Translator: Charles K.
Three Giv’ati soldiers stop a Palestinian Transit at the humanitarian checkpoint. They check his documents by phone on the computer, then let him go.
About three men and a woman. While waiting for the answer the soldiers tell us they have to check because yesterday they stopped a vehicle carrying three guns. Also, an Israeli car went through whose windows had been shattered by rocks children threw from the bridge before the humanitarian checkpoint.
Signs on the way to Hebron: Celebrating Kiryat Arba’s 40th anniversary.
The fields and vineyards are in excellent condition, clean, plowed – a wonderful sight..
All checkpoints are quiet, few go through and there are no delays. The wall along the road up to Tel Rumeida is completely covered with stridently-colored graffiti of boastful slogans I didn’t have time to write down.
Yehuda, from Breaking the Silence, provides a detailed explanation to a group of American tourists at ‘Abed’s shop.
We stopped on the way to Az’am’s metal shop to talk with Abu Rami, from the carpentry shop. We failed to agree about the political situation. Az’am filled the order for tables that our guest gave him – more Israeli support for the local economy.
Translator: Suzanne O.
There is a snap roadblock at Beit Furiq – security needs or collective punishment?
A long queue of labourers (over 70 people) winds round the car park. Each person leaving reports a different waiting time but they all complain about the length of the queue. The whole roadblock is run by female combat soldiers, and military police. Instead of the improvised tent opposite the inspection cube a small concreted tower has been raised with an inflexible female soldier guarding inside.
At Shomron Crossing the civilian police are present at the exit from Israel and a long queue of settlers is at the entrance to it.
The entrances to Marda and Zeita are open.
The Border Police in the positions do not interfere with the flow of traffic. The lookout tower has disappeared from the Menorah roundabout.
There is no military activity.
Unsurprisingly, the yellow barrier still bars the crossing. On the way back we will try to contact the spokesperson of the Central Command again. We have still not got an answer to our letter on the matter from three weeks ago. We didn't get an answer today either. (In the end they will probably write us that the barrier is against the Breslau people and not the Palestinians.)
There is no IDF presence at the roadblock. However, at the entrance to the village there is an improvised snap roadblock. Three soldiers have spread out spikes on the road and all the traffic is at a standstill. Very slowly they inspect ID cards and cars wishing to leave the village in the direction of Nablus and do not permit those wishing to enter the village to do so. Tens of cars wait in every direction. The drivers who are far from the roadblocks are unable to understand the meaning of the stoppage and try to overtake. Chaos ensues. We made a number of telephone calls – the humanitarian centre and the DCO – but no one there knows anything about the activity. As Israelis we overtook the whole queue insolently and the soldiers waved us across. In the village we were told that a few nights ago children threw stones at the windscreen of a military vehicle patrolling the roads of the village and shattered it, they believe this is a kind of punishment.
By the time we left the village the soldiers had already disappeared and with them the queues. Perhaps, because we telephoned, someone took the time to find out what was going on there?
Deserted. Some of the perspex buildings have already fallen down.
In the town Huwwara a new Burger King has opened. A sign of economic peace. Three Border Police vehicles patrol the streets of the town.
The traffic flows unimpeded. There are soldiers in the positions. A military vehicle is parked in the car park.
At Shomron Crossing the inspection at the entrance to Israel was, as usual, superficial.
No line at checking point, the workers were already crowded around the vehicles on the Israeli side.
The merchants on the Palestinian side complained that their cars were had been detained/taken hold of by the (Israeli?) authorities in order to stop the sale phenomenon. We couldn't help but handed the "magic number" of the Humanitarian Office.
One worker was waiting for his boss to help him through – his papers were valid but he wasn't allowed in. Moti, the CP manager was very kind and willing to check but finally couldn't help either. On our way back the man was no longer waiting there…
Deserted, no cars or pedestrians along the road. May 1st appears to be a holiday for schools and business.
On our way back, we observed more military vehicles. At Dura Elfawwar soldiers were checking cars and passangers' documents. It seemed to proceed in an orderly and efficient manner.
No special events, the city was clean and silent, most of the shops were shut and so were the schools. Even the pitta man was nowhere to be seen.
10:00 Za'tara - We passed the junction without seeing a single soldier. The traffic was light except from Nablus, but all the vehicles were going through the junction smoothly.
10:10 Huwwara -The checkpoint was open and the cars were going into Nablus without any checking. A group of 5 soldiers was leaving the tower and the post to the east of the checkpoint. Another group of soldiers had taken their place, but they were only observing and not checking any cars. The soldiers that were leaving stopped at our car and asked us who we were and what we were doing there. Showing my tag I answered, "We're Machsom Watch." One very young looking soldier asked rather cheekily, "Watch what?" And I answered, "Watch you." But he paid no attention to my answer as one of the other soldiers was explaining to him who we are.
Before entering Deir Sharaf, by the barrels, there was an active checkpoint. A line had formed of about 20 vehicles and they were being checked before going on in the direction of Nablus. Further inside Deir Sharaf, where there had been a checkpoint for several days from the time of the incident at "Joseph's Tomb", there was no checkpoint on Thursday.
Anabta checkpoint was open and the traffic was moving easily.
11:00 Jubara checkpoint -Two police vans stood at the side of the passage facing toward Nablus. Men were getting out of the vans. We surmised that these were released prisoners who were returned to the territories. (Is it possible they were from Awarta?) The men were simply dropped off at the checkpoint to find their own way home.
Za’tara junction – soldiers in their positions, the checkpoint isn’t manned.
Yitzhar/Huwwara junction – Flying checkpoint
Huwwara – Manned. Only vehicles entering Nablus bearing yellow license plates are inspected.
Beit Furiq – Two soldiers at the checkpoint.
They stop and interrogate us: Who are you? Do you have a permit? We explained we’re from Machsom Watch and only want to drive around a little and see how the Huwwara checkpoint operates on the side from Nablus to Israel. One of the soldiers calls the DCO and asks for an ID card. After waiting on the line the soldier apologizes and explains he got an order that no vehicle bearing yellow plates may go through. We asked how long the checkpoint has been here; since Sunday, he said. We started to lose patience, the soldier asked for Badim’s ID again – at this point we gave up, and went back.
Route 60 – Checkpoints to the north and the south.
A checkpoint at the entrance to Deir Sharaf
Checkpoints, checkpoints everywhere.
The media this week are full of "Passover posts," as if there were anything new to say on the subject of the festival of freedom. To the women of MachsomWatch, it's quite clear that we belong on the barricades of protest, on the stage of equality and freedom for Palestinians as well as Israelis, and that our dissent, vocal and active for over a decade of particularly harsh Occupation, is a stand for the traditional Passover call to justice.
13:00 Habla, Gate 1392
The soldiers arrive, on time and on cue, but take their time to open the gates, and there are more than in the past. A brand new pedestrian gate, planted on Palestinian soil, adds to the already present gates on either side of the Security Barricade checkpoint. Progress or institutionalization of the already 44 year old Occupation? The latter, surely, as well as more shekels flowing into the "Who Profits" basket.
One of the three waiting Palestinians on our side, one of whom has complained that he can get no permit to work in Israel, tells the soldiers that "We are only three," and they use the pedestrian gateway, and walk over to the concrete building on the other side to be checked.
Two soldiers now close the vehicle checking gates near where we stand. Why? For protection against onslaught? If so, by whom?
13:10 – on the far side of the Separation Barrier, we spy the usual tractors, horse cart and a smaller bus than usual for the Bedouin schoolchildren, once again, a mixed group of boys and girls. Pedestrians from the far side cross the usual way, and the brand new pedestrian gate is forgotten. We see that a young man is putting on his belt as he walks towards Habla and we wonder if there's yet another innovation. A metal detector in the concrete bunker like building? Who knows? After all, we are not privy to the authorities' strategy or secrets.
13:15 – a flock of sheep and their shepherd wobble their way towards us, and a digger tractor is "searched" in the usual perfunctory manner. The reservist manning the vehicle gates has no idea why there are more soldiers than usual today, at least six or eight, "I'm only a reservist, don't know what is going on," and, yes, he will work on the Passover holiday.
13:35 – the friendly nursery owner is "entertaining" a nursery man from Qedumim, a settlement, and we continue to wonder at the paradoxes of Occupation, especially as the latter tells us, in Hebrew, "We are family."
14:00 – some twenty or so minutes later, outside the settlement itself we spy a Hummer, one of several, especially around settlements today, and higher up the hill, opposite the Palestinian village of Jit, there is a brand new water pipe and its brightly shining controls rising arrogantly from the ground, serving, we have no doubt, the settlement alone and not its nearest neighbor.
14:10 Jit Junction
A Hummer has stopped there, and soldiers are questioning a Palestinian, although there appears to be no vehicle in sight.
14:30 Deir Sharaf
Yesterday, a new United Nations report, 12.4.11, highlighted progress made by the Palestinian Authority in building institutions necessary for a functioning State, while stressing the need for Israel to roll back "measures of occupation." "In the limited territory under its control and within the constraints on the ground imposed by unresolved political issues, the PA has accelerated progress in improving its governmental functions," stated the report, entitled "Palestinian State-building: A Decisive Period." UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry commended the progress achieved by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, but today the Palestinians disagreed with the analysis and expressed doubts that statehood would be achieved any time soon.
15:15 Shavei Shomron
The checkpoint is no more, and we can sail through easily, but fail to find the Roman ruins for which Sebastia is famous!
16:00 – on the other hand, checkpoints are still alive and well; at the former access point to the settlement, (before the settlers demanded their brand new access road), soldiers are beginning to set up a checkpoint, including spikes on the roadway, but wave us on, as they do the white car behind us with Israeli license plates.
Traffic flows freely, but there is a Hummer and soldiers standing at the foot of the military lookout tower.
16:40 Irtah/Sha'ar Efrayim
Flocks of Palestinians step down from their contractors' buses or pickup trucks and walk directly into the terminal building; the flow is continuous, many people carrying strawberries or other packages.
We gather that there is no real information as to when the "closure" will begin for the week-long Passover festival when the OPT are closed off more than ever. Surprisingly enough, the Palestinians go on their way without being stopped at any checking booth, and walk straight through the building – homeward bound. As usual, complaints about the long wait in the morning, the time it gets to get to work, and one complaint about withdrawal of a work permit for no apparent reason.
Translation: Bracha B.A.
Sansana Meitar Crossing
We did not wait since we saw that the workers had already crossed. A bus of prisoners' families was waiting there when we came back at 09:00.
Soldiers had placed a roadblock at the entrance to Yata for workers but when we came back they were no longer there.
At Curve 160 there were soldiers from the Border Patrol and several detainees were standing with the arms behind them. When we arrived they were allowed to stand normally, their documents were returned, and they were released..
Two volunteers at the pharmacy checkpoint greeted us and asked about Tamar, and were grieved to hear she is no longer with us. We also feel her absence.
There is much army traffic.
13.55 Habla checkpoint. The gate is open, the inhabitants are going through either on foot or in horse and cart. After the checking in the rooms
14.25 A border patrol jeep stands watching opposite the entrance to the village of Jit.
14.27 Immediately after the Jit checkpoint are two command cars which block the way to Huwwara – road 60. Palestinian cars are forced to go in the direction of the village of Sara and from there to Nablus – and from there to Huwwara-Ramallah and not by the usual road. Soldiers allow us to pass.
In the middle of the ascent about a kilometer before Gilad's farm there is a large gathering. Some command cars and many soldiers. They are next to an Israeli car which is parked at the side of the road at the east. The windows of the car in front are smashed. We did not see another car so could not decide that it was an accident. We did not see Palestinian cars on the road. Only two cars with Israeli number plates came from the opposite direction. On the road opposite the village of Madama was a command car and two armed soldiers standing next to it.
14.45 At the crossroads of road 60-Burin: We were surprised not to see an Israeli army presence …mini-buses came from the direction of Huwwara-Ramallah turned without being stopped (so it seemed) in the direction of road 60. We parked close to the crossroads and saw that in a few minutes army cars arrived which closed the turning to Palestinians. They were then forced to make a detour to enter Nablus so as to get, for example, to Tulkarm.
14,47 Huwwara checkpoint. Cars going to and from Nablus next to the posts which were not manned. But sentry posts and a guard post next to the settlement of Bracha.
14.50 Beit Furik checkpoint. We did not see soldiers at the checkpoint. The passage of Palestinians went unchecked.
On all the hitching posts were announcements of “The Land of Israel march.”
The Awarta checkpoint is closed with a yellow iron bar. We met a TV crew from West Saudi.
We will try to send photos of the occupation of another hill by the settlers of Itamar.
A number of residents of Awarta whom we met said that now and again at night soldiers come and take men and lately women, married and unmarried. It is not known if all return in the morning. They are harassed, interrogate, fingerprints are taken and specimens of their spit. Each time another group.
16.20 Crossroads of Za'tara. There is a lot of pressure in front of the checkpoint. A border policeman checks cars. Yellow taxis are stopped.
16.45 Azzun Atma checkpoint. A police car bring detained Palestinians for a short wait at the checkpoint. When we ask the commander he explains that they created a disturbance in Israel and threw stones. Their work permits were taken from them and they will have to explain their behavior at the DCO so as to have these permits returned to them (?!) We were not allowed to speak to them. Workers coming back from their daily work in the settlements wait in a line to have their documents checked and soon the line disappears.
Translator: Charles K.
Most of the laborers have already crossed; there weren’t many. Apparently the rain kept the farmers home today.
There’s an army vehicle in the parking lot – an unusual sight – but we didn’t see any soldiers.
No unusual activity. The same teachers waiting for their rides, the same children walking kilometers to school.
Nor are there any flying checkpoints, except at the Kvasim junction. At the entrance to the Hebron industrial zone we approach three soldiers who are detaining cars.
The lieutenant comes over to us: “No ‘Good morning’?” “Who are you”, etc…We ask why they’re blocking entry to Area A.
Amazingly polite, they explain there’s an alert; they’re looking for a specific person and vehicle. “Shimshon support unit” on his webbing.
Does the IDF have PR people?
Israeli flags, and those of the locality, wave in the breeze. The town is dressed for the holiday. Today the impressive new paved road/promenade is being inaugurated. A large, bold sign announces: "The sons’ route in the city of the Patriarchs".
The guard at the entrance, a native of the town who knows us, pretty friendly, with – we should note - a sense of humor, asks whether we’ve come for the ceremony. “Dress warmly – it’s cold today…”
All of us see the chances of an appropriate solution growing increasingly remote…
The Giv’ati brigade is still stationed in the city.
But Border Police soldiers man the checkpoint at Curve 160, the Pharmacy checkpoint and those at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Someone decidedthat’s where they should be stationed, and yesterday’s events only prove how “effective” they are.
We stop at Curve 160. The soldier [the same as was there yesterday] reports our arrival over the phone. There are two detainees.
“Don’t take any photographs, and don’t talk to them,” he tells us. The ideal soldier.
We insist that, since we’re civilians, soldiers can’t give us orders.
Meanwhile the commander, Emanuel, arrives. He’s the sector commander, energetic, to the point, but apparently has instructions to demonstrate openness, transparency, cooperation. He shows us a police ID and explains he’s authorized to tell us what to do.
We express our surprise (remonstrate) at yesterday's events (see report).
He replies: “The guy butted the policeman. The cameras will testify to that. We pulled the rim of his hat down over his eyes because we didn’t want him to see all the military equipment we had in the pillbox. We didn’t put a hat over his face when we brought him in. You have to understand that we’re security personnel. If he butted a policeman, we have to arrest him. The doctor from Curve 206 [where the battalion medical unit is stationed, on the Worshipper’s route] came over and treated him. Pepper spray? That’s nothing. The doctor said it just burns a little, that's all." “But why handcuff him so tightly he faints and his hands turn blue?" We persist. "Why do you arrest people who live here, whom you see everyday walking the same route?" Again, he explains that sometimes there are alerts that require inspecting those people also. “You have to understand, I can’t go into too much detail.”
We reiterate that those methods give rise to acts of terror and hatred, rather than preventing them. He shrugs and tries to explain that they’re aware of all those problems, but they’re security people. We ask: “Could there be soldiers who want to “stand out”, those super-motivated, who go too far in detaining and arresting people?” He almost swears there aren’t any like that.
OK, neither of us convinces the other. We remind him again that those living here are human beings who deserve to be treated humanely, and so long as we’re here, that’s how we’re obligated to treat them.
He doesn’t disagree, but there’s nothing new in his response.
OK, I don’t think that’s the end of it. I hope the Border Police commanders will take action [naïve?].
Yet another chapter in the never-ending presence in Hebron of the IDF and other security forces. Yet another chapter proving that, if not for our civilian eyes, things could be much worse.
When we told our old acquaintance in the Elfawwar grocery that our friend, Tamar (Golan) had passed away, he said, “Everyone dies eventually, so why can’t our leaders understand that and allow us to live together in peace?”
Translator: Charles K.
12:59 Habla gate. Three horse cards and some people waiting for the gate to open. It opens exactly at 13:00 and they go through. A school bus arrives from the other side, crosses, as do two tractors and a jeep to the greenhouses. We left at 13:20, a pickup truck and tractors waiting to cross. The second school bus – with the girls – hadn’t arrived. A few Palestinians waiting on the eastern side of the fence, we’re not sure why. Shoshi tries to approach and speak to them; “Beat it!,” says the soldier.
We continue to Alfei Menasheh. Two settlers in a jeep at the turn to Ras A-Tira beep their horn to stop us and find out where we’re going. The new gate is closed, as usual.
We continue to the Eliyahu crossing – a few cars with Israeli plates waiting on the eastern side to return to Israel.
13:45 A flying checkpoint and an army vehicle at the entrance to Azzun. Soldiers stop Palestinian vehicles for inspection, including opening the trunk. We cross without being checked. Karin buys booklets in Arabic at a print shop in Azzun for Palestinian children in Israeli hospitals.
We continue to Jayyous. We get on a road that starts at a plaza at the entrance to Azzun and goes under Route 55. We passed the village of Khirbet Sir – many new houses. North to Kafr Jamal, Jayyous to our left. Infrastructure work all along the way – paving roads, stone sidewalks, lightposts, etc.
Falamya gate is open 12 hours a day. One tractor goes through on its way back to the village.
Up to Kafr Jamal on the steep paved road. Signs to Tulkarm all along the road – the usual road is closed for repairs – and we take the bypass until we reach Kafr Sur. One of the villagers tells us that owners of the lands beyond the separation barrier (most of them olive groves) aren’t being given permits to reach their land, except when the army decides to grant them (during the olive harvest). His family owns 50 dunums on the other side of the separation barrier. Only people aged 50 or older are given permits, and only during the season. Kafr Sur has 4000 inhabitants. The mayor submits the requests.
Because of the road works we arrived by mistake at Gate 753 – Khirbet Jebara. We were given directions how to proceed. Only farmers and residents of Khirbet Jebara use this gate.
We reached the northern Te’anim gate (Jubara) on a road for Palestinian & Israeli Palastinians traffic . The soldiers stop and question us – what are we doing, where are we coming from, do we belong to any organizations. They took our ID, and more questions: where do we live, what do we do, etc. They took our ID’s to check, and asked us to park off to the side. Then they came to inspect the car – including the trunk. They have questions about the Arabic booklets Karin bought – are they seditious? They took them to photocopy. They also checked the glove compartment. Questions about Karin’s cameras in the trunk. Finally, after we told them we’d come from the south, not from the north (Tulkarm), and they explained how dangerous it was for Israeli Jews to be in a Palestinian town, they let us continue. An Israeli car inspected carefully – including by a dog with a handler.
After being released we drove on to Irtach/Efrayim gate. A flow of laborers returning from their work in Israel. One asks for advice about helping his brother, prevented by the GSS from entering Israel for business, and about a friend who has to enter Israel for medical treatment. Karin gives him the relevant phone numbers.