehicle, soldiers alongside standing next to Palestinians and their cars.
No soldiers in the inspection booths at Huwwara, Beit Furik and Za’tara; cars go through without stopping (although, apparently out of habit, a Palestinian bus at Za’tara uses the lane for Palestinians). On Highway 5, near the entrance to Kif'l Haret', is an army vehicle, two soldiers standing alongside.
The people of Israel are about to celebrate independence while “the Palestinians’ day-to-day lives” remain under occupation.
Translator: Charles K.
At 7 AM many laborers crowded on the Israeli side of the Sansana crossing. The fenced corridor on the other side is already empty.
We continued on Route 60. Heavy traffic, few military vehicles. Groups of pupils walk to school along the roadside.
Men and women wait to take taxis to their destinations. Just like any other country, but here it’s not like any other country.
Posters in Kiryat Arba invited us to celebrate Independence Day at Netzer. Is that name familiar? Farther on, at the entrance to Hebron, on “Erez” lane, soldiers had taken up positions on the roof of a house – “grass widow,” they call it. Hebron has been deserted by both them and by the others. Only at Beit Gutnik is anyone “celebrating” – the deafening freilach music as early as 8 in the morning, apparently so the Palestinian residents of the area will also be caught up in the “celebration.” Groups of visitors climb up to the Cave of the Patriarchs. The normal routine of a definitely abnormal place.
Translator: Charles K.
We were there this morning, at the new bone of contention, where they’ve already trademarked themselves as the Beit HaMachpelah settlers. The steps to the Cave of the Patriarchs are in fact directly across the way, at the end of the large plaza bordered on each side by schools – one for boys and one for girls.
The entire area has been closed by the army. The building they invaded is next to the school for girls, access to which is, in any case, via the Pharmacy checkpoint. The building will become another walled-off fortress in the heart of the Palestinians’ daily lives, denying the schoolchildren and the remaining local residents any possibility of a normal existence.
The building was sold to the settlers by A.A.R., who’s currently jailed in Ramallah. The settlers living in the building are all law-abiding; none of them has been arrested or removed. On the other hand, Palestinians and peace activists who tried last night to invade a building– which may have also been sold by now – next to Beit Romano were arrested, of course. The building could become in a flash a focus of a conflagration whose outcome no one can forsee.
The entire area is bubbling. The Palestinians living there are worried what will happen. Peace organizations and journalists from around the world are there taking photographs. The army and police move barriers from place to place, trying to give the impression that somebody knows what they’re doing. As for us – we’re overcome by shame.
We alerted people from B’Tselem; they distributed cameras to the neighbors. We spoke with people, talked to the army and police trying to find out what was happening, what will happen, why they’re dumping earth in the plaza. Their responses were evasive. “The only people who may enter the building,” they explain, “are those who appear on the list of the policeman stationed there.” But in fact people enter constantly. Now a woman, now children, now more adults. All the security personnel wait for us to stop photographing and leave. They explain that everything’s legal, they only need the teeny permission of the Minister of Defense. “Legal,” I tell him, “But immoral.” “Why immoral?,” the soldier asks. He doesn’t understand at all what I’m talking about.
Nevertheless, we were able to take photographs from certain angles. It’s really very near the Cave of the Patriarchs, but even closer to schools, to the route so many children take each morning.
Later, on the radio, we hear the young Levinger who organized the whole thing. He says that about 60 people are in the building. He doesn’t understand why the army demands they leave by tomorrow afternoon. What did they do that was so terrible? All they did was buy a place to live, and now they’re not being allowed to do so.
This Cossack compares what he did to someone who innocently wants to move into a home they bought and isn’t being allowed to do so because they’re disturbing the peace. “Who ever heard of such a thing?!” he asks. The Minister of Education and Aryeh Eldad are also irate, and no tells them what they ought to hear: This isn’t an innocent real estate transaction. That’s no comparison to what happened here. It’s another attempt to force people from their homes. It’s another attempt to embitter the lives of the residents so they’ll leave and be replaced by settlers, in the full knowledge that as soon as settlers move in, additional guard posts will be installed, another checkpoint, more inspections right at the entrance to the school, making it impossible to hold classes there at all. What do the authorities expect the other inhabitants of Hebron to do?! How can you describe this as “people bought a house and aren’t being permitted to live in it”? How can you compare what happened here to a person’s innocent wish to live peacefully with their neighbors?! Is there no limit to disingenuousness and cynicism?
Someone has to wake our politicians and shout: the Hebron settlers are more dangerous to Israel than Ahmadinejad.
Translator: Hanna K.
We drove to check the matter of the approach road to the village of Ramin, as Yael asked as to.
We went by road 55
11:15 on road 5066, immediately at the turning in the direction of Ariel there were two military jeeps and a flying CP for cars travelling eastwards.
When we arrived there were about 8 soldiers and a car parked on the side, detained. It was released 3 minutes later. While the soldiers stopped another car and checked the papers of its passengers, one jeep left in the direction of Al Funduq.
The second car was released 5 minutes later.
In the meantime all the cars travelling on this road continued without being stopped.
11:45 The Anabta CP
We met here a man from Beit Lid and asked about a road that had perhaps been opened from the village of Ramin to the main Road.
He claimed that there wasn't anything new like this, but on the other hand showed us a new obstruction which the army had put up just a week before on a mud road leaving the village.
The asphalt road too which is situated not far he showed us – it is blocked 11 years already.
We entered and turned right to the village of Ramin.
I reckon that after about 10 kms of a winding narrow and very beautiful road we reached the village.
We visited three groceries, talked a bit, bought a bit, distributed visiting cards.
We heard from everybody that there was indeed nothing new concerning the sortie to the main road.
Translation: Suzanne O.
The roadblocks seem to be like the winter wild flowers – they pop up after the rain.
6:20 a.m. There is a new group of soldiers and the roadblock is managed differently. There is a long queue, with over 60 labourers. Those crossing claim they have waited over an hour. The soldiers are strict about keeping the roadblock sterile and do not allow us to move beyond the plastic blocks.
However, the commander explains that last Thursday he allowed those in the queue to huddle beneath the new awning and didn't insist that they stand between the fences (enlightened occupation).
6:30 a.m. The traffic is busier than usual across the agricultural gate.
6:35 a.m. There is no police presence at the exit from Israel and light traffic entering it.
There are Border Police in the checkpoints but at the time we crossed there were no cars at all there. The traffic was held up at the top of the hill by a heavily loaded lorry.
There is no military activity.
At the entrance to Itamar there is a military vehicle by the hitchhikers' station.
7:20 a.m. There is no snap roadblock at the entrance to the village. Even at the 'permanent' roadblock to Beit Furik there is no military presence.
The yellow iron barrier still prevents traffic from crossing.
7:35 a.m. A military car is parked beneath the lookout tower. According to the paratroopers they are always there and there are always soldiers in the lookout tower. (We have not seen a soul at this roadblock for months.)
According to them they inspect the cars from time to time according to need.
At the road up to Bracha a Palestinian car is held up at a snap roadblock. The soldier in the post did not get out and go to it. We were unable to find out what the problem was because there were a lot of cars behind us at the roundabout.
There is no military presence.
8:00 There are no soldiers in the positions.
A superficial inspection as usual.
Translator: Charles K.
09:30 Shomron crossing – The checkpoint is empty.
09:45 Salfit – Two soldiers at the checkpoint, which is empty.
10:00 Za’tara/Tapuach junction – A jeep in the parking lot but no police officers or soldiers at the checkpoint.
10:15 Ma’aleh Efrayim – Three soldiers at the checkpoint, which is unusual.
10:50 Hamra – Four soldiers at the checkpoint. Inspection is quick. A man told us that the head of security for Beqa’ot, Danny Ashkenazi, constantly harasses them (the Palestinians) at work.
11:20 Tayasir – Six cars waiting for their passengers. The drivers say they’ve been waiting more than half an hour. It’s unusual, so many cars waiting here on a Saturday.
We met many people waiting and asked them whether the checkpoint ever allows people to remain in their cars and simply show their documents to go through rather than having to get out and be inspected individually.
Again they say that it all depends on the soldiers– some treat them well and let them through quickly, others are “bad,” purposely taking their time.
Sometimes people are held up for an hour and a half, particularly those coming from Tubas to the Jordan Valley.
11:40 – All the cars that were waiting have driven off with their passengers.
12:30 – Hamra – A long line of cars coming from Tubas. A command-car and six soldiers at the checkpoint.
13:00 Ma’aleh Efrayim – The soldiers who were here this morning have disappeared; the checkpoint is empty. There’s at least one soldier in the tower.
13:10 Za’tara/Tapuach junction – No soldiers at the checkpoint.
13:45 Huwwara – No soldiers at the checkpoint.
13:55 Flying checkpoint at the entrance to Sara, with soldiers. Six cars wait to enter Sara.
14:05 A jeep arrives, apparently orders them to pack up. They packed up and left. Crossing is unimpeded.
14:20 Eliyahu crossing – A long line of cars in every entry lane to Israel.
Translator: Charles K.
How the presence of the army is legitimized and imbued with meaning
Nobody is waiting at the Meitar checkpoint. All the laborers are already on the Israeli side. We again note that those manning this checkpoint behave appropriately.
A military vehicle stands at the entrance to Dahariyya. Soldiers are inside; they don’t get out, but they’re there, right next to the sign notifying that you’re entering Area A, making their presence known. We photograph them; one responds with a rude gesture.
The road is full of cars and pupils at this hour of the morning.
Reservists at the Dura-Elfawwar junction; they’ve come down from the pillbox, stand around. “Area A” newly inscribed in sloppy handwriting on the concrete barrier, one soldier standing on guard next to it, two others stopping cars coming from Elfawwar on their way to Dura and then on to their territory, Area A, to Hebron. That’s their daily routine – why interfere with it? Why come in to upset daily life? How else could the reservists feel they’re doing something important? How else could they tell themselves and their families that this waste of time and money has some meaning, some justification? So they stand on the road in the morning, conducting searches. “When will you dismantle the checkpoint?” we ask. “At eight,” they reply. More proof that it’s only to give them something to do: If there had been a real reason for the checkpoint, they wouldn’t have already known when it would come down. Wouldn’t they remain until the problem had been solved? But there’s a schedule: From 7 to 8: a flying checkpoint. Breakfast is at 8, so they have to leave. Meanwhile: we’re in charge here.
The same occurs at the Pharmacy checkpoint, though the soldiers there are from the Lavie battalion. They’re stopping cars at the outskirts of the southern entrance to Hebron. Only Palestinians are allowed to use this road.
“Don’t talk to them,” one soldier says to the others. We hear them explain about Ella, a friend of theirs who appeared on the “Big Brother” program [on Israeli TV].
Two guards stand at the concrete barrier at the entrance to Kiryat Arba, next to the hitchhiking station.
“Mitzpeh Avichai” keeps expanding on the hill to our right. Solar heaters, cars, etc. It doesn’t seem that anyone thinks it’s illegal.
In the city, many children on their way to school. Paratroopers guard the Worshippers’ route. Paratroopers are also at Curve 160 today, rather than Border Police. Border Police man the other checkpoints to the Cave of the Patriarchs. We drove to the Tarpa”t checkpoint, hoping they’re allowing teachers from the Cordova school to go through the gate. No, it’s locked. The locals tell us that a few days ago a girl was found with a knife that she’d carried intentionally. She was happy to be arrested. It’s what she desired, because she didn’t want her father to force her to marry someone she didn’t want.
We’re told about another guy who was arrested for touching a soldier when he asked him not to be rude to a girl he was searching. “But,” he added, “there are also good soldiers, who are kind and embarrassed.” Hagit “dares” to rip down a sign reading “Kahana was right.” A young soldier starts yelling at her: “Rip down your own signs. The settlers have a right to put up whatever they want! You’re not allowed to remove it.” He seems very jumpy. His commander calms him down, asks Hagit to move back a little. From the side it appears he is strongly motivated to detain Palestinians. His companions say they’re acquainted with the detainees and he lets them go. It’s still quiet at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Everything’s as usual at Beit HaMeriva. Soldiers on site, but someone made a path between the concrete barriers so residents of the neighborhood could take a route which should never have been blocked.
We left the city with a sigh of relief, as always. Nothing special happened today.
Southern Hebron Hills
We drove home via Highway 317 to see whether there’s anything new on “Antenna Hill,” not far from Zif junction.
In fact, this is “Mitzpor Ziv,” established in memory of two employees of the Israel Electric Company who were killed there in 2003.
Now an Israeli flag flies there. Locals tell us that people have begun to come pray there. One day they placed a trailer or something like it, but it was demolished. There are signs of some kind of construction. We should keep track of what’s happening.
When there are no permanent checkpoints there are rolling checkpoints.
6.25 Azzun Atma. An innovation at the checkpoint. After months of complaints about the lack of shelter - a kind of an enormous tent covers the checking area as protection against sun and rain. But only there, over the heads of the Palestinians who are waiting in queues nothing has been built. A long line stretches out there and the drivers say that they have been waiting about an hour for their workers. There are reservists and a captain present but they do nothing to shorten the line of those waiting but adding a soldier who can register by hand. The soldiers say that it is not terrible that the workers are waiting in line because they would in any case have had to wait for their transport……
6.45 The Shomron crossing. No blue police presence at the exit from Israel. At the entrance to Israel is more careful checking than usual.
The entrance of Marda and Zeita is open.
Za’tara/Tapuach.There are no soldiers at the checkpoint post but in spite of that the drivers go slower and there seems to be an interference with the traffic.
Burin/Yitzhar checkpoints. No army activity.
7.10 Beit Furik. At the entrance to the village there is again this week a rolling checkpoint. A group of soldiers have spread out a road's spikes and the traffic stands mainly at the exit of the village. We counted 50.The soldiers tell us that this is the way it should be. We spoke to the DCO and they said that they would check if this checkpoint was necessary. About 10 minutes later when we left the village we saw that the road's spikes had been removed and the soldiers and the line of cars had disappeared.
At the “permanent” checkpoint at Beit Furikthere was no army activity
Awarta.The yellow bar still prevents the passage.
7.45 Huwwara checkpoint.No soldiers. 2 soldiers block the ascent to Bracha settlement. We did not see a soldier at the post opposite the hitching site.
Burin/Yitzhar No army vehicle.
8.10 Za’tara/Tapuach.No soldiers at the posts.
Shomron crossing. A superficial check.
Translator: Charles K.
the laborers are already gone; there’s one bus with relatives of prisoners. In the afternoon we watched the operation of the new device replacing the dogs that inspected the cars at the crossing – a kind of pipe that senses odors. It takes more time than the dog did – about a quarter of an hour. And it also singles out as dangerous propane tanks like those used in Coleman stoves and lanterns. Of course, only vehicles belong to Arabs are stopped. (Who’s the likely suspect?) And why don’t they stop even one Jewish car, if only to create an impression of fairness?
Traffic flows as usual, with no interference. Soldiers guard the illegal outpost of Eshtamo’a where a new Egged [Israeli public transporation company] bus stop has been erected. Palestinians don’t get on Egged buses – are they forbidden? Perhaps the state of Israel didn’t hear about Rosa, from Alabama?
An army jeep at the entrance to Bani Na’im.
The observation balloon floats near Carmei Tzur; Big Brother needs more than pillboxes.
Soldiers came down from the pillbox at Beit Umar and created a minor traffic jam – inspecting everyone getting into the taxis.
Soldiers guard the hitchhiking stations at the exit from Kiryat Arba and at the Gush Etzion junction.
Today Muhammad and I participated in a program of Kol Hashalom, which brought us all the way to Jerusalem.
On our way back we decided to drive to Teko’ah and see the checkpoints, and discovered a new one – at Mizmoriyya, manned by the Border Police. They stop Palestinian taxis coming from villages in the area, passengers get out, their documents are quickly returned – but why do they even have to do it?
The army’s logic would say that it’s necessary to protect Lieberman, the honorable Foreign Minister, who’s alive and kicking in the Noqdim settlement… beyond which is the settlement of Teko’ah, and then Ma’aleh Amos, and then Avney HaNahal, and then P’nei Qedem. And Herodion overlooking them all.
This is Highway 398 – we counted three more flying checkpoints.
Again the usual procedure – soldiers open the taxi door, and arbitrarily decide whether to allow it to drive on or to collect ID cards. No traffic jams formed, but to avoid misunderstanding it’s necessary to demonstrate who’s in charge here.
Signs point the way to Be’ersheba and Hebron…except that the road ends at another military checkpoint and red signs indicating that you’re entering Palestinian Authority territory…
Since we informed the soldiers that we won’t be returning to the Gush Etzion junction, and that we accept responsibility for anything that might happen to us, they didn’t prevent us from continuing. We went through Shayuh, which was full of Palestinian flags; residents said they’d been there since the Palestinian independence celebrations – and I remember that today is November 29 [the anniversary of the 1947 UN vote ending the British Mandate over Palestine and approving the Partition Plan]. We left Shayuh near the pillbox at the entrance to Sa’ir. We took Highway 60 home.
Near the junction, a little past the humanitarian checkpoint, the electric company is erecting high tension wires. This time there were soldiers only at the Kvasim junction but they didn’t stop anyone – observing the human landscape, as it were, with weapons.
There’s nothing so lovely as the borderland between the hill country and the Judean desert. It’s too bad that the reality is so ugly.
Translator: Charles K.
An unusual day, because of, or despite, the holiday.
06:30 Azzun Atma: An unusual sight greeted us when we arrived at the checkpoint: three handcuffed young men, blindfolded with strips of flannel, lying behind two plastic barriers. The solitary soldier guarding the checkpoint reports they’d been brought by a group of soldiers who’d caught them nearby trying to cut the fence. They’ve been waiting more than an hour for the police, who are taking their time arriving.
The soldier told us he had to blindfold them so they couldn’t escape. He’s there alone, except for the MP. Where are the other soldiers? You won’t believe this: there are fleas in the guard tower so they’ve reduced the number of soldiers stationed here.
The line is very long,even though the holiday hasn’t ended and we wouldn’t have expected people to be going to work. Apparently the need to make a living takes precedence.
No police present at the Shomron crossing for people leaving Israel.
The entrances to Marda and Zeita are open.
Za’tara/Tapuach: One male and one female soldier in the inspection booths, but traffic isn’t delayed.
Yitzhar/Burin checkpoint: No military activity.
07:10 Driving up Har Bracha: The soldier inspects Palestinian cars driving up the hill.
A military vehicle parked at the entrance to Itamar.
07:20 Beit Furik: A flying checkpoint at the entrance to the village. Soldiers set up a spike barrier; traffic is stopped on both sides. We bypass the line and try to find out from the soldiers the reason for the delay. They simply don’t understand the question. We were told in the village that this happens routinely, from time to time. We asked the DCO, who told us they knew about the checkpoint. The checkpoint was still there when we left the village, but almost none of the vehicles leaving were being checked.
Awarta: The yellow barrier arm still prevents free passage.
07:45 No soldiers at the Huwwara checkpoint.
Burin/Yizhar: No military activity.
08:25 Za’tara/Tapuach: No soldiers in the positions. Traffic police in the parking lot, but we don’t see them bothering the Palestinians.
At the Shomron crossing we’re asked where we’re from (Ramat Hasharon, we answered), and a policewoman asked us to open the trunk.